U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he is seeking a second term as head of the world body. He is nearly certain to get it.

Ban formally announced his candidacy during a briefing on a recent trip to Europe and Africa, noting he has approached the job during his first term as a "bridge-builder" at a time of unprecedented global change.

"That is our challenge as we look ahead," Ban said.

Ban, 66, a former South Korean foreign minister, has no known opponents.

Ban has been criticized for his low-key style, his lack of charisma, and his failure to criticize human rights abuses in powerful countries, especially China and Russia. But he has won praise for putting climate change at the top of his agenda, for his commitment to women's issues and nuclear disarmament, and for his recent support for pro-democracy demonstrators in North Africa and the Middle East and for military intervention in Ivory Coast and Libya.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe welcomed Ban's announcement.

"He has shown courage and determination during a time of crisis," Juppe said in a statement released. "We have no doubt that he will show those same qualities during a second term at the head of the U.N."

Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation which was started to administer Ted Turner's $1 billion pledge to the U.N., said "Ban Ki-moon will be re-elected — there's no doubt about it."

"The question now is, what's the agenda for the second term and how can this be aggressively pursued?" he said.

Earlier Monday, Ban met with U.N. representatives from the group of Asian nations and won their endorsement for a second term, he said. He planned to meet with other regional groups later over the next few days "to humbly seek their support."

Now that Ban has announced his candidacy, the U.N. Security Council must give a positive recommendation, with a resolution that needs at least nine "yes" votes and no veto by a permanent member — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia or China.

The General Assembly would then elect Ban for a second term starting Jan. 1, 2012, probably by acclamation.

The U.N. chief has won endorsements from two former U.S. ambassadors who served during George W. Bush's presidency, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad, for successfully navigating the U.N.'s bureaucracy and for showing he is committed to advancing human rights and democracy.

But Human Rights Watch has been very critical of Ban for failing to raise China's rights record or its imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in a meeting with President Hu Jintao last November, and for not speaking out against abuses in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Ban insists he has spoken out for human rights and Philippe Bolopion, U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, told the AP that Ban has been much more vocal against human rights abuses in Egypt, in Libya, in Ivory Coast.

"We hope that in his second mandate he will use the moral authority of his office in a more consistent manner, regardless of the political implications or the sensibilities of the five permanent members of the Security Council," Bolopion said.

When Ban took over the helm of the U.N. from Kofi Annan, he called himself "a harmonizer and bridge-builder" and promised to restore the world body's tarnished reputation and push for peace in the Middle East and Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur region.

Ban put climate change at the top of his agenda and said he would mobilize world leaders to take urgent action to combat it. And he promised to strengthen the three pillars of the United Nations: security, development, and human rights.

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 including unemployment and poverty.