A Day in the Life of a U.N. Ambassador

12/01/2000
by Samuel Insenally, former president of the General Assembly, permanent representative of Guyana

It is 6:30 a.m. in the morning when I awake to the persistent ringing of the telephone. On the other end of the line is my Foreign Minister, reminding me of the brief he needs for an upcoming CARICOM meeting. By now fully alert, I remember that I have a Working Breakfast with a group of colleagues to discuss the Reform of the Security Council. As I struggle to get dressed and off, I think to myself - what a never-ending chore! Not only do we have working lunches and working dinners but we now also have working breakfasts - sometimes even on the week-ends. Is nothing sacred anymore?

The breakfast proves, not un-expectedly, to be an ordeal. After five years of considering all conceivable options for reforming the Security Council, we do not seem to be anywhere near to reaching 'general agreement' as called for by Resolution 48/26. One keeps on hearing the same views meeting after meeting, year after year; only the faces of the representatives on the carousel have changed. With this discouraging thought, I leave for our Mission and our regular staff meeting at 9:00 a.m. I have less than an hour to review the day's programme of activities and arrange for representation at the various meetings being held at UN Headquarters. Invariably, with our small staff, we cannot hope to be everywhere since, unlike the atom, we cannot sufficiently split ourselves to be able to adequately attend to the multiplicity of issues which today engage the international community's attention at the turn of the century. Still we manage and often, are called upon to play leadership roles out of all proportion to our size. Sufficient unto the day, however, is the Agenda thereof and however difficult we must make the effort to cover it as much as possible.

This morning the General Assembly is meeting to discuss a number of important issues of interest and concern to us. Some consultations on related resolutions have to be undertaken and a few statements finalized. Not without reason is the United Nations described as a "talk-shop" for the diplomats who dwell there are doubly condemned not only to making long statements, but also listen to those delivered by their colleagues. In between, we must slip out for 'bilaterals' in one of the adjoining lounges - or the 'souk as it is now called since for the greater part, the business which is conducted there involves lobbying or being lobbied for positions in the international system. It is simply amazing how much time we spend on this international horse-trading.

Soon it is lunch-time and again, because of conflicting commitments, I am obliged to run around like a beheaded chicken. First, a presence must be put in at a seminar being held in one of the Committee rooms by a group of NGO's and for which my attendance had been promised some weeks ago. My participation in the event is fleeting, however since, I must soon be off for a lunch hosted by one of my close colleagues to promote one of his country's candidacies. As luck would have it, I find myself sitting opposite him at the table. I will simply have to find something to say in reply to his words of welcome. Since I dare not speak for the other guests, I content myself with praising the meal and the virtues of continuous campaigning. I then hurry back downstairs to catch the tail-end of the symposium only to find that it has just concluded.

The afternoon session comes all too quickly with more of the morning's activities and some appointments with Secretariat officials and one outside of the building. At about five p.m., I hurry to another venue down-town where I have been asked to speak on the subject of the Role of the United Nations in the Twenty-First Century. Yet another speech but one that I do not mind giving since the Organisation needs all the support and understanding it can get from the outside world. No sooner is the address finished that it is time for me to dash off to several receptions being offered by sister missions. My attendance at these is perforce perfunctory since at 8:00 p.m. I must be ready for a dinner engagement - mercifully, the last event of the day. Around eleven p.m. the sumptuous meal ends and I hasten to take leave of my hosts in order to do some reading and writing for the next day's programme. By then, of course, it is the next day and I am now so tired I cannot sleep. Eventually, however, after counting several flocks of sheep, I doze off into the arms of Somnus to await the next day's travails.