Quotable on Peacekeeping
Now that the incense burners have produced an unprecedented official
UN book entitled "The Quotable Kofi Annan", to save succeeding
generations from the scourge of self-promotion, a clear "quotable"
position on his policy regarding UN peacekeeping could help. Two
different and opposite views were expressed between November and
May by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the role of UN peacekeeping,
and noted by The Washington Post.
November 1999:"Peacekeeping and war fighting are distinct activities
which should not be mixed. Peacekeepers must never again be deployed
into an environment in which there is no ceasefire or peace agreement".
May 2000 (at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.: "UN
peacekeepers cannot be expected to keep peace between angels.
They face warlords and militia leaders whose only aim is power
and enrichment. In the future, UN peacekeeping must have clear
mandates to use force, and receive first-rate equipment and logistical
support from rich countries".
Wanted: A (Practical) (Serious) (Working) Document
for the Millenium Summit
At a closed meeting on 18 July, General Assembly President Theo-Ben
Gurirab presented to Member States his working draft of a document
he hopes Heads of State and Government will endorse, at the conclusion
of the Millennium Summit. Being touted as the largest gathering
ever of world leaders, the Summit will take place at UN Headquarters
from 6 to 8 September.
Delegations had appealed to the President to present to them
a crisp, concise, authoritative and forward-looking political
document - one that could serve as a guide to the international
community and the world Organization in the 21st century. The
document presented after weeks of drafting was, sadly, a disappointment.
This was most evident from the interventions made at meetings
held to discuss the draft. Speaker after speaker, diplomats all,
began by declaring this to be an excellent text, one that could
serve as the basis for their work. In the next breath, however,
they proceeded to tear it apart, suggesting that this or that
reference be added or deleted. So numerous were the proposed changes
- made orally as well as expanded written versions - that one
delegate likened the exercise to "trying to squeeze an elephant
into a rabbit's hole" and hoped that, in the end, the text would
still be 26 paragraphs rather than 26 pages. Others pictured a
New York City Christmas tree laden with everybody's wish list
of what to include in the outcome document.
From an examination of the draft, it appears that all that the
drafters did, after weeks of working on it, was to lift chapter
VII of the Secretary-General's report entitled "We the peoples:
the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century", and
present it as the text of the President. For those already very
familiar with the recommendations of the Millennium Report, the
President's draft contained nothing new. If that had been the
intention all along, critics argue, delegations could have begun
work on the outcome document as far back as 3 April, when Secretary-General
Kofi Annan first presented his report to the General Assembly.
Those delegations expecting to receive a revised text at the
consultations on 2 August were sorely disappointed. Instead, the
President held up, for all to see, a huge stack of papers containing
the various proposals on how to fix the text. He said the team
working on the draft was attempting to accommodate delegations'
requests and, thus, needed more time.
Our guess is that the strategy will be to delay handing out a
revised text until, say, late August, giving delegations little
time to argue over its contents. Being unanimous in their belief
that there is no text that can't be improved, delegates will be
denied, for as long as possible, the chance to get at this one
all over again. So what will be the outcome of this document,
remains to be seen!
Confusion abounds regarding preparations for the Millennium Summit.
The absence of many officials on summer holidays, as that event
opens immediately after Labour Day, is not helping others who
end up doing the work. Most are convinced that although it looks
hopeless, somehow matters will work out - if only they knew what
to do about those round-tables for Heads of State and Government.
Who proposed that anyway, and where is he now?
A presumptuous "Spiritual Summit" looks like a disaster waiting
to happen. So many overlooked powerful leaders of important religious
groups are seriously upset, and some of those invited are seeking
a larger role and a clearer link to the UN. Incidentally, a European
woman married to a businessman in New York introduces herself
as a consultant to the Secretary-General on spiritual aspects
of the summit and is desperately seeking advice during social
dinners. It may be too late. UN staff were habitually advised,
upon joining the Organization, to avoid discussion of religious
matters, as they could be emotional time bombs. Who planted them?
With so many unresolved problems for the approaching Millennium
Summit, someone focused on one firm decision: no retired UN staff
would be allowed, even with their passes, into the UN Building
during that three-day event (6-8 September). The threat posed
by retirees, who devoted their lives to the Organization, is unclear.
Some are puzzled particularly because those who took the decision
are on their way out, with "limited miles" to go to retirement.
Man for All Missions
He moved wherever and whenever he was needed - from Kosovo to
East Timor! It is now a year since the human catastrophe of East
Timor faded from television headlines. Frustrations remain, and
efforts to rebuild a new country continue. The UN team there is
headed by Sergio Vieira de Mello, Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs. Sergio also spearheaded the UN effort on
Kosovo, while the war was still raging, and established, under
constant media coverage, the initial painstaking arrangements.
In both missions, scarce resources were provided and he had to
depend on his best resource - himself.
It's almost official: former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari
has declined an offer by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to vie for
the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. If
successful, he was pegged to succeed Mrs. Sadako Ogata of Japan
at the end of the year. The Financial Times, in a piece titled
"Busy Boy", said Ahtisaari had turned down the offer because he
wants to keep on with his current projects. These include making
sure that the IRA's weapons are beyond use, and helping sort out
the European Union's problems with Austria. Nordic Business Report
commented that the 63-year-old Ahtisaari turned the offer down
because heading the UN agency would be a long-term commitment,
and he wanted to spend time on the activities he had been involved
with since his six-year term as Finnish President ended. For the
others in the running, la lutta continua.
