AFP: The United Nations has re-elected Ban Ki-moon for a second term as leader of the global body as it continues to confront conflict and crises across strategic regions.
The 67-year-old former South Korean foreign minister was elected by acclamation by the UN General Assembly. His second five-year term will start on 1 January and run through 2016.
A beaming Ki-moon bowed to ambassadors and diplomats gathered at the UN headquarters after the result was announced.
“No-one understands the burdens of this role better than he and my government is grateful that he has taken them on,” said US ambassador Susan Rice, one of a host of envoys from around the world who praised Ban in speeches after the election.
“Secretary-general Ban has been a champion for peace and security,” Rice added, calling the post “one of the toughest jobs in the world”.
South Korea’s foreign minister, Kim Sung-Hwan, told the assembly it was probably “the most impossible job on Earth” but that Ki-moon’s home country was now in “great joy”.
Outspoken in faulting the leaders of Arab countries facing protests, but criticised himself by some human rights groups, Ban had been certain to win re-election for several months.
He declared his candidacy two weeks ago and was given formal backing by the UN Security Council on Friday. With no challenger to force a contest, the General Assembly meeting was only going to be an official celebration.
Ban has said climate change, a topic the United Nations struggled with during his first five years, is his top challenge. He has called the battle against global warming “the most important priority” for mankind.
The UN chief has also vowed to keep speaking up for the protesters taking on long-ruling leaders in the Arab world.
Just before the election, Ban again urged Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to carry out credible reforms “without delay”, after the Syrian leader offered a national dialogue to end months of anti-regime protests.
His aggressive line on Libya and Syria has not always pleased China and Russia.
But Ban has done nothing in his first five years to tempt the Security Council’s permanent five - China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain - to use their veto to stop his second term.
His insistence on “quiet diplomacy”, however, has got him into trouble, first with Myanmar and more recently with China.
Rights groups were particularly critical when he failed to raise the case of detained Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in a meeting with China’s president Hu Jintao in November.
Ban’s entourage has indicated he will be tougher in his second term, but he has also acknowledged his critics.
“I know that I am not the perfect person. You know, everybody has some strength and weakness,” he said in announcing his candidacy this month.
“I am also a man with some weaknesses but these weaknesses can be complemented by your wisdom, by your support and by the support of my senior advisers.”