07/09/2002

Sleepless in Bali

There is nothing like a tropical breeze to recharge the batteries of overworked development honchos aiming to cut the number of the world's poor by half. Members of Preparatory Committee for a conference on Sustainable Development found refuge in the exotic island of Bali to gear themselves for an upcoming conference in South Africa next August. Clearly they had to disagree on certain paragraphs as was duly reiterated by an obliging spokesman. There was no issue however that could not be sorted out over an informal dinner and a local performance of a Balinese farce.

Location, Location

What applies to development seems to apply to peace negotiations. Meetings on the Congo lasted about two months as they were held in the South African resort of Sun City. Delegates from conflicting factions who disagreed strongly at the negotiating table, extended their discussions around the Casino tables…

Refugee Chic

Italian Fashion designer Georgio Armani was appointed "Goodwill Ambassador" for the UN High Commission for "Refugees to raise public awareness and funds" to help 20 million refugees. Ruud Lubbers, the High Commissioner for refugees, explained that senor Armani was chosen because of his contribution and efforts to ease the refugee crises in Afghanistan. That should be news to the Afghan people, very few of whom can afford to buy his t-shirts.

"The President and I"

Demestura does it again. After "the Secretary-General and I", the "Security Council and I", UN Representative for South Lebanon Steffan Demestura circulated a statement to the press in Beirut after a meeting of the UNIFIL Commander with the Lebanese President in which he, that is Steffan Demestura, expressed "satisfaction with the efforts by the President of the Republic to enhance the stability particularly on the Blue Line".

Voices of Freedom

The story of the World Press Freedom Committee was produced in a concise book that highlights the role of the 44 affiliated journalistic organizations which are spread on six continents on the forefront of the struggle for a free press everywhere. The Group is a vigorous advocate of free press principles and provides practical assistance programmes. It is a watchdog for free news media at international organizations. Its charter provides guideposts for press freedom wherever these are needed and extends self-help legal grants so that news media can fight back when needed. More than 200 training programmes initiated by the Committee include the production of journalism manuals in Africa, Caribbean, Latin America and in ten central and eastern European languages. The Committee is chaired by James H. Ottaway, Chairman and Senior Vice President, Dow Jones & Co. Inc. Marilyn Greene is Executive Director. Their leadership roles have ensured more active participation by the Committee in United Nations meetings particularly the Committee on Information and the World Press Freedom Day.

Iris Eyes

The international mediator in Myanmar (former Burma), Razali Ismail, was at the UN recently to brief on his role in bringing about an illusive democratic process including elections. The former General Assembly President who prides himself on straight talk was asked whether there was a conflict of interest as he is also chairman of Iris Corporation, a Malaysian firm seeking to supply electronic identity document technology to Myanmar. He answered "I am disciplined enough and I think I have enough integrity to be able to deal with whatever my responsibilities are and whatever my business connections are quite separately". He made that statement the day after an event to promote the listing of Iris on the market in the country where he represents the UN Incidentally Ambassador Razali is one of the candidates mentioned to take over as Human Rights High Commissioner after Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland leaves that post by the end of this year.

Tharour Confirmed

Shashi Tharour, who had served as interim head of the department of Public Information, was confirmed as Under-Secretary-General for that department. A professional journalist and prolific creative writer, Mr Tharour is working closely with the Committee on Information on its ever continuing review of priorities. The staff who had faced so many attempts to cut or under-cut them over the years are hopeful that a professional communicator will help lead them out of unsettled conditions they have gone through over the last three years.

UN London Office Targeted

Once more the UN Information Center in London is a controversial subject among delegates particularly from the third world who have always felt that the money paid for rental in the British capital is too excessive compared to the rent-free premises offered to centers in developing countries. A review is being conducted to explore where further cuts could be made. London's outstanding professional director, Ahmed Fawzi, has been stretching available resources to the limit whilst juggling urgently required tasks in a crucial capital. Clearly the move to Millbank Tower on the Thames was an overly expensive prospect which the then head of the department opposed but was overruled by a higher authority. At the time less expensive and pretentious premises had been found in a central London easily accessible by public transport. The idea of moving across the river to join the International Maritime Organization, an idea which was previously explored, is now being looked at again. Much depends on the response of the potential hosts who previously had turned down the proposal in order to avoid possible controversies associated with political issues.

Protocol Chief Moves to WHO

The Protocol Chief Nadia Younes who made her mark in public information before heading Protocol has decided to accept an offer she can't refuse as Assistant Director-General at the World Heath Organization in Geneva. Nadia was also offered a position with the Peace Mission in Eritrea-Ethiopia under the rank of Assistant Secretary-General which would have been a promotion. Just before leaving she received the offer from WHO Geneva. By now there are a number of outstanding internationalists in Geneva who are well known in New York like the Director-General of ILO Juan Somavia, also Human Rights High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, Gro Bruntlan, Director-General of WHO. Nadia will certainly be missed in New York however no doubt she will make her mark in Geneva.

An Assembly Pillar Retires

A long standing pillar of General Assembly Affairs Ozdinch Mustafa will be retiring at the end of June joining the UN as part of an active team in combating apartheid. He moved to General Assembly Affairs where he was always seen but rarely heard. A selfless workaholic, Ozdinch was popular among his colleagues who nominated him regularly to represent them in various bodies including the Appointments & Promotions Board and gained the admiration of his supervisors with his diligence and sterling work. He will be temporarily replaced by his deputy who will also retired at the end of this year when the real problem of finding a suitable replacement will arise. Meanwhile Ozdinch, best of luck.

UNCA Ball Cancelled?

The annual ball by the Correspondence Association held usually around UN day in October may be cancelled this year. That will be a pity. An initiative started by its former President Ian Williams snowballed into a formal event attended by the Secretary-General and senior diplomats together with prominent media personalities. It brought hard working reporters together in an enjoyable evening of laughter and music. Satire by the irrepressible Williams may have offended some uptight bureaucrats, but it was all made in good fun. Lets hope reports of cancellation are untrue.