|A UN Command Performance
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.