15 April 2005

British satirical bimonthly Private Eye did not seem to go along with a new UK candidate for UNDP top post. It described Baroness Amos who was proposed by Mr. Blair's government as "Tony's Crony." The Evening Standard, however, thought that the Prime Minister went along with U.S. candidate Wolfowitz in the World Bank in return for support for the Guyana-born Labour spokesperson on development issues for UNDP. So many countries were under the illusion that they could bargain over the former Deputy Defense Secretary when in fact the deal was done with a token face-saving visit to Brussels. Meanwhile, the list of candidates for UNDP keeps growing. After the Tanzanian-born Norwegian Hilde Johson (an unlikely appointment with Egeland and Larsen around), the Japanese put forward Kaoru Ishikawa. Funds available to the Foreign Ministry to use before the closure of their annual budget in March were used to invite some U.N. official who would presumably help. They may have been under the impression that DPI's Shashi Tharoor retained such influence when they welcomed him recently in Tokyo. That deletes the Japanese candidate. Three dark horses with solid credentials and fundraising potential are: Fawzi Sultan of Kuwait, a highly regarded development manager; Kamal Dervis, former governor of Turkey's Central Bank, finance minister and World Bank official; and Ed Melkart of the Netherlands. Both Kuwait and Turkey have no senior official. The appointment of either candidate from developing countries would be a welcome revolutionary decision to challenge the developed world. It would signal a determination to pay close attention to development concerns through experienced practitioners who are well known and highly regarded in capitals of industrialized countries.

While Europe will still claim the post, it would have taken a fair share at UNHCR, the Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs and World Trade Organization (which is not U.N. but international all the same). That is why a tilt towards one of the two impressive candidates from strong economies from the Third World may be more likely than before.

There are still those who feel that the current Administrator Mark Malloch-Brown, may retain the UNDP job despite taking over the post of Secretary General's Chief of Staff. They bank on a feeling that after doing his best to salvage whatever is feasible, he may get fed up with some small time conspirators. Taking swift action and gaining welcome recognition by media and political power centres may not necessarily help. It may sometimes arouse the jealous antagonism of some who somehow believe that Annan's mandate belonged to them and should not be shared. Besides, Malloch-Brown is not your normal functionnaire. He is used to leadership roles and has the media and worldwide connections to support it. Maybe his return to UNDP sometime next year should not be easily discounted.