15 September 2006

It's now official. The name of Prince Zeid Al-Hussein was presented officially to the Security Council for the post of U.N. Secretary General. His Royal Highness, as his title indicates, has been Jordan's Permanent Representative since August 2000. Before that, he was the Deputy in the mission. In every capacity, Prince Zeid took over several other challenging U.N. tasks. He worked for a while in Peacekeeping missions, gaining insight into field work. He was very much involved in a wide range of human development issues. A pillar of the newly established International Court, he was an integral part of a redefined international justice system. One of his most recent public roles was in overseeing the investigation into sexual abuse in Peacekeeping Operations where he alerted the international community to the current emerging and potential problems. While making his case clearly and forcefully, he also advanced his views in an effectively diplomatic manner. There is always that ready smile, the ever polite "Sir," a hallmark of Hashemite dignified modesty.

The entry of Prince Zeid adds a new dimension. He is the first Moslem candidate at a period of tension, however politically motivated between religions. While the dysfunctional alliance of civilizations is getting nowhere except with some occasional events, there is certainly a role to be played by an enlightened internationalist with undisputable Moslem credentials, traceable to the family of Prophet Mohammad ("May God's prayers and greetings be with Him"). His education, upbringing and experience would allow him the role of an effective bridge of understanding, tolerance and collaboration. Similarly, while Prince Zeid worked closely with varied United Nations Secretariat offices, he has played the role of insider-outsider, helpful but not uncritical. His handling of sexual violations of some peacekeepers is one example. While injecting fresh ideas, he is perceived more as a concerned friend rather than a destructive adversary.

Like all other candidates, he has to go through the evaluation of Security Council members, particularly veto wielding permanent members. The point to make is that he would not have entered the scene now, unless his initial soundings -- and those of his government's -- had not given the green light.