APRIL 15, 2018

WHOM TO BELIEVE?:

Commenting on a recent observation, a veteran observer recounted a story about a ponderous head of state who addressed his female visitor as Mrs. Ghandi, to the surprise of his assistant who whispered, "It is Mrs. Thatcher." When the host repeated his address naming the Indian official, and his puzzled aide repeated the factual correction, the ponderous host told him: "I know it is Mrs. Thatcher, but the official draft prepared for me says 'Mrs. Ghandi.' I have to follow the text, not what is in front of me." That reminded our friends of a quip by Groucho Marx: "Whom would you believe: me or your own eyes."

A GENERAL'S ADVICE:

"Discard your misperceptions
Stop being jerked like a puppet.
Limit yourself to the present.
Understand what happens-to you, to others.
Analyze what exists, break it all down: material and cause.
Anticipate your final hours.
Other people's mistakes? Leave them to their makers."

-- From Meditations, by Markus Aurelius

UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL DICARLO:

A couple of days before U.S./U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, left his post on 31 March, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Rosemary DiCarlo to take over. It was welcomed by a number of people who knew Ms. DiCarlo as a professional diplomat, serving among other places in the U.S. Mission to the U.N., along with other similar diplomatic posts in Latin-America and Europe. Being the first woman proposed by the U.S. for that post, she was also welcomed by a growing number of female executives within the Secretariat, among the diplomatic missions, and within the U.N. field operations. One question relates to her handling of contacts with the U.S. Mission to the U.N., headed by Ambassador Nikki Haley, clearly a U.S. President Trump appointee. Like her predecessor, she is expected to facilitate links between the Secretary-General and Washington, D.C. How that will evolve with the designation of Ambassador John Bolton as the president's National Security Advisor, whose views on international organizations are widely known, is an unknown. An added question would be the link between Mr. Bolton and Ms. Haley, both personally selected by President Trump, yet have their own perception of a particular working approach.

WOMEN SUPPORT:

To underline his role in appointing women in senior posts, particularly following International Woman's Day on March 8, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was photographed through the U.N. website surrounded by his senior women staff, particularly his Deputy Dr. Amina Mohamed, and his Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, and another with female heads and deputy heads of U.N. missions abroad.

A WOMAN REP FOR IRAQ:

The first appointment made by the first U.S/U.N. female Under-Secretary-General For Political Affairs, Ms. Rosemary Di Carlo, after taking over on 1st April was to propose the designation of Ms. Marta Ruedas as the first female Deputy Special Representative of the U.N. in Iraq; she will also be the first U.N. Resident Coordinator, heading the U.N. Development Office there. Ms. Ruedas of Spain, whose father Patricio was a solid pillar of U.N. Management, has 27 years of experience in human development and coordination issues. Her most recent posting in 2015 was in Sudan. She gained a reputation as passionately active in women social involvement. Let's hope she will help activate an almost dormant mission in Iraq; its official name is UNAMI -- which in Arabic sounds like: "Go to sleep."

CHANGE?:

A satirical cover on a recently announced change of leadership in the influential Goldman Sachs from Mr. Lloyd Blackfein to Mr. David Soloman.

NON-SWEDES TOO:

The permanent representative of Sweden to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, a member of the Security Council and obviously an active host during the forthcoming meeting of the council in the former Secretary-General's summerhouse, repeatedly mentions that he keeps a photo of Mr. Hammarskj÷ld at his office for a timely reminder and continued inspiration. It may be appropriate to mention that one of Mr. Hammarskj÷ld's main accomplishments was that he not only offered special pride for Swedes and Sweden -- but more relevant, he inspired non-Swedes around the world to dedicate their careers to help implement U.N. principles and the objectives of the Charter.

ASSOCIATION FRANCAISE POUR LES NATIONS UNIES:

The Association Francaise Pour Les Nations Unies AFNU is drawing vital attention to U.N.-related issues of interest to the French public. During the last couple of years, its informative bulletins offered an interesting selection of intellectual, conceptual, and practical items. AFNU's new president, Ambassador Bernard Miyet, the first French U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, leads an experienced committee. His experienced team is also holding cultural discussion groups, particularly in colleges and universities, to mobilize interest by young generations to proven advice by retired diplomats.

PICASSO, MATISSE, WHATEVER?:

When the new United Kingdom permanent representative to the U.N., Ms. Karen Pierce, presented her credentials to the Secretary-General, and while having small-talk, she pointed to a painting saying: "I see you still have Picasso on the wall," indicating earlier visits to that office in a previous capacity. Nicely, discreetly, she was reminded that the painting was actually by Matisse. A Picasso painting of the famous peace dove is indeed available at the U.N. and was placed permanently outside the entrance to the Security Council chambers. Incidentally, that particular painting somehow disappeared in 2003 during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, without the knowledge of then-Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who when alerted issued instructions to place it back immediately. One of his staff fell upon his sword by claiming that he was the person who actually misplaced it in the hope of pacifying a permanent member, but then stood to be corrected.

