|FAULTY FEEDBACK, DYSFUNCTIONAL TEAM, LACK OF REAL PERFORMANCE
HAMPER EFFORTS TO IMPROVE FALLING U.N. IMAGE IN ARAB REGION.
1 August 2004
An adverse U.N. image in the Arab world is obviously related to the conflict with Israel. Within
that margin, however, there is room for creative professional work. DPI
Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor took a positive step forward in holding a meeting in Beirut
and -- more important -- in the wide range of interviews he gave to a receptive media. Ahmed Fawzi,
the senior Arab in that department, eventually returned from his long visit to Iraq with Lakhdar
Bridhimi and is -- hopefully -- taking a hands on approach to dealing with Arab media. Awaiting a
comprehensive innovative plan, there may be at least three pressing areas to be treated urgently.
The first is faulty feedback. Particularly the Centre in Beirut has been deliberately
negligent in reporting adverse comments. What New York doesn't know wouldn't hurt it -- or him -- goes
the approach of the fellow with the fake bow-tie. He may feel that a negative comment would reflect
negatively on his performance. He should feel more confident. Unless Headquarters is aware of a brewing
problem, how could they help solve it? He is an excellent networker with the networks but almost
hopeless in the opinion section. It does not hurt seeking guidance from his supervisors. Their input
could complement his vulnerability. Also, now that he finally received his promotion, he should take
it easy on his other colleagues in the field and possibly strengthen his Arabic. That he cannot write
a full paragraph could be covered, but he should at least be able to read better and interpret press
interviews more accurately.
The second urgent problem is a dysfunctional Arab-speaking team at Headquarters. Someone
who can liaise fairly with
amenable Arab delegations in New York may have no clue about Arab media in the field. Someone whose
main effort is to undercut his colleagues and go behind their back to connect with potentially
helpful higher ups may have no credibility whatsoever with any serious editor. So, how could he
deal effectively with his colleagues in the field? He could convey directives, but could neither
guide nor inspire those actually facing the challenges daily on the ground. This led to a cliquish
attitude; those considered friendly are pitted against those considered undesirables. Arguments
are not unusual in any group, but not to the point of daily acrimony.
It is common knowledge in Beirut that press officers of various agencies in the same U.N.
building have no time for the DPI Chief
Information Officer and he responds similarly. It is also common knowledge that the Executive
Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia had written against that officer
who is officially on her payroll. A similar position was taken by her predecessor. What kept him
on is his talent to network with the political side of the house. Pity that he does not help
himself -- and the U.N. -- better by having a reality check on his actual size and demonstrate a
positive service to the whole system. A fragmented approach leads to a fragmented image.
A third area is the level of performance by some senior U.N. officials. You cannot expect sterling
coverage with mediocre delivery. Let's stop here before going further into more embarrassing territory --
hoping for some improvement. There will have to be some real achievements to talk about. An
essential part of looking good is BEING Good.