HLS Alum Could Assume Leadership of U.N.
With the anticipated retirement of its current head, Kofi A. Annan, the U.N. General Assembly must prepare to appoint Annan’s successor based on the recommendation of the Security Council.
The position entails facilitating all dialogue within the organization, and serving as a spokesperson for the interests of many nations. According to the U.N. Charter, the Secretary-General must “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security” and serve as the “chief administrative officer” of the U.N.’s daily affairs.
Traditionally, the U.N. Secretary-General position rotates every 10 years by region. In January 2002 Africa was due to relinquish the Secretary-General’s post, but Annan—originally from Ghana—was selected for a second five-year term in 2001, partly because Asia could not agree on a candidate.
Sathirathai has been unanimously endorsed by the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), making his chances at leading the U.N. appear favorable. He is also reportedly backed by the People’s Republic of China, one of five permanent members of the Security Council.
FROM HARVARD TO THE U.N.
Sathirathai was awarded a Masters of Laws degree in 1982 and a Doctor of Juridical Science degree in 1985 from HLS, after attending Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and earned his economics degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Rising to become an active member of the Thai government, Sathirathai served as Minister of Finance from 1995 to 1996. After taking on various roles ranging from academia to government, he became the country’s foreign minister in 2001, and in March became Thailand’s deputy prime minister.
If selected, Sathirathai will become the eighth Secretary General of the U.N. serving for at least five years.
But Sathirathai’s campaign is not without certain challenges. According to the ASEAN News Network, an unofficial requirement of the U.N. is the ability to speak French as well as English fluently, and Sathirathai has publicly admitted that he does not have a strong command of French.
In an Associated Press interview conducted while Sathirathai was in Cambridge to visit his son, a student at the Kennedy School of Government, Sathirathai discussed his campaign for Annan’s position.
“The United Nations is a very important institution,” he said to the AP. “I would be able to apply my experience, my knowledge, my training...to the work to promote peace, to create conflict avoidance, to help the poor.”
Harvard National Model United Nations Secretary-General Aditya H. Sanghvi ’06 said that Harvard students should pay more attention to the role of the U.N.
“[Students] need to appreciate the social impact of the U.N., not just its vetoing Iraq policies,” said Sanghvi, who runs an annual simulation of the U.N.
Other contenders for the position include the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Shashi Tharoor and a candidate from Sri Lanka.