15 JANUARY 2011


Most of us know at least one brilliant Tunisian. True to their heritage, they proved to be an enlightened dynamic in their Mediterranean, Arab, Islamic, North African, semi-European flair. Many of them served the U.N. with distinction and dedication. We would not wish to single out any of them. As we commemorate our fallen colleagues in Haiti a year ago, we could point to the ultimate sacrifice of U.N. Special Representative there, Hedi Annabi. Other names come to mind but we would avoid mentioning them not only to avoid any misunderstanding about their role in the current uprising, but because it is a whole peoples' movement, a people who were in the forefront of advancing freedom and the value of life. That beautiful country with its progressive cultured society reached the end of their tolerance and surprised the world, let alone the ruler for 23 years, who thought he was there for life and is now pleading for "only" three more years, indicating -- like leaders of Eastern Europe where he once had served -- that he was never adequately informed!

It is hoped that the change of leadership will be carried within the constitution of the Republic by civil society forces who have proven their capacity to make their country one of the brightest spots of the Mediterranean and one of the most outward-looking U.N. member states.

It is not a coincidence that demonstrators in the streets of Tunis were repeating the slogan raised since the last century by young Arabs everywhere from the North African Atlantic to Mesopotamia: Dignity of Life. The poem with this headline states:

"If the people determine to cherish their life; destiny will definitely respond. The long night will then disperse; the shackles will then be broken."

It had been written by a Tunisian.