TIGHTER:

As Lululemon was getting increasingly popular with women exercising in gyms, in a presumed effort to undercut it, a competitor spread the word that its pants were too tight and showed too much of the body. Sales increased.

HAVANA OO NA-NA:

The song is hitting a viral record. Sung by Camila Cabello, featuring "Young Thug," it reached 934,600,000 viewers within less than 6 months. What's its message? Who cares. It's music, it's rhythm.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH:

"UNWRA is an asset to the international community that we must preserve and support."
-- Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General

MICE:

During a TV discussion about what influences decision-makers in the U.S. and elsewhere, a former chief of intelligence mentioned an abbreviation entitled: "MICE." It referred to Mind, Influence, Culture, and Ego. Stress Ego.

MARY OR MARIA:

As the next president of the General Assembly Session is designated to come from Latin America, there is an ongoing competition between Mary Elizabeth Flores, Permanent Representative of Honduras in New York, and Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garges, Foreign Minister of Ecuador. Mary or Maria, will be the fourth woman assembly president. Since 1945, there has been only 3 women presidents out of 73. It started with Vijay Lakshmi Pandit of India in 1953, Angie Brooks of Liberia in 1969, and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain in 2006. An interesting article by Thalif Deen in IPS offers background details.

NO SELFIES:

A new decision by the new head of the Cannes Film Festival jury committee is to prevent taking selfies by movie stars using the Red Carpet while entering the main hall. Cate Blanchett made her decision from personal experience and she thought that so many actors dragging their feet around, watching themselves watching themselves, would delay the proceeding and confuse visitors. Whether it will be resisted or followed will be seen next month.

IPI-MENA:

The International Peace Institute in New York, across from the U.N. Headquarters, managed to mobilize a number of diplomats, particularly from Gulf countries that offered substantive financial contributions. Initially, the institute was launched by its constant chairman Rita Hauser, an influential advisor on foreign policy to various U.S. administrations, who maintains a low profile despite her wide connections. The institute which was initially run by retired General Rikhye, a former Peacekeeper and military advisor to the Secretary-General, is now headed by Terje R°d-Larsen, who together with his wife, become well known for arranging the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Accord. It was Mr. Larsen who brought along more Gulf connections, including having Prince Turki Al-Faisal on its advisory board. The only regional office was opened in Manama, Bahrain where a director of the U.N. Information Center, Najib Friji, took over as director of the Middle East and North Africa office (IPI-MENA).

GBEHO'S PROGRESS:

Those who knew Anita Gbeho when she joined the U.N. as a tour guide when her father was Ghana's Ambassador to the U.N. will be glad to note that "Kokui" as she's known to friends, had creatively and professionally made her way, through dedicated hard work, to take various positions within the U.N. system. She was just appointed as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Southern Sudan with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General. Excellent progress.

RONALDO:

Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is not only known for his outstanding professional ability to play on the field, but also for his sometimes gracious way of handling his game. A most recent example was during a match between the Real Madrid and Torino's Juventus. When he scored an exceptionally difficult goal through a bicycle kick, a crowd of 50,000 adversaries stood up to cheer him. Showing gratitude, Ronaldo placed his hand on his heart and bowed. Both elegant gestures in a truly sport spirit.

BEAUTIFUL HOMELAND:

"Helwa Ya Balady," an old song by Egyptian-Italian singer Dalida, was revived by a young Palestinian woman, Lina Sleibi. It means my beautiful homeland. The song, which was performed on a rooftop with a view of Bethlehem, has already received 5 million viewers making Ms. Lina famous, at least in most Arab countries. It starts with: "One word, two words, my beautiful homeland, my hope was always to come back to my Homeland."

BEIRUT THE MOVIE:

One more pretentious movie, using a fake background to present a false individual hero, while insulting a whole country. A waste of time.

NEW UNIFIL COMMAND:

A new force commander for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is expected when General Michael Beary of Ireland returns home. The two most likely candidates to replace him are the current Commander of the Spanish UNIFIL Contingent and the Italian Military attachÚ in Beirut. It would also depend on interviews in New York, and formal discussions within the Security Council and the eventual approval of the host government of Lebanon. There is talk about a shift in location. One suggestion is for the Commanding Officer to be based in Beirut while the Chief of Staff will remain at Naqoura Headquarters. That would require an arrangement within the U.N. system, particularly between a national army officer and a U.N. International Civil Servant who will be the Resident U.N. Coordinator.