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Home » Home, UN NEWS » Guterres seems to have learned historical lessons

Guterres seems to have learned historical lessons

Ambassador Sven Alkalaj permanent representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations in New York, former Foreignin Minister of BiH and Head of UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva (UN photo for education only)

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at UN meeting in New York, March 2019 when she was president of Croatia (Photo by Erol Avdovic, WebPublicaPress)

Ambassador Sven Alkalaj permanent representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations in New York, former Foreignin Minister of BiH and Head of UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva (UN photo for education only)

Ambassador Sven Alkalaj permanent representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations in New York, former Foreignin Minister of BiH and Head of UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva (UN photo for education only)

By Erol Avdovic (WebPublcaPress) UNITED NATIONS – New York – There is not much appetite among the member states of the Eastern European Group – a 23 countries at the United Nations in New York – to produce their counter-candidate to the current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in the next election process.

 

According to the rules of rotation of regional groups, the candidate of the Eastern European group could still run for the post of UN Secretary General.

 

 

Complete silence in the region

 

Of course, anything can happen by the end of May this year – which is a proscribed deadline for the nomination of candidates. But, the election of the UN Secretary General for a new five-year term starting on 1 January, 2022, looks like it’s already over, at least from the prospective of Southeast Europe. That was the region where the most candidates came in last UN elections in 2016. For now, a set of silence reigns in the region in this regard. COVID is the predominant theme for everyone.

 

And it looks like there are no more of those ambitious politicians ready to run for UN Secretary General.

 

 

“This is quite understandable,” Sven Alkalaj, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ambassador to the UN in New York, told WebPublicaPress (WPP).

 

“The current Secretary General, Mr. Guterres did a very good job in the given circumstances, since  everything around us is determined by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is especially important that the efforts of his peace initiatives bear fruit in such circumstances,” Alkalaj said.

 

“It is so important that the peace process has begun in Libya, to which the UN and Guterres have personally contributed,” a veteran Bosnian diplomat, who was his country’s ambassador to Washington and Brussels, NATO headquarters pointed to WPP.

 

“If I had the opportunity to vote for Guterres tomorrow for his new term, I would do so without

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (28 January 2021 virtual photo by Erol Avdovic - WebPublicaPress)

Antonio Guterres UN Secretary General (28 January 2021 virtual photo by Erol Avdovic – WebPublicaPress)

hesitation,” said Alkalaj.

 

During his long diplomatic career Alkalaj has served as a Bosnia and Herzegovina’s foreign minister. He was also the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (from March 2012 to April 2014), based in Geneva; there, as he said – he often met Guterres and knows current UN Secretary General well.

 

 

Will anybody challenge Guterres

 

 

According to Alkalaj, he does not expect even few to challenge Guterres to a “duel” given that he has done his job well in the past five years. Our source also says that for now there are no even hints that an opponent from the Eastern European group will appear.

 

But whether all ambitions for this top global diplomatic job have really died down is hard to conclude in the mid of February. Above all, this 2021 may also be a “pandemic year” that will affect and shadow most of the other activities on the global stage.

 

And, Brenden Varma, the spokesperson of the President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, indicates – so far no interest for UN Secretary General post was shown, but one – by Antonio Guterres. In a special letter to the Security Council on 11 January 2021 the current UN chief has announced – he is “available for the second term.”

 

Apart from announcing that, the president of the 75. Session of the UN General Assembly has not yet received a single letter of intent by any of the potential candidates, Varma explained to reporters some of the ruling procedures. He has mentioned that regardless to the tradition, by which – behind every solid candidate always stands a UN member state, candidacies can stand out independently. It only remains to be seen if that will be an additional motivation for someone.

 

 

Power, patriotism and moral standing 

 

 

Indeed, it sounds patriotic when you are supported by your own homeland. But, the political reality is  - it is most valuable to have the most powerful countries pushing you ahead – in the election of the UN Secretary General. It is actually a conditio sine qua non (a condition without one cannot live) in the world and the UN political realm.

