The new Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management Catherine Bertini initiated several steps to rebuild relations with staff representatives which had been unduly fractured over the last few years. Immediately upon taking over in January, the former head of the World Food Programme and University of Michigan Professor held several meetings to survey the situation and explore how best to go forward. Her new special assistant who had worked well with her in Rome was on hand to follow up on agreed points. Staff representatives had felt particularly frustrated over newly-introduced appointments and promotion procedures, career decisions and overall lack of adequate consultations. Bertini's style seems to be transparent and participatory which gave the staff committee an initial feeling that she had done her homework pretty well. The main message is that everyone is on the same side; or in the same boat, particularly at these challenging times.

Along these same lines, Secretary-General Annan wrote to United Nations staff conveying his appreciation for the devotion and loyalty they continue to show during "trying times."

"For many of us, war and the suffering it causes are, sadly, familiar," the Secretary-General said in an open letter to UN staff. "Indeed, much of our task is dealing with the effects of war. That does not diminish our profound sadness at seeing the war unfold in Iraq. We worry about the broader, longer-term implications that this war might have for peace and security in the region, and throughout the world."

The Secretary-General also said he does not accept claims that the United Nations has failed because it could not prevent war or is doomed to irrelevance. "In fact, I think we can derive some encouragement from the fact that the United Nations, and specifically the Security Council, was both the focus and forum for an intense and sustained debate over several months on how best to disarm Iraq," he said.

"The world's people - including the people of Iraq - are looking to the United Nations," he added. "The Iraqi people urgently need our help, and we must make every effort to bring them humanitarian relief and assistance as soon as possible."

People everywhere will still look to the United Nations to carry on the daily struggle to prevent conflict, promote development and human rights, defeat poverty, protect the environment and fight global scourges that afflict mankind, the Secretary-General stressed.

"The months ahead promise to put our Organization to new tests," he said. "But what has never failed us in the life of our United Nations is the commitment of all of you, the staff. I know that you will see us safely through the challenges ahead."