15 September 2007

The U.N. actually started in London. The first General Assembly, the first Security Council meeting, the first Acting Secretary General (Sir Gladwyn Jebb) were all in London. Hence the first U.N. Information Centre. The London office was the first in the network of 70 Information Centres around the world following Resolution 13 of the First Session. When that office was irresponsibly shut by Shashi Tharoor, in his futile quest to please whoever it was he sought to please at the time, the U.N. lost a needed voice in a key permanent member of the Security Council. In a sarcastic note, departing staff emailed a "titanic" themed farewell. Adding material loss to substantive injury, the U.N. continued to pay for its unused offices in London while paying for staff without appropriate offices in Brussels.

For the last five years, the U.N. presence in the U.K. was limited to occasional visits by the Secretary General who was, of course, very well received in a solid U.N. country. However, there has been no regularly available individual for media representatives to double-check U.N. related stories. No senior official with any stature to take initiatives which would keep U.N. friends and related associations abreast of recent developments.

That is why the appointment of former U.N. Deputy Secretary General Lord Mark Malloch-Brown is so significant. An outstanding communicator with a proven commitment to U.N. objectives is now an integral member of the British government. In charge of U.N.-related issues, he is not only at the heart of the decision-making process, but would be a reliable presenter of issues that really matter to the international community. His experience in the World Bank and at the U.N. will be most valuable both to the U.K. government, as well as to the Organization.

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, who devoted much of his public career to Human Development, does -- like all of us -- have adversaries and admirers. But very few would be able to contest his indispensable role in 2005-2006 in saving the Office of Secretary General from disaster. At a time when his selection as a member of the British government was targeted by anti-U.N. forces, we would like to express appreciation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his wise and valuable choice. We could not think of anyone else who could accomplish the task better. And at this time of serious challenge to our Organization, we know that his heart -- and brilliant mind -- is in the right place. We know he will be raising the U.N. flag in London together with that of the U.K. They stick together.