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Post of UN Secretary-General: Why not a Buddhist this time?

By Senaka Weeraratna, Asian Tribune, March 15, 2006

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- The post of UN Secretary – General is usually given to a suitable candidate drawn from a particular continent using the principle of geographical rotation. Next, it is Asia’s turn. It is also incumbent on the Secretary – General to give some representation through his person to the beliefs and values of the dominant civilizations of that continent.

Hindu and Buddhist civilizations have been pre-dominant on the Asian continent for more than two millennia. There are more than ten Buddhist states in Asia, namely Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Bhutan, Korea, Singapore, China, Japan and Mongolia. There are two Hindu states i.e. India and Nepal. The total population of Buddhists and Hindus in Asia exceed 2.5 billion. This is a staggering figure that should be taken into account when filling the post of the UN Secretary ? General.

Since the inception of the United Nations in 1945 there have been seven individuals who have served as the UN Secretary ? General. They are as follows:

1) Trygve Lie
Country : Norway
Religion: Lutheren Christian Term of Office: 1946 ? 1952

2) Dag Hammarskjold
Country: Sweden
Religion: Christian
Term of Office: 1953 ? 1961

3) U Thant
Country : Myanmar ( formerly known as Burma )
Religion: Buddhist
Term of Office: 1961 ? 1971

4) Kurt Waldheim
Country: Austria
Religion: Roman Catholic
Term of Office: 1972 ? 1981

5) Javier de Perez de Cuellar
Country: Peru
Religion: Roman Catholic
Term of Office: 1982 ? 1991

6) Boutros Boutros ? Ghali
Country: Egypt
Religion: Coptic Christian
Term of Office: 1992 ? 1996

7) Kofi Annan
Country: Ghana
Religion: Christian
Term of Office: 1997 ? to date

Breaking it down to continental representation, the post of Secretary-General has been held by three Europeans, one Asian (U Thant), one Latin American (Javier de Perez de Cuellar), and two from the African continent (Boutros Boutros ? Ghali and Kofi Annan ) primarily on the basis of geographical rotation.

It is also remarkable to note that six of the seven holders of this high post have been Christians, though drawn from different continents. Only one non Christian ( U Thant ) has held this post. Not a single Hindu or Muslim has been deemed fit to occupy this position.

The prestige and moral authority of the World's No. 1 Bureaucratic job would be greatly diminished if it is seen to be a niche only for candidates belonging to one religious belief system.

The Members of other Great Religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism should also be allowed to serve in this position.

If a Buddhist or Hindu candidate fails to get selected for the post in this round it will take another 30 years under the principle of continental rotation for Asia to press its claims and enable a Buddhist or Hindu to assume the post of UN Secretary ? General.

Senaka Weeraratne is a lawyer, Secretary of the German Dharmadutha (missionary) Society and a leading Buddhist actvist in Sri Lanka. He is also a active member of the Royal Asiatic Society. It was his paternal uncle Asoka Weeraratna (later the Venerable Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi) who organized the first Sri Lankan Buddhist mission to Germany in 1957 and laid the foundation for the Berlin Buddhist Vihara following the establishment of the German Dharmadhutha Society in 1952. Senaka Weeraratne occasionally writes to Sinhale News and the Buddhist News Centre (BNC) - a forum where Buddhists (including myself) express views and discuss various topics.

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