Engagement and diplomacy before confrontation, says Ban Ki-moon of his style

29 May 2007

Stressing that engagement and diplomacy were his preferred method of overcoming differences, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has argued that recent changes in the world have worked to the UN’s advantage as an effective mechanism for solving the world’s crises.

“I believe in engagement, dialogue before confrontation,” Mr. Ban wrote in an opinion piece published in the international edition of Newsweek magazine. He added that efforts to establish rapport and an effective working relationship despite disagreements, however sharp, “will be the hallmark of my tenure as Secretary General.”

Mr. Ban said he took on his current post “without illusions,” being well aware of how a previous Secretary-General commented that it is the most “impossible” job in the world – but has maintained his optimism.

“With demands growing on every front, from peacekeeping to humanitarian assistance to health, the UN today is being called upon to do more than ever before, even as the resources to do these jobs grow proportionately more scarce,” he wrote.

At the same time, he pointed out that the tide has shifted in the UN’s favour, with a surge in the public’s appreciation for multilateralism and diplomacy in handling crises. Issues for which the UN is typically identified as taking the lead, such as climate change, are increasingly becoming prominent on the global agenda.

“Perhaps most encouraging, public support for the UN remains strikingly high,” he said, referring to a new poll which found almost three-quarters of respondents believing the Organization should play a stronger role on the global scene.

Even in the United States, where there is perceived to be disenchantment with the UN, 75 per cent of Americans surveyed in a recent poll favour a robust United Nations, with almost as many expecting their country’s foreign policy to be conducted in partnership with the world body.

“For the UN, all this, too, amounts to a climate change,” he observed.

Mr. Ban underscored the human dimension to his work, which he believes is a unifying theme in his efforts as Secretary-General.

For example, the key topic of climate change, he said, is inherently unequal, for as wealthier countries will be better equipped to adapt to global warming, poorer nations in places such as Africa, already impacted by desertification, will suffer disproportionately.

“We may read, each morning, about human tragedies in our newspapers,” he said. “But how often do we truly hear such people’s voices, or try with full force and determination to help? This I pledge to do.”


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