15 MARCH 2010


Same temptation. Different name. Same approach. Different package. Actually, same Hollywood players; only dealing with a different U.N. face. Ban Ki-moon was following in the footsteps of Kofi Annan, who was seduced by a fantasy of becoming a "diplomatic rock-star." Actually, media seeking to interview the former Secretary General when in office were told by some of his sidekicks to inject that title; it would cheer him up and open a venue (or avenue) of conversation. A serious project, "Voices For the U.N.," to mobilize support by the creative and sports community launched at the time by the head of the Department of Public Information was eventually diverted to look like "FOK" -- Friends of Kofi, along the lines of FOB -- Friends of Bill (Clinton, that is; the same as in "plus ca change"!).

It was Mr. Clinton who hosted a dinner for 300 guests and apparently orchestrated Secretary General Ban's Hollywood visit, give or take few logistics appropriately overseen by the diligent Eric Falt. Only this time, there was a different name, entitled: "Creative Community Outreach Initiative." If someone looked at the files of the office of the head of the Department of Public Information in 1997, the same initiative was launched to forge a partnership with artistic, creative, sports personalities in support of U.N. objectives. The current "CCOI" aims to raise the profile of critical global issues in partnership with the U.N. film and television industry. Again, plus ca change...

To his credit, Secretary General Ban was very discreet in exploiting the road to Hollywood. No flashy announcements. No name dropping. Not even a media reference to witness the glamorous event.

Furthermore, the thrust of Secretary General Ban's approach deserves support: how to get the creative community to support U.N. efforts in handling pressing emergencies. However, that approach requires close supervision.

One risk is opening the U.N. compound to films that would advocate anti-U.N. perception. For example, the U.N. had refused filming "Perfect Murder" because it was about a prominent New Yorker attempting to find a way to murder his U.N. wife (would you wish to encourage that example?), and suggesting that most interpreters were spies! Eventually, Secretary General Kofi Annan and his Adviser Gillian Sorensen accommodated actor Michael Douglas, who was even designated an envoy of peace.

Another risk is that some actors will manage to exploit the U.N. to launder their image rather than really supporting U.N. objectives. Take the case of Michael Douglas, admittedly a very influential member of the Hollywood community. We were informed that Secretary General Ban flattered him by saying that his two favorite movies of all time were his "American President" and his father's "Spartacus." What role model does Mr. Douglas really inspire? From "Perfect Murder" to "Basic Instinct" with Sharon Stone, to "Fatal Attraction," to drug trafficking movies, to "War of the Roses" which ends up with a destructive husband/wife fight, to "Wall Street" (Greed is Good) to a role of a roaming mental case, gun in briefcase, planning to kill his wife and children. Obviously, Mr. Douglas' reputation benefited from his U.N. designation. How much did the U.N. benefit from Mr. Douglas? This is only one example. There are worse. There are better, much better.

A third risk is financial accountability. Using the U.N. as a cover could cut specific costs or avoid certain taxes. The same would apply to revenue. For example, there are still questions about the amount of money the U.N. was supposed to receive from "The Interpreter."

In brief, the movie industry is a private BUSINESS, a PROFIT-MAKING BUSINESS, while the U.N. is an intergovernmental NON-PROFIT organization. Unless carefully and closely handled, enterprising actors could always outmaneuver dazzled U.N. stargazers -- especially those starving for ego trips.

We trust Secretary General Ban will exercise utmost care.