15 January 2008

Our diligent leadership has decided that we need to have a year for Astrology. Well done. Having lost our grip on planet earth it may be about time for stargazing.

But not before a cleansing treatment. That's why, again, our farsighted leadership had decided that this year, 2008, shall be the Year of Sanitation. Sanity, of course, is a totally different discipline. First and foremost, we will need to be instructed in meticulous detail by Messrs Duck and Duck (from Korea and Singapore respectively and respectfully). After all, the President of the World Toilets Association and his sometime competitor sometime sidekick, have gone to great lengths to ensure that adequate measures are taken accordingly. Now that one of them at least has been received by our Secretary General, let's hope action would start with better maintenance of restrooms at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Their condition may provide an initial link between sanity, sanitation and astrology. For in that case, like in other matters around the people, we need a sharp gazer within the U.N. Galaxy system to tell us who is actually in charge and who indeed is accountable, let alone who takes the decisions. In the good old days, for example, there was a Building Section. That covered everything within the premises. Some of us called it B.S. for sarcastic short but at least we knew whom to call. We also knew who was running what, hence the traditional quip by a seasoned secretary in answer to a telephone request: "Would you wish to speak to the officer in charge or should I transfer you to the woman who does everything?"

Would you need to speak to the Secretary General or to the fellow who whispers everything to Mr. Kim?!

Now, more people are wondering what's really going on. When you announce Darfur as a priority, does it mean that the plight of the victimized people will be your first concern, or is it a pretext for the Peacekeeping Department to grant $250 million no-bid contracts?! Would diligent work be focused on overcoming obvious obstacles or on finding jobs for out of work former political divas?! Putting boots on the ground is not enough if they can't have helicopters or supplies or even help bring food to the forsaken millions there.

Who is accountable for the escalating disasters in the Congo, including the embarrassing reports on some "peacekeepers"? Is anyone making money on the side (like arms for diamonds)?

What about Somalia? January 2007 we called it a success; December 2007 we know it is a disaster. Even the Special Representative there, Ould Abdallah (a good man, by the way), is unable to visit Mogadishu which is turning into a worse nightmare than Darfur. On what basis and on whose advice does the Secretary General make his statements, let alone decisions -- for there are really none.

Anyone with a considered forecast on Cyprus? The Representative there is leaving or has already left, which in practical terms meant the same as the Turkish side won't deal with him. Any replacement? Any precise policy? What is it?

Anything on the Israeli-Arab conflict, or the "Middle East" as it is now vaguely described? That is, any specific U.N. role except general participation of quartets turned into sextets? Again, who is advising on that one after the interim "advisor" left and a new totally unknown fellow from the Netherlands was given the job -- that's it, a job.

Anything new on Lebanon, besides the tired cliches appealing for consensus and harmony? Again, who is really formulating the decisions: the Special Representative in Beirut who is about to leave, "Special Envoy" Larsen who can't even visit Beirut without the personal protection of the Secretary General, or the Special Prosecutor (the third in three years) who naturally has not yet grasped the situation?

Closer to home at U.N. Headquarters, would Ban Ki-moon press the Refresh button on his managerial team? If he wants to restore the U.N. role and repair the U.N. image as he keeps repeating, he has to show some results now. Time is not on his side as he may find out in due course, that is when political sharks start sensing injured prospects.

The world certainly will be looking forward to the role of astrologers in 2009. And if the current trend continues, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may need them more than anyone else.