Unauthorized Speculation: Who Stays, Who Joins?

02/20/2002

Debate intensified over the last few weeks as to new and renewable appointments when Kofi Annan starts his second term. Diplomats are reading more than usual into his visitors list and closely watching tablemates in the Delegates Dining Room. The core team will probably remain the same, with some promotions expected for some associates and partial departure for those who spent ten years as an assistant or undersecretary general. UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy already got an extension, Mark Malloch-Brown in UNDP has been strengthened by his designation as coordinator of assistance to Afghan reconstruction, and consolidated by newly-appointed advisors. They include Julia Taft, who hails from a traditional Republican family, and the well-connected Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs. Ms. Obeid of UNFPA was just appointed one year ago. So certain was it that WFO's Catherine Bertini would be replaced by an Australian, that it was "fit to print" in The New York Times. But her successor is in fact an American, James Morris.

Despite his divisive approach, chef de cabinet Iqbal Reza realizes that it goes against Kofi Annan's nature to terminate his services. But Reza continuously stresses how exhausting and demanding is his job-just in case. There were some questions about senior Americans in the Secretariat, mostly nominated by the Clinton administration. The influential and determined undersecretary for administration, Joseph Connor, has indicated that he will leave by year's end. That leaves ample time for the Americans to decide whether they want to replace him in that particular post or regain their earlier position in charge of political affairs. As Mr. Connor has almost accomplished his task of slashing the budget to the bone, there may not be grave need for a high-level compatriot. It may be time to place a political heavyweight on the 37th floor instead.

Ms. Gillian Sorensen, an outspoken Democrat, does not have the same influence in Washington as she did under Clinton, but may benefit from the Republicans' lack of time in which to focus on internal UN appointments. One obstacle may relate to the unwritten rule that no ASG/USG should serve more than ten years. That also would apply to the unassuming Nitin Desai, the most senior Indian official, who's experience could be used in leading the Environment and Development Conference "Rio: Ten Years Later." This could also work to the advantage of Nitin's compatriot, Shashi Tharoor.

Two definite changes will take place in Vienna and Geneva. Although Pino Arlacchi's term was extended through June, the name of his successor has already been leaked. The only question is whether he will be a British or Iranian citizen. Vladimir Petrovsky will be replaced by Sergei Ordzhonikidze in Geneva. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, a pillar of the Security Council, who had turned down the Geneva post, may consider a post in New York.

With the East Timor mission slated to end in May, its leader, Undersecretary Sergio Vieira de Mello, who also served in Kosovo, will expect to receive a post commensurate with his performance and dedication.But where?

Another Security Council permanent representative briefly mentioned to replace Sir Kieran Prendergast in Political and Security Council affairs was Sir Jeremy Greenstock,. However the senior UK Secretariat official will extend his tenure. A newly-created post to lead the campaign on behalf of the least-developed countries was thought to be reserved for former Bangladeshi Ambassador Karimul Chowdhury, but he is no longer in New York, and with a change in government, he may not have the same support, although he certainly has the requisite credentials.

Clearly there are more qualified candidates than there are posts; more speculation than facts. In such matters, nothing is certain until the press statement is released. A case in point was the World Food Program appointment.