4/8/2003

PEACEKEEPING ROUNDABOUT:

Over a year ago there was an internal political crisis followed by an investigation about a video film from which UNIFIL in South Lebanon reportedly failed to pass to officials in New York. The Director of the Department, Juachim Hutter paid the price and, like a good soldier, agreed to be placed elsewhere until his retirement end of March. The post was announced and qualified applicants short listed. But proposals were delayed when someone intervened in a failed attempt to place a floating compatriot. Matters were eventually corrected. One of the most experienced, enlightened and hard-working Middle East hands was finally selected. Lisa Buttenheim, who had been short listed in the first place, was approved. However, before assuming her new post, she has to spend some time in Belgrade. How that is related to UNIFIL, UNIDOF or UNTSO, only that non-amateur peacekeeper on the thirty-seventh floor knows. Anyway, the right person has been selected for the right job -- technically at least.

YEMEN REVISITED:

After years of closing the Information Centre in Yemen, the office is likely to be reopened after the selection of a director. The post has now been retrieved and announced. A frontrunner is a candidate who had refrained from going when the office was first opened. His family reasons are no more a problem and he seems keen on a change from his New York posting.

GOOD CAUSE, CORRUPT REPRESENTATION:

Those who recall the overwhelming support that Bosnia received during its days of suffering and challenge will now recall the name of its ambassador Mohammed Sacirbey, who was its resounding voice and main face to the media. He later became Foreign Minister. Regrettably, he was recently arrested upon request of his government for allegedly stealing about $2.5 million from the budget of Bosnia's mission to the U.N. Very sad indeed.

ANGOLA MISSION ACCOMPLISHED:

The mission to Angola authorized by the Security Council is now officially over. Indeed, Angola has become a non-permanent member of the Security Council and its officials enjoyed being assiduously counted by all the powers that be during the diplomatic jockeying over Iraq. With that, the work of Special Representative Ibrahima Gambari in the field had been successfully accomplished, and the U.N. can utilize his experienced talents at Headquarters where he could provide valuable support.

UNDP ADMINISTRATOR EXTENDED:

UNDP Administrator Marc Malloch Brown whose term expired in March was asked to stay on. The experienced communicator who once headed a task force on the Department of Public Information has paid special attention to the role of the media in the mainstream of the development efforts. One of his early steps was to arrange for practical partnerships with electronic communications companies to carry the message globally. A close associate of Secretary-General Kofi Annan since many years, Marc was entrusted with several high-level missions not entirely limited to development.

CLOSING UNIC LONDON?

Most indications point out that a decision was taken to close the U.N. Information Centre in London by the end of this year. One of the most costly in the world wide network, that centre went through a roller coaster since a political decision was taken to move it into a prestigious building close to Buckingham Palace. It was moved since to more modest premises, but again on political instructions was relocated to the Milbank Tower, a visible landmark on the Thames River next to the Tate museum.

NEW DIRECTOR FOR MEDIA:

With the forthcoming closure of UNIC London, its Director Ahmed Fawzi, is likely to be reassigned to New York. The post most likely mentioned is the replacement of Salim Lone as head of the Media Division. Ahmed had dealt closely with the headquarters media as Deputy Spokesman to Secretary- General Boutros Ghali. There will be the usual application procedure, of course, and the suave Egyptian communicator will have to decide whether he prefers being one of several directors in New York or the one and only indispensable representative in London. But, then, he may not have a choice.

PROMOTION IN BEIRUT:

Finally, after years of attempts to cut across bureaucratic red tape, Beirut National Officer Nabil Abu Dargham received his long overdue recognition. Joining that office in the late eighties, he carried the work throughout a delicate period as officer in charge. Together with the Administrative Assistant Amel Baconi Jaber who was there since the centre's creation and senior clerk Munzer Jaber. After announcing a special international post externally, and having gone through tough competition, Nabil was officially recommended by ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tellawy, who frankly deserves credit for sticking to her choice.

GRACIELLA LEAVING:

Those who attend events at U.N. such as Human Rights Commemoration of U.N. Day Concert are not aware that much of the media organization is done by a cheerful yet no-nonsense professional who knows conference rooms like the palm of her hand. Now, Gracielle Hall has had it and feels free that she is about to leave in an agreed arrangement. Good Luck.

BLIX LEAVING:

After becoming a household name during the Security Council debates over the inspections in Iraq, Swedish Chief Inspector Hans Blix has decided not to renew his contract when it expires next Junes. The breakdown in diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful outcome to the crisis must have led him to opt for going home and looking after his own Volvo.

ILO CHIEF RENEWED:

Juan Somevia, former ambassador of Chile in New York, was re-elected by consensus to a second term as Director General of the International Labour Organization in Geneva. A popular politician who pays special attention to the role of grassroot groups as well as governmental deliberation, Samavia managed to gain the affection of U.N. staff from all grades as well as the respect of his diplomatic colleagues.

SPECIAL ADVISOR ON IRAQ:

The Secretary General is expected to formalize the appointment of Rafeeuddin Ahmed as Special Advisor to follow with Security Council members and other involved parties the role of the United Nations in Iraq. Mr. Ahmed, a Pakistani citizen is one of the most experienced U.N. civil servants having served as Chef de Cabinet for the Secretary-General in the seventies, Deputy Administrator of the U.N. Development Programme in the nineties and several key assignments in between. He has been available to the Secretary-General on the Iraq issue informally for several months before the military confrontation. He will be a valuable asset to the U.N. team.

PHILIPPE DE SEYNES:

Mr. Philippe de Seynes, one of the United Nations' most distinguished senior officials, passed away yesterday in Paris at age 93.

Mr. de Seynes, a French national, headed the economic and social department of the United Nations Secretariat for twenty years, as Under-Secretary for Economic and Social Affairs from 1955-1968, and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs from 1968-1975. Mr. de Seynes was an intellectual giant and pioneer in his field. He shaped the way the United Nations was to function in the economic and social sphere for several decades to come. Many of the current organization in the United Nations originated under him, such as UNCTAD, UNEP, UNFPA, UNIDO and the regional commissions. Under his stewardship the UN initiated a series of Development Decades, the unified approach to development and the advancement of women programme.

Mr. de Seynes was a humanist and a true prototype of the international civil servant. His steadfast and deep commitment to the ideals of the United Nations, intellect, singular talent for public speaking and charisma won him many friends and admirers throughout the United Nations. He leaves a legacy of light and warmth among all who knew and worked with him.

(A graduate of the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques, in the University of Paris, Mr. de Seynes was "Inspecteur des finances" from 1936-39. Drafted in 1939, he was a P.O.W. from 1940-45. After the war he served in the French mission in Germany and later became the Deputy Secretary-General in the Allied Reparations Agency in Brussels (1945-49). He was a Financial Adviser to the French delegation to the UN (1949-54), and Adviser to M. Mendès France in 1954, after which he joined the United Nations as Under-Secretary. Following his twenty years as head of the UN Secretariat's economic and social department, he was appointed Director of the Programme for the Future in UNITAR (1975-82), President and Senior Fellow of UNITAR, President of the "Association Internationale Futuribles". )