OCTOBER 1, 2020

DAZE OF THE WEEK:

Noneday. Who's day? When is day? Those days. Fire day. Satin Day. Someday.

QUO VADIS DAVOS?:

The prominent annual January gathering at the Swiss resort will have to be postponed. Top business, political and intellectual leaders who yearn for a fashionable appearance there at whatever cost will have to seek refuge elsewhere early next year. Wisely, the Forum's management under the enlightened guidance of its distinguished professor Klaus Schwab decided to await more convenient timing. Initially a ski resort, Davos is a welcoming healthy spot with refreshing Alps mountain air and habitual Swiss hospitality. Perhaps it would be more enjoyable if a mini-forum could still be held there, free of pretentious characters and noisy spectators. Otherwise, "Auf Weidersehen" during the following year.

WELDER?:

Beirut was devastated by two fires within one month. People suffering, protesting and demanding answers were told that the first fire was caused by a welder trying to fix a container near the ammunition box and the next one was similarly exploded after a similar attempt. It will be interesting to find out who precisely is that welder who seems to be stroking fire in a city that was once the jewel of its region.

NO PAIN:

Local neighborhood bakery, Le Pain Quotidien, indicated its closure. A popular saying would apply conversely to the neighborhood bakery: no gain, no "pain". Le Pain was a casual afternoon meeting café with delicious pastries and quaint outside seating area. It was initially closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, however, its closure may signal what most bakeries are facing - a loss of a quality of life which would which would be certainly missed.

WHY BOTHER?:

Models Gigi and Bella Hadid are glamorous. They grew up in Los Angeles with their father, Mohammed, who built a profitable business and a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills. Apparently challenged about relying on his own daughters for fame, Mohammed Hadid made a point of issuing a certificate of family origin going back to his nobility in the Middle East. That drew mixed reactions. Friendly advice: don't bother.

PAUSE:

Honestly, I don't have time to hate people who dislike me. I am too busy enjoying people who are thoughtful and kind to me.

A MEDIATION:

A discreet effort to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran was initiated by the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa Kazimi, who is also former Security-Chief with close connections to both countries and also recently met with U.S. President Trump in Washington D.C. His efforts seemed to be gradually working and making some headway, although a number of influential parties may not have an interest in advancing it. Wait and see.

OI MOI YOK:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to divert attention from his eroding popularity at home by taking on controversial measures. There is a growing opposition, particularly in major towns like Istanbul, where he grew up, and Ankara, the capital, and other areas including Kurdish towns. An emerging group of young Turks started a movement entitled "oi moi yok" which means in Turkish, "no vote for you".

PAUSE:

* "Food is the best vaccine against chaos." - W. F. P.
* "The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day." - Henry Woodworth Longfellow.

IT IS TIME:

"It is late
But it is our time
That we have on hand
To make the future
It is late
But it is us
This late hour
It is late
But it is early morning
If we insist a little"

-- Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, who passed away in Sao Paolo Brazil

APPOINTMENTS:

Irina Vojackova-Sollorano was appointed Resident Coordinator for the U.N. in Iraq and Special Representative succeeding Marta Ruedas of Spain, who retired in March.

Najat Rochdi was appointed Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon and coordinator to succeed Philippe Mazzarini who completed an assignment in March and took another U.N. position as an UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) Commissioner General. Christine Duarte of Cabo Verde was appointed as Special Advisor to the Secretary-General for Africa.

Mohamed Saleh Annatif of Chad, who headed a U.N. Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), wiil replace Ghanian diplomat Mohamed Ibn Chambas as Head of the UNOWAC, the office for West Africa and the Sahel.

UNIC RIO:

U.N. Information Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took a creative initiative to highlight the agony of victims of COVID-19. A special message from Pope Francis, announced from the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, which aired on Youtube. It highlighted in digital media the dedicated role of first responders in Lusophone countries around the world, offering regularly reliable information in Portuguese.

DINOSAUR DAY:

Happy Dinosaur Day. Somehow, certain countries with dinosaur status decided to remind us of their role in days past and possibly in an unforeseeable future if current trends of global virus and confusion persist. Other celebrated days include those for dolphins, whales, bears and ducks. Remember Groucho Marx's "Why a Duck"?

NOUVEAU PAUVRE:

Nouveau Riche is a French expression describing those who suddenly and unexpectedly made it rich. With a prolonged global COVID-19 taking a hit on income for many businesses and firms, a new term evolved - noueveu pauvre, meaning newly poor.

TRIBUTE TO SOUTH AFRICANS:

As South Africa moves ahead with its national reconciliation of leadership, two activists who played a prominent role in the anti-Apartheid struggle passed away. Zindziswa Mandela, daughter of Nelson Mandela, who consistently displayed active support of her father when he was in jail and after liberation. She made effective contacts not only as a member of the African National Congress but also as a freedom fighter in every way. Another active member who mainly remained "behind the curtain" was Andrew Mlangeni, a close ally of Madeba who was imprisoned with him and freed one year earlier. While he maintained close contact with the leadership of liberated South Africa, he turned down any official appointment, quipping that he was "a backroom boy". South Africans will always remember his role in the struggle, his dedication to principle and his unpretentious loyalty.

* "The best weapon is to sit down and talk" - Nelson Mandela.

GAMBARI'S LEADERSHIP:

Nigerian diplomat and intellectual Ibrahim Gambari took over as Chief of Staff of his Country's President, Muhammadu Buhari, a couple of months before the President passed away while in London for treatment 4 September. A graduate of King College in Lagos, Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, London School of Economics and New York Columbia University, Gambari had served as Buhari's Minister of Foreign affairs in a previous Presidency. He eventually served eight Nigerian presidents. Arriving in New York initially as Permanent Representative of Nigeria in 1990, he remained there for 26 years in varied roles with four Secretaries General. From Javier Perez de Cuellar to Ban ki-Moon, his ability to connect and communicate propelled him to U.N. Under-Secretary-General Head of Special Political Affairs, Special Envoy, Consultant and Advisor while staying at the same country house in New Rochelle. Experience in so many roles will come in handy as he will now have to deal with a most sensitive role -- handling transition of leadership in his home town and country.

WHO? WHO?:

The World Health Organization received wide attention with the global virus. Controversial statements were made by certain country leaders on how the WHO has handled the persistent global virus. Some accused the Director General of taking too much time to act while others defended his outspoken response and open briefings at a critical time. Whatever the arguments, for or against, it is clear that the WHO requires a practical, professional review of its role. While realizing that its operations are guided by its governing body of member states, there are specific tasks that are immediately required, such as helping countries to prepare response, providing uncontested accurate information, issuing supplies for field workers, training and mobilizing health workers for coordinating a professional search for an effective vaccine. A credible, in-depth review is required to ascertain not only who should have done what and who is actually in charge, but also how could the international community handle an increasingly pressing international threat to human development, as well as international security. Such a task goes beyond WHO to all members of the United Nations system. The time to take preventive action was yesterday, remains today and tomorrow.

COUNSEL MEMBERS:

By the end of the year, five outgoing Security Council non-permanent members will be replaced by new ones. Djibouti, India, Ireland, Norway and Mexico will replace Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa. Others staying for 2021 are: Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent, Tunisia and Vietnam.

PHASE 2:

The United Nations Headquarters transitioned to "Phase 2" on 23 August. It allows for 49 percent of normal occupancy. "That is a maximum number, not a target," an official statement indicated, adding that most staff will continue to work remotely. Media correspondents with offices in the building will have access to their assigned workplaces. An internal note recommended that everyone "maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings in shared areas, and follow other safety measures." What happens next when the 75th session of the General Assembly opens depends on how many heads of state and governments would attend and how many staff will make it. A passing advice recommends: if you don't feel well, stay home.

ONE AT A TIME:

The General Assembly hall looked almost deserted as only one delegate for each member state could attend the outgoing General Assembly closing down meetings. Departing President Tijjani Mohamad-Bande made sure that every attending delegate got a particular pass for the occasion, while keeping appropriate distance. Even then there was hardly a quorum.

JI CHAOGHU:

Ji Chaoghu, former U.N. Secretary-General from China, passed away in July. He was a pleasant and helpful colleague who worked with everyone effectively without claims of seniority or dwelling on his impressive background. Very few at the Secretariat would know that he was a key interpreter between United States presidents and Chinese leaders. For example, at the first meeting between President Nixon and Zhou Enlai of China, he was the only interpreter as the U.S. President wished to maintain a confidential exchange. Nixon didn't want American interpreters to leak any of their discussion to the media. Ji Chaoghu grew up in New York, went to Yale University and returned to China as a young man to join the government as an inspiring interpreter. His short focus on issues and his wide understanding of international relations having lived abroad gave him an edge. He eventually filled a regular post as head of the Department of the U.N. Secretariat, usually allocated to China like the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. He will be remembered as a pleasant colleague and authentic representative of Chinese culture.

MILES STOBY:

Former U.N. Assistant-Secretary-General, Miles Stoby of Guyana, passed away recently in Oman where he was married to former colleague, Lyutha Al-Mughairy, who is currently Ambassador to Germany. Miles was active in issues after an initial period as a delegate from his country, and played a vital role in the reform process initiated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who he knew from earlier days. His colleagues may not have always agreed with his style of work, but they always regarded him as a dedicated and creative international civil servant who never neglected his Caribbean routes. May his soul rest in peace.

THERESE GASTAUT:

Our dedicated, competent, charming colleague Therese Gastaut, a citizen of France, served the United Nations for 34 years in varied capacities. Starting as an assistant at the Secretary-General office in New York, she moved as required mainly in the Public Information Department. She eventually headed the U.N. Information service in Geneva for a while, moved briefly to WHO then back to New York, where she was Director of a DPI Division. She managed to work closely with five Secretaries-General and mobilize diplomatic friends and non-governmental organisations in support of pressing international issues. Regrettably, she passed away in August, leaving a warm legacy of gracious international civil service. Repose en Paix, chere Therese.