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Cholera outbreak strikes Haiti

Cholera outbreak latest failure for United Nations and Ban Ki-moon.

The secretary general has even garnered criticism on issues that are reportedly close to his heart, such as global warming. Ban touted the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference as the possible “turning point in the world’s efforts to prevent runaway climate change.” But it was widely panned as a fiasco. Some called it a “historic failure.”

Some of Ban’s fiercest critics have come from the U.N.’s own staff and from the diplomatic community. In August 2009, Mona Juul, a high-ranking Norwegian diplomat, referred to Ban as “spineless” and “charmless” in a leaked memo, and gave a litany of issues that she believed the secretary general had failed to influence, from the cyclone in Myanmar to non-proliferation.

“In other ‘crises areas’ such as Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and not least the Congo, the secretary general's appeals, often irresolute and lacking in dedication, seem to fall on deaf ears,” Juul wrote.

Stinging as Juul’s remarks were, the worst came a year later when yet another memo was leaked, authored by Under Secretary General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services Inga-Britt Ahlenius. In her “end-of-assignment” report to Ban, Ahlenius called the secretary general’s actions “deplorable” and “reprehensible,” and said that the secretariat “now is in a process of decay.”

In Ban's defense, acting deputy spokesperson for Ban, Farhan Haq, told GlobalPost that in regards to issues such as climate change and the Sri Lankan civil war, “it would be hard to find any leader in the world who has pushed harder on these issues than Ban Ki-moon.”

Criticisms of the U.N’s performance in Haiti after the quake, said Haq, are false.

“As for the compound, the main U.N. compound in Haiti was itself destroyed in the earthquake. The United Nations is hardly disconnected from the reality faced by Haitians, having itself lost 101 staff.”

Ban told the Guardian newspaper in July that he welcomes criticism but finds some of it unjust. "Sometimes I have found some of such criticism has been based on misunderstanding or not fully appreciating what kind of person I am and what my job requires me to do," he said.

The question now is whether the man thought to have had the least influential tenure in the secretariat’s history will be given a second term next year. So far, speculation is that he will, based on the support of China and the United States, despite some rumored grumbling about his performance in Washington.

“The U.S. wanted an Asian who would be the complete opposite of Kofi Annan,” wrote Stanley Meisler, author of a biography of Kofi Annan, in an email to GlobalPost. “No one on the council put up much of a fight against this idea. So it's pretty hard to carp now that they have a [secretary general] who is the complete opposite of Kofi.”

Read more GlobalPost coverage of Haiti.

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