SG for Scapegoat
It was a typical example of Kofi Annan's sense of humour. In
an interview with Charlie Rose, he said he had always thought
that SG stood for Secretary-General until he discovered that it
also stood for scapegoat. An effective response - right timing
- befitting a Secretary-General; a great contrast from those cracks
pushed on him by some jokers in search of a comedian.
A member of the "whirling dervish" group was so thrilled that
he circulated the good news to other incense burners. Reportedly,
a permanent member referred, in one of the Security Council gatherings,
to the current Secretary-General as "our beloved". That, it was
whispered, was "unprecedented" and a "hopeful indication of things
to come". Like what? The US elections?
After months of tense negotiations, UN Middle East Envoy Terje
Roed Larsen received confirmation from the Lebanese Government
that UNIFIL could deploy further as full Israeli withdrawal had
been jointly confirmed. The same day, he received word that his
wife had given birth to baby twins Emma and Edvard. Larsen was
in Oslo enjoying the twin achievement.
The first exception is usually accepted for various reasons.
The second is also defendable. But the third would indicate a
reversal of policy, or lack of ability to sustain it. That is
what is happening regarding the post of Director, UN Information
A decision to appoint a Japanese in Tokyo reverses further a
55-year standard practice that a Director of a UN Information
Centre should not be a citizen of its host country. The purpose
of that policy, adopted by all other Secretaries-General, was
to consolidate the integrity of the international civil service,
avert any misperception of conflict of political or personal interest,
avoid possible involvement in internal affairs of Member States
or sometimes bypassing, for example, national financial regulations.
In very exceptional cases, the appointed citizen would be someone
already within the system with established international credentials
who would mainly undertake specific assignments for a limited
period. So many diplomatic battles were fought when every Secretary-General
stood firm against breaking that policy despite constant pressure
- with very limited and targeted exceptions.
Until now, Japan scrupulously accepted that position, as long
as the number two person was Japanese. Over the last two years,
however, several nationals have been appointed as heads of Information
Centres. Fortunately, the new choice for Tokyo is a professional
journalist from NHK who could help with the Japanese media.
But from now on, the accommodating Secretary-General will find
it harder to resist diplomats insisting on home appointments,
especially if countries are important to him. Take Egypt, for
example. With its special regional and international role and
as headquarters of the League of Arab States, it may recommend
an Egyptian national for its UNIC. How could the Secretary-General
say no to Cairo, having said yes to Tokyo, yes to Moscow and yes,
yes to Washington?
Finally, common sense prevailed as other tactics faltered. After
the issue was widely raised, the D-1 post of Chief of the Press
Service was unblocked and the Japanese parachutist quietly withdrawn.
A Departmental panel considered the names of various candidates.
Although there are still differences on qualification, the competition
now is between the professionals of the Department of Public Information,
one of whom is already recommended but not yet approved by the
Venetian Blinds for NGOs
No more sob stories by some NGOs about lack of funds. Their
annual party this year will be held at the exclusive (and very
expensive) 42nd Street establishment owned by Harry Cipriani,
the famous restaurateur from Venice, Italy. Until now, the most
lavish NGO party was at the Delegates Dining Room or at their
lounge in the Library wing, which was given to them by DPI after
they were placed outside the UN compound. Fortunately for the
big spenders, the hawk eye of the Under-Secretary-General for
Management will be glaring elsewhere at the time, possibly at
the original Cipriani. He is a traditional visitor to the city
of gondolas during his well-deserved end of August holidays. However,
part of the evening's tab is being picked up by Finland, which
holds the Presidency of the 55th General Assembly session, and
is known to have deep financial pockets.
Israeli-Iranian President - An Optimists View
The election of Moshe Kassav as President of Israel was reportedly
received positively though discreetly in Iran. A Sephardic Jew,
the new President was born in Yazd, hometown of current Iranian
President Sayyad Mohammad Khatami, with whom he reportedly went
to the same town's elementary school. Some of his relatives still
live in the old country. According to authoritative Asharq Al
Awsat's correspondent in Tehran, the election to the Presidency
of an Iranian may cause the Government in Tehran to conceptually
absorb the Israeli situation in the region. It added: "At least
Moshe Kassav can pick up the phone and ask his Iranian counterpart
in authentic Persian: How are you?" Additionally, it was noted
that two out of five Arab Knesset members may have voted for Kassav
in the secret ballot. These included a prominent representative
of the Islamic Movement, Abdel Malik Dahamshah.
When the UN Staff Committee elected Mehri Madarshahi as President
of the Staff Council, she had to overcome many challenges. Staff
cuts, low morale and fragmented efforts by other colleagues did
not deter her. That gracious lady, of third world background and
first-class attitude, is trying her best and deserves any support
she can get. She shows the positive dynamism of Iranian women
and behaves with the dignity of a true international civil servant.
Best of luck to her.
In normal rotation, Ambassador Patricia Durrant presided over
the Security Council for July in her usual modest yet confident
manner. This is Jamaica's first year as a non-permanent member,
but Ambassador Durrant was on solid ground, having served her
country at UN Headquarters in various capacities.
Philippine Ambassador Felipe Mabilangan was preparing to go back
to Manila over six months ago. Hearings in the Senate delayed
the approval of a new Permanent Representative. The popular Ambassador
is as active as the first day of his arrival in New York. He may
even stay beyond his term if he wins the Asian seat in ACABQ at
the next Assembly session.