15 DECEMBER 2013

LISTENING:

French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine had a cartoon showing France's President Hollande calling U.S. President Obama to strongly protest against the taping of his -- and other French officials' phone conversations. Across the Atlantic came the advice: "Careful, Francois, someone else is also listening."

MISINFORMED:

-- "I came to Casablanca for the water"

-- "But we're in the middle of a desert"

-- "I was misinformed"

Humphrey Bogart to the Police Chief in Casablanca

FRANCOPHONIE:

Who will take over as Secretary General of the Francophonie Secretariat in Paris after its current leader from Senegal, President Abdou Diouf completes his term in 2014? While a number of former or outgoing heads of state are being mentioned, an inside observer on a recent visit to Paris gathered that the most likely successor to the post initiated by former U.N. Secretary General Dr. Boutros-Ghali is Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman, whose term in Beirut happens to conclude around the same time of Mr. Diouf. That may explain to Lebanese observers his recent frequent quick trips to Paris and why the President is discouraging any talk of an extension of his Presidency beyond next Spring.

LINE-UP:

From The New Yorker

E-ACCREDITATION:

Finally, the Protocol Office has gone digital! A new online accreditation system "eAccreditation," which replaces the old paper-based process, has been launched for use by all permanent missions in July this year. As a result, there was a whole new scene at the Protocol Office during the recent high-level weeks in September. The Protocol Office was much calmer without long lines of missions' representatives waiting to pick up their accreditation approvals and seeking information. According to Protocol, the old system was decades-old and this recent upgrade was long due. The new system allows authorized users of the permanent missions to submit their accreditation requests online through a secured portal and to receive approvals in their own mailbox, hence, skipping the trip to the Protocol Office. With the support of ASG Baumann, the new system is developed and deployed with the joint effort of Protocol, ICTS/DGACM, Pass and ID Unit/DSS and OICT. It took more than 3 years to complete. Since its launching in July, the Protocol Office has received very positive feedbacks and compliments from their counterparts at the missions. While the U.N. continues its greening exercise, the deployment of "eAccreditation" sure came in the right time.

TIMELY CONFERENCE:

CABO'S SEAT:

When Cape Verde decided to officially change its name to Cabo Verde, no other member state seemed to raise any questions. But then, because it happened during an ongoing General Assembly Session, there was a need to re-arrange the seating along an alphabetical order. While the "C" remains, an "a" gives the new name an edge. So its seat will advance, for example, ahead of Cambodia and Canada -- oh Canada.

SOMAVIA:

Anyone who assumed that Chile's Juan Somavia would disappear into the sunset after heading ILO in Geneva would not know the formidable dynamics prompting the former Ambassador, later civil servant, to remain active on stage. It was no surprise that an announcement was made in November by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, introducing the appointment of Mr. Somavia as his "Special Adviser on Inter-Regional Policy Cooperation." What that entails remains to be seen. A press communique indicated that he will "help develop a two-year strategy of policy cooperation on selected strategic issues among the U.N.'s Regional Commissions. He will also contribute to facilitate interregional policy cooperation initiatives." He will perform his tasks based in Santiago, Chile, at the offices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on a part-time basis. As former ILO Director-General and Ambassador of Chile to the U.N. in New York, Mr. Somavia has a long and distinguished career in civil, political and international affairs, holding key positions at the U.N. such as Chair of the Preparatory Committee of the World Summit for Social Development and President of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. He also served as President of the Security Council in April 1996 and October 1997. The many friends he made personally and for his country, Chile, will certainly come in handy to extend support.

NO WOMAN, NO DRIVE:

A recent video that went viral was a song by a young Saudi man, Hisham Fagih who, when visiting California, enjoyed Bob Marley's popular song: "No Woman, No Cry" and composed with two of his colleagues -- Fahd and Omar -- a take with repeated chorus: "No Woman, No Drive." "I remember when you used to sit, in the family car, in the backseat." They sing along with a rhythmic clap. "Of course the driver could take you everywhere, but you can't drive." Then "everything's gonna be alright -- as long as no woman, no drive." "Don't touch that wheel; just stay in your seat, little sister, and make believe."

WHOSE FLAG?:

Samsung, the Korean communications company, sought to reach out to its audience in the United Arab Emirates but somehow confused the details. It went out all the way on Twitter and other outlets "wishing our UEA followers "Happy National Day" on 2 December until it received angry responses all round. It was discovered that the flag it had portrayed in its expensive production was not that of the Emirates. After an overnight of critical angry responses, the following day the official UAE flag was posted, without apology or explanation.

CIAO CHOI:

An elegant and intelligent young Korean woman, Ms. Choi was one of the first to join Ban Ki-moon upon taking over as U.N. Secretary General. She discreetly took a quiet spot at the Spokesman's Office, floated around casually on related social occasions and rarely threw her Korean edge around. She didn't need to. An admirer who spotted her at a particular perfume spot in Bloomingdale's a while ago told us she selected a special fragrance reflecting quality taste and that she looked really glowing as if she was about to approach a marked social event. Well, she did. We understand that Ms. Choi has left U.N. Secretariat service -- with the same discretion as when she arrived -- after getting married. Ciao Choi. And good luck.

