|WHY THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE TO BERTINI AND HALLBACHS?
15 January 2005
The Spokesman was dutifully reading the noon briefing to an almost empty room on 22 December when a
note was passed for him to announce the abrupt and certain departure of Iqbal Riza. Immediately after
that however, came a leak to three reporters about the forthcoming departure of two other senior
officials. It gave the impression -- possibly intended -- that the three were related. Nothing could
be further from the truth. Catherine Bertini, Under Secretary General for Administration and
Management, had already indicated to the Secretary General since last summer her interest in seeking
outside options. The question was left open for further discussion. She had been saddled with
Security tasks when her main strength is people management and program activities. She had
established a sterling record at the World Food Program, visiting areas of need with compassion and
courage. She revived that Rome-based operation, placing it in the mainstream of global food relief.
Upon taking over her new assignment last year, she made every effort to listen and act effectively
and fairly, although her work was often eroded by political maneuvers at upper floors. Even those
looking for something to criticize her, found little reason. Catherine Bertini proved her sterling
credentials through her own hard compassionate work. She certainly was not in the same boat with the
former Chef. Neither was Controller Jean Pierre Hallbachs. A long-time civil servant from the
Mauritius, J-P (as he is known internally) impressed everyone with his dedication, courage and
enlightened friendship. He was fiercely loyal to the current Secretary General, a former
Controller in a helpful way; he did everything to solve problems rather than add to his burden.
Clearly, he took no nonsense, certainly not from Riza or anyone else for that matter. He had
indicated an interest in early retirement at the age of 55 -- an option available to all career
The source of the leak on Ms. Bertini and Mr. Hallbachs will not be named here. But it is a shame
that someone who should be promoting the work of two dedicated and successful senior officials should
try to cause such collateral damage.