15 October 2007

Retired U.N. officials, even senior ones, who arrived at U.N. Headquarters during the General Debate statements, were told that they were not allowed in. Although that practice had been introduced during the term of recent retiree Kofi Annan, it was more noticed this year because the "victims" were stopped in public at the outside entrance and told, very politely but firmly, of the discriminatory ruling. Most of them -- at least those residing in New York -- had already obtained passes that allowed them through the mechanical check-points once inside. The blocking was done at the outside entrances, by word of mouth. Many respectable former officials were seen looking around for possible recognition as they were there for a particular, pressing reason; otherwise they would be the first to avoid showing up at such a busy period.

Who initially took that discriminatory abrasive arbitrary decision does not matter. The Annan / Riza team had done enormous damage to their former colleagues and to the U.N. reputation; but repeating that would be like flogging an already dead horse. The fact that the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS) had not demonstrated any visible impact is also besides the point.

The question for newly-elected Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is: Why unduly antagonize a potentially helpful group?

In what way is a retiree a security risk? Are those who devoted their lives for U.N. service more likely to create trouble than short-term, unknown and untested newcomers? Would a retiree, including former Heads of Departments, Directors and close aides to Secretaries General, visit the compound unless they had business to do -- like, for example, picking up a pass to listen to their own head of state, or joining in an official luncheon?

Would those TEN DAYS make a real difference than the rest of the year? Since entrances to the Assembly meeting or briefing halls will be very tightly controlled, triple-checked and electronically scanned, how could an older retiree form a threat to his younger Secretariat staffer?

It is absurd to pick on a specific category of people with proven dedication, just because they are not in a position to fend for themselves.

Perhaps it is about time to start talking louder. And if FICSA is beyond fixing, it may be about time to explore other, more effective, representation.