MIRANDAS:

A whole illustrated page in The New York Times International edition, and the national one, was devoted to Amandes -- Portuguese mountain donkeys. They are hard-working, patient and given less and less to do although they accept minimum wage. Worse, as donkeys they have a bad image -- a problem repeatedly mentioned throughout the page. Of course, everyone sympathizes with poor hard-working unrewarded donkeys, especially those languishing in remote foothills of our beloved Portugal. But a whole page? Perhaps Serge is feeling increasingly unappreciated these days?!

YES:

INCHALLAH:

The Goal of Geneva 2 is to implement Geneva 1. The Goal of Geneva 3 is to implement Geneva 2.

SOME DAY:

"One day everything will be different -- when I paint my masterpiece."

-- THE BAND

OJALA:

"Ojala Que Llueva Cafe"

-- Jean Luis Guerra

HAFEZ:

"How did the rose Ever open its heart?
And give the world all this beauty?
It was inspired by the
Glimpse of Light surrounding it.
Otherwise, we all remain too Frightened.

KIM'S FARM:

Back at the Secretary General's office, Mr. Kim apparently is still on a "Management Change" post -- whatever that is. So is the diligent Bob Orr -- if on anything -- but that's another story. Our esteemed Ban Ki-moon obviously needs Mr. Kim and he is entitled. Question is whether Mr. Kim needs to spend U.N. post time on a Chinese farm?! Is it a Health farm, training farm, exchange farm? We are not clear. But it seems that another senior official is also following on the foot path. What's going on?!

NEW QATAR ENVOY:

For the first time Qatar sends a woman to head its U.N. Mission. Sheikha Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani is fully familiar with international work, having just served as her country's Permanent Representative in Geneva over the last two years. More directly relevant, Sheikha Alya had served THREE times before in New York. She was Deputy Permanent Representative from 2010 to 2011, Minister Plenipotentiary from 2009 to 2010 and Counselor from April 2007 to May 2009. Between 2004 and 2006 in Doha she was a leading figure in the Qatar Supreme Council for Family Affairs, a control group in the mainstream of social decision-making. She holds a Masters of Art in International Studies and Diplomacy from the London School of Oriental and African Studies and a Bachelor of Science from Qatar University.

BEIRUT POST:

With the departure of the Director of the U.N. Information Centre in Beirut a number of candidates will be competing for that post. While based within ESCWA at the U.N. compound in central Beirut, the office is expected to perform varied U.N. functions not only in Lebanon but also -- officially at least -- for Syria, Jordan and Kuwait. The Department of Public Information in New York, to whom the official would report, will hopefully have a say in the selective process. However, it is similarly assumed that ESCWA Executive Secretary, Rima Khalaf Humadi will ensure that the choice suits her plans. There is already a guessing game going on in Beirut. But, let's see.

NO WOMAN, NO DRIVE - II:

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Riyadh in November to placate Saudi Arabia government on the opening to Iran and differences on Syria, a female reporter attending a joint press conference asked whether he had raised the right of women to drive. The baffled visitor was taken by surprise when his host, Prince Saud El-Faisal, a Princeton graduate who -- despite chronic back pain -- maintains an understated sense of humour, interrupted to enquire from his American counterpart: "Did you ask me that question?" While the status of women in Saudi Arabia has been raised whenever political circumstances allowed, the right of women there to drive their own cars has become a popular issue, and not only amongst women.

CAREFUL WISHES:

"Before everyone goes on leave I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting, but it is difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday, and on their advice I wish to say the following:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender neutral celebration of the Winter solstice holiday practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

"I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that the USA is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

"By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:

"This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/him or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

"Best Regards (without prejudice)

"Name withheld (Privacy Act)"

UNRWA:

A new Commissioner General for UNRWA, which cares for Palestinian refugees, has just been appointed. Pierce Krahenbul, a Swiss citizen, currently Director of Operations at The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva will take over from the useless and presumptuous Filippo Grando who mainly travelled around Middle East countries with nothing much to show for his frequent miles. Let's hope his Swiss successor with a typically complex name will produce more visible results.

MAILEY XTMAS:

Holidays are now mainly celebrated through mail -- emails in fact. Less phone calls, even less personal contact. Let alone smart phone connections like text messages. Too many friends. Too little time. Too many ways to connect. Yet nothing beats human warmth. Nothing communicates better than a smile. While having a "mailey Xmas," have a really good old-fashioned merry one too.

OLIVE PARTNERS:

Spain's participation in UNIFIL proved to be a valuable partnership between the peoples of Spain and Lebanon. Soldiers join the community, not only in handling security matters but also in celebrating social occasions. As November is the season to pick olives, UNIFIL Spanish troops joined the young students of the Southern village of Deir Mimes in reaching out among the trees and handpicking ripe olives. It was also one way of showing their attachment to the land and exchange cultural experiences. Students were thrilled to meet supportive Spaniards and soldiers felt almost close to home. Spain is the first country in the world in producing olives, which was first introduced to Andelusia by the Phoenicians.