Calling Ali Baba
Turkish business wheeler-and-dealer and former cabinet member
David Goclar, who was picked up in New York and sent to Istanbul,
suggested $5 million bail, which was found to be insufficient.
He was accused of diverting funds from "Iteh" bank, which he once
owned, and "assisting" in the defrauding of another financial
institution, Eagele Bank. While en route, Goclar reportedly discovered
one of life's ironies.
He had offered his own private plane to "transfer" Kurdish leader
Abdullah Ocalan, when Ocalan was brought to Istanbul from Nairobi
to stand trial. Now, he observed philosophically, he gets the
same treatment in someone else's plane. Ali Baba must have followed
that sudden air travel with interest, and may have called his
newly promoted desk-hopping friend in Geneva to ensure that all
UNHCR Joins the Club
From Prince Sudruddin to Mrs. Ogata, the Office of the High Commission
for Refugees historically had little time to worry about funding.
Effective, discreet fund-raising for widely-supported humanitarian
causes kept the voluntary budget ahead of all other UN agencies,
whose budgets were decreasing with the speed of program "reform."
Even the regular budget itself was being slashed quicker than
Joe Connor would say "quiet revolution." Now, it's HCR's turn.
For the first time, available funds run less than $1 billion annually
and senior officials are panicking. They never bothered before
with real public outreach, except for occasional financially covered
and volunteered campaigns. Now the new leader, former Dutch Prime
Minister Ruud Lubbers, is wondering what he got himself into.
Well, a man of his experience should have realized that a crucial
part of his job is to raise funds. This is not the Netherlands
government, where the finance minister will provide his premier
with what is reasonably required after some understandable politicking.
It is the world of donor fatigue: more prolonged conflicts yet
less headline wars and tough competition by everyone to get a
share of the rapidly shrinking pot. Mr. Lubbers is said to have
indicated that he "will not have it." What does that mean? Would
he leave and go back to Scheveninger-on-the-Sea? Would he start
phoning his former colleagues, prime ministers of European countries,
and asking them to pay more? Would he call on his former cabinet
member competitor for the HCR post, Jan Pronck, for international
cooperation funds? Will he bang the table in front of other UN
agency and program heads when they meet, perhaps next October?
Welcome to the club. But first, how about some grassroots outreach
by its Public Information office? Do they have one?
Behind the Roundabout
Some Asian diplomats are amused by the volte-face on the part
of the distinguished and effective Ambassador Chowdhury of Bangladesh.
Since last December, he's been urging the Asian group to agree
on the Asian candidate for the post of Secretary General, on the
assumption that Kofi Annan had completed the second term for Africa
and now it is Asia's turn. So they eventually started stirring,
with little movement except some vague exchanges on the need to
discuss the matter further. On Friday, 27 April, however, the
fairly competent Ambassador was pushing for a consensus to support
Kofi Annan's reappointment. The attempt at an about-face was not
agreed to by the group, an awkward outcome which the Secretary
General could have been spared.
Amused delegates familiar with national politics in Bangladesh
reasoned that an upcoming election this summer is likely to cause
a change of government-ergo a change in the Permanent Representative.
Was the former UNICEF staffers preparing for a role on the TV
show Survivor? It is unlikely that anyone on the 38th floor
was involved, except possibly the Lone Ranger, "Athlete of the
Year," who fancies his role as that of a master political operator.
Certainly neither Kofi Annan, who was away in Africa, nor his
close aides, had prior knowledge.
Former Permanent Representative of France Alain Dejammet, recognized
for his meticulous performance, gracious exit, and a unique sense
of when to nap discreetly in the UN corridor, was also known as
a workaholic. Before and after Security Council meetings, diplomatic
dinners, or social engagements, he was regularly seen with a reading
light in his backseat, reading or drafting reports, documents,
or messages. Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who replaced him,
was thought to be equally distinguished, yet less determined on
late night shifts. However, the courteous, business-like Levitte
is now seen around midnight driving himself away from the mission's
premises on 47th street, even when there is no Security Council
meeting. It must be the time difference between New York and Paris.
. .or the engrained habits of the Quai d'Orsay.
As if Syria and Israel needed further problems, in April 2001
the Security Council devoted a day to discussing the protection
of civilians in areas of conflict. Given the situation in the
Middle East, delegates from the region obviously participated.
