15 January 2007

Never have so many names been given to the same U.N. mission. And never so many shifting senior officials were appointed to such a same place.

East Timor, or Timor Leste as it is now officially known, had at least five changing U.N. missions with almost identical objectives within the last five years. The latest incarnation was on 25 August 2006 when it went from UNOTIL to UNMIT. An appropriate Security Council resolution (number 1704) was obtained with a mandate until 25 March 2007.

No problem, as our Jamaican friends would say. In fact, some of the best administrations spent the initial period of creation there. Our beloved Sergio Vieira de Millo of Brazil, the Ambassador Kamalesh of India made it a true U.N. success story. Eventually, political expediency became the general rule. Last year's riots exposed a glaring gap in U.N. performance as appointments there, like elsewhere, were increasingly linked to political expediency. That is a question, serious as it is, for another debate.

Right now we would like to raise one question of Peacekeeping "family planning" there.

Major General Anis Bajwa holds a D-2 post as Director of Change Management (whatever that means) in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at U.N. Headquarters in New York. The Pakistani General spent some time last year in Timor Leste when the mission was called UNOTIL. As he was leaving back to New York in August, his son, Hammad Bajwa, arrived to join the now changed mission, UNMIT. General Bajwa served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Security Support and Rule of Law (don't smile!). His son is still serving among the 34 "volunteers".

Mind you, staff rules are observed, though ironically evaded. Missions do not precisely fall under the Secretariat rule of father and son / husband and wife joint employment. Also, U.N. volunteers are under UNDP, giving it a flexible pattern. But doesn't it somehow raise a question of propriety? A senior official in Peacekeeping having his son placed in a Peacekeeping mission? We are told that the local press in Dilli is fully aware of the story but is "too scared" to report it. UNMIT (U.N. Integrated Mission in Timor Leste) is composed mainly of military police (about one thousand to 1,600) supported by 87 international civilians and 227 locals. No striving Timorese journalist would wish to take on a senior General in New York who almost ran his vulnerable country as Chief of Security Sector Support (and Rule of Law, remember!).

There were other cases using Peacekeeping missions, special funds and programmes to place their close relatives, averting rules and regulations. Staff know most of these cases very well to a point that they jokingly refer to them as Special U.N. Family Planning. The most notorious case over the last few years was that of then Chef de Cabinet Iqbal Riza and his son Imran's P-5. By the way, it was Mr. Riza who managed to place General Bajwa in his D-2 post. But that's another story.