Published : 2013-09-25 18:15
Updated : 2013-09-25 18:15
The managing editor of influential U.S. foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been completely ineffective as a shaper of global affairs.
Among numerous alleged failings, Jonathan Tepperman said Ban had failed to address the crisis in Syria, while attacking his “clumsy” communication skills, including poor English proficiency.
“Ban and the United Nations have been totally ineffectual in stopping the carnage, as he himself recently acknowledged,” Tepperman wrote in a column for the International Herald Tribune, describing the secretary-general as “otherwise invisible.”
“He’s been called among the worst secretaries general in U.N. history, a powerless observer and a nowhere man,” he said.
He pointed to the “passivity” of the South Korean-born U.N. chief in his failure to speak out against violence in Syria as well as the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009.
Tepperman said Ban was also a terrible communicator. He said that Ban was uncomfortable in English and had to rely on notes to make his speeches, during which he “struggles to convey intellectual heft or moral drama.”
Tepperman quoted an unnamed former high-level U.N. official who told him that senior heads of government were often disappointed by his “lack of engagement.”
The journalist, however, recognized that Ban’s supposed lack of capability to get anything done stemmed from the nature of his job, rather than his level of competence. The top U.N. official is often viewed as a world leader but has little power to enforce his will, he said.
Tepperman claimed that Ban’s “fecklessness” was why world powers, tired of the confrontational figure of Ban’s predecessor Kofi Annan, tapped him for the job in the first place.
The less-than-friendly assessment of the secretary-general may shock his compatriots in South Korea who hold Ban in highest regard. In particular, Tepperman’s sharp criticism of Ban’s English might disillusion many South Korean students here, who praise Ban’s fluency in English.
A recent survey by Munhwa Ilbo newspaper on potential candidates for the next presidential election showed that Ban had the highest support among South Koreans. His 24.9 percent support rate topped those of last year’s presidential candidates Ahn Cheol-soo (19.9 percent), Moon Jae-in (8.7 percent) and Seoul mayor Park Won-soon (7 percent).
In another survey by job-seeking website Guijok-alba, Ban was selected as the politician most respected by college students in South Korea. Among youngsters, he is considered a diligent role model who constantly works hard to communicate with others and commands an excellent level of English.
The editorial brought about mixed response from South Korean netizens.
“It‘s difficult for the secretary-general to retain a balance of power in a post that is largely honorary,” said one South Korean netizen.
Another person said that while Ban’s hard work and will should be held in high regard, his abilities as a politician were “questionable.”