UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously to give Ban Ki-moon a second term as secretary-general Tuesday, praising him for strengthening the world body's role and visibility in difficult circumstances.
The 192-member assembly applauded loudly as it adopted a resolution giving the 67-year-old South Korean diplomat another five years at the helm of the U.N. Assembly President Joseph Deiss banged his gavel and proclaimed Ban's selection by acclamation to a new term starting Jan. 1.
Ban announced earlier this month that he wanted a second term. He faced no opposition and was recommended by the Security Council for the new term last Friday. All regional groups at the U.N. endorsed him, and their chairs joined in sponsoring the Assembly resolution.
Gabon's U.N. Ambassador Nelson Messone, the current Security Council president who introduced the assembly resolution, said Ban has "remarkably and with all objectivity and independence" worked on every continent, to promote peace, justice and international security, "sometimes in particularly difficult and trying circumstances."
After the vote, the secretary-general was escorted to the podium where Deiss told him, "In a complex, difficult international environment, you have strengthened the role and the visibility of the United Nations by adopting reform measures, launching exciting, innovative initiatives, and calling faithfully and constantly for respect for human rights, the rule of law and the other values rooted in our charter."
Representatives from all regional groups welcomed his re-election as did South Korea's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who said being U.N. secretary-general is "one of the toughest jobs in the world."
Ban "has navigated turbulent waters with a steady hand," Rice said, calling him "a leader who listens to the voices of the voiceless, of the refugees sheltered beneath U.N. tents, of the children vaccinated through U.N. programs, of the innocent civilians whose lives have been saved by effective U.N. action."
"Secretary-General Ban has been a champion of peace and security, an advocate for development and a voice for universal human rights," the U.S. ambassador said.
Ban then took the oath of office from Deiss, raising his right hand and holding his left hand on the original U.N. Charter, which was flown to New York from Washington where it is kept in the U.S. National Archives.
Ban has been criticized for his lack of charisma and his failure to decry human rights abuses in countries like China and Russia. But he has won praise for taking on climate change and nuclear disarmament and backing intervention in Ivory Coast and Libya.
Calling his re-election a humbling and "very great honor beyond expression," Ban pledged to keep leading the world body "as a harmonizer and a bridge-builder" at a time of global change.
When he took over as U.N. chief from Kofi Annan in January 2007, Ban promised to push for peace in the Middle East and Sudan's Darfur region. He said he also wanted to restore the U.N.'s reputation after scandals over the U.N. oil-for-food program to help Iraqi civilians and corrupt procurement officials.
But peace in the Middle East and Darfur remain elusive, and so does a climate change deal.
In addition, there are new issues to tackle, including uprisings across the Arab world, and the continuing fallout from the global economic crisis that has deepened unemployment and poverty.
The role of the United Nations, Ban said, is to lead a new interconnected world.
"To lead, we must deliver the results," he said. "We need results that people can see and touch, results that change lives, make a difference."