Message to Arlacchi
Despite the anticipated official denial by the spokesman, a story
in the Financial Times that the Secretary General ordered Pino
Arlacchi to step down seems increasingly credible. The reporter,
Carola Hoyos, has solid credentials in addition to a well-informed
source on the 38th floor. A string of leaked reports in the media
over the last few months reflects a recently familiar trend whereby
a message is indirectly sent so that the recipient will get it
and act voluntarily. The chief of the UN anti-drug campaign was
very successful in putting worldwide focus on the issues, but
may have overlooked potential adversaries as well as friends.
Possibly preoccupied by his work, he may have misplaced his trust
or under-utilized potential allies. As they say, most politics
are local, and with a change of government in Italy, a new Italian
senior representative within the Secretariat will be sought. It
is also a manner of handling change. Some clearly indicate a required
change, others send indirect signals.
Picco Straightens the Record
Arrangements for American-Iranian negotiations during the millennium
summit took place as discreetly agreed and not as claimed by someone
posing as a mediator, according to Giandomenico Picco, Special
Representative for the Year of Dialogue Between Cultures, former
senior UN official and discreet hostage negotiator par excellence.
A version leaked by a Mr. Afrasiebi about a possible meeting between
Presidents Clinton and Khatami was fictitious and the man did
not work with or for Mr. Picco. What in fact occurred was a change
in the speakers scheduled, which allowed President Khatami to
be in the Hall when the US president spoke and a reciprocal situation
as the Iranian president made his speech, which was moved up for
the same morning.
Tribute to Kay Graham
The publisher of The Washington Post and Newsweek, Katherine
Graham, was mourned at the highest level in Washington Cathedral,
and mourned professionally by journalists everywhere. Graham was
obliged to take the reigns of The Washington Post after her husband's
suicide, and the blue-blooded housewife proved her instinctive
capacity to deal tackle historical issues like the Pentagon Papers
and Watergate. More to the point, she was a courageous advocate
of a free and varied press, with the confidence to report the
news, no matter how tough…provided it was the truth. Her journalistic
legacy will be continued by her son Don, now publisher of the
Post, and daughter Elizabeth, known as Lolly, who has already
embarked on globetrotting assignments and covered risky conflicts.
Announcing a visit by the Secretary General to Norway on August
19, a press statement said he will be meeting the Prime Minister,
have an audience with the King, and hold discussions with "other
top level officials including the President." What President?
We were just told there was a king and Prime Minister. Are you
sure it was Norway???
Penny Wensley, the "distinguished" Permanent Representative of
Australia to the UN, is leaving New York after a distinguished
performance. In her pleasant, casual and unassuming manner, she
accomplished outstanding services not only to her country but
also to the international community. In both pursuing reform measures
and suggesting peacekeeping proposals, she worked tirelessly on
everyone's behalf. Her crucial role in drafting the final document
of the Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS is on record. Less
known is her role in helping to obtain payment by the US of its
dues. Her convincing arguments to Congressmen in Washington and
within the UN's administrative committee were invaluable help
to then-Ambassador Holbrooke in reaching an agreed formula. Never
losing her cool or her genuine smile, she took time to listen
and took care to follow-up. A true internationalist and genuine
Australian, Ambassador Wensley will clearly be missed in New York.
With all due respect to her replacement, it will take some time
to fill her shoes. Thanks, Percy, for a truly distinguished job.
Something About Mary's Pension
When Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson indicated she
was leaving to seek other venues for advancing the cause unfettered
by UN bureaucratic entanglements, some old-time observers wondered
whether she would eventually change her mind-which she did. Her
extension is for one more year, a total of five. They noted that
if you leave service after only four years, you lose pension money,
while after five years you're paid your own contributions plus
an equal amount from the United Nations. Clearly, Ms. Robinson
took a position on principal then agreed to reconsider after a
campaign of appeals. But even a former president of Ireland could
do with some UN pension funds on the side.
Homecoming in Geneva
Secretary General Kofi Annan received a warm welcome when visiting
the premises of the High Commissioner for Refugees. Not only was
he welcomed by the heads of UNHCR, but employees looked through
windows and waited outside for a glimpse and a salute. Annan had
worked there in earlier times and the visit was a nostalgic homecoming.
