15 February 2004

As the Secretary General inaugurated the European "Hub" in Brussels, it dawned on several senior officials, including the most senior, what a mess they got the U.N. into.

True. It was a "big mistake." A "wrong decision." A "real mess." But now that the step is already taken, every action should be taken to make it work.

By fortunate coincidence, the newly appointed leader of the "hub" is a highly regarded, experienced professional. Hassan Fodha had also led the centre in Brussels before moving to Paris where he impressed three successive Secretaries General. The Belgian National Information Officer is still there, joined by two proven national officers from Lisbon and Madrid. A nucleus of a team is being formed. It will not be the same as before -- nor will Headquarters receive the wider services of an information network carefully planned over the years. Its catch as catch can. Do whatever possible. "Point, a la ligne," as the French say. That is why there will be no excuse if the new office, regardless of its shortcomings, is not given full support from New York headquarters. Those who complain about the loss of services provided have only themselves to blame. They should have spoken up earlier -- loud and clear -- not in mumbled tones when it is too late.