15 JULY 2010


A book, and now an HBO documentary, by Samantha Power did more for the U.N. than all those frequent flying characters posing as U.N. senior officials or promoters of U.N. image.

Although the main subject is our fallen hero Sergio Vieira de Mello, the narrative explores the functioning of the U.N. in various operations, from Serbia (dubbed "Serbio") to Cambodia to East Timor to Geneva, New York, and, tragically, Baghdad.

Initially published as "Chasing the Flame," its soft cover, newly reissued as "Sergio -- One Man's Fight to Save the World," was recently inaugurated as a documentary. Her first book, "A Problem from Hell," won the Pulitzer Prize. It was about the massacres in Rwanda, where she exposed not just perpetrators on the ground but the high and mighty (and not so mighty) who allowed the tragic events to happen. In particular, the embarrassing role of U.N. Peacekeeping head at the time, Kofi Annan, and his deputy Iqbal Riza was clearly documented. Later, when Annan became Secretary General and Riza his Chef de Cabinet, there were several approaches to court Ms. Power in the hope of softening her perception of a newly packaged team.

"Sergio," her newly updated book is an outstanding blend of interesting reporting, perceptive analysis and a definite commitment to uphold human dignity. While exploring the work of one single dedicated, brilliant and charismatic internationalist, Ms. Power presented a lively sample of the complex yet promising work of a determined and talented U.N. colleague. It is a testimony to the original U.N. culture of dedication and creativity proven by Sergio Vieira de Mello, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, just like a number of U.N. colleagues, particularly Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold.

Oh...if only Sergio had lived long enough to become Secretary General.