01/09/2002

Noble Arms Deal?

As laureates arrived to receive their Nobel Prize, Scandinavian papers reported unflattering stories about the investments of the Nobel Academy in stocks of the Bofors arms industry. The Aftenbladt daily, the paper which raised the issue, was informed by an Academy spokesman that it invests wherever it wants, to "maintain the value of capital." Ironically, it took some time for Alfred Nobel to wipe away a reputation for making his initial money on dynamite.

All in the Afghan Family

A journalist based in Afghanistan counted 11 of the 25 Afghan delegates to the Bonn reconciliation conference accompanied by family members. The royal family seemed to have six relatives, including Sayyed Ahmed Gilani, who himself had four siblings participating, including his son Hamed, graduate of Islamabad Islamic University , his daughter Fatima, who is married to professor Anwar Al-Haq. Ahadi was also present as head of one wing of the National Afghan Party. Finally, there was Sayed Ishaq Gilani, representing the "Cyprus" group. The King's representatives were his grandson Mustapha and former Foreign Minister Hadayat Arslan Khan, whose daughter is married to the king's son. Then there were the two brothers of slain leader Abde Haq: Haji Din Muhammad and Abdal Karder Khan and thirty-year old Hafizallah, son of Shiite leader Ayatollah Asif Mohseni. Even warlord and former Prime Minister Galbuddin Hekmtyar, who resides in Tehran, had his son in law Homayun Gereer who attended as part of the "Cyprus Group," ostensibly against the wishes of his father-in-law, who publicly attacked the conference.

Peacekeeping Christmas Bonus

'Twas the day before Christmas when the General Assembly approved a new regular budget of $2.625 billion, the first increase in eight years. The additional four percent is mainly to increase peacekeeping staff. No more zero growth budget? No more cuts at DPI expense? Wait and see what happens between Peacekeeping and Special Political Affairs.

Kittani Remembered

The chamber of the Economic and Social Council where Ismat Kittani started his UN career 34 years ago was an appropriate venue for a gathering of friends and colleagues to bid him farewell. Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke of him as a wise counselor and a thoughtful colleague; Ambassador Abdullah Al-Ashtal of Yemen recalled his steadfast loyalty to friends; Dr. Clovis Maksoud discussed Kittani's modesty as the best expression of greatness. Raghida Dergham spoke of his knack for bridging generation gaps. Benon Sevan described his compassion for those who worked with him and the network with which he kept in regular social contact. His son Dara briefly and graciously thanked everyone. It was a fitting tribute to an internationalist who served his country and the United Nations with equal loyalty and foresight. Joe Sills, his spokesman as General Assembly president, who later became a Secretary General spokesman, officiated, and concluded with brief anecdotes reminiscent of Kittani himself: he always inspired an affectionate smile.

First Female Arab Foreign Secretary

It was a victory of sorts for Arab women. It was also an acknowledgment of the exceptional diplomatic talent of Ms. Fayza Abulnaga, recently appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Egypt. Her previous post was Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Those who worked with her as special assistant to Secretary General Boutros Ghali recall her thoughtful collaboration with colleagues, her loyal, dedicated work and her elegant demeanor and discreet handling of delicate cases. Clearly she will be a valuable asset to Egyptian and Arab diplomacy. More to the point, her appointment should be welcome news for the United Nations community, which always needs as many government officials who understand its mechanism as possible, particularly in this critical time.

Vendrell to leave Afghan Post

Francesc Vendrell was busy dealing with Afghanistan when the world had totally given up on the country. From a small office in Islamabad, he shuttled between Kabul, New York, Rome and anywhere else he could foster interest in the Afghan plight. Even when the ruling Taliban violated safety arrangements and confiscated his passport, he cajoled, threatened, contacted potential supporters and did everything humanly possible to keep the international community abreast of developments. At the Bonn Conference, he was often seen busily moving between delegates, visiting the exiled king in Rome and supporting the indefatigable Lakhdar Brahimi to work out a consensus. His interviews were to the point-- no fabrication or self-indulgence. When the new government, which he had helped form, was sworn in on December 22, 2001, Vendrell made known his decision to resign, after 34 years of successful UN service. His contract expires at the end of January 2002, but he did not request a renewal. A man of great energy and discreet approval, Vendrell first made his mark in combating anti-apartheid, later working with Alvaro de Soto in peacemaking efforts in Salvador and Guatemala. His former colleagues in UNITAR, where her first began his work, recall an energetic young Spaniard with a clear commitment to human rights and the rule of law. But as the Bob Dylan song goes, he was much older then, he's younger than that now. Best of luck, Francesc. An excellent career.

Leopold Senghor

"The fog scares me-like screaming eyes or beasts slipping through our silence," Leopold Sedar Senghor was never scared of clarity. The poet, who "did not create poetry, but went along with its creation," died at peace with himself, but perturbed by the state of the world. A great African and an inspiring leader, he once said that he "wrote in French but thought in African negritude." He loved his country, Senegal, loved the freedom of Africa and defended the intellectuals of the world. A unique president, he actually left the presidency at the end of his term, in a region where presidents go straight from office to the graveyar. He gave his people the right to choose their system, leaving them with his main option: the message of creative love. He left the world longing for an elusive era of human respect and equal opportunity. He will be remembered as a great president, a true representative of the Third World and an outstanding poet, a voice of clarity embracing both heaven and earth in a constant motion so that we all should live free in this world. Adieu Monsieur le President. Merci Monsieur Senghor.

UNIFIL Spokesperson "Rotated"

Timor Goksel, the perennial spokesperson and political advisor for UNIFIL in South Lebanon will be "rotated." Having worked there for 23 years, he almost became part of the landscape. Always available and well-informed, Timor was a valuable asset to the UN, and, of course, to journalists searching for their way in a complex political maze. Timor has done an outstanding job and will have similar success in any other assignment, now that a management decision has been taken to appoint him elsewhere. One thing is for certain, that region for which he toiled will miss him as much as he will miss that long term mission.