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UNPRECEDENTED REFORM. UNPRECEDENTED EXPENSE. WHO'S PAYING?

15 April 2005

They are all, all honourable men. Only one single woman was added, but that's another story. Ali Alatas was already a distinguished permanent representative of Indonesia when we joined the U.N. as young men. He later made it to Foreign Minister -- and was mentioned for the post of U.N. Secretary General were it not for the fall of Suharto and the war in East Timor. At the time the knives were out for him in New York as the "team" was mobilizing for renewing Annan's mandate; the ever-smiling shrewd Indonesian was a formidable contender from Asia, who's turn had come. Now, he's safer. Joaquin Chissano is a formidable fighter for the independence of Mozambique turned President; corrupt or otherwise is not for us to judge, even if the World Bank says so. He was a helpful member of the Security Council and we need to present an elder statesman from Africa. Ernesto Zadillo, former Mexican President and prominent intellectual par excellence, always available to put his name to a reasonable declaration, as long as it is appropriately vetted by our friends in Harvard. Dermot Ahren may be the fly in the ointment. But it's an ointment, anyway. And Dermot's name will please Bernie (no relation, of course). Only the Irish Times was not impressed. It devoted an editorial of satire mourning Kofi Annan's fate if he was actually counting on Irish eyes.

All, then, all honourable men (and one distinguished woman). But, what will they be doing between now and September? Dermot, "lui meme," said they were to be "the eyes and ears" of the Secretary General. Why would he need more eyes and ears and what will he do with what they convey? We'll have to wait to find out.

"Eyes and ears" was Dermot's version. It is not certain that the graciously cautious Alatas will go along. Senor Zadillo would hedge his bets, just in case. Commandante Chissano, a former autocrat (not to be confused with cleptocrat), will have his own variation on the theme. His nomination may have been a subtle hint for us to contemplate the alternatives and quietly appreciate what we've got. Hence we have to accept that our inspired leadership knows what's best for us. That includes what it dubbed as reform, however awkward the timing or slanted the content. We need not question the announced claim by someone ORR another that this Secretary General has done for reform more than any of his predecessors. Indeed, he may have done TO it, and to the whole U.N., more than anyone could have imagined.

The only question we have is WHO WILL PAY FOR THE TRAVEL of those eyes and ears? Coming from four difference continents, they will have to be exploring their own regions first before crisscrossing elsewhere, then converging on New York. That means First or at least Business class tickets plus high level per diems. Add that to travel and per diem of other members of "Club 71," those distinguished envoys and special representatives numbering around 80. A detailed list of their dysfunctions could be obtained through this site by clicking on Site Map and going through earlier headlines. For example, 18 are devoted to Africa alone, including that fellow with sexual harassment in his backyard who has a "lot on his plate" to be given the slip. Elsewhere, you will find former or current Foreign Ministers, permanent representatives or self described activists. There is that New York resident of Latin American pedigree who says he invented a formula for the Security Council; he also produces a red laissez-passez. They all claim pro-bono. Yet they all find reason to travel somewhere for a few days -- per-diem and tickets granted. Let us not forget the financial requirement of the high level group of eminent personalities (with average age of 70) whose signature on certain "forward looking" proposals was a prerequisite for futuristic "change."

"Unprecedented Reform" seems to incur unprecedented expenditure. Let's hope the money is not covered by Food-for-Oil.