|DOES PABLO PICASSO EMBARRASS KOFI ANNAN?
Talk about a culture of peace, a Nobel Prize for Peace, or indeed an Organization of Peace.
When it comes to attempting to please, basic objectives or cultural icons will not stand in
Apparently the historically famous and culturally valuable Picasso artwork "Guernica" which had
been prominently displayed near the approach to the Security Council seemed to bother some
spinners who passed the word to some networkers who promised to do something about it. As Maureen
Dowd aptly pointed out in the "New York Times," the day U.S. Secretary of State Powell was
to brief the Council, some did not feel at ease about the possibility that the head of one of
the victims may pop up on the background briefing by Mr. Blix; it would also be visible to cameras
displaying delegates entering the chambers to discuss the threat of war over Iraq; it may also
appear behind the shoulder of the Council president as he briefed the press after the meeting. So,
the painting was covered by a curtain and flags of Council members. Ironically, among the flags
abused to cover the masterpiece of the Spaniard who resided in Antibes were those of Spain and
France. Fortunately, the cover was undone after a scandalized response but the harm was done to
the embarrassment of the U.N. and -- frankly -- to the Secretary-General. After all, Picasso is
Picasso and none of those masquerading as decision-makers around Kofi Annan can touch the tip of
his creative brush.
In fact, symptoms of the growing influence of "curry in a hurry" approach were apparent much
earlier. At the first of the Secretary-General lecture series, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison
enthralled a packed audience with a literary masterpiece on the spirit and language of
peace. However, two speakers immediately took the floor attempting to puncture her impact.
The first was the moderator, supposedly the "resident" intellectual, who was supposed to allow
others to ask first. He wondered whether such peace pipe talk was relevant during these tough
days. As if on cue, he was followed by the then acting head of the Public Information
Department -- also a close aide of the Secretary-General -- who invoked the wartime rhetoric of
Winston Churchill. The puzzling intervention by an official conveyor of the U.N. message (and an
Indian at that) was explained as a farsighted networking ploy. Maybe, just maybe, a message
would trickle to Washington, where the President is known to be an admirer of the British leader.
That was a long way from the days when keen attempts were made to join the Clintons' Renaissance
Club in Hilton Head. At that time, the Secretary-General publicly overruled his two aides
urging staff to practice the language of peace in their daily work. However, that was the
first and last lively -- or even live -- lecture in that series. The ones that followed were
downgraded to non-events where hardly-known speakers and their entourage outnumbered genuine
Kofi Annan deserves everyone's support particularly at these difficult times. He is not
at all helped, however, by some clearly identified people who are openly promoting their
personal agenda and exploiting his prestige while violating basic rules and disregarding
established standards of international civil service. The longer he allows them to do so,
the more likely he will become vulnerable.