India's Secretary-General candidate Tharoor suggests UN reform agenda

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

India's nominee for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations, Shashi Tharoor has revealed a four-point plan to tackle the problems the international body is facing. He said that the biggest hurdle faced by the UN is that it has to deal with a large number of issues at the same time. The United Nations with its "impressive achievements and "haunting failures has changed but needs to change further" he said in an article in Newsweek International.

Tharoor's proposal is concentrated on four areas- making democracy a priority; bolstering the ranks (of the United Nations); prioritising and streamlining; and healing wounds. He talked about the crisis in the Middle East, and the nuclear standoff between the U.N and countries like North Korea and Iran, referring to them as "obvious and trying". He also pointed out "problems without passports" such as climate change, narcotics smuggling and human rights violations. Tharoor, a leading candidate to succeed Kofi Annan, said that strengthening the capacities of both the UN and its member-states was the best way to deal with these problems.

Tharoor stated that further efforts were needed to promote democracy and good governance the world over. "We now have a Democracy Fund to help us do that, financed not just by the rich West but by countries like India," he said. He also pointed out that the UN should try and stand up more for human rights by making sure the Human Rights Council did its job more effectively than the "over-politicised" Human Rights Commission it replaced. He said the UN should support the efforts bodies like NATO and the EU were making in their peacekeeping. Tharoor also spoke about the conflict in Iraq, saying "And where the task, like enforcing peace in Iraq, is clearly beyond us (the UN), we should let wars be fought by warriors, not peacekeepers,"

In reference to "healing wounds", he pointed out the danger of the Cold War divisions being replaced by a North-South divide at the UN "The new secretary-general must urgently combat this. I would focus on building issue-based coalitions to deal with specific practical problems (things like management inefficiencies, procurement policies, information technology, outsourcing) that have little to do with ideological politics," he said.

Tharoor is currently the UN's Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. He and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon are considered frontrunners in the race to succeed Annan, whose term ends at the end of the year. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and former UN disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala from Sri Lanka are also official candidates for the top UN job.