In a "right of reply," Syrian ambassador Michael Wehbe referred
to an April understanding which was sponsored several years ago
by the United States and France, and pertained to Syria, Lebanon,
and Israel. Through that understanding, he said, Israel and Hezbollah,
the movement that fought the Israelis in south Lebanon, had exchanged
prisoners. However, the simultaneous interpreter heard the Arabic
word for prisoners, "asra," as the similar sounding "asrar" which
means "secrets." Hearing the English version, the Israeli delegate
responded angrily: It was Syria, not Israel, that supported Hezbollah,
he said, and went on to accuse the Syrian government of repression,
which engendered another response by an enraged Syrian delegate.
As the official press release about the meeting reproduced the
English version, news agencies and most Arab media reported the
exchange of "secrets" rather than "prisoners." Some obtained a
vehement denial by a Hezbollah spokesman. Only one reporter in
New York, Raghida Dergham of the daily Al Hayal, double-checked
the tape and reported the accurate story. In an area where conspiracy
theories abound, some suspected a tangled web behind the confusion.
Actually, it was a real misunderstanding. The interpreter involved
was a qualified Arab professional with impeccable credentials,
particularly with the Syrian delegation.
Fall Runs for OAU
While the competition for UN Secretary General seems to be almost
over, the race for the Secretary General of the Organization for
African Unity is still open. Selim Ahmad Selim, the incumbent
hoping for a third term, faces other potentially strong candidates.
To wit: Ibrahima Fall, UN Assistant Secretary General for Africa
in the political department. A former professor and minister of
Foreign Affairs of Senegal, Fall was brought into the Secretariat
by Dr. Boutros Ghali, and reappointed by Kofi Annan. Influential
francophone countries may feel it is about time for one of them
to take the post, as an Anglophone held it for so long. That,
however, does not in itself justify leadership. It is the relevance
to current African issues that will make or break a candidate.
Fsll is suitably qualified, all the more due to his current UN
work. Elections take place this summer.
The BBC Interviews Annan on AIDS
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation in
Abuja during an African summit on HIV/AIDS, Kofi Annan gave a
detailed argument about the seriousness of the disease, and the
need to effectively combat it. More Africans have died from AIDS
than from armed conflicts. AIDS has claimed more victims than
World War II. In his Abuja address, the Secretary General called
for a "war chest" of $7 to $10 billion annually to wage an effective
fight against the disease.
Remember East Timor?
No longer the flavor of the month, East Timor seems to be struggling
persistently---though with little attention---to build a new state.
The UN administration there, headed by the almost-forgotten-but-ever-resilient
Sergio Viera de Mello, just completed a program to train 52 representatives
from all 14 provinces in civic education, with special focus on
the upcoming Constitutional Assembly elections, human rights,
stability, security, and democracy. That is of course very commendable.
But when is Sergio going to Geneva? Is he going to Geneva? Well,
maybe next year. . .
Barb Crossette to Cover Canada
The New York Times correspondent at UN headquarters Barbara Crossette
will be leaving this summer to cover Canada. Crossette won respect
and affection from everyone with whom she dealt. She is an effective
reporter for her newspaper as well as a valuable representative
of what the UN stands for. Her stress on human rights and other
issues of human dignity are reflected in her personal warmth and
professional qualifications. While awaiting the arrival of her successor,
Serge Schmemann, Crossette is working on her French, so as to succeed
in bilingual Canada. Friends caution her to keep away from the "Quebecois"
accent. Bon chance!
Why can't some of those "bodies" and "organs" think twice before
naming their new committees? A "non-paper," a "conference paper,"
and a paper paper are all well understood. But some of the abbreviations
make one wonder. For example, the active Dutch environmental minister
Jan Pronck, who as some will recall was a candidate for UNHCR
until he was overrun by his former Prime Minister, is now chairman
of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was thus announced
that some 40 senior officials spent the weekend brainstorming
ways and means to maintain a viable UNFCCC. Surely a further announcement
will be made when they actually pull it off.
UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen should
be somewhat relieved by the arrival in Jerusalem of his professional
wife, who has been appointed Norway's ambassador in the region.
It is recalled that when Roed-Larsen worked secretly on the Oslo
Accord, his discreet wife was in the picture.
A special European meeting on Kosovo puzzled some diplomats in
Paris, when the UN official representative at the meeting hailed
from the former Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia. Usually, the Secretariat
makes a special effort to stress its neutrality, but apparently
very few senior officials in that political office seem to care---except
when it comes to the Middle East: No experienced experts from
the region allowed.