 

UN Security Council 12 May 2015  (UN photo by Loey Felipe)

UN Security Council 12 May 2015 (UN photo by Loey Felipe)

In the case of Mr. Guterres support of Portugal is nice. Yet, powerful countries support, in particularly – members of the Permanent Five (P-5) in the UN Security Council is crucial.

 

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China are really calling the shots here. Assuming that no country at the P-5 would exercise its veto power; the total of two third majority of the 15 UN Security Council members – meaning nine countries minimum have to vote for certain candidate – for he or she to winn. Still the agreement among powerful five, often behind closed doors, will again decide the (re)election of new(old) UN Secretary General.

 

And, it does not have to be always a new choice. As history teach us, there are exceptions. Like in the case of Egypt’s Boutros Boutros Ghali, who served as the sixth Secretary General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996. When Ghali wanted to renew his mandate, albeit his extraordinary academic predispositions and diplomatic skills seasoned in a difficult Middle Eastern environment – he failed to gain Washington’s support. And, for the reason tied to a small and seemingly “unimportant” country of Bosnia and Herzegovina – he didn’t get crucial US support.

 

Then powerful US ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright took a firm stand and without hesitation vetoed the election of Ghali for a second term at the top of UN. It was precisely because of his ambivalence in (not) resolving the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

Ghali was called out for not being pragmatical, which, at the time meant – he did not act morally right in the event of Serbian aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a UN Secretary General, he opposed – with various diplomatic maneuvers – as it looked at the time – America’s intentions to use force and stop the campaign of ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims. Unfortunately, with UN troops on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina, genocide took place in Srebrenica in July 1995.

 

Thus, Kofi Annan from Ghana, then UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations, was also

George W. Bush and Kofi Annan in the White House 2008 (UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

George W. Bush and Kofi Annan in the White House 2008 (UN photo by Eskinder Debebe)

elected Secretary-General in place of Ghali. He also represented the same regional (African UN group). Annan apologized in the UN Special Report on Srebrenica in 1999). due to the infamous role of the UN in this greatest war crime against civilians in Europe since World War II.

 

 

Libya and Yemen top the Agenda

 

 

“It just shows that all countries, small or large, are important when it comes to moral standing,” Alkalaj says.

 

He adds that this year 2021, of course, cannot be compared to 1996, and that no large country in the P-5 group will certainly have a reason to use the veto against Antonio Guterres, when the issue will be discussed in the fall of this year.

 

“It is very important for this UN Secretary General that things in Libya have started to move in the direction of the peace process,” Alkalaj emphasized. ”In fact, all countries are important for a diplomat of Guterres caliber, when it comes to a peace initiative,” he added,

 

Other diplomats also stress the importance of stopping the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, in addition to all the current unrest in the Horn of Africa and in the interior of that continent. And events in Asia are on the Guterres’ plate are as well.

 

“That is why so often we bring the example of the lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina,” ambassador Alkalaj said.

 

 

Will it still be a dark horse candidate(s)

 

 

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at UN meeting in New York, March 2019 when she was president of Croatia (Photo by Erol Avdovic, WebPublicaPress)

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at UN meeting in New York, March 2019 when she was president of Croatia (Photo by Erol Avdovic, WebPublicaPress)

However, concerning possible competitors for top UN job  from Eastern Europe, some may still have ambitions or aspirations for the position of Secretary General, but that is not enough.

 

From what we have seen, “apart from ambitions, they have much less experience then Guterres,” Alkalaj concluded.

 

WebPublicaPress sent an inquiry to Mr. Vuk Jeremic the former candidate for the UN Secretary General, former president of the UN General Assembly, also ex-minister of foreign affairs of Serbia with a question whether he would run for the post of UN SG again this year. We have not received answer by the time this article was written.

 

We asked the same question former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who could play a prominent role on the international multilateral stage due to her diplomatic and state experience.  She also served as Croatia’s ambassador to Washington and senior NATO official in Brussels. But, we have not yet received an answer, or comment – on Mr. Guterrs’ past five-years at the United Nations helm. Once we receive the answers — WPP will immediately include them as a next update of this article.

 

 

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