71 Representatives and Envoys: What are they doing?

At last count, the United Nations had as many as 71 Special and Personal Representatives, Special Envoys, Mission and Military Personnel, all ostensibly doing work for the UN Secretary-General. But who are these people, what do they do, how much are they paid, and has the proliferation of such assignments made any difference in resolving the numerous intractable conflicts and problems confronting the UN and the world today?

A breakdown of that number shows 23 of these representatives at the Under-Secretary-General (USG) level; 20 at the Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) level; and 19 at the Director (D-2) level. The remaining 9 represent inter-organizational bodies, with 3 USGs and 6 ASGs.

The USGs - all men, naturally! - include, in alphabetical order, Oluyemi Adeniji (Nigeria). What a disaster he has been as head of UNAMSIL, the UN peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone. It is said that he is grossly lacking in management skills. Be on the lookout for a candid and damning report (unless it gets watered down!) from the fact-finding team headed by General Manfred Eisele of Germany, which was sent by the Secretary-General in May/June to study the operation there after rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) seized UN peacekeepers as hostages. The team's recommendation: replace Adeniji and his whole inept bunch.

Then there is Carl Bildt (Sweden), the Special Envoy for the Balkans. Thankfully, Bildt gets a special service allowance (SSA) only when he's actually doing UN work, because he is definitely an envoy in search of a mission since his days as High Representative in Bosnia. And get this: the budget for Bildt's office, for six months, is more than the annual budget for the UN Information Service in Geneva. And where does all that dough go? On travel, per diem and consultants, even though Bildt is a walking encyclopaedia on the Balkans and knows more about the region than any number of consultants combined. His contract is up soon, but expect him to stay put.

Lakhdar Brahimi (Algeria) seems to be earning his salary. As USG for Special Assignments in support of the Secretary-General's preventive and peacemaking efforts, he is chairing a panel that is examining all aspects of UN peacekeeping and whose report is eagerly later this month.

William Eagleton (United States) is cooling his heels in Laayoune, as head of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Remember, too, that former US Secretary of State James A. Baker III is Personal Envoy for Western Sahara as well.) The prediction: Don't hold your breath waiting for a referendum to take place any time soon. Where do former Permanent Representatives to the UN end up? In the case of Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria), as a USG and Special Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa. Since his appointment last December, one has to ask whether the experienced diplomat and distinguished scholar has actually been involved in decision making. Witness the debacle in Sierra Leone; the explosive situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the potential to become a third world war, this time in Africa; the off-again, on-again, and currently off-again, war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa; and let's not forget the incessant, fratricidal bloodletting in Angola and Burundi. With so many people advising the Secretary-General, an African, on Africa (Let's not forget that Ibrahima Fall (Senegal) is ASG for Africa within the Secretariat's Department of Political Affairs, headed by Sir Kieran Prendergast), why does the situation on much of that beleaguered continent not improve? One is reminded of the old saw that "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

Jacques Klein (United States), the brassy American general, continues to get things done, as Coordinator of UN Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, just as he did, military-like and very successfully, in Croatia during the UNTAES operation. Another hard worker is Dr. Bernard Kouchner (France), the Special Representative for Kosovo, who has had to make do with far less of everything promised by the Western countries while NATO forces were bombing Kosovo to rid it of Milosevic's murderous hordes. There is far less in terms of the human and financial resources required for the day-to-day administration and rehabilitation of that troubled province. There are daily rumours that he is quitting. Small wonder, given the frustrations of the job!

Eduard Kukan (Slovakia) is the other Special Envoy for the Balkans. Since the appointment of Kouchner and the heads of the other organizations responsible for Kosovo, Kukan and Bildt have no place to go and nothing to do, they seem to be occasionally seen but rarely heard, but they still hold their titles.

Terje Roed Larsen (Norway), the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process and Personal Representative to the PLO and Palestine Authority, has been kept extremely busy since Israel took everybody by surprise with its ahead-of-schedule and unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon.

Jamsheed Marker (Pakistan) still carries the title of Personal Representative for East Timor, and deserves credit for directing the negotiations which ultimately led to Indonesia's reluctant hand-over of the former Portuguese Territory to UN administration.

Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazil), the Special Representative for East Timor, is doing so well in administering the Territory that the media has moved on, now that there are no more ghastly tales of bodies in wells and other horrors to report. Hats off to Olara Otunnu (Côte d'Ivoire), the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. This unassuming and gentle man has made the plight of children his life's mission, and pursues his work with missionary zeal and dedication. The International Peace Academy's loss was the world's gain, particularly its children. The irrepressible Giandomenico Picco (Italy), who has an uncanny knack for bouncing back, is, in his current reincarnation, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001). The idea for the observance was the brainchild of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, when he addressed the General Assembly in 1998.

Mohamed Sahnoun (Algeria), Special Envoy of the Secretary-General in Africa, appears to have no specific assignment at the moment, but he is remembered for his efforts in Somalia and in the Great Lakes Region.

Prakash Shah (India), according to the list of top echelon appointments, gets paid when actually employed. He had been Special Representative in Iraq. By now he is back in India heading an NGO. In recent days, he has had very little to do in Baghdad. For that matter, neither does Hans Blix (Sweden), the new Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC (the UN Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission). UNMOVIC's predecessor body, UNSCOM (which was headed by Australian Richard Butler who is at present pushing his tell-all book about his Iraq experience), departed Iraq in December 1998, ahead of a US/UK bombing campaign that is still ongoing in the so-called "no-fly zones" over Iraq. UN inspectors have not been allowed back in, and perhaps never will, despite the humanitarian plight of the civilian Iraqi people as a result of UN-imposed sanctions to force Iraq to disclose and dispose of its weapons of mass destruction under UN supervision and verification.

Others in the USG category include three $1 a year Special Advisers: Diego Cordovez (Ecuador), Ismat Kittani (Iraq) and Maurice Strong (Canada), who has been reportedly involved in so many business deals while promoting UN reform. He is also Special Representative to the University of Peace. Incidentally, Mr. Strong's resume does not show any substantial university education. Still other USGs are: Jan Egeland (Norway), who advises on international assistance to Colombia; Oliver Jackman (Barbados), who is Personal Representative on the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela; Jean-Bernard Merimee (France), Special Adviser on European Issues, is a former Permanent Representative to the UN; Yuli Vorontsov (Russian Federation), another former Permanent Representative, is a Special Envoy with no specific portfolio; and Tom Eric Vraalsen (Norway) is Special Envoy for humanitarian affairs for the Sudan.

Africa, alone has 16 such Representatives/Envoys (some of them mentioned above). They are: Berhanu Dinka (Ethiopia), Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region; USG Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria), Special Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa; Mohamed Sahnoun (Algeria), Special Envoy in Africa; Hazel Scott (Guyana), Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office in Angola; Jean Arnault (France), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office in Burundi; Aiyte Jean-Claude Kpapko (Benin), Senior UN Adviser to the Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process; Cheikh Tidiane Sy (Senegal), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Peace-building Office in the Central African Republic; ASG Ibrahima Fall (Senegal), Special Envoy to Côte d'Ivoire; Kamel Morjane (Tunisia), Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of Mission; Samuel C. Nana-Sinkam (Cameroon), Representative and Head of the UN Peace-building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau; Felix Downes-Thomas (Gambia), Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Peace-building Support Office in Liberia; Oluyemi Adeniji (Nigeria) Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone; David Stephen (United Kingdom) Representative and Head of the UN Political Office for Somalia; Tom Eric Vraalsen (Norway), Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in the Sudan; William Eagleton (United States), Special Representative for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); and James A. Baker III (United States), Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

I'll stop here, but I think you get the picture of what all these Special, Personal and other Representatives are about. What, pray tell, is the rationale for having so many, "do-nothings" included, and paying them hefty per diems (which is tantamount to salaries), in light of the Organization's perennial financial malaise? Where is the money coming from to pay them?

Another question which pops to mind is this: With so many Special and Personal Representatives, Special Envoys and Advisers, for Africa, for instance why is much of that continent such a basket case?