Athlete Of The Year
From the vibrant group of Under and Assistant Secretaries General,
who should represent the Secretary General and the United Nations
at the Sydney Olympics but our own athletic Chef de Cabinet. Possibly
the hosts down under did benefit from such a visit, however brief,
to know how to master the "good guy bad guy" approach. Or maybe
a new series could be added to the championships: flying carpets.
Consensus on Yemen
One of the most attended social gatherings during the summit
other than the one given by President Clinton at the Metropolitan
Museum was the invitation by Yemen Ambassador, Abdullah Al-Ashtal
and Ray Irani at the Hilton for the President of Yemen. Given
on the eve of the summit, it was an opportunity for many arriving
dignitaries to touch base and explore the evolving setting. Al-Ashtal
is the longest serving Ambassador of the United Nations, Dean
of Arab Envoys and one of the most popular delegates at the UN.
He gave the title of Permanent Representative a real and welcomed
meaning. Return of familiar faces: Among former UN staff who returned
as government officials was Benita Waldner- Ferrero, the Minister
of Foreign Affairs of Austria who had served as United Nations
Chief of Protocol. The persuasive and diligent Benita is credited
with a special role in helping to lift the European embargo against
her country. Another welcome returnee is Yokio Takasu, former
UN Controller and currently Head of the UN department in the Japanese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Takasusan, who gained many friends
as a trustworthy and dependable colleague counted about 100 Heads
of State as expressing support of a permanent seat for Japan at
the Security Council. He participated in the extension of the
Japanese Garden inaugurated by the Secretary General around the
Peace Bell outside the Assembly building.
Population Fund Leadership Proposition
The competition for the post of executive director of the UN
Population Fund Activities intensified as Ms. Nafis Sadiq is expected
to leave within a few months. The frontrunner seems to be Ambassador
Mirvet Tellawi, a prominent Egyptian social scientist with an
outstanding reputation in the diplomatic community. Her position
was strengthened recently by the indication of the Egyptian government
that she would be the only candidate officially supported for
any senior United Nations post. That would leave ESCWA'S Executive
Secretary Hazem Biblawi to his own devices, which are abundant
anyway. An ace in the hand of Ms.Tellawi is the formidable determination
of the dynamic Ambassador of Egypt in New York, Mr. Ahmed Aboul
Gheit, an experienced lobbyist who is very familiar with UN lobbying.
Another candidate remains Ms. Thoraya Obaid, Director of Division
for Arab states and Europe UNFPA. She indicated that she is the
candidate of Saudi Arabia for that particular post and not any
other. Another candidate is a prominent Ambassador from Asia who
may push harder if he feels that his chances for a more senior
international post are diminished. Incidentally, Ms. Nafis Sadiq
is not easily replaceable. She is a historic figure in her domain
who made infinite progress in a sensitive area during a very difficult
period. It's not yet time to bid her farewell. But at least it's
a point to be made at anytime.
New Promotion, Old Inspiration
Ed Mortimer, on loan from the Financial Times to head the speech
writing team for The Secretary General has just received a promotion
to Director [D2] level. Initially, Ed moved from London to New
York in 1998 for two years. He has since become a member of the
"Communications group" supervised by the "Communications Director"
in the Secretary General's office. Such a timely promotion may
reflect a reward for services rendered, an incentive to stay on
for a renewed period or an appreciative handshake to one of the
first British columnists to draw attention to Kofi Annan's potential.
Incidentally, Ed now works closely with the Department of Public
Information which, six years ago, he wrote should be closed down.
Who was the inspiration at that time? One wondered and perhaps
now could guess.
Millennium Summit Site
Why did someone at the Security General's office on the 38th
floor have to intervene with the staff of the Department of Public
Information in order to decide the exact wording of each subtitle
related to the millennium meeting? Why do some of the supposedly
responsible offices have to habitually seek such clearance and
were they not placed in their jobs in order to operate with the
least necessary supervision? Why do some of them waste their professional
talent by merely burning incense?
Many permanent representatives in New York missed during this
season the experienced diplomatic flair of former Ambassador Samir
Muberek of Lebanon, who was transferred earlier this year to Madrid.
The cultured diplomat who had served in New York in various capacities
is highly regarded by all Lebanese factions and may yet return
to New York in a higher capacity.
A prominent Arab columnist Jihad El-Khajen covered the summit
from a diplomatic seat. One delegation gave him a rare pass, which
he seemed to use wisely to contact heads of state and foreign
ministries he knew since his days as chief editor of "Al-Hayat"
daily. Jihad who now writes a popular daily column in that paper
has been covering the General Debate of the Assembly over the
UN Home Page Redesigned
The UN Home Page, one of the best public sites in the world
was redesigned recently. That site now headed by Mehbub Ahmad
from Bangladesh started from almost scratch. The multilingual
team was scotch-taped together despite opposition from the administration
department which refused to grant special staff for that purpose.