Focal Point For Women and Riza
Women have a new focal point as the experienced Fatma Ashour-who
acted in an interim period-is eased out to make room for someone
ardently supported by Chef de Cabinet Iqbal Riza. As the Agra
summit between Indian and Pakistani leaders was "inconclusive,"
relations on a much lower level seem to be working to everyone's
full satisfaction. The Indian woman, a P-5 in UNDP, will get a
D-1 level and Mr. Riza finally found her a spot of relief after
tireless-though unsuccessful-efforts to place her at the Humanitarian
Relief Department. Apparently his Japanese connection there was
undercut by a gutsy Canadian female director who told the Appointment
Board why she did not care to take the at woman "despite interference
by Mr. Riza."
Chowdhury May Get LDC Post
With a star performance during the renomination of Kofi Annan,
Bangladesh Ambassador Karim Chowdhury is the subject of varied
speculation. A recent proposal to designate an Undersecretary
General for least developing countries fueled speculation that
the sharp diplomat and former UNICEF staff member may be the designated
Club 71: One Man Replaces Another
A Senegalese General and former Interior Minister, clearly an
experienced diplomat, was appointed as "Special Representative
in the Central African Republic and Head of the Peace Building
Support Office" in that country. He replaces the similarly qualified
Cheikh Tidiane Sy (of Senegal) Incidentally, the acronym for the
post is "BONUCA." At least it sounds better than "UNFCCC."
Did You Say Sharks?
Reports of a shark on the Queens side of the East River left
some UN staff and diplomats unperturbed. After all, once you've
seen one, you've seen them all. Some even thought they saw one
or two in the high-rise elevators and in the VIP section of the
Delegates Dining Room. A window overlooking the water may help
one keep an eye on potential fellow sharks. Don't turn your back
at tables number one through five, goes the advice. Always face
Still no word on the post of Director UNIC, Rome. In addition
to IFAD's Tayseur Mustapha, who is supported in writing by the
Jordanian Foreign Minister, a new name mentioned is that of Shalini
Dewan, a former press officer in New York with wide communications
experience in Vienna and eventually with FAO in Rome. Dewan is
already at the D-1 level, and as a woman she has an added advantage,
as there is always an interest in increasing the number of professionals.
Her Italian may not be professionally communicative, but she is
smart enough to know what she could personally do, and what to
leave for others. Both candidates have very strong credentials
and powerful backing: it's a real toss-up. Meanwhile, the efficient
Daniela, Rome's National Officer, seems to be running a good show,
as usual. Steffan Demistura, who is still officially UNIC Rome
Director, was hoping to return for a visit by the Secretary General
during the Genoa meeting of G-8 heads of state. He seems to have
the best of both worlds: Rome's "ceremoniale" and Beirut's "carnavale."
Chief Radio Follow-Up
The Post of Chief Radio (and TV) is still contested. Professor
Carlo Sartori, one of Italian RAI 's pillars, is still a strong
candidate supported by both the outgoing and incoming governments.
There are other internal and external candidates. There were reportedly
hundreds of candidates, and it took some time to sift through
the various candidates.
Welcome Election of Essy for OAU
The Francophones eventually won. Former General Assembly President
Amara Essy took over as Secretary General of the Organization
of African Unity. He was elected at an African Summit meeting
in Lusaka, Zambia to take over from Selim Salem of Tanzania, who
sought an extension despite his ten-year tenure. The perpetually
smiling Essy, a former Foreign Minister of Ivory Coast, is very
popular in UN circles for his pleasant, modest, and enlightened
approach. His term as Assembly President was marked by open and
transparent reform proposals. His election will certainly strengthen
cooperation with the UN. Incidentally, Kofi Annan welcomes the
appointment of such a good friend to such a pivotal post at a
time of African transformation.
Fewer, Sooner, Later
More from the distinguished "gifted" new peacekeeper at UN gates:
J.M. Guehenno (a gift from our maternal country, France), on the
situation in the Congo. We may have "fewer troops than originally
planned but sooner than expected." There was an unexpected opening
with the assassination of Laurent Kabila and the election of his
son Joseph. There was a need to "exploit that window of opportunity."
Ask not what J.M.G. could do for you, ask what he could do to
Africa---he and about 18 other special envoys.