At a memorial service for Tanzania's first president, Julius
Nyrere, held at the Holy Trinity Church, the diplomatic community
paid full tribute to the vision, courage and dedication of one
of the pioneers of modern Africa's liberation. Muallimu, "the
teacher" in Swahili, as he was known among the admiring international
community, shared the meager resources of his newly independent
country with those still fighting apartheid in Africa. From South
Africa to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, Muallimu was a guiding
light and a pillar of support. He continued to play an international
role after he left government, and, as Kofi Annan stated, he provided
constant help and advice in numerous attempts to settle conflicts
in Africa. Ambassador Mselle, head of the Advisory Committee on
Administrative and Budgetary questions, who in his national service
worked under President Nyrere, read a solemn message from the
Book of the Apostles, and two Tanzanian bishops flanked Archbishop
Martino, the papal representative. Tanzania's permanent representative,
Daudi Mwakawago, made certain that a gracious and solemn reception
A colleague on a recent trip to Paris had the pleasure of encountering
Steffi Graf: he heard the tennis diva's startled "excuse moi"
as she was rushing to enter the elevator he was exiting at the
Hotel Royale Monceau. An attempt to explore the situation was
cut short by another hurried champion: Andre Agassi, who was not
far behind. A number of tennis stars were there for France's Roland
Garosse Open, including the Williams sisters, who's father/manager,
dressed in shorts and sneakers, walked every evening to the nearby
Champs Elysee and back.
Warren Christopher Remembers. . .and Forgets
Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher reminisced
about his early years and career highlights during a chat in Union
Square to promote his new book. In a top-floor bookstore arranged
like a sitting room, the dour looking eminence grise of the Democratic
Party displayed an unexpected sense of humor and, yes, some human
warmth. Christopher's aloof attitude dates to his upbringing in
the Dakotas, where his father was obliged to dispossess farmers
who couldn't pay their loans.
Christopher gave fair credit to judges and presidents who gave
opportunities, and recounted some delicate moments, as when he
accompanied President Carter on a disastrous mission to Tehran
(two helicopters collided), despite the reservations of his immediate
boss, Cyrus Vance. Christopher, known as "Chris" to intimates,
also described the soul searching he undertook when he failed
to replace Vance, after the latter resigned as Secretary of State
One issue Christopher completely ignored was the debacle with
Dr. Boutros-Ghali over his renewal as Secretary General. Some
interpret this as Christopher's elegant avoidance of a delicate
issue, while others chalk it up to forgetful cool. Regardless,
the question did not arise and Christopher didn't volunteer his
own version of events.
Tellawi Shakes ESCWA
The Executive Committee of the Economic and Social Commission
for Western Asia (ESCWA) met in Beirut with an impressive roster
of 18 ministers from its member countries. It was an impressive
start for the new Executive Secretary, Mirvet Tellawi, who seems
determined to give the Commission and its region the reputation
and performance that it deserves. The challenge is to maintain
momentum, mobilize human resources, and involve key partnerships
in providing much-needed support, particularly with related events
on relevant issues.
An average information officer almost got away with travelling
to Paris at UN expense over Memorial Day, until he was intercepted
at the last minute by alert supervisors and senior officials.
Salim Fahmawi, who runs a program on the Palestinian question,
was en route to the City of Light (which also had a long weekend),
ostensibly to ascertain whether conference facilities there were
up to his standards. A "journalistic encounter," the sort that
inevitably produces few prominent journalists and too many participants,
is scheduled for Paris in mid-June, "when it sizzles." It will
cost the UN, and the Palestinian cause, more than a quarter of
a million dollars for two days. There is an unconfirmed list of
prominent speakers, but confirmed attendance by some UN officials
including, of course, the determined Fahmawi, who may yet wrangle
a three day junket prior to that rencontre. Several noted
Palestinians and other intellectuals have declined to participate
in the vague gathering, as time and money are better spent assisting
those suffering daily in the territories, and drawing attention
to their plight. What a shame. But then, there are those who have
no shame exploiting even their own people's misery.
Deep Thoughts From the CHEFDEC
"I am thinking. I know who I am. He knows who I am. Only that
woman keeps getting it from the wrong side of the stick. I am
thinking I should do something about it."