Even the right of the Department of Public Information to run
a site was disputed. When about four million hits were received
during one certain month, various individuals, including some
who were not even present at the time started claiming credit
for it. The new "cover" looks professionally clear and "relaxed"
with appropriate reference to the six official UN languages. Sections
are organized appealingly and clearly. There is one reservation
about the alteration within the UN logo. That will be a subject
of a separate comment. Well done Mehbub, Lilia Jean Pierre and
the whole team! Also, thanks to Konscko Hogan for not surrendering
that creative pilot project.
President Sierre Leone Ahmad Tejan Kaba seemed to be happiest
when he had a few moments to slip to the almost deserted Delegate's
Lounge to sip a quiet cup of coffee. He relaxed on the same chair
where he used to enjoy his daily coffee at in his long years of
service at the United Nations.
Indonesian delegates in New York are discreetly trying to find
out the real reasons behind the vehement and persistent attack
on their country’s position regardless of the government in power
in Jakarta. After years of basking in glorious attention as a
heavy weight Asian country with an internationally recognized
Foriegn Minster like Ali Alattas, they now find that they are
being visibly and noisily whipped whichever way they turn. Their
embarassment is aggravated by their feeling that they are a “UN
country”. Maybe they should try to explain more clearly which
actions they are taking particularly on safety of UN staff. Or
maybe someone in Jakarta should smell the coffee and start dealing
more openly and effectively with the media. By the way, where
is our friend Alattas? We really miss him.
An American Journalist In Baghdad
Betsy Pisik, the popular correspondent of the Washington Times
at the United Nations was permitted to make a three-week visit
to Iraq with a photographer. Her special report which appeared
in early September reflected not only an experienced professional
talent but also sensitive concern for the human condition of the
people of an ancient land and culture trying to go about their
daily lives “burdened by a dictator within and an angry world
Ambassador Joseph Vernon Reed has proved to be indispensable
in these difficult times as a helpful bridge between the UN Administration
and staff. As chairman of the Staff Management Consultative Commitee
he has devoted his valuable time and experience to averting serious
problems as staff are concerned about future contractual plans
and working conditions. He is supported by all parties and by
The Secretary General, who as former head of personnel would recognize
the value of such special efforts.
ESCWA to the Gulf ?
Now that a Jordanian, Dr. Rima Khalaf, has been appointed as
head of the Regional Arab Bueaux of UN Development Program, and
Dr. Mirvet Tellawi is front running for the UNFPA , no Jordanian
or Egyptian could be contemplated for the post of Executive Secretary
of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
in Beirut by the end of this year. Could it be the turn of a generous
Gulf country helpful to the Secretary General in other fields
Prince Hassan Withdraws from UNHCR Race
The Jordanian government has sent a letter to the Secretary General
withdrawing its earlier candidature of Prince Hassan to the post
of UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr.Annan briefly confirmed
receipt of the letter during a recent meeting wit Jordan’s Foreign
Minister. In a lengthy interview with the “New York Times” during
his brief visit to New York, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, now in Kosovo,
confirmed his interest in that job. Also, our overworked colleague
in East Timor Sergio Vieiro de Mello, a former UNHCR executive
with noted field achievement is cheered on by internal staff who
feel that it is about time to grant a qualified, hardworking man
his due assignment.
Not Enough Sponsors?
The Financial Times special isue on the United Nations in the
millenium did not appear on September 6th. Instead, a few pages
came out with a special focus including a solid and positive article
by UN correspondent Carola Hoyos and a brief profile of Kofi Annan,
as a voice for moral values. There may not have been enough sponsors
for a whole issue. However, free stacks of the FT were placed
outside the press room in the basement and circulated to delegates.
Return of familiar faces
Among former UN staff who returned as government officials was
Benita Waldner-Ferrero, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria
who had served as United Nations Chief of Protocol. The persuasive
and diligent Benita is credited with a special role in helping
to lift the European embargo against her country. Another welcome
returnee is Yokio Takasu, former UN Controller and currently head
of the UN department in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Takasusan, who gained many friends as a trustworthy and dependable
colleague counted about 100 Heads of State as expressing support
of a permanent seat for Japan at the Security Council. He participated
in the extension of the Japanese Garden inaugurated by the Secretary
General around the Peace Bell outside the Assembly building.