Issue 42 - 15 December 2006 - Ban Ki-moon Takes Oath of Office, Indicates First Priorities and Plan for Appointments

New York, 15 December 2006 – Ban Ki-moon was sworn in as United Nations Secretary-General yesterday in a General Assembly ceremony. He will take office on 1 January 2007. Until that time, Kofi Annan is still the Secretary-General while Ban Ki-moon is known as the “Secretary-General-designate.”

Tribute to Kofi Annan

The ceremony began with the adoption by acclamation of a resolution paying tribute to outgoing Secretary-General Annan. An hour-long series of speeches on his contributions followed. Annan was praised in particular for his dedication to development – and drawing a close link between development, security, and human rights – as well as for defending Palestine, advancing human rights institutions, and efforts at reforming the organization.

Some statements mentioned confidence in Ban and at least two speakers suggested that his skill in leading the organization would be due in part to his “Asian values.”

Annan then thanked the member states for their work and credited the UN staff, both in field offices and at headquarters, for his successes. He assured them that the organization would be “in safe hands” with Ban. Ban was seated with his wife, Yoo Soon-taek, and Annan’s wife, Nane, who was also praised by many speakers.

Ban’s Swearing-In Ceremony

The President of the General Assembly conducted Ban’s oath of office. Over two dozen individuals were invited to observe the oath from the stage, including the President of the Security Council, the President of ECOSOC, the President of the Trusteeship, the Chairs of the main committees, the 21 Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly, and the President of the 56th General Assembly, under whom Ban served as chief of staff.

Ban placed his left hand on the UN Charter – a new practice that he requested – and recited the oath:

“I, Ban Ki-moon, solemnly swear to exercise in all loyalty, discretion, and conscience the functions entrusted to me as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to discharge these functions and to regulate my conduct with the interests of the United Nations only in view, and not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any government or other authority external to the organization.”

In his statement following the oath, Ban said the following:

  • “loyalty, discretion, and conscience” would be his “watchwords” in showing his dedication to the UN Charter and serving as Secretary-General;
  • he was “all the more humbled” because it was Kofi Annan he was succeeding;
  • he praised the early conclusion of the process by which he was appointed and said that he has used the time to listen to delegations, the secretariat, and “the wider UN family”;
  • he spoke of the importance of listening to each member state and of protecting the UN’s credibility by not catering to some and ignoring the plights of others; and
  • in French, he spoke of the relationship between the Secretariat and member states and his plans to hold “sustained and constant” dialogue to end distrust.

He did not speak of having met with any members of civil society or the private sector, nor did he refer to their relationship with the work of the UN.

Comments on UN Reform Issues, First Priorities, and Plans for Appointments

Ban gave some signs about his advisor choices during a press conference after the GA ceremony. He said that he was in the process of reviewing the contracts of Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General. He said that he would decide on new senior appointments early in 2007. Most contracts of senior officials will expire in February 2007. In filling these posts, he said that he would primarily consider individual merit and also account for gender and geographic balance. He has the choice to renew a contract or to replace the person with someone new, upon expiry of the contract.

The post of Deputy Secretary-General will expire on 31 December 2007; Ban said he preferred a woman for the role and would consult with member states to make his final decision. He described the DSG as someone who would assist him, work for management reform, and be responsible for the implementation of the development goals.

For his first undertaking Ban indicated that he might participate in the African Union summit in late January. He also said that in general, his work would begin along three tracks: enhancing consolidation and coordination within organization; making staff more professional, accountable and mobile; and healing divides and mistrust.

Asked about the Responsibility to Protect, Ban said that he would “try to discuss this matter, to have more solid terms and framework so that this concept can be operationalized.” He noted that it had not been discussed in sufficient detail among member states since the leaders agreed on the concept at the 2005 World Summit.

Asked about Security Council reform, he called it “by far the most important and sensitive” issue and said that, “it is necessary, every member state will agree that there needs to be an expansion and reform in the Security Council.” He planned to facilitate consultations among member states to reach consensus