DRCNet reported last week that US drug war hardliners were pushing the candidacy of former Colombian National Police head Rosso Jose Serrano to replace outgoing UN drug czar Pino Arlacchi, who was ordered from his post by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last July. But by the time that story was posted last Friday, Annan had already chosen a successor, and drug warrior Serrano didn't make the cut (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/227.html#serrano). Instead, Annan reached into the ranks of the Euro-bureaucracy, appointing Antonio Mario Costa, Secretary General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to replace the widely-criticized Arlacchi.
The decision to appoint a manager rather than a drug fighter is no doubt related to the administrative problems that plagued the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCCP) under Arlacchi's tenure. Allegations of mismanagement, corruption and low morale shook the agency last spring and summer, leading to internal UN investigations that pointed a finger at Arlacchi. By July, as the Dutch government pulled its funding for UNDCCP in protest of Arlacchi's continued presence, Annan pulled the plug on him, ordering Arlacchi to resign his post effective at the end of February.
While UN officials have been tight-lipped about their reasoning in selecting Costa, his resume is that of a bureaucrat, not a drug fighter. A trained economist with a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, Costa has been a visiting professor at US and European universities, an economist at the UN Department of International Economics and Social Affairs, and Director-General for Economics and Finance for the Commission of the European Union.
A second factor that could be relevant in Costa's selection is his nationality. Like his predecessor, the anti-mafia crusader Arlacchi, Costa is Italian. Italy, along with the US, is one of the largest contributors to UNDCCP, which last year had a budget of $130 million.
While Costa's views on the international drug trade are unknown -- a Google search of the Internet for Costa returned four hits, all related to his career as an economist -- it seems clear that Annan has made putting the UNDCCP's house in order a higher priority than placing a high-profile drug fighter at its head. How US drug warriors, who have so far been silent on Costa's selection, will react to the loss remains to be seen. While loathing of the UN is a powerful force on the congressional right, any impulse to punish the organization by withholding funding for its drug agency will likely be counterbalanced by the irresistible urge to "win" the war on drugs.