The White House is pushing for Clinton-era National Security Advisor and Obama campaign advisor Tony Lake to be named the next head of UNICEF, a source working closely on U.N. issues tells The Cable.
The potential naming of Lake, the 70-year-old professor and former diplomat, to lead the agency could increase calls by European countries for a change in the custom of having an American at the helm, the source said. Others say that Lake's long experience and well-known reputation would make him a good fit for the job.
Spokesmen for the White House and the U.S. delegation at the U.N. would neither confirm nor deny that they are suggesting Lake for the job.
A UNICEF spokesman would only say, "The selection of a UNICEF executive director is made by the secretary general in consultation with the executive board."
That executive board meets Tuesday in what will be the last series of consultations before the term of current Executive Director Ann Venemen expires in April, so it would be logical that consultations over the next leader of the agency would commence, a U.N. source said.
Venemen, a former U.S. secretary of Agriculture, was appointed head of UNICEF in 2005 but wrote a letter Dec. 23 stating she would not see a second term.
The custom is that the U.S. recommendation for the post would be accepted and the head of UNICEF is traditionally an American. But such customs may be changing since the ascension of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. For example, the U.N. Department of Management is no longer American-led.
"It's not codified anywhere that the U.S. has any special role in running UNICEF, although that's the practice," the U.N. source said.
Lake has a long and storied career in foreign policy and development, dating back to his time as an assistant to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., during the Vietnam War. More recently, he has spent nine years on the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and also has worked on children's welfare with the Marshall Legacy Institute, which tries to elevate the condition of children in war torn countries.
He was a senior foreign-policy advisor to the Obama campaign last year but wasn't nominated for any administration position. The Clinton administration withdrew Lake's name for CIA director amid controversy stemming from his failure to divest in energy stocks in 1993 and his failure to inform Congress that President Clinton condoned Iran's arm sales to Bosnia in 1994.
Lake's appointment to lead UNICEF is far from certain. The secretary general could ask the administration for a menu of names or could appoint someone else entirely.
"The secretary general consults widely among member states before reaching a decision of this kind on appointments of this nature," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.
Lake could not be reached for comment.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.