15 JUNE 2012


What a difference some teamwork makes.

For the first time in years, the annual meeting of the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS) picked up some spirit and conveyed a positive message.

What a difference a place makes.

For the first time in years, retired former civil servants returned as a group to the grounds where they devoted their outstanding talents and their productive careers.

We won't mention names, lest we overlook anyone unfairly. But those faces of admittedly older people looked refreshed as they entered even an interim conference room. It was almost like good old times -- almost. The place has changed substantially since every one of them gradually retired over the years. Actually, the Secretariat building itself is undergoing renovation. "Conference Rooms" are a pale shadow of those in the past -- and hopefully the future. Still, it is the U.N. -- THEIR U.N. -- AND NOBODY IS GOING TO TAKE THAT AWAY.

The meeting was held Thursday, 7 June, at Conference Room 4 at the North Lawn Building, the interim premises to accommodate gatherings and the Secretary General's immediate team. Linda Saputelli, N.Y. President, opened it with a few remarks that managed to draw the audience closer. After a message by the General Assembly President and the Secretary General, an illustrated briefing by Michael Adlerstein, who is in charge of the Capital Master Plan Project, was very helpful in indicating a timeframe for each stage, some of the problems encountered and ways to deal with them. He showed images of how the compound would look like after a couple of years: for example, more protective hedges on First Avenue, and more open space within offices. Except for Under-Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries General, and Directors, most of the staff will share wider desks and much larger rooms. Some within the audience questioned that approach, but it was a mere briefing.

There was a question about the use of the area South of 42nd Street, across the street from the Cafeteria. Mr. Adlerstein, who holds the rank of Assistant Secretary General, explained that it was a pending situation; it was up to the U.N. to decide first, allocate funds, and start negotiations. It will be generally the same premises with two additional "screening spots," one near the 42nd Street staff entrance where a temporary tent has been used for security matters, and the other on the North side. The main concept, he explained, was that tighter control at the entrance will allow for more flexible movement once inside.

The insurance team seemed to be in a hurry, but managed to offer an illustrated briefing. Questions were limited to main policy; personal queries could be made to individual insurance officers.

President Linda Saputelli presented her Annual Report in an agreeable, transparent, and collegial manner. Federico Riesco, a former Assistant Secretary General, with his amenable smile and helpful style, gave the election results of AFICS/NY Governing Board. Warren Sach, a pillar of international civil service, and the Secretary General's Representative of the U.N. Staff Pension Fund, discussed matters, together with the Chief Executive Officer of the Fund, Bernard Cocheme. A reception followed at the third floor cafeteria of DC-1 Building.

It was a useful, informative occasion and welcome initiative by Linda Saputelli and her team of colleagues. Their joint effort gave a valuable fix to AFICS.