|CRISIS MANAGEMENT AS A DARK JOKE. NOW SHE HEADS A SUPPORT
GROUP HANDLING IRAQ.
1 December 2003
Only three years ago, Ms. Aparna Mehrotra was tucked away in an interim office at the U.N.
Development Programme. Until, as luck would have it, she was discovered by Iqbal Riza Chef de
Cabinet of Secretary General Kofi Annan. The frail Pakistani Qawwali fan determined there and then
to tuck here, so to speak -- to the extent he was capable -- closer to his domain of oversight.
With a promotion of course. Mobility should carry with it some upward movement -- again to the extent
of one's capacity. When a post became available in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, he tried but failed. A gutsy manager there put her foot down and let it be known to some
members of the then Appointment and Promotion Board that she would not accommodate "Riza's favoured"
candidate. Then another D-1 post opened up, that of the Focal Point for Women in the Secretariat.
Well, what better focal point than the focal point? The necessary pressure was applied and
appropriate presentations were made stressing, of course, the urgent need to have someone
immediately fill that crucial position. An accelerated promotion on a regular post was readily
provided. Whispers spread around the glasshouse and beyond. But who cares. Riza had already
caused an uproar when he evaded staff rules by arranging a P-5 recruitment for his son Imran. The
only concern he and Ms. Mehrotra had was how did "unforum" find out. The rest could be taken care
of internally. After all, who would question the unquestionable need to activate the promotion of
women. However, a short time later, that urgent need was no more that urgent. Iraq became the
main issue and suddenly the Focal Point moved closer to help a special team particularly after the
discreet and decent Rafeeuddin Ahmed was appointed Special Adviser. Those curious about "that
woman's" knowledge or experience on Iraq were told it was a matter of enhancing the "gender question"
within the group. Clearly, if there was real interest in the woman gender they could have
appointed more than one woman amongst the over seventy special envoys around the world. But it was
a flimsy excuse. Poor Sergio Vieira de Mello and his outstanding team had to cope with such
pampered mediocrity in New York. Although Ms. Aparna continued to be quietly tucked, word again
spread about her increasing role. Now that the Secretary General is to nominate a Special
Representative for Iraq, a Special co-ordinator for operations in the region, and a representative
to oversee the financial aspect resulting from the Donor's conference in Madrid, no new appointment
was certain except for the Indian woman with the Pakistani fan. Early November, word came down
to prepare a proposal appointing her as head of the "support group" for the International Advisory
and Monitoring Board(IAMB) although it was not yet clear
who or what that group will support. When eyebrows were raised again, a first meeting was
hurriedly scheduled with some members not yet named, citing of course a relevant resolution And
that's "Reform." That is dealing seriously with the issue
that could make or break the U.N.!