A UN Command Performance At Summit

Just when preparations seemed to be falling apart the United Nations' managers and staff pulled through the millennium meetings with a command performance. Possibly it was because the imposed "coordinator" was not there to complicate the work and thus, they were left to do what they could do best.

Clearly, meetings are what the UN does best. But it was more than that. Particularly when it came to the seemingly shaky round tables. In fact, it was the round tables that eventually propelled the summit. While Heads of State had their five minute limit at the podium, with commandante Fidel Castro placing his handkerchief on the blinking light as a symbolic protest to the speaking limits it was at the round tables that they came out with serious proposals. Incidentally, the Cuban leader later that evening told a group of "hermanos and queridos" who celebrated his birthday that they should wish him "good luck", which he pronounced in English, rather than a happy birthday.

The predominant role was obviously for Secretary General Kofi Annan, who made every international civil servant proud through his confident and gracious handling of meetings with over 150 Heads of State and government. Opening the meeting on a somber note, in defense of UN staff in West Timor identified him clearly as a leader of his team and a firm voice in defense of human values. He wisely left some space on the podium and other visible spots for Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette. She breezed through complicated events with professional efficiency and a pleasant stride. One of the most difficult tasks fell to Protocol Chief Nadia Younes, who had to deal with the increasing demands of arriving, departing and visiting dignitaries with sensitive thoughtfulness and instinctive experience. Nadia was obviously missed at Headquarters in New York, her natural place for a leadership role, as she swiftly left again, after the event to Kosovo.

The most impressive aspect of the event was how UN managers worked as a team- each giving his or her personal best shot. Managers like Federico Riesco, Assistant Secretary General for Conference Services with Under-Secretary General Jin Yongjain, Margaret Kelley ran the politically sensitive round tables. They were strengthened by the conceptual input of Professor John Rugge, who is on loan from Columbia University working closely on strategic issues with the Secretary General The Chief of the Assembly's Servicing branch Ozdinch Mustafa and his team carried the brunt of the three day speeches by world leaders. Security, of course was one of the main preoccupation, not only within the UN premises, but also in the various hospitable islands of Manhattan, where valuable visitors selected to reside, eat or stroll for a walk. The discreet and efficient hand of UN Security Chief Michael McCann and his security staff was indispensable. Incidentally, Chief McCann comes from a background of experience in dealing with foreign visitors to New York when he worked with "the city's finest" and finessed his capabilities through several baptisms of fire at the United Nations from the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration in 1995 to the Millennium Summit. Congratulations to all, particularly to Secretary General Kofi Annan.