Ban Ki-moon gets second term as UN chief

Ban Ki-moon gets second term as UN chief

United Nations: The UN General Assembly voted unanimously to give Ban Ki-moon a second term as secretary-general on Tuesday, praising him for strengthening the world body’s role and visibility in difficult circumstances.

The 192-member assembly applauded loudly as it adopted a resolution giving the 67-year-old South Korean diplomat another five years at the helm of the UN Assembly president Joseph Deiss banged his gavel and proclaimed Ban’s selection by acclamation to a new term starting 1 January.

Ban announced earlier this month that he wanted a second term. He faced no opposition and was recommended by the Security Council for the new term last Friday. All regional groups at the UN endorsed him, and their chairs joined in sponsoring the Assembly resolution.

Gabon’s UN Ambassador Nelson Messone, the current Security Council president who introduced the assembly resolution, said Ban has “remarkably and with all objectivity and independence" worked on every continent, to promote peace, justice and international security, “sometimes in particularly difficult and trying circumstances."

After the vote, the secretary-general was escorted to the podium where Deiss told him, “In a complex, difficult international environment, you have strengthened the role and the visibility of the United Nations by adopting reform measures, launching exciting, innovative initiatives, and calling faithfully and constantly for respect for human rights, the rule of law and the other values rooted in our charter."

Ban took the oath of office from Deiss, raising his right hand and holding his left hand on the original UN Charter, which was flown to New York from Washington where it is kept in the US National Archives.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak telephoned Ban Wednesday to congratulate him on his re-election. “I’m so proud of the fact that the leaders of not only advanced but also developing countries have actively expressed their support for Secretary-General Ban," Lee said during a seven-minute phone conversation, according to his office. “All South Koreans are delighted." Ban, a former foreign minister, thanked Lee for his support and said he is “overwhelmed" because he believes his re-election has contributed to improving South Korea’s international status.

Ban has been criticized for his low-key style, his lack of charisma, and his failure to criticize human rights abuses in powerful countries, especially China and Russia. But he has won praise for his commitment to climate change, nuclear disarmament and women’s issues, his strong recent backing of pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East, and for supporting military intervention in Ivory Coast and Libya.

Calling his re-election a humbling and “very great honor beyond expression," Ban pledged to keep leading the world body “as a harmonizer and as a bridge-builder" at a time of global change. He recalled that he began his first term in January 2007 with “a call for a new multilateralism, a new spirit of collective action."

“We knew then and more so now that we live in an era of integration and interconnection, a new era when no country can solve all challenges on its own and where every country should be part of the solution," he said. The role of the United Nations, Ban said, is to lead the new interconnected world. “To lead, we must deliver the results," he said. “We need results that people can see and touch, results that change lives, make a difference."

When he took over as UN chief from Kofi Annan, Ban promised to push for peace in the Middle East and Sudan’s Darfur region. He said he also wanted to restore the UN’s reputation after scandals over the UN oil-for-food program to help Iraqi civilians and corrupt procurement officials.

But peace in the Middle East and Darfur remain elusive, and so does a climate change deal. In addition, there are new issues to tackle, including uprisings across the Arab world, and the continuing fallout from the global economic crisis that has deepened unemployment and poverty.