15 NOVEMBER 2010


Inspired by Secretary General U Thant forty years ago, a number of Former International Civil Servants formed an Association they called, at the time, FICSA. One of its active leaders was George Saddler, a U.S. colleague from the Budget Division. A tireless organizer and competent manager, Saddler managed to build a viable structure, obtain office space, draw a voluntary budget, and generally inject a lively spirit in a potentially powerful grass-roots body. When he left, the Association was somewhat shaken but kept together by highly regarded former officials like the gracious Margaret Bruce, who very ably directed one of the most active divisions in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Patricia Tsien, a fierce fighter since her days at the Office of Personnel. Richard Nottidge, a thoughtful and very knowledgeable pillar of Human Resources Management, also helped clarify the vision, although he was less inclined to delve into some inevitable confrontations. As its name was slightly altered to AFICS, its mission -- officially at least -- remained the same:

"To support and promote the purposes, principles and programmes of the UN System; to advise and assist former international civil servants and those about to separate from service; to represent the interests of its members within the System; to foster social and personal relationships among members, to promote their well-being and to encourage mutual support of individual members."

In practical terms, it was expected to follow up issues of interest to its members, like pension fund developments, health insurance schemes, arrange seminars on relevant questions amongst its qualified members, reach out to those who may need specific help, look into emergency cases, alert members to cases that may affect them, encourage members to participate actively in substantive activities of the U.N. family, and encourage those who write, lecture or publish on U.N. related topics.

Clearly, very little of the above was accomplished over the last few years. A directory of members was issued every other year, and a quarterly bulletin which pathetically reproduced some worn-out press releases. A usual discount at the U.N. bookshop was considered a major accomplishment, although it goes with showing any retiree pass. Arranging a discounted meal for a members gathering was also considered a great feat. Actually, AFICS was run to the ground as some of its members stopped participating while others hesitated to join, particularly when the Association was directed by some whose staff performance was not very impressive, and who spent most of their time not working but networking.

Anyway, that is water under the bridge, or the East River. There is a new group of officers whose devoted and effective work as staff may indicate a signal of hope that some improvement could be accomplished. The new President of AFICS, New York, is Linda Saputelli. Frances Zainoeddin,a pillar of the budget division in the Controller's office is First Vice-President. Thomas Bieler, another solid Budget manager who also accomplished results in the Insurance area, is Second Vice-President. Louise Laheurte, the pleasant as well as productive dynamo of DPI French Press section, is Secretary with Tony Fouracre, a gifted PR communicator who revived the U.N. Postal and Stamp service as Deputy Secretary. Other Board members include Fernando Astete, a proven negotiator in defending staff issues, admired colleagues Barbara Burns and Susan Miles, the outstandingly courteous intellectual Susan Habachy, our favorite Chief Medical Officer Dr.Sudershan Narula, former Assistant Secretary General in Conference Services Federico Riesco, one of Nigeria's prominent intellectuals Edward Omotoso, and Christine Smith-Lemarchand. We also noticed the name of Mary Lynn Hanley as Editor of the Bulletin; lets hope she would start producing some readable stuff.

The new team has reached out for more participation and wider partnership. We warmly support their call. AFICS needs to be fixed. It deserves the chance. We're all for it.