15 November 2004

The day President George W. Bush was announced winner of U.S. elections, 3 November, BBC main anchor woman in Washington, the brilliant Kathy Kay, sought the comment of Jeffrey Sachs, who was introduced as "Adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan." The interview was about the impact on U.S. relations with the rest of the world. Professor Sachs made interesting points. Very interesting. But, was he speaking for Kofi Annan, or for himself? Now, one would hardly wish to tangle with the professor. He is intensely and highly wired, purposeful and committed to his determined opinion. He had a special role in diverting billions of international funds to Yeltsin's Russia, most of which were unaccounted for -- something like a non-U.N. Food-for-Oil plan, only the main actors were prominent Americans and Russians influencing some senior Americans in a previous Administration. Hence, no outcry but outright admiration for pulling it off with impressive compassion. Thus no quarrel intended. Indeed, the promotional professor could bring added value to the U.N. Development program, for instance. Eventually he may persuade billionaires George Soros, Stephen Bing and possibly T. Boone Chickens to help the homeless in Darfur or the jobless in Ouagadougou. Meanwhile, however, the question relates to the practical interest of the United Nations and the political credibility of its Secretary General. Already Kofi Annan was accused of interfering in U.S. elections through making difficulties for candidate Bush in the interest of candidate Kerry. Fairly or unfairly, that brought about unwarranted attacks against the United Nations, undermining it in the minds of a sizeable portion of a usually pro-U.N. American public. That is why it has always been a firm policy by every other Secretary General to avoid any semblance of partiality, particularly in the election process of the host country. Annan's official spokesman has valiently tried to make that point, obviously to no avail. Free-wheeling intervention by "special adviser" Jeffrey Sachs would only add to the confusion -- unless he was indeed speaking for Kofi Annan.