08/08/2001

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.

Norwegian President?

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???

Truly Distinguished

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 candidate.

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 the river.

Ceremoniale Carnavale

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.