UN Secretary General

Kofi Annan's term as Secretary General of UN is coming to an end, and is ending in tatters. He oversaw the biggest corruption scandal in the world - bribery and theft on a scale that makes Enron look positively petty. The question 'what did Kofi know, and when did he know it?' has never been fully answered, but we do know that Saddam stole billions of dollars - $1.8 billion which can be traced and a great deal more which can't. We know that some of this money flowed into Taliban controlled Afghanistan, which puts a new perspective on the oft-repeated claim that it has been 'proved' there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. We know it corrupted the political processes of at least one Saddam ally on the UN Security Council - France.

We also know that the report into the murder of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon had key charges against the Syrian administration removed, when Annan had promised there would be no cover up, and we know this happened while the author of the report was in a meeting with the Secretary General himself.

If Annan is allowed to finish his current term it will be a disgrace. A man who has overseen - and possibly connived at - theft and covered up murder is not fit to hold such a senior role. But, even if he completes his term, he will be gone soon.

So who should replace him? Fortunately, every major region in the world has now had its 'turn' at supplying the Secretary General. This means the next S-G can be appointed solely on merit. The only criterion regarding nationality is the old one: no-one who is a citizen of a permanent security council member can be considered.

Let me then make a proposition: Peter Sutherland.

Sutherland was Attorney General of Ireland before being appointed to the European Commission, where he served under Jacques Delors as Competition Commissioner. He performed the remarkable feat of gaining the respect of both Delors and of Margaret Thatcher.

He served only on term on the Commission, because his Fine Gael party lost power in Dublin and the new government appointed one of its own people to the Commission. Nonetheless, when Delors's term as President expired, both he and the British government (by then led by John Major) suggested Sutherland for the role. The idea got nowhere as Sutherland had no support from his home country. Instead Sutherland became Director General of the World Trade Organisation. He has now returned to business and has served as Chairman of BP and of Goldman Sachs International. Only this year he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by the UN Industrial Development Organisation.

Sutherland has a long record in public service, untainted by any hints of corruption. He is a lawyer, trained in the Anglo-American tradition of the Common Law, much the most appropriate background for an understanding of international law. A committed free-marketeer and successful businessman, he understands the crucial link between free markets, and the laws that underwrite them, and solving the world's problems.

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