|Millenium Meeting or Annan's
Diplomats who believe the Secretary General Kofi Annan
is aiming for a second term think he may be tempted to pursue
his quest at the forthcoming millennium summit. With so many heads
of state and government available, "a word from above" could eventually
become a binding instruction for working permanent representatives.
Also, a generally favorable atmosphere - in media coverage of
the event, special tributes which will have to be paid to the
Secretary General with the opening of every statement at the Assembly
and the absence of a vocal trend to the contrary, the host will
be in the prominent position to graciously go along while ambitious
allies finesse the target. A special issue by the influential
Financial Times timed for the occasion will plod those weary of
an early decision.
Initially, the year 2000 was pronounced "a calendar event, not
a UN event". Even when the millennium was rehabilitated, mainly
to provide an assignment for someone who was turned down from
another, a set of appropriate meetings were explored. Suddenly,
after reconsideration late last year it was discovered that the
millennium actually starts in 2001 and there was still time to
have a valuable historical summit of heads of state. The calendar
gave way to the agenda. Hurriedly, the lights went on, literally
by illuminating the front of the building with the letters 2000.
Thereafter, no expense was spared in preparation, travel and
other requirements while still claiming shortage of funds and
the need to cut down staff. The perception that the summit may
be used for other than its declared purposes was additionally
formed because: A) There seems to be no serious focus on specific
objectives other than "feel good" platitudes, while openly dismissing
proposals by delegates invited to attend preparatory meetings;
B) Feedback from embassies of countries visited this year by the
Security General; and C) Moves aiming "to clear the deck, use
the teflon and bring in the spinners", as one ambassador put it
promising to elaborate in due course, but generally referring
to the peacekeeping area. All that talk may sound premature. The
Secretary General's term expires end of next year, 2001. The campaign
would begin next January, not this September. In fact, the U.S.
elections in November will place the next Administration in a
position to cast a crucial vote in the Security Council on the
fall of next year. By then candidates would crop up , mainly from
Asia, in the same manner that others usually did, often at the
last minute. As the American and Chinese positions will be most
crucial, it is generally assumed that Mr. Annan may stand a chance
with an Administration of Democrats, but almost none with Republicans.
And China, the biggest country in Asia, and its symbol among permanent
members of the Security Council can not but support an Asian candidate-
unless the advantage to its national interest is overwhelming,
which is unlikely in the case of Mr. Annan.
With so many uncontrolled variables, the impression is that Mr.
Annan's team would wish to establish some basics, shaping the
trend now before other trends are shaped. That could be done discreetly,
in the course of normal exchange of views. Diplomats point out
that since January of this year, the Secretary General spent more
time traveling than at headquarters. A one month trip to Asia
in February (with a few days stop in East Timor) visits to Moscow,
London, Paris and Beijing and attendance of African meetings were
perceived as exploratory. The appointment of another French Diplomat
to succeed Bernard Miyet as Under-Secretary General for Peacemaking
may have been the price Mr. Annan has once again had to pay to
ensure French support, which has added value as France chairs
the European Union until December 2000. Now, while Kofi Annan
is spending the summer holiday in his home country, it may occur
to President Rawlings that his greatest international achievement
during the millennium gathering in New York would be to flag his
compatriot's initiatives at the UN which only require more time
A bandwagon effect- maybe orchestrated, helped by genuine affection
for the accommodating and charming Annan. Even if no immediate
decisions were taken, a positive outcome would be achieved. International
high level acclaim would not certainly hurt his prospects for
a renewed term. At least, it may advance his recurrent bid for
the illusive Nobel Prize for Peace, which will it attained bulldoze
any potential obstacle. "Sweet dreams are made of these" as the
Eurythmics' song goes. Clearly, no action could be taken without
the U.S. and China. And it is very unlikely for the current American
administration - assuming it supports a renewal versus an Asian-
to force the hand of the next one which will at any rate have
the authority to review matters by January.
Hence Plan B sounded carefully by one of the team members. If
matters are not proceeding well, "Reform" would be invoked. Then,
the "quiet revolution" would entail a "bold" proposal to limit
the Secretary General's tenure to one term only, but extend it
to seven rather than five years-effective immediately, of course.
The obstacle there is in the charter, which will have to be amended.
That may require more time than even a full Secretary General's
term. Ask Japan, which has been working in vain on the Charter's
secretary council membership for the last twenty years. Or, better,
don't ask Japan. It may surprise you in 2001. Wait and see.