1 APRIL 2014


When Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appeared to address U.N. press correspondents between official travel late February, he started with friendly small talk about having a haircut. That was just a warm-up exercise -- certainly needed in New York's cold weather. The real story was that his Spokesman Martin Nesirky would be leaving to Vienna and a new team would take over on 10 March. There was no mystery about it.

Nesirky, who had been recruited from Vienna, needed to return to the Austrian capital for his own reasons. In return for his professional, effective performance over five years, a U.N. assignment was awaiting him there.

By mid-March, a new team took over the leadership of the Office of the Spokesman of the U.N. Secretary General. They are not really new. Actually, that's one of their strong points. Stéphane Dujarric ("Steph" on Twitter) casually described himself as an international man with no mystery, a U.N. devotee. He joined the Spokesman's Office under former Secretary General Kofi Annan and earned his way up the slippery ladder, particularly with the Oil-for-Food crisis when he had to face media pressure daily. Before joining that office, Stéphane, a graduate of Georgetown University, had worked with ABC News in London.

Before end-March, Dujarric had already travelled with the Secretary General to Russia, Ukraine, The Netherlands and Thinning - the territory in Greenland, Twitting, connecting, and briefing his way to familiar names amongst U.N. officials and accredited correspondents. He had remained mostly in the loop during the period since he left the original office: initially at UNDP, then as Director in DPI's Media Division, dealing directly with accreditation and handling of reporters -- including those who visited with heads of state during the General Assembly.

Stéphane Dujarric de la Rivière habitually makes friends, and seeks points of accord in a pleasant, discreet, and helpful attitude. His positive edge for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is that he is invaluably familiar with U.N. machinery. Over the last fifteen years, he got to know who's who, where and when it mattered (or at least we hope so!).

His advice to the Secretary General and his team should be particularly valuable at a time there seems to be confusion over specific urgent issues.

A complementary move, the designation (at last!) of Farhan Haq as Deputy Spokesman is not only fair and timely but constructive and practical. Farhan grew in that office, kept his head above controversies, and gave his full time to office requirements. He comes from a "U.N. family." His father, the outstanding Mahbub El-Haq, was a pioneer in Human Development who initiated the now-inevitable annual Human Development Report. He is always there when you need him, gaining the respect of correspondents and support from the staff.

The new team at the Spokesman Office has hit the ground running. They have so many pressing issues to handle and so many forthcoming challenges. We wish them -- and the Secretary General -- success.