Tanzanian woman chosen for No. 2 post at United Nations

Times Staff Writer

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday made good on his pledge to appoint a woman from the developing world as deputy, choosing Tanzanian Foreign Minister Asha-Rose Migiro.

Ban called Migiro “a highly respected leader who has championed the cause of developing countries,” and said he planned to delegate much of the U.N.'s management and administrative work to her. She will also oversee socioeconomic affairs and development issues.

The deputy secretary-general is a relatively new U.N. post, created by Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, in 1998. After the Iraq oil-for-food scandal revealed systemic mismanagement in the organization in 2005, Annan tried to transform the post to help rein in the bureaucracy. Ban has pledged to streamline the U.N. staff, and Migiro will oversee the day-to-day running of the world body and the changes in management and operations that Ban says he plans.


Migiro, 50, became Tanzania’s first female foreign minister in January 2006 after serving as a university lecturer and Cabinet minister in Dar es Salaam, the nation’s capital.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Migiro proved her ability to manage as the chairwoman of the Great Lakes regional conference in Central Africa in December. Montas said Ban carefully considered many candidates and emphasized that Migiro “was not named because she’s an African and because she’s a woman, but essentially because of her qualifications.”

South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, however, said that although Migiro “is very experienced in managing foreign affairs,” being an African woman was her best qualification.

“Women are multi-tasking people,” Kumalo said. “African women are even better. Watch out!”

African Union envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, Tanzania’s former prime minister and foreign minister, said Migiro was a good choice, and not just because she was Tanzanian. “She’s a very informed person, well educated, extremely articulate,” he said. “She is one of those who has been an activist in the political situation in Tanzania, and an activist basically in the struggle for human rights on the continent.”

Ban has spent his first week on the job filling his Cabinet, trying to balance merit, gender and geography. The permanent Security Council members have traditionally been guaranteed some of the top Cabinet posts, and so far, the custom seems to be continuing.

The new secretary-general named British diplomat John Holmes to be the new chief for humanitarian affairs and appointed Montas, an award-winning Haitian broadcast journalist, as his spokeswoman. Former Indian ambassador and undersecretary-general Vijay Nambiar is Ban’s chief of staff. Mexican environmentalist Alicia Barcena Ibarra, who was Annan’s chief of staff, succeeded American Christopher B. Burnham as undersecretary-general for management.

The U.S. is expected to receive a bolstered political affairs post and France to retain peacekeeping. China may run the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.