15 SEPTEMBER 2008
|NEW FACES FOR A NEW SEASON
Before the General Assembly season, while most of us were on holiday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was busy
swearing in new members of his leadership team. Three of them stand out. Patricia O'Brian of Ireland took over as
Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, a first for a female to head that department. Her welcome appointment
overcame lingering doubts following the resignation of her predecessor Nicolas Michel and the departure of his
Deputy, the popular and knowledgeable Larry Johnson. A delay in making the replacement had led some observer to
wonder whether any legal eagle was minding the store when so many legal issues, including a tribunal regarding the
assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, would remain on track. The quality and experience of the replacement
displayed an even clearer determination to pursue pending issues. Having served since 2003 as Legal Adviser to the
Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. O'Brian handled legal issues relating to foreign policy and international
affairs, particularly those dealing with human rights. She had also worked with Ireland's Attorney General. As a
member of the Irish delegation to the European Union, Ms. O'Brian oversaw legal proceedings before the International
Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. In addition to practicing
law in her own country, she held academic positions at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Another similarly impressive appointment is that of Alain Le Roy of France as Under-Secretary General for
Peacekeeping. Just before arriving in New York to take his oath of office, Ambassador Le Roy was instrumental in the
success of a gathering in Paris of heads of state of the Mediterranean countries, the first summit headed by newly-elected
President Sarkozy. While he effectively remained behind the scene, many participants noted his management skills and
the professional respect with which he is regarded among his colleagues. He had worked in a U.N. mission in Kosovo,
with a UNDP mission in Mauritania, and served as ambassador to former Yugoslavia and to Madagascar. A holder of a
degree in Engineering, he also acquired degrees in Economics from the University of Paris (Pantheon-Sarbonnes), and
completed the programme for senior managers in government at Harvard University. In his new U.N. assignment, he will
be overseeing about 110,000 personnel, spread over 20 operations around the world. He will need all the support he
can get. And he deserves it, particularly after the very poor performance of his predecessor.
The third welcome appointment is that of Navanethem Pillay, as High Commissioner for Human Rights. A South African
anti-Apartheid activist who struggled her way against great obstacles to one of the most senior legal positions in
her unified liberalized country, she is the third woman to take over that post and the first African.
There were other appointments at the Assistant Secretary General rank. The capable solid Controller Warren Sachs
was moved to Central Support Service, Department of Management, to give way to a new Japanese nominee, Jun Yamazaki.
Another new face is that of the number two in Legal Affairs from Denmark, Peter Taksoe-Jensen. The strongly connected
Jane Holl Lute managed to get another designation as ASG for Peacebuilding Support, replacing the formidable Carolyn McAskie,
who decided to return home to Canada.