B. Lynn Pascoe, an American diplomat who has served as under secretary-general for political affairs during Ban Ki-moon’s first term, is leaving that key position early in the new year, as the secretary-general reshapes his senior team for his second five-year term beginning on Jan.1.
The first announcement of pending changes at the top of the United Nations – with more following in what appears to be a major reshuffle – was made on Dec. 1 by the secretary-general’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar of India. He said that eight under secretaries-general will be leaving in the first half of 2012. As of June 2010, the UN had 61 under secretaries-general, 77 percent of them men.
Pascoe has led the Department of Political Affairs, which operates like a State Department, since 2007. His department is currently leading, among other high-profile activities, the short-term political mission in Libya.
The departure or reassignment of top UN officials always leads to fierce competition among countries for these jobs. Appointments are never made on merit, or merit alone, but under pressures from powerful nations or regions demanding a high-level presence in the UN. Britain and the US are likely to be rivals for Pascoe’s job, which for many years was held by a British citizen.
China and Japan Lose Spots
Among others who are leaving, Nambiar said, are the under secretary-general for communications and public information, Kiyotaka Akasaka of Japan; under secretary-general for economic and social affairs, Sha Zukang of China; the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh of Gambia, and the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, Ján Kubiš of Slovakia. Kubis has been appointed the secretary-general’s next special envoy in Afghanistan, a critical position as the NATO military campaign winds down. [See “A New Envoy, Slovakian, Heads to Afghanistan”]
Additional people on the departure list or taking new assignments include five assistant secretaries-general at the UN Development Program and the UN Population Fund.
More changes are expected in coming days and weeks, including the possible departure of the deputy secretary-general, Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania. No official information was made available on her future.
Barbara Crossette is the senior consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.
Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for The New York Times from 1994 to 2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas,” “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course,” in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2015.”
Crossette won the George Polk award for her coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for her writing on Asia.