Blocked Posts: A Trainer
Since the pre-ordained head of the Press Service in DPI is not likely to have a clue in performing the daily functions, the cost-effective and transparent clique has decided to bring in an experienced adviser to help. So, the retired adviser -- who is best remembered by his colleagues for playing computer games and listening to jazz music on UN time -- would come in and brief the incoming new chief on his daily work. But possibly due to linguistic differences, they both may need a third person as an interpreter, someone who would speak both English and Japanese. And we haven't even mentioned French, the other working language of the Press Service.

Some soccer fans following this development were reminded of a case where Brazilian coach Zagalo was hired by a Gulf country to train its team for a reported $1 million. Afterwards, it transpired that Zagalo's English was not adequate; neither, of course, was his Arabic. Thus, two additional athletes were hired to run the field along with the coach: one, breathlessly conveying the shouts from Portuguese to English; and the other, equally alert, conveying the targets in halting Arabic. That team, by the way, never won a single game, and Zagalo returned home and eventually gave away the last mondial championship even when he had an authentic Brazilian team.

Women Achievers
Sue Markham of DPI will be the next spokesperson for the President of the forthcoming session of the General Assembly. Finland will take that chair, thanks to sterling spadework by Ambassador Marjatta Rasi. An experienced communicator, Sue is expected to develop specific media projects to highlight issues of immediate interest, and to place her own stamp on the delivery of news coverage of the General Assembly. She succeeds Shirley Brownell, who did an outstanding job supporting General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab despite lack of resources. It should be noted that Leona Forman, too, succeeded with flying colours as spokesperson for a Portuguese President of the General Assembly. So did our colleague Nadia Younes, former Director of the Media Division and current Chief of Protocol who is on mission to Kosovo. These women, and many unsung others, are obvious proof that, given the chance, that is, placed in the right assignment, they can deliver way above expectations. Just give them a break.

Post of ESCWA Executive Secretary
It seems that Mr. Hazem El-Beblawi, Executive Secretary of ESCWA, is scheduled to leave by November. But don't count him out yet. His chances may diminish further if an Egyptian woman takes a senior post in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Also, Jordan may have candidates for that post, but the appointment of a Jordanian to head UNDP's Arab States Bureau is likely to diminish the chances of another Jordanian, particularly if Prince Hassan of Jordan is also appointed to UNHCR.

Iraq certainly has qualified candidates, although most of them may be outside Baghdad. There is no senior Iraqi in the system, since the departure of Ambassador Ismat Kittani. And former Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon, who would be a likely candidate, is, very sadly, in failing health. Lebanon is limited by being the host country, although that did not preclude a Jordanian for the post when ESCWA was based in Amman. Syria may produce a candidate if Mr. El-Beblawi's fate were sealed. A master stroke would be the appointment of the dean of Arab diplomats in New York, Ambassador Abdalla Al-Ashtal of Yemen, the longest serving Permanent Representative to the UN, who is highly regarded all-round. But with current financial calculations at UN Headquarters, don't discount someone from the Gulf.

A pleasant surprise would be a woman, which would be a first, and any Secretary-General is tempted by firsts. Two contenders could be the current Deputy Executive Secretary, Ms. Mariam Al-Awadi of Kuwait, who would never make an approach out of loyalty to her immediate boss and friend. (But if he is definitely leaving, he may wish her to take his post.) Another may be a former Deputy, Ms. Soraya Sherif, a Saudi who is now a senior official of UNFPA. With Saudi backing, she may go for both the UNFPA and ESCWA posts, whichever is more feasible or comes first. Having risen through the ranks, Soraya has lots of friends and a number of adversaries at the Beirut headquarters. Traditionally, neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia would wish to appear at odds over a UN post. Most likely, they will agree discretely at home and pass the message on to their Missions in New York.

Mark makes his Mark
The initiative by UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown to launch the Human Development Report jointly with President Jacques Chirac in Paris was a master stroke by an experienced communicator. Malloch Brown moved on to the European scene, with which he is familiar, and started from Paris just before France took over the presidency of the European Union. Visible action in Europe is also a practical response to some Europeans who may not have been too pleased by his appointment because they had their own candidate. Several European countries had, in fact, decreased immensely their contributions to UNDP over last year. Picking up the momentum, and particularly this time in collaboration with the UN Information Centre, will help bring development into the mainstream of media concern in Europe.

Washington Bound
Lena Yacoumopoulo just took over as a Deputy to the Director of UNIC Washington. Having served both at Headquarters and in the field, Lena brings with her professional experience and proven commitment to the United Nations. She will complement the competent Washington team newly headed by the dynamic and highly regarded Catherine O'Neill. They will both need as much help as they can in such a sensitive post where almost everyone at Headquarters would want to have an impact and influence a say or, certainly, an agenda.

A Diamonds for Conflicts Joke?
While a report to the Security Council indicated that a certain company was involved in sanctions busting in Angola (supplying Bulgarian arms via Togo), the same company, Air Cess, was granted a contract to fly UN Pakistani troops to their peacekeeping destination in East Timor.

It is not a question of lack of information. According to the Financial Times of 11 July, UN observers in Angola had spotted at least two aircraft landing in UNITA territory, at least 10 times between October 1997 and January 1998. The fleet of aircraft is reportedly run by a former Soviet Air Force officer, Victor Anatolevic Bout, on whom Interpol and other countries have exchanged files. He lives in the United Arab Emirates and operates mainly from Al-Sharjah where, reportedly, "he is not operating illegally". Apparently, "it started with gun running to Afghanistan, and then they discovered Africa". According to the Financial Times, Bout created another air company called Air Pass when Air Cess encountered problems with airport authorities in Ostend, Belgium (not far from Antwerp - a diamond world capital). The FT, which published a three-article series entitled "Conflict Diamond", telephoned Victor Bout's brother, who runs the day-to-day operations, and he reportedly said from the UAE: "I am not responsible for the situation. It may be a big joke by the UN". That is no joke, Ali Baba, but someone is laughing all the way to the bank!

UNICEF Reversal
A newly appointed UNICEF representative in Tokyo, Mr. Sam Koo of South Korea, will raise a separate UN flag. In an era of "joint premises", "UN House" and other expressions of the "reform", or "quiet revolution", a decision was taken - probably unknown to Executive Director Carol Bellamy -- to split from an established UN/DPI-UNICEF decade-old arrangement of having a joint office. Sam Koo has evidently found his niche in Tokyo. Additionally, he will have the opportunity of travelling to his country regularly at UNICEF expense - having also been appointed as representative to South Korea. Normally, people contribute to UNICEF; in Tokyo, UNICEF is reversing the trend. Good luck! Let us note, in passing, that a Japanese is strongly being pushed to take over UNIC Tokyo, also contrary to an established arrangement increasingly overlooked over these last three years.

To Leak or not to Leak
Upset that Security Council deliberations are habitually leaked to the main news agencies and some leading dailies, Sir Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, reportedly wanted "to have a word" with Council members on the subject. A solemn admonition about the need for confidential exchange and proper diplomatic prudence with media representatives was duly delivered. Immediately after the Under-Secretary-General left the meeting, the news agencies were promptly - and jovially - informed.

Red Herring
Prominent Egyptian writer Mohammed Hessanein Haykal is quoted by Beirut main daily An-Nahar of 17 July as indicating that UN Middle East Special Envoy Terje Roed Larsen could be in line to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary-General in 2002. Haykal reportedly advised some Arab officials to deal with Mr. Larsen accordingly.