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Reelected As UN Chief, Ban Promises Results That 'People Can See And Touch'

Ban Ki-moon takes the oath of office as he is sworn in for a second term as UN secretary-general in New York on June 21.
UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly has elected Ban Ki-moon for a second term as secretary-general of the United Nations.

Ban, a 67-year-old South Korean diplomat, has won praise for his commitment to climate change, nuclear disarmament, and women's issues. But he also has been criticized for failing to be more critical of human rights abuses in powerful countries like China and Russia. His second five-year term starts on January 1, 2012.

"I am proud and humbled to accept your support," Ban said. "As a secretary-general, I work as a harmonizer and bridge-builder."

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, has led the UN since January 2007. In contrast to his charismatic predecessor, Kofi Annan of Ghana, the unassuming South Korean was not initially perceived as a strong leader of the world body. But with perseverance and skillful maneuvering, Ban was able to win supporters at the UN during his first term.

Acknowledging the perils of the current global economic situation, Ban reiterated his pledge to do more with less at the UN.

"In hard economic times, we must stretch resources, do better with less," he said. "We must improve our ability to deliver as one. We must do more to connect the dots among the walls of challenges so that the solutions to one global program become solutions for all."

'We Must Deliver'

Among the factors leading to Ban's strong standing within the UN were his decision to appoint to posts a higher number of representatives from developing countries, particularly women at senior management positions within the UN; his strong support for women's rights; his consistent policy toward nuclear disarmament; and his pro-democracy stand on the recent events in North Africa and the Middle East.

"To lead, we must deliver the results; mere statistics will not do it," he said of his leadership philosophy. "We need results that people can see and touch, results that change lives, make difference."

Ban's attempts to seek common ground have won him accolades, but he has also been criticized for his allegedly restrained attitude toward human rights abuses by big countries such as China and Russia.

At the same time, Ban has been credited with showing resolve in voicing his support for movements calling for democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa.

Some UN diplomats say that now, unrestricted by concerns about reelection, it's possible that Ban may show a more assertive style of diplomacy and follow a course less influenced by the interests of the Security Council's five veto-holding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States.