9 September 2005

Earlier this year -- January to be precise -- U.N. Secretariat "leadership" indicated its intention to take "revolutionary" steps to impact on Washington D.C. As became a habitual ritual, the "manifesto" was announced through Financial Times amenable correspondent Mark Turner in a front page story. It included the appointment of an American political heavyweight to lobby decision-makers full-time in a determined effort to substantively influence U.N.-related decisions in the U.S. capital.

In a February issue unforum doubted that claim under a headline "Easy on the Hot Air..." (see site map):

..."The reportedly bold measures were, in fact, an inflated job description of any U.N. Information Centre director who, however, should be careful not to interfere in internal affairs of member states -- that is, an effective liaison with no counterproductive lobbying. There has always been a Centre in D.C. -- since 1946 -- that is 59 years ago. The first field office was in London, now closed; but that's another sad tale of incompetence and apathy. Actually, the First General Assembly session decided in its thirteenth resolution to open "branch offices" to appropriately convey the U.N. viewpoint. Whether the task was performed effectively or not -- and by whom -- is a question with varied interpretation. Actually, only until eight years ago, the Director in Washington was a senior American at D-2 level (the highest in the professional cadre). He conveyed the facts as he saw them, a prerequisite listed in The F.T. revolutionary manifesto. It was only recently that the level was so drastically downgraded and the staff so terribly neglected, slashed, and demoralized that, at the time, Ambassador Negroponte publicly welcomed closing it. Regrettably, Under Annan's communication team, a dismissive culture and ill-advised mentality assumed that world media could be adoringly swayed by some crafty operators in New York. Awakened by current reality checks, they were scurrying to find help in the long disdained "field." And how could they turn obvious failure to revolutionary victory? Assume a "revolutionary" stance. Turn to Turner. Did it not occur to them that a highly visible U.N. official lobbying in Washington in the face of any Administration is a mythical assignment, if not impractical? Haven't they seen even the Secretary General branded with varied labels because of a perceived connection with a certain party of American politicians?

At the time, that is in January, we were told that "after avoiding the revolving door model of Washington lobbying" there is now "a change of business conduct" which is "seen as crucial." A "well-connected U.N. commentator" believed the appointment would "elevate the Washington post into much more of a policy office."

It did not occur to that "revolutionary" at U.N. Headquarters that "lobbying" through a "revolving door" in the U.S. capital, that is, giving the task to a highly visible American politician is very touchy, high maintenance, highly volatile business. Getting involved unduly without fully equipped resources could backfire drastically. No administration, in any country for that matter, would welcome visitors influencing its own policy in its own backyard..."

That, however, does not preclude the appointment of an efficient, highly qualified person to fill the prescribed and approved post, Director, U.N. Information Centre in Washington. New ideas, including "revolutionary" approaches would be helpful within practical grounds and targeted framework. We now understand that a new candidate has been appointed, a former State Department official with a professional public information background. The only change is that he will be reporting directly to the "38th floor" rather than to the head of Department of Public Information (a telling indication of where confidence lies these days). Let's hope Mr. Davis can revive and activate a once credible and professionally effective operation.

One brief comment as the hot air was blown away. Instead of making "unprecedented revolutionary" impact on Washington D. C. since January, it is the U.S. capital that has been making inroads at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. Hello Ambassador Bolton!