"The Security Council and I"
It must be the end of the world as we know it. In a statement
to an obliging Lebanese newspaper, the "Personal Representative
of the Security General" in Lebanon, Steffan Demistura, indicates
the outcome of a meeting with that country's prime minister by
saying, among other things, "I explained to him that the whole
international community, the Secretary General himself, a resolution
by the Security Council and I personally were following up on
the matter." It must be a long way from pushing UNICEF greeting
cards and the ceremoniale on UNIC Rome.
Klaus Clout Turnabout
The enterprising initiator of the World Economic Forum, better
known as Davos and recently as the "Waldorf Gathering," arranged
to have a special guest in every session to attract attention
and give it the cachet of power and influence-a head of state
or at least a secretary of state. A mystery visitor promised for
Sunday or Monday night was rumored to be none other than the most
popular president of the most powerful country in the world. Only
security measures, some key participants were told, stood between
an announcement and a media rush. When it turned out that the
down-to-earth commander in chief was too busy to accommodate distinguished
photo-op seekers, a completely different guest was produced-his
predecessor, founder of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential
Library" who was only too eager for a post-midnight tour d'horizon
for a varied group of "top dogs" from around the world.
Abdallah Abdallah or just Abdallah?
The vastly influential member of the "United" Northern Alliance,
Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, became a household name during
the Afghanistan military campaign thanks to his ease with the
media, his intuitive appreciation for the target audience, and
his photogenic attire, suitable for varied occasions. Now that
he is foreign minister of a reborn-hopefully peaceful-Afghanistan,
he has decided to use one name: only one "Abdullah." This may
be in keeping with the regional tradition, from Kabul to Jakarta.
Some diplomats in New York thought it may be because he didn't
wish to complicate dealings with certain sensitive UN officials
by reminding them of another double-moniker: Boutros Boutros.
Ogata Outshines UN Relief Officialdom
Former high commissioner for refugees Ms. Sadako Ogata reemerged
as the most effective power broker for the relief assistance to
Afghanistan. She appeared in Kabul immediately following its liberation
and effectively arranged the Tokyo pledging conference, which
raised $4.5 billion. The formidable Japanese internationalist,
who turned down the vacated post of Foreign Minister just as she
turned down the post of UN deputy secretary general years earlier,
operated in her usual straightforward, self-effacing manner, with
a sharp focus on targeted results. Meanwhile, her successor, former
Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers, was busy breathing down the
neck of his operational aides and trying to personally oversee
administrative paperwork while vainly fending off a scandal in
Nairobi. As to the officially-designated coordinator of reconstruction
for Afghanistan, the gracious UNDP administrator Mark Malloch-Brown,
he actually visited the most difficult area and managed to obtain
BBC coverage. However, his tremendous energy seems to be handicapped
by internal structural limitations and a change in desk officers,
in which an experienced director is exchanged for a political
appointee whose ability to lobby influential groups in a certain
capital is not matched by professional skill in running such vast
multinational, culturally-sensitive operations. At least on the
political side, the UN did superbly well, thanks to sensible Mr.
Brahimi and the sensitive Mr. Annan.
Ahmed Fawzi Stars Again
The former spokesman for Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali
and current director of UNIC, London, Ahmed Fawzi, once again
dealt with global media during the Afghanistan crisis. Lakhdar
Brahimi masterfully selected Fawzi, who with his cultured Egyptian
face and clipped British accent is one more member of the Brahimi
team to succeed with flying colors.
Two More ASG Posts Available
One position is already spoken for by a Canadian, the other is
most likely going to someone from the third world. The two posts
are for Afghanistan mission, one handling humanitarian assistance,
the other political contacts. Both will come under the Special
Representative Mr. Brahimi as long as he cares to remain in the
Whither Hang Seung-Soo?
One more local politics overwhelm international decorum. Korean
Foreign Minister Hang Seung-Soo was suddenly relieved of his post
by his president; but he happens to be president of the General
Assembly session. Technically he is entitled to remain in his
international position, because although he was elected as a South
Korean official, he was personally voted by name. Politically,
however, the decision hinges on his country's leadership, which
most likely will feel inclined to provide a face-saving exit by
keeping him in his lofty position in New York, where he had done
very well. If he has to leave he will at least have the consolation
of knowing that he received the Nobel Prize for Peace on behalf
of the UN.
Earth Times Slams Media Apartheid
Every international conference since 1990 has been covered by
special issues of the Earth Times, so the attempt to deal with
Davos-in-the-Waldorf seemed to hit a raw nerve with organizers.
When Pranay Gupta criticized mistreatment of journalists representing
third world media who were allowed only limited access to participants,
the "management" prevented free distribution of the paper. So
much for free dialogue.
Washington Times Seminar
A seminar in the American capital on "UN-US: Building Future
Relations," sponsored by the Washington Times and an NGO, was
attended by several permanent representatives from New York. It
highlighted the inevitable collaboration, despite mutual frustrations
at various times. The UN needs the US to survive and the US needs
the UN to succeed. American politicians and their public generally
support UN objectives but want to mold them to their own vision,
and UN leaders have historically tried to enact reform in consultation
with US administrations. One key seems to lie in wider partnerships
with NGOs, media, and individuals who have real influence on the
Fred's New Bank
A refurbished spokesman's office on the second floor reflects
its added influence. Gone is the dimly lit, poorly equipped, almost
unhealthy atmosphere. The area looks invitingly different, more
in keeping with the times. It also has an air of openness. Many
comment that it looks more like a bank. "Friends of Fred [Eckard]
thought that was appropriate, his word is so credibly solid, you
can bank on it.
New Afghanistan Spokesman
Deputy spokesman Manuel Silva has accepted the post of spokesman
for the new mission to Afghanistan, now that Ahmad Fanji will
return to his regular post in London. Kabul's gain is New York's
loss, as the charming Brazilian communicator, who is fluent in
five languages and boasts solid experience at headquarters and
in the field, was a singular asset to the spokesman's office.
Perhaps it was time to move on.
A Negroponte First
New US ambassador John Negroponte discovered during a visit to
Lebanon that he is the first American chief delegate to set foot
in the country in 24 years. Those making policy statements on
UNIFIL seemed to have depended entirely on OPR (Other People's
Reports). This time, feedback from Syrian and Lebanese media indicates
that a positive impression was made. "Negroponte listened carefully"
before making his points, was the general, appreciative comment.
His visit to Damascus was particularly significant, as Syria assumed
a seat in the Security Council.