DECEMBER 10, 2017


A new guided tour was introduced at the UN for children. A welcomed initiative was launched on World Children's Day 15 November 2017. Children from the Montessori Family school of Manhattan participated, some singing, some asking questions. The space on the third floor of the General Assembly building, where the former Express bar used to be, has been turned into a wider corridor which is now open for visiting children. Because of the Assembly Session and cold weather, the number of children visitors has been limited. However, the initiative is valuable and should be strengthened; hopefully by Spring more school children will find their way to the UN where they can learn more about their future world and contribute to a better presentation by the UN itself.

UN Photo / Rick Bajornas


An international effort to combat trading in elephant tusks had accomplished success until it was interrupted by certain governments which started making money by selling ivory. The relevant committees in the UN should be mobilized to take immediate corrective action; otherwise the elephants won't forget.


For decades, during the long colonial rule it was Portuguese officials that dictated the skyline of the Angolan capital, Luanda. Now it is rich Angolans from oil money who are buying the skyline of Lisbon. The famous daughter of the former President, Ms. Dos Santos, who was mentioned as one of the richest women in Africa, is now residing in the Portuguese capital, particularly that her father was pushed aside by a successor. Incidentally a new Secretary-General's Advisor for Africa is mentioned to be the former Angolan Foreign Minister, although not formally announced, but apparently mentioned after a meeting in November with the Secretary-General.


Two decades ago prominent TV interviewer, Charlie Rose, was invited to join a media group accompanying newly-elected Secretary-General Kofi Annan on a trip to Baghdad and Tehran. Even then, there were whispers -- but no talk -- about his attitude regarding women. While Sadaam Hussein's Iraq officials kept quiet about his female guests -- though, clearly, they would have as usual photographed for potential security leverage. There was a problem in Tehran. A UN person was approached by an Iranian official to indicate that Mr. Rose would not be allowed to share a room with a woman companion. At the time, a certain senior UN official expressed "embarrassment," not at Charlie Rose's attitude within an Islamic Republic, but about the Iranian complaint, which was swiftly overlooked when Mr. Rose produced a flowery report about the diplomatic stardom of Mr. Annan. Decades later, this November, as women started coming out about sexual harassment, Mr. Rose, out of perfume, was dropped.


"I disagree with you; but I will defend to death your right to express your opinion."
-- Voltaire


Ian Williams presented a book at the Correspondents' Association and signed copies at the bookshop on Thursday, 30th November 2017. During a discussion moderated by Associated Press Correspondent Edith Lederer, a most highly-regarded reporter, Mr. Williams highlighted the reasons for producing the new book, noting the human rights dimension while presenting a brief history of the UN in a positive light and also pointing out deficiencies that need to be handled. It was all done with cheerful pleasant spirit, particularly with the participation of Krishna.


Among the Saudi princes confined to the exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, media attention was particularly focused on Prince Al-Waleed who is an investor in several projects including Citibank, the Fox News Corporation, and Rotana (in partnership with media mogul Rupert Murdoch), Twitter, and the Ritz Carlton, where he is currently an involuntary guest. He has refused to plead any guilt, not only because of his confidence in his own investments, which are mainly outside Saudi Arabia, but because if he did he would be vulnerable to other investigations elsewhere. An emotional support came from a royal cousin but not in Saudi Arabia. Moroccan Prince Hicham, the cousin of King Mohammed V, published on his own Twitter account and sent a message to Saudi officials expressing personal unlimited support to his Saudi cousin. Prince Al-Waleed's mother is Lebanese Princess Mona, daughter of former Prime Minister Riad Solh, a leader of Lebanon's independence while Hicham's mother is her sister, Princess Lamia, who was married to Prince Abdalla, uncle of Morocco's current king. Obviously, royal blood does not turn into water, even in the land of oil.


A noted UN absence was during the crisis of Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri; the Special Representative Sigrid Kaag -- who performed admirably in Beirut -- had left but wasn't replaced by anyone until after the safe return of the Prime Minister of Beirut. The lack of visible support seemed to be perceived by a number of Lebanese politicians as an overcautious approach by the UN Secretariat. An enthusiastic planting of a cedar tree at UN headquarters was not noticed in Beirut, certainly not by its media. More on this in a future issue of unforum.


A performance of Brazilian jazz. A performance by brilliant artist Eliane Elias received enthusiastic applause by a standing-room only audience. The first hour was devoted to regular jazz maybe to showcase her credentials at the Lincoln Center Jazz club. The second half featured a new orchestra, mostly Brazilian, and started with her usual "Brazil Brazil," accompanied by signing in Brazilian Portuguese, and then turned the music from boss nova to jazz; an interesting adaptation.


The group rightly highlighted the plight of slavery in Libya -- "Deaths at Sea or Slavery for Africans". The group seems to be widening with regular postings by Lowell Flanders, one of its initiators along with Maria... (?) It includes current UN members who add a practical contribution and perspective to its role and maintaining participatory interest.


The Secretary-General held a swearing-in ceremony at his office for three new senior women taking over substantive posts. On December 2, Alison Smale was officially received as Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications and Head of the Department of Public Information; Bintou Keita as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Michele Coninsx (use UN photo 7448120 as Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Centre.

UN Photo / Rick Bajornas

UN Photo / Rick Bajornas

UN Photo / Rick Bajornas


The U.N. Correspondents Association is preparing for its annual dinner. It started as an informal creative occasion, when Ian Williams was its President, initially inside the U.N. compound -- the Delegates Lounge or the Delegates Dining Room -- where reporters seriously covering current events took time off to gather in a fun atmosphere, display their artistic (and comedic) talents, while rewarding those who accomplished special coverage in varied areas. While raising required funds for it was a challenge -- met through certain contributions from parties with no conflict of interest -- a recent move to the notably expensive restaurant, Harry Cipriani, created a need for more funds from varied sources, which meant wider participation of a wider group of guests and more formal attire. Guests of honor included actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, though there were others less glamorous and possibly more questionable. Formal wear and public dancing at the area near Grand Central station prompted the usual comments by some New Yorkers about partying while headlines cover destitute migration and catