15 SEPTEMBER 2014
|NEW SECRETARIAT OFFICES: SARDINES AND PENGUINS
Returning to the Secretariat after the reconstruction work required by the Capital Master Plan, staff at last discovered the new set-up. Instead of
an open space and collegiate atmosphere, they are now split among kiosks, unable even to see each other before hitting a wall or a glass divider or a
door which leads to another one, or maybe to nowhere. This, of course, is how the general staff are assembled, almost like sardines. The higher-ups
are put in larger offices, though still restricted and with limited visual contact, even with those with whom they are supposed to be dealing
directly. While the 'sardines' take mini-breaks to visit each other, the higher-ups seem like penguins hopping around in their own areas to gather
with one another or consult about what's going on.
The newest edict relates to the 38th floor, the location of the Secretary General. Access to it by elevator even for Permanent Representatives
has been deleted. With immediate effect, all visitors must stop at the 37th floor and buzz, to be welcomed by one or more security officers, who
will escort them upstairs. That puts more stress on the sardines to be alert to whatever diplomatic officialdom is arriving. It also put more
security officials in the position of administrative receptionists. Several delegations consider it quite bothersome if not dismissive. The rest of
the staff don't even try as the distance has grown way beyond floors. There are several other unintended consequences to that arbitrary decision to
keep the 38th floor completely off-limits to all but a selected few who work there. Was this a wise step? Who advised the Secretary General to take it?
If there are security considerations, we will be fully behind the Secretary General. If it is merely an operational decision, perhaps some
effort to explain it to the rest of the staff and diplomats will help the image of the Chief Administrative Officer.