UNITED NATIONS. MR. KIM RETURNS

 

1 SEPTEMBER 2013

MR. KIM RETURNS

Our distinguished Secretary General may have had enough bonding time with Susana Malcorra and Jan Eliasson. Perhaps a dose of his compatriot and former aide Kim Won-soo would help.

Mind you, since her appointment as Chef de Cabinet March of last year, Ms. Malcorra made every effort to serve with the same brilliance and energy that she did other jobs, whether in U.N. Field Support, World Food Programme, or Telecom Argentina. She may have become slightly overbearing while eager to please. Perhaps in guarding her turf, she may have seemed to expand it a bit by helping appoint some of her former colleagues.

After all, she works very hard and when you do you may hit an innocent bystander or cut off someone valued by a similarly influential senior official.

The only way to avoid missteps is not to take any action at all. And Susan Malcorra is habitually attuned to action. Yet, the sensitive and sensible Argentinean lady seems to try her best not to be overbearing. Apropos "overbearing," one could look elsewhere, though still along the same floor. Jan Eliasson, whom Ban Ki-moon was urged to appoint Deputy Secretary General (to the pleasant surprise of the new government of Sweden where he was left unemployed), does not seem to get it. He stands -- or sits -- in the middle of everywhere. Normally as the title indicates, he is supposed to "Deputize" for an unavailable or traveling Secretary General. But he doesn't miss any public opporunity nor any photo opportunity to walk in, pose, pause or merely stare back longingly at any camera in sight. Occasionally, there's that woman without any real job who shows up to thank him publicly for his contributions, but forget about her for now. Fact is that the habitually puzzled-looking, nervous gazing Jan Eliasson doesn't understand the limits of his role (nor of his qualifications, by the way -- but, again -- that's another matter).

In such an atmosphere, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may be longing to get "Mr. Kim" back to his regular office. For over a year, the Secretary General explored placing him with a promotion elsewhere. Proposals were submitted to the Administrative and Financial bodies for him to be in charge of Change Management. Questions were raised, but an unhelpful dismissive attitude by the Secretariat complicated the request, particularly that several other offices were reportedly dealing with the same issue.

Distancing Mr. Kim for a year displayed a genuine effort by the Secretary General to respond to positive criticism, particularly as his Korean aide initially made a statement and took positions which adversely affected his boss amongst a number of his basic supporters. It is hoped that by now, experience gained by all sides would allow for a better relationship pattern.

The Secretary General is the only duly elected official in the Secretariat. He, and he alone, is entitled to decide on his own choice of staff. In the current atmosphere, he may yearn to have his former Deputy Chef de Cabinet back somewhere in his office. With the overbearing persistent heavy breathing by Jan Eliasson, Ban Ki-moon will certainly not go for a Korean unification by bringing along a Mr. Kim from the North, though his name happens to be Kim Jong-"UN". But he may need to have someone like Kim Won-soo with whom he could exchange a few words of Korean in confidence on a busy crowded day! Letís hope that in the meanwhile Mr. Kim has improved his knowledge about the real U.N. Culture.