profile Reviews

‘Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World’ review: Child of war to man of peace

Literary Review

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s memoir, Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World ,is a candid and incisive account of his 10-year stint at the helm of the UN. His history-shaping tenure as UNSG leads us through exciting global developments and interactions with world leaders.

Ban’s memoir captures his childhood struggles caught up in the horrors of the Korean wars and poverty. He was a child of war but turned a man of peace whose belief in the UN was reinforced when it stopped the Korean War and helped rebuild institutions in his country. A chance encounter with President John F. Kennedy during a brief student exchange programme in the U.S. taught him to think beyond national boundaries and see humanity as one family.

Some trade-offs

In the run-up to the UNSG elections in 2006, Ban reveals some interesting insights. Although late in the game, he used his position as Foreign Minister of his country to make trade-offs with world leaders to advance his candidature. The full backing of President Roh Moo-hyun, he admits, played a crucial role in his winning while other candidatures, including that of Shashi Tharoor, he notes, lacked strong support of their governments.

An experienced diplomat when he assumed charge as UNSG, Ban believed “diplomacy is the art of the possible while negotiation is diplomacy in action.” His compassionate approach to global and regional issues is moulded by the wisdom of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who taught the virtues of being like water in life to be able to adapt to situations rather than confront. Ban’s quiet diplomacy helped to rally world leaders to craft a global agenda that prioritised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and The Paris Accord on Climate Change, two notable achievements of his tenure, to bring focus on the need for a broader agenda for human development and preservation of the planet through collective actions.

His UN peace-keeping operations, driven by optimism and pragmatism, were largely successful in pacifying many disturbed parts of the world, barring West Asia and Dafur etc. On North Korea, he harboured no illusions that it wanted to enter into a deal for denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, despite the U.S.’ carrot and stick approach. In a first-ever visit by a UNSG to Iran and Myanmar, in defiance of western pressures, he engaged with the leadership there for extracting concessions for political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest. He pointed at the alleged crimes against Sri Lankan Tamils in the final stages of the conflict. The controversial UN provision ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P), endorsed by all nations in 2005, he observes, remained mired under suspicions of being used for regime changes in Libya, Syria, Sudan etc.

Missed opportunity

The notable missed opportunity of Ban’s tenure was UN reforms, especially democratisation of the UNSC that does not reflect contemporary realities. He tamely gave up pursuing this important agenda on the feeble reasoning that the ‘veto power’ creates inevitable logjams to reform.It’s a surprise too that he didn’t acknowledge India’s contribution toUNpeace-keeping operations and human development through MDGs/SDGs commitments.And yet, in the 21st century, Ban asserts, “somewhere else” just isn’t as far away as it used to be and, therefore, global problems require global actions with a sense of collective responsibility and urgency for saving the future of our children.

Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World ; Ban Ki-moon, HarperCollins, ₹599.

The reviewer is a serving Foreign Service Officer currently working in the Ministry of External Affairs.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 6, 2022 9:03:16 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/resolved-uniting-nations-in-a-divided-world-review-child-of-war-to-man-of-peace/article64825682.ece