15 December 2004

No, she is not the one just appointed in Geneva at the Assistant Secretary General level. That one, Deputy Human Rights Commissioner, has -- at least -- a track record of service, including head of UNICEF Public Information. The Vienna one is Nasra Hassan. Who is SHE? What qualified her for heading a regional European headquarters media operation? Were there no more qualified women, Europeans, or -- for that matter -- Pakistani communicators? How is her German? French? Maybe Italian, Dutch or Serbo Croat? What is her management record?

Nasra Hassan was unable to find a regular U.N. job for 23 years. In August 1981, when Iqbal Riza had just joined as assistant (P-3/P-4) to the head of the Department of Public Information, Yasushi Akashi, Ms. Hassan was given a chance as a P-2 in that Department. Five months later, she moved to UNICEF in several capacities: projects officer, reports officer, "editor," special assistant to the Director of Funding Office, who promoted her to P-5. She found her calling with UNRWA, where she worked very closely with the then Commissioner General between Vienna and Gaza. She accompanied the Commissioner in most of his travel, thus gaining, sharing and spreading experience. However, a new UNRWA Commissioner Peter Hansen may not have been duly impressed; his focus shifted elsewhere. By then, Ms. Hassan won some sort of a lottery when her old compatriot Iqbal Riza became Chef de Cabinet of a newly elected Secretary General. She moved between missions in Tirana and Pristina (UNMIK) for about two years until placed in August 2001 in the Department of Peacekeeping in a D-2 post, heading what used to be known as "Lessons Learned," now "reformed" into Policy Analysis and Best Practices Unit. As we reported in an earlier issue, the general impression was that Riza made a special effort to keep her there or in any other D-2 post. With the appointment of a new head of the U.N. Vienna European Office, Ms Hassan was obligingly taken to the Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), first in Vienna, then sent off to the regional office in Tashkent, Uzbekstan.

Now, how would all these transient assignments qualify her for running media operations from Vienna covering several countries in the region, particularly Eastern Europe, remains unclear. There was a report some year ago about an investigation of some corruption charges in Vienna, made by a resigning senior officer. Ironically, it was at a time when that same office was advocating an international anti-corruption convention. Of course, there is no relevance between that and any pressure by someone in New York for one hand to wash another. An official press release on 17 November announced that Nasra Hassan was appointed to the task by "the Secretary General."

Oh, Secretary General?! How many embarrassments are committed in thine name!