15 DECEMBER 2014


UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Group photo of world leaders gathered for the 2014 G20 Leaders’ Summit, held on 15-16 November in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.


Responding to comments that a newly-formed "high-level" Advisory Panel on Peace Operations lacked representative women, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added three women of proven experience: Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka who until recently was in charge of overseeing the protection of children in areas of conflict, Rima Salah of Jordan who covered a number of recent Missions including Chad and once was a Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, and Marie-Louise Baricako of Burundi. To cover a further angle, he designated Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh, outgoing Under-Secretary General in Peacekeeping management as Vice-President of the Panel. Another panel formed a couple of years ago on Peacekeeping Contributions is headed by Ms. Louise Fréchette. See. You only have to know which telephone number to call.


Sigrid Kaag has proven herself in a very difficult situation. She went to Syria at a most crucial period to handle weapons of mass destruction on a joint mission between the U.N. and an international committee to eliminate such weapons. It was one of the very few accomplishments in recent years. She was retained as Special Adviser to the Secretary General until it was time for an appropriate designation. Ms. Kaag, of the Netherlands, has just been appointed as U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon, an increasingly difficult task, particularly with a serious political vacuum with an inability of the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new President of the Republic. Ms. Kaag has a solid positive reputation in the region, particularly that she is among the very few who speaks the language. Wishing her good luck.


The appointment of a Dutch citizen as the senior U.N. representative in Lebanon may raise a question whether another Dutch diplomat, Robert Serry, will maintain his assignment as the U.N. Senior Coordinator for the Middle East with special focus on relations with the Palestinian Authority, Gaza, Israel, and overall Arab-Israeli relations. Having the two senior U.N. officials in the Middle East from the same nationality may be too vulnerable for mis-interpretation. Would Ambassador Serry be preparing to move on? There was once talk of sending him to Ukraine, where he once had served representing his own country (and where he visited during the early days of the crisis upon the suggestion of USG Jeffrey Feltman). Would that be his next musical chair? Anywhere else before retiring to Scheveninger? If so, who would replace him?


A half-Swiss French, half-Swiss German "Thank you very much" to voters who boldly turned down a proposal to stop tax privileges for multi-millionaires. How could any clear-thinking patriot of the eternal Alps even think of considering such an unhelpful option? Where would Rue de Rhone be without discreetly helpful banks to cash-loaded millionaires (and their wives)? What would St. Moritz look like? Forget Davos. Think of Mont Zermatt. How would you place it on our posters and chocolate boxes if Zermatterhoff is no longer able to welcome distinguished high-paying guests? Would birkenstock be far behind? Did anyone think that Divonne could survive on salaried functionnaires of the Palais des Nations? Inventing the "Tax Tourist" was as Swiss as inventing the cuckoo clock! Should you wish, you can munch on as many Nestle bars as you wish, swallow as many Novartis pills as your stomach will tolerate, circle around "Lac Leman" as often as you could pay the toll, cross along one long bridge and return though another shorter one. But don't mess with the Swiss Franc and -- unless you have a welcome deposit -- don't bother the tranquility of private banks. More to the point, enjoy Gstaad!


Ms. Figueroa needs it badly. She went to Lima this December to get it -- she will go to Paris next December to bag it. It is about time to get an effective FCCC, a Framework for Comprehensive Climate Change. However, the meeting on Climate Change was reported to cause record Carbon emissions rather than help reduce them.


Anyone who worked with the U.N. Secretary General's Office since Don Javier Perez de Cuéllar will know "Tasa," a helpful, always pleasant, well-informed member of the front office. While she moved later to varied offices, she kept her special links with senior officials from Professor Ibrahim Gambari as Special Advisor for the Secretary General in Africa to, most recently, as the main Secretariat Assistant to Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. Ms. Delenda, which is her family name, just retired the first week of December. Although her colleagues in the Secretariat will miss her talented support, we wish her well in retirement.


