|WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES.
15 February 2006
Consider an indicative comparison. A year ago whenever a press headline appeared on the Food-For-Oil scandal shivers
went through the spines of all U.N. supporters. The story would have been about Secretary General Kofi Annan, his son
Kojo or his designated Director of Iraq Programme. These days, headlines on Food-For-Oil are mainly dealing with sales
of wheat from Australia.
Whether you like it or not, whether you like him or not, new Chef de Cabinet Mark Malloch-Brown has taken on an
almost impossible challenge and made the difference. Clearly, he could not have done it without the full confidence
of Secretary General Kofi Annan. And therein may be the first key to that positive change. Loyalty. The confident
internationalist who gave up his UNDP post did not need to prove his loyalty to Kofi Annan. There was a longstanding
relationship and straightforward understanding which did not require an hourly check-up. He was not one of those
opportunists who bet on Mr. Annan to enhance their own Karma. He kept his focus on the target, his eyes on the ball.
At times it seemed like the myth of Cyzefus: making every effort to push the ball upward towards the peak, only to
risk having it roll downwards. There were some key bystanders who wanted him to fail. But others helped. Unexpectedly.
They found in his earnest approach a silver lining for the U.N. and its Secretary General. As an experienced
communicator, he needed no advice on the need to portray a participatory, transparent impression. Whether real or not,
he at least gave the impression that whatever was under the rug was out for dry cleaning. A professional writer, he
knew what words meant, what they revealed, what they left understood. As a proven manager at the World Bank and in the
private sector, he recognized the importance of taking decisions, having them publicly announced and following up on
their execution. Whenever it looked as if some would exploit his decisiveness he flexibly adapted his pace in full harmony
with the unquestioned primacy of the Secretary General -- the person he is there to support.
Yes; the worse is over. But there are still ten more months. And there is that embarrassing peacekeeping procurement
investigation with over $265 million questions. There is also the risk that some officials in senior positions do not
help. They act as if the U.N., though without any contribution on their part, is now flying in the open skies of Cloud
Nine. So they act irresponsibly with impunity. On the positive side, there are others who are making every effort to
turn the corner. They also are making the difference -- from Under-Secretaries General like Christopher Burnham and
Brahim Gambari to dedicated staff at all levels from all ranks. Those amongst them who stand up with courage and
dignity to point out irregularities and perform their functions effectively in adverse conditions deserve special
appreciation. After all, the Secretariat is the backbone of the United Nations. When it moves forward, however slowly,
the whole galaxy advances.
There are hopeful signs, reflected by the growing confidence of the Secretary General in trying to regain his rightful
role. Let us hope no one -- or nothing -- foolish pulls it back.