15 JANUARY 2009


For a while, an exquisite little while, our beloved Secretary General was once again with us. Our own highly-regarded Javier Perez de Cuellar, gracious and dignified as always, found time for his affectionate, effective and loyal team during a rare November visit to New York. Time passes. All of us have changed since 1991. Don Javier himself is in his eighties. A young star of the team then, Paul Kavanagh, is now Ireland's Permanent Representative. He acted as the host, together with his ever-supportive wife, Rosemary.

Here we had a credible distinguished Secretary General who led our Organization at a watershed in human history -- a time of strategic change. The end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the breakdown of the Soviet Union tested the mettle of our formidable cool calm and collected leader, who discreetly wisely and deftly turned events to the favour of the United Nations, which he so faithfully served. His personal involvement in ending the Iran-Iraq War was a major accomplishment. Until the last minute of his tenure, precisely at midnight N.Y. time, December 31, 1991, he worked on a ceasefire in Central America -- and got it signed as he and his staff were collecting his papers to leave the building.

Results? You got results. That diplomat's diplomat, with an eye of an eagle and a heart of gold always saw the silver lining. Confidant and pleasant, he best mobilized his most valuable resource, the Secretariat staff. He cared for them and, recognizing it, they responded with unflinching loyalty.

More to the point today, Secretary General Javier Perez de Ceullar highlighted the CREDIBILITY of the United Nations. That is a main prerequisite for its effective performance and the security of its staff in the field. He no doubt left his mark not only on history but also in the hearts of those who worked with him.

Don Javier's brief New York visit mid-November was an opportunity for many of his admirers to seek his advice. It was also an occasion for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to have a private family dinner with his esteemed predecessor.

For us who grew up under his thoughtful guidance, our joint lunch with him was indeed a very cherished moment, however brief. We are grateful he found time for us.