Wherever Anne Siddall worked in any U.N. operation, she got high marks for dedicated service and hard work, with a hint of a welcome smile. From Field work to Personnel, she became a solid pillar of the Spokesman's Office, always available while keeping her name in the background. A U.K. background with a New Yorker's experience, she managed to keep U.N. Correspondents happy while gaining the confidence of her senior colleagues at the Spokesman's Office. Now that she has retired early December, we wish her the best, wherever she decides to stay.


Every New York Mayor made a point of designating a Commissioner to deal specifically with U.N. (and international) affairs. Outgoing Mayor Bloomberg chose his own sister, perhaps to reflect personal interest or offer her a creative, socially-visible job. The new Mayor, de Blasio, has just appointed Penny Abeywardena as his Commissioner. The first reception to welcome her was extended by U.N. Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin at the U.N. Delegates Dining Room on Wednesday, December 3. A promising beginning. Wishing her success in an intricate, sometimes impossible, task.


"I've always been impressed by the fact that upon entering a room full of people, you find them saying one thing, doing another, and wishing they were doing a third."
-- Legendary Director, Mike Nichols, who died November 20


"There's a heavy hog
A heavy heavy hog
How heavy he is
Hum-hum Shake him
Shake him well
-- Chant by natives carrying a colonial as recounted by author Raleigh Trevelyan, who passed away October 23 at the age of 91


"We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files.
"We'd like to help you learn to help yourself."
"Look around you..."
-- From the "Graduate" song by Simon and Garfunkel


We pointed out a rude security guard at a U.N. entrance in the last issue of unforum. On the other hand, we would mention one positive example of an effective, helpful, courteous Security Officer. Generally known by his title, "Rocky" has been around the U.N. compound enough to know where the sensitive spots are and which areas to closely observe. He proudly defends his colleagues in Security while blending with those in other departments, knowing the nuanced difference between apples and oranges. He will certainly be surprised to spot this reference to his good work, because he's in it not for public recognition, but to perform a good job.


  • Andrew Liveris, Chairman, President, and CEO, Dow Chemical: "People can be bought with their pockets, and they can be stimulated with their brains. But only if you win their hearts will they give you their fullest efforts driven by their passions."
  • Marc Andreessen, Co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz: "From Steve Martin, in his amazing book Born Standing Up: 'Be so good they can't ignore you.'"
  • Robert B. Pollock, CEO, Assurant: "When I was growing up, I noticed that my mom spent a lot of time on the phone in silence. I asked her why she didn't talk more, and she said, "You learn the most when your mouth is closed and your ears are open."
-- From Fortune.com


The Lima climate talks will produce more than 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a record carbon footprint for any U.N. climate meeting measured, according to NBC/TV report -- though organizers say all that greenhouse gas pollution will be offset by host country Peru's protection of forest. One big reason for that footprint, about 1.5 times the norm: The venue was built from scratch. Eleven football fields of temporary structures arose for the 13-day negotiations from what was an empty field behind army headquarters. Also, according to NBC, unreliable sunshine in Lima is one reason solar panels weren't used. And organizers say technical difficulties meant they couldn't draw power from Peru's grid, which is about 52 percent fed by non-polluting hydroelectric power. So diesel generators are being used for electricity. Big ticket items in the footprint include: construction, nearly 20 percent; jet fuel burned by 11,000 delegates and observers, 30 percent; local transportation (organizers hired more than 300 buses), 15-20 percent. Also, the 580 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of forest must lie unperturbed for a half-century to neutralize all that carbon.


Egyptian policy-making officials are preparing to launch a widespread international campaign for a non-permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council for 2016-2017. It would be part of Africa's representation, as the current Arab country in the Council, Jordan, represents Asia. Voting by the General Assembly on these seats is expected in October 2015. An understanding amongst Arab diplomats at the U.N. rotates the two-year seats geographically between its African and Asian members. Morocco had represented the Arab Group before Saudi Arabia/Jordan. Egypt, a founding U.N. member participates in 37 peacekeeping missions with 2,659 according to figures released in early December 2014. An additional significance to Egypt's seeking a Council seat is that -- as in 1966 -- it could participate in the election of the new Secretary-General.


