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Tough Love Time for the UN

Tropical Storm Isaac hits Haiti
Fording floodwater in Haiti after tropical storm Isaac passed through the country in late August. Sometimes, the UN can seem to be nearly drowning, too, critics say. LOGAN ABASSI/UN MINUSTAH

Even though Ban Ki-moon just began his second five-year term this year as United Nations secretary-general, names are already surfacing as to his possible replacement when his term is up. Technically, Ban could be appointed a third term, but no secretary-general so far has held three. Most UN academic experts who were surveyed for a recently published Foreign Policy briefing on the topic said it was the moment for a woman to take the reins. “A Woman! For example, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Mary Robinson or Hillary Clinton,” wrote Katie Laatikainen, a political science professor at Adelphi University.

Thomas Pickering, a former United States ambassador to the UN, concurred: “A woman, the best available, selected from the world at large. No more rotation by region and exclusion of good candidates by member states with an axe to grind.”

The Foreign Policy briefing, published in time for the opening of the General Assembly’s annual debate this month, is an exhaustive look at the UN, featuring an essay, “Who Broke the U.N.?” by Madeleine Albright, who was a US ambassador to the UN and a US secretary of state under Bill Clinton; a second essay, “The Point Guard,” by the journalist James Traub on the tenure of the current US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice; and a highly readable survey that sweeps from such topics as what should be the UN’s top priority to whether Palestine should be admitted as a full member to the UN.

In all, it’s tough love time for the UN, which never ceases to amaze its critics and defenders alike.

FP’s U.N. Briefing:

Survey introduction by Madeleine Albright, based on an interview with FP editor Susan Glasser:
Survey results:
On-the-record questions:
Profile of Susan Rice by James Traub:

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