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Fletcher Grads Vie For U.N.ís Top Post

Fletcher Grads Vie For U.N.ís Top PostTwo graduates of The Fletcher School at Tufts University are among the small pool of candidates who have been nominated to take over the secretary-generalship of the United Nations.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.07.06] With United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan set to step down at the end of this year, several qualified candidates are vying to take his place. Two Fletcher School graduates – Shashi Tharoor and Surakiart Sathirathai – are among the handful of high-power global figures who are being considered for the job.

"The secretary-generalship is about running the organization,” Tharoor, 50, who earned three degrees from Fletcher during the 1970s and currently serves as the U.N.’s under-secretary-general for communications and public information, recently told the United Press International. “If am elected, I would be accountable to 191 countries, not to any one country.”

Tharoor, India’s nominee for the post, is one of several Asian candidates in the running to succeed Annan, who is a native of Ghana, Africa. According to the Associated Press, the U.N.’s next secretary-general will likely hail from an Asian country, “as part of an unwritten tradition of geographical rotation, which has been loosely followed for around three decades.”

Sathirathai, 48, who currently serves as Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, has been endorsed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He joins Tharoor in the quest to become the first Asian to lead the U.N. in more than 30 years.

"The United Nations must become a paragon of good governance," Sathirathai, who graduated from The Fletcher School in 1981, recently told the South China Morning Post. "And the secretary-general has to uphold its moral values from the very top.”

If Sathirathai becomes the organization’s next leader, he told the AP that he will focus on increasing transparency at the U.N., as well as improving the organization’s effectiveness and accountability. Tharoor explained to the International Herald Tribune that his goal is to bring values like “democracy, human rights, pluralism and tolerance” to the organization.

Although only one candidate will emerge as the next secretary-general following elections this fall, both Sathirathai and Tharoor boast impressive credentials for the position.

Tharoor – an award-winning author who has penned several books, including “The Great Indian Novel,” a biography of India’s first prime minister – has worked in various capacities for the U.N. for more than 25 years. In recent years, Tharoor, one of Annan’s trusted advisers, has been a driving force behind the U.N.’s attempt to help rebuild Iraq.

Sathirathai, who served as Thailand’s foreign minister before becoming the country’s prime minister last year, has more than two decades of years of experience in international law, finance and economic development. Aside from his roles in the public sector, he has led a Thai commercial bank, as well as the Thai national petroleum enterprise. He is also a founding partner of a leading commercial law firm.

As the race heats up, Tharoor points out that this level of competition befits the battle for the U.N. secretary-generalship. He told the Bangkok Post that he and the other candidates “will have to stand on our own merits and will have to have [our] own credentials, rather than our passports as the principal qualification.”

“ … The world deserves as broad a choice as possible," he told UPI.

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