Those trying to access a summary of the daily press briefing through the official U.N. website since early December were faced with a page proclaiming: "Error -- 404 Page Not Found," suggesting in five official languages "to check the URL to make sure you entered it correctly; you can use our Search or visit U.N. Home Page." If you did, your search led to the home page which, if pressing for the briefing comes back with the same "error." A further effort uncovered a different new page under the Spokesman's Office, giving a detailed summary of briefings. Perhaps instead of "Error," there should be an indication on how to get to the new page.


President Uhuru Kenyetta of Kenya took the right action by going straight to the International Court to contest his formal accusation of using violence during elections. It must have taken courage and confidence to do so. Granted, there were several elements working in his favour, like being the ruler of a key country and that there are two new (African) Prosecutor Generals. But so did certain others from Africa who resorted to making backchannel deals with powerful outside sources at the expense of their own personal -- and their country's -- territorial (?) integrity. The Court's final decision early December cleared Prime Minister Kenyetta, giving him a local and international political triumph. "Uhura" means Freedom.


Guess which Special Representative of the Secretary General supposedly dealing with key areas has been lately focused on getting private airlines for free chartered travel? Could it be the same person who has promised to deliver a prestigious award in 2015?


Which other Special Envoy, recently re-deployed to his country, costs the U.N. about $20,000 ($19,000 to be more precise) every time he travelled to the country he was officially designated to handle?


Which Special Envoy actually spends his time and full attention to Davos gatherings rather than his newly-designated mission? Was he appointed because of his links in Davos; links in his own country; or links with other links?


"Home for the Holidays" is the annual theme. On the evening of Saturday, December 6, Cyndi Lauper & Friends continued its tradition of providing an incredible night of entertainment for a fourth year in a row with 50 Cent, Natalie Maines, Rob Thomas, Patty Griffin, Salt-N-Pepa, Emily West, Sufjan Stevens, Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric, Liv Warfield, STRFKR, Hoda Kotb and Perez Hilton joining Cyndi Lauder and co-hosts Rosie O'Donnell and Laverne Cox on stage at this year's concert! Home for the Holidays raises contributions for the "True Colors Fund," initiated by Ms. Lauper drawing on her famous song.


"The U.N. Secretary General has appointed Lenni Montiel of Venezuela as Assistant-Secretary General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He succeeds Shamshad Akhtar of Pakistan. Mr. Montiel brings with him a wide-range of experience and expertise on various issues on the development agenda of the United Nations." Mr. Montiel was "Director of Economic Social and Development Affairs" in the Secretary-General's Office at the time of that official announcement dated 18 November.


A 15-foot inflatable "toilet" was erected in front of U.N. headquarters to mark World Toilet Day (19 November). A small group of U.N. staff members is pictured next to the symbol, with a banner reading "Toilets Save Lives!" World Toilet Day received more attention than Human Rights Day on 9 December, but then current U.N. leaders have the human right to signal their priorities.


Insulted woman: "I don't like this innuendo."
Groucho Marx: "That's what I always say. Rules fly out the door when money comes innuendo!"


"A man who disguises himself as a statesman and envoy for peace has been revealed as no more than a petty conman intent on tricking Middle-Eastern despots into giving him money. The Sheikh Fake (real name Tony Blair) has made a career out of scamming millions from unsuspecting potentates. Said one victim, "It was a slick operation. We arranged to meet in a hotel room and he told me that he had lots of contacts in the political world and all I had to do was give him a suitcase full of cash." Mr. Blair has been trying to keep his identity secret, claiming that he cannot do his job properly "if everyone knows that I am a sleezy scumbag who will do anything for money." When asked to comment, Mr. Blair released a statement saying, "That'll cost you $40,000, cheques payable to the Tony Blair Offshore Peace Foundation."

-- From Private Eye, London


  • 43 billion-pound value of Al-Yamamah contract with Saudi Arabia into which PM Tony Blair ditched Serious Fraud Office investigation in 2006, despite evidence of corrupt commissions
  • 41 thousand-pound monthly value of secret deal ex-PM Tony Blair signed with Saudi Arabia in 2010, plus 2% commission on any deals he brokered
-- From Private Eye, London


The National Day of Lebanon on 22 November was celebrated by Lebanese in New York throughout two weeks, from 21 November in an open house gathering on the invitation of Consul General Majdi Ramadan and his wife Venessa. Ex-patriots stood in a line stretching from the 2nd Avenue entrance of the Armenian Cathedral Clubhouse to the large meeting hall to listen to Lebanese folk music and enjoy national food. After a formal presentation of Lebanon and U.S. national anthems, an informal program included Dabke dance by young students from Brooklyn's Maronite Church, poetry readings, a painting exhibit, and a welcome brief speech by Consul General Ramadan, who concluded the commemoration with a Lebanese wine tasting evening at the Consulate's East 76 Street residence. This year his popular efforts were supported by his wife Venessa Raphael from the U.N. Geneva office -- they make a refreshing couple representing their country in a culturally elegant manner.


The man is very careful -- or as they would say in a certain accent caaful; or in this case KAful. While we are constantly reminded that our distinguished former colleague and Secretary-General Kofi Annan is a Nobel Laureate, there is a recent occasion where he seemed to demure. In a one-page petition signed by a majority of Nobel Prize winners urging the U.S. government of President Obama to disclose cases of reported torture by certain officials, the name of the most media-friendly member was conspicuously absent. The two active initiators were Bishop Desmond Tutu and former President of Timor Leste, Jose-Ramos Horta (who happens to chair the newly-announced U.N. Peacekeeping Review Panel). Among those who signed were Mohammad El-Baradei of Egypt, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 2005; Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011; Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, 2006; Oscar Arias Sanchez, Costa Rica, 1987; John Hume, Northern Ireland, 1998; F.W. de Klerk, South Africa, 1993; Jody Williams, United States, 1997; Bishop Carlos X. Belo, East Timor, 1996; Betty Williams, Northern Ireland, 1976; and Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Argentina, 1980. However, the name of our once-promoted diplomatic rock star was missing. In fact, he was in New York around that time and visiting U.N. Headquarters to elaborate on the crucial importance of science.


An indication of serious U.N. effort to deal with the fatal widespread of the Ebola epidemic, Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be designated also as Spokesperson for the Ebola Response. Mr. Nkolo, who is an experienced communications professional, has been closely following the spread of the epidemic in areas of the African continent which, as a native of Cameroon, he knows well and feels a determined commitment to help in whatever way he possibly can.


-- From Private Eye, London


When Shukri Salameh, a trained lawyer, took his position in U.N. Personnel, he made a point of reading everything his colleagues presented. It was not only part of his accurate character, but also to avert possible pitfalls. His predecessor had signed blindly any paper to the point of approving a form -- playfully submitted by his assistant -- terminating his own services. Shukri's keen insistence on upholding U.N. rules and regulations -- many of which he (and his colleague Richard Nottidge drafted) became legendary. Born in Jaffa and trained as a lawyer in British-mandated Palestine, he had to leave in 1947, first to Honduras where the family of his wife Yvonne had migrated, then to a U.N. mission in Libya before getting to U.N. Headquarters. Obtaining a Syrian, then Jordanian citizenship, he was known for total devotion to international civil service. The Assistant-Secretary General for Personnel, twice requested his extension beyond retirement age as he served as Director of Staff Administration and Deputy to the ASG. The Secretary General, in a farewell note, appreciated his "distinguished accomplishments in each one of the many positions of trust and responsibility you have held." Besides adoring his family, Shukri's personal passion was tennis and squash. He kept playing almost daily whether in New York or Florida while he was well into his 90s. Shukri Salameh died just before his 100th birthday -- 99 to be more precise. The U.N. already misses his role as guardian of standard practice, rules and regulations. May his soul rest in peace.