May 30 - Issue 16 - Ban Appoints Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

New York, May 30, 2007 - Secretary-General Ban revealed yesterday that he had selected Francis Deng of Sudan to serve as his Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. The post, formerly called the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, had been left vacant since the contract of Juan Mendez (Argentina) expired on March 31.

When the post fell vacant at the end of March and Mr. Mendez was not immediately replaced, some observers were uncertain about the fate of the post itself. However, in April Ban announced that he intended not only to maintain the office of the SAPG but also to strengthen the UN's genocide prevention mechanisms "including by upgrading the post of Special Adviser to a full-time position." Mendez had served in a part-time capacity. Ban confirmed yesterday that he had requested Deng to serve in a full-time capacity.

Deng is currently Director of the Sudan Peace Support Project based at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, where he also teaches international politics, law and society.  He has served as the Secretary-General's Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, as Ambassador of Sudan to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States, and as Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. 

The mandate of the Special Adviser, which was established in 2004, includes collecting information on "massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of ethnic and racial origin that ... might lead to genocide," acting as an "early-warning mechanism" by bringing potential genocidal situations to the attention of the Secretary-General and the Security Council, and making recommendations on preventing or halting genocide. The mandate specifies that the purpose of the Special Adviser is not to determine whether genocide has occurred or is occurring, but to propose steps to prevent or stop it. According to the Office of the Special Adviser, this is due to the early-warning role of the post, which requires action "before all the elements that constitute the definition of genocide are present."

Ban "will continue to look at additional ways to enhance the capacity" of the Special Adviser's office, he said yesterday.  In his April statement he also had said that he would strengthen the UN's Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention established by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but no announcement has been forthcoming on its extension or other strengthening.

Ban also indicated yesterday that he may appoint a separate adviser to oversee the UN's efforts on the Responsibility to Protect.

A joint NGO letter to Ban in April noted that "The person appointed ... must have the qualifications and credibility required for this crucial post. We strongly recommend that you will appoint a person to fill the position who is authoritative, of high moral authority and independence, and who has recognized expertise in diplomacy, conflict prevention, international humanitarian law and human rights."

Biography of Francis Deng


Official list of all current Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General

High-level Appointments Still to be Made

Posts remaining vacant include:

  • Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (Afghanistan)
  • Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Operations and Rule of Law (Liberia)
  • Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa (Based in New York)
    • The contract of Mr. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila has expired and a replacement has not yet been named.
  • High Representative for the Least-Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
    • The contract of Mr. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury has not yet expired, but Ban did not renew it.
  • Executive-Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
    • The contract of Ms. Mervat Tallawy has not yet expired, but Ban did not renew it.
  • Executive-Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
    • The contract of Mr. Hak-su Kim has not yet expired, but Ban did not renew it.
  • Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs
    • The contract of Mr. Nobuaki Tanaka has expired. The post may be modified based on the Secretary-General's proposal to replace the Department of Disarmament Affairs with an Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), to be headed by a High Representative at the level of Under-Secretary-General. The proposal is currently under consideration by Member States, and Ban is not expected to appoint a new USG for this position until the question of restructuring questions has been resolved.

A new under-secretary-general for gender equality and women's empowerment is also subject to General Assembly deliberations. The Secretary-General's High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence recommended in November 2006 that the existing gender-related entities of the UN (UNIFEM, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and UN Division for the Advancement of Women) be combined into a single, stronger, independent gender entity with better funding, headed by an Executive Director with the rank of Under-Secretary-General.

A former special envoy, Stephen Lewis, said of the new post last December: "the process of choosing the new Under Secretary-General ... must be as ‘transparent and global' as the Reform Panel recommended.... [T]hey made it clear that the choice should be ‘demonstrably' open to candidates from outside the United Nations as well as to internal candidates. There can be no assumption made by anyone, that any particular person is entitled to the job. A huge amount rides on the choice of the incumbent: she will be the first leader of the most powerful women's agency in the world. This cannot be a case of simple bureaucratic elevation. The candidate selected must be the best possible mobilizer, fundraiser, manager and visionary the world has to offer, from any corner of the globe."

Executive Office Staffing Procedures

On May 24 Ban's spokesperson elaborated on procedures for the selection of Executive Office staff, which she said would be completed soon: "It is perfectly normal for an incoming Secretary-General to bring a small number of close advisers with him.  The General Assembly gives the Secretary-General the explicit authority to appoint staff to his own office outside the regular procedures."

She later said that this irregular procedure was a "principle" approved by the GA but that in Ban's practice, "all posts on the 38th floor were staffed through a competitive process....  those posts were advertised and we got more than 1,000 applications for them." She affirmed that interviews were part of the process.

In the News


Sudanese Advocate and Scholar Named to UN Genocide Prevention Post - UN News, May 29