A Balancing Act
One day after it was announced that Secretary-General Kofi Annan
will be attending the Islamic Summit in Doha, Qatar next November,
its neighbouring state of Bahrain announced a cabinet decision
to "welcome the forthcoming visit" of Mr. Annan to Bahrain where
he will open UN House, which includes all UN offices.
Drugs in Sydney
"It Could be Done" UN representation in the Sydney Olympics should
have included the leader of the UN anti-drug campaign, Pino Arlacchi.
The dynamic former Italian prosecutor who courageously confronted
the Mafia, had raised a slogan: "It could be done", about combatting
drug abuse. That was proven in the Sydney Olympics. Medals were
given to those who could do it without drugs while a big case
was made publicly against those who could not.
Irish eyes are smiling
After twenty years of dedicated work in the shadows, Ireland
went sailing through the Assembly in its quest for a Security
Council seat. With three countries, Italy, Norway and Ireland,
competing for the two seats, "European and others", the Emerald
Isle was the only one to get the required votes (two thirds majority)
from the first ballot by ringing 130 "yes" bells. Those who had
predicted that Ireland was running "a poor third" had clearly
underestimated the long-term stamina of Irish diplomacy, its unassuming
efficiency and the empathy for its straightforward approach. Incidentally,
one of the bonuses for Ireland's success may be the return to
New York of former UN colleague Paul Kavanagh, who was best known
by those who worked with Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cueller.
A rising star at the time, Paul drafted speeches, took meeting
notes and performed outstanding services for the Secretary-General.
He returned in 1997 to the Foreign Service after serving as Director
of the UN Information Centre in Tokyo. At the time, Paul was briefly
considered for a senior post in Geneva but had to return to Dublin
instead. In the current turn of events, Geneva's loss will be
Ireland's (and New York's) gain.
Waiting for Maradona
Former soccer legend Diego Maradona is so keen on beating the
habit that he is interested in offering his services to the UN
in a public campaign against drug abuse. As the current treatment
is going the international community may have to wait a while.
Mr. Maradona is famous not only for his superb movements but also
for a goal he scored against England in the Mexico Mundial, stealthily
using his hand unobserved by the referee. Diego Armando (he hates
being called "Diegito") at the time described the incident as
"the hidden hand of God". Let us pray.
Norway-UN Love Story
Norway, like other Scandinavians, prides itself on being a UN
country. The first Secretary-General Trigvye Lee was Norwegian.
Its record of contributions in every field, from peacekeeping
to mediation to development is so evident that Norwegians neglect
to mention it as often as popularly required. Running for the
Security Council seat, they initially received 114 votes against
94 by Italy (Ireland already won its seat by 130). A frustrating
one vote was needed for the required two third. Like in the case
of Ireland, many had underestimated Norway's tenacity and were
still in awe of the formidable "Fulci machine" which never lost
an election for Italy over the last eight years. The new Ambassador
Sergio Vento inherited the ambition for the seat but not the machinery
to win it. While casting four ballots, commotion in the Assembly
hall was so high that the new President, Finland's former Prime
Minister Holkeri had to reportedly remind delegates that an official
meeting was still on. Some old-timers were reminded of a comic
TV show where the theme cry by Sammy Davis Jr. was: "The court's
in session. Here comes the judge!" Norway won fairly and squarely.
In addition to the experienced efforts of Ambassador Ole Peter
Kolby, another Norwegian ambassador with close UN ties, Tom Vraalsen
was also on hand for the challenging and winning moments. Skol!
UN meeting improves Sudan-Eritrea relations
A discreet meeting in New York early September between the Presidents
of Eritrea and Sudan were followed by a visit on 23 September
by President Omar Bashir of Sudan to Asmara. Sudanese opposition
leaders wee said to have entrusted one of them, Mohammed Osman
Mirghani, to experss their views during a meeting set up by President
Isais Afaerki. It was noted that Asmara and Khartoum radios have
toned down their rhetoric and that Sudanese opposition groups
were invited to more from the Eritrean capital to the seaport
of Massawa. Once again, discreet UN diplomacy works, with no need
for photo ops.
Now you see themů
When Secretary General Kofi Annan made an opening statement
t the special session of the General Assembly Friday October 18
on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Chef de Cabinet and the
Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs took their seats
in the designated VIP area. After the Secretary General left and
when delegations started to express their views, Mr. Riza quickly
disappeared. Of course he has to be where he is needed most. Mr.
Prendergast followed a bit later, though more quietly. The discreet
former British Ambassador had farsightedly taken a third row seat,
just next to the exit.
Title, yes; Solidarity, no
Mohammed Sahnoun happened to be in the building during the march
to protest the brutal attacks against the UN civilians in the
field. A persistent member of Club 71, Mr. Sahnoun, like 17 others
is vaguely titled Special Representative in Africa or something
similar. He had been appointed in Somalia during the catastrophic
events, then Mr. Annan appointed him briefly in the Congo where,
to put it gently, it didn't work. Holding a diplomatic UN passport
with claim of "per diem" days of "performing functions", the least
he could have done was appear however briefly to express solidarity.
Instead, the former Algerian functionnaire who faced an advanced
party in the hall, near the elevator of the second floor, shook
hands profusely with Somali UNCHR representatives whose colleague
had been massacred in East Timor, and without even expressing
any words of sympathy, moved hot foot northward.
State of facts
Asked on "This Week On ABC" Secretary of State Madeline Albright
expressed her view that her country did not import any oil from
Iraq. She may be 124.6 million barrels wrong, as counted by Reuters
new agency. That is the amount imported by the American market
from Iraq during the first seven months of this year, according
to the Department of Energy. Incidentally, before its misguided
and illegal invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was the sixth source of oil
to the United States with almost 585,000 barrels a day, double
the 217,000 which was imported from Kuwait during the same period.
While thousands of women from various nationalities and in varied
costumes were streaming from The Plaza on 47th Street into Second
Avenue on October 17th carrying multi-lingual banners, a group
of them stopped for a moment possibly to make some space for the
group ahead. A somewhat elderly stern-looking policeman shouted
at them to move right away. The chain reaction of boos he received
prompted him to wonder what was going on. He discovered it was
"World March of Women" mainly to protest violence and harsh treatment
Retirement or Recruitment
The newly appointed head of UN Information Centre in Tokyo turned
out to be sixty years old- an age for retirement not recruitment.
Yet there is a technical loophole. Those recruited after 1990
could get to retire at the age of 62. Thus, our Japanese man in
Tokyo could have two years and possibly a third until "a suitable
placement may be found".
Finally, appointments for two Principal Officer (D-1) posts were
settled in DP1. Two deserving staff received their promotion through
open competition despite some attempts at twisting elbows. Ms.Sherly
Brownell was selected as Chief of Publications Section and Mr.
Roy Laishely as chief of Press Section. Although both- or one
of them at least- would have preferred a switch, it is a clear
recognition of the professional qualifications of available staff.
An added reason to welcome such appointments from within is that
now two P5 posts will be available for promotions in a continued
chain- unless otherwise interrupted.
Nan Annan walks against Breast Cancer
The Secretary General's wife Nan Annan led a walk by UN women
in New York: Central Park on Sunday October 15th to raise funds
in order to combat breast cancer. Other marchers included the
ever-smiling Dr.Narulla of the Medical Service. Another longer
march over the weekend for the same purpose started in upstate
New York for about seventy miles, arriving in Manhattan also on
Sunday. Among the resilient marchers was Paula Refolo, Special
Assistant to the Under-Secretary General for Public Information,
who arrived fairly exhausted yet exhilarated because of the amount
of funds the march raised.
Incense Burners disappointed
More Incense was required mid-October to clear away the air
of disappointment as the group of incense burners received word
that the Nobel Peace Prize was given to President Kim of South
Korea. Those self-promoters had actually hurt the man they claim
they serve. If they had not whispered their expectations, they
would not have had to cover their chagrin. Maybe the prize will
go to their desired man if they just let people know him directly,
not through an undependable shroud of incense.
A senior diplomat was almost run down by a car on First Avenue
and 48th Street while intensely reporting home on his cellphone.
Startled, he uttered a demi-foul word in his native language.
He was even more startled when the car's driver responded in his
same language only with fouler vocabulary.