Blocked Posts
Two senior professional posts in the crucial News and Media Division in the Department of Public Information seem to be "spoken for", regardless of qualifications or competition. That is, don't try to waste time going through the process because the fix is on. A D-1, Chief of Press Service, vacated by George Parker is slated for a Japanese. A prominently qualified internal candidate who has worked her way through that Service will be diverted elsewhere, so that a Japanese can be parachuted to guide the press through the new millennium. The P-5 post next in line, in the same Service, was vacated by the charming protocol buff Bertrand de Looz. Again, despite an open process, "word" has come down to select someone who had shown very little evidence of work and almost no contact with DPI except to cash his salary. The networker has two influential nationalities.

Who will do the actual work following these two appointments in the Media Division? A cynic would respond: the same people who always did it before.

Positive Link
Someone following exhibits in the General Assembly Building noted that the northeastern corner of the visitors' area had an exhibit on the Holocaust, which was accidentally followed by one on the UNRWA and Palestine refugees. If both exhibits exchanged their visitors, more understanding would follow. The only human link was the presence of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in opening both exhibits.

Farewell Joyce
A career staff member of the Department of Public Information, Joyce Rosenblum, died in a car accident in mid-May. A dedicated silent professional, Joyce always maintained her pleasant attitude despite work pressure. She was in charge of the Photo Library. Her many friends are arranging a farewell tribute, if possible with the participation of her department.

Media Issue Averted
A statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressing his sadness at the death of two journalists in Sierra Leone was a timely one. For a while, particularly in the way World Press Freedom Day was "celebrated" at UN Headquarters, there was a growing feeling among media groups that the Secretariat was abandoning its former outspoken stance in defense of threatened journalists. Several journalistic groups were beginning to feel that the UN was overly sensitive to governmental response and less to free media. A high-level international celebration of Press Freedom Day, initially discussed as a partnership with the UN, was diverted to Boston. A serious crisis with media organization was averted through the timely attendance of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette at the Boston gathering.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard
Fred Eckhard is credited with astute professional handling of a series of UN-related crisis, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Despite difficult internal pressure, Fred seemed well poised and professionally calm as he responded to queries. He managed to turn some of the almost desperate cases into positive developments for the UN.

To an Empty Hall
Those attending Secretary General Kofi Annan's presentation of his "visionary" report to the Millennium Assembly on 3 April noted an almost empty hall. UN cameras dutifully focused on the perfectly composed Annan and a few intent listeners, but could not entirely cover up the glaring void. At least three months had been available for adequate preparation for the event. Staff members who had worked hard were particularly upset at those who failed to do their part. Incidentally, the report was widely covered by the media - a tribute to the talented staff at the Department of Public Information - especially the professional directors and field staff of Information Centres.

A Coincidence
One day after the issue of Annan's report, in which he set target dates for overcoming specific poverty related issues, the UN Development Programme issued a report which said that "the major problem with most poverty programs is that they are too narrow, confined to a set of targeted interventions." It added that "hit and miss" projects and "unfocused poverty reduction targets" have contributed to the failure.

In the Spotlight
The main beneficiary of the unprecedented visit by members of the UN Security Council to Washington D.C. may be Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh. The dynamic Asian diplomat, who had also served at the United Nations Secretariat, played a visibly impressive role during his month's chairmanship, although he had joined the Council's membership only two months earlier.

Something about Asia
Secretary General Annan seems to be paying special attention to Asia recently. In addition to his visit to the continent during the entire month of February, he just appointed three distinguished Asians to senior UN posts: a Singaporian to replace Karl Paschke as Inspector General, a Thai to Baghdad, and former General Assembly President and Malasian Ambassador Razali Ismail to deal with Burma.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
For the third time within three years, the Japanese peace bell has been promoted from its previous location, each time moving it to a more central location. The Bell - which is rung once a year by the Secretary General - is one of the main attractions for visitors, particularly the Japanese. A new landscaping move envisions it surrounded by garden-style large stones and with a more visible elevation. The Bell seems to move in direct proportion to Japan's interest in UN positions.

Assembly Presidents
Now that it is agreed that Finland will preside over the next GA session, there remains a question: who presides over the special millennium summit session from 6-8 September? The current president or the next president? It was apparently agreed in typical UN fashion that both heads of state, Ms. Heltonen and Mr. Njomo could jointly preside. There are only three seats at the podium, normally allowing for the President, the Secretary General, and the UnderSecretary who assists the others in running the proceedings. Will a fourth seat be added with a shared microphone? Could the podium be re-arranged to suit the occasion? Or will the UnderSecretary take a back seat, leaving the three distinguished VIPs to their own instincts?

Who's next for Peacekeeping
Bernard Miyet, UnderSecretary for Peacekeeping, will be leaving by September to resume his work in the French diplomatic service. Speculation is on whether or not his replacement will be someone from within the Secretariat (which the Secretary General may initially prefer) or from withoutů and if so, would it be again from France or elsewhere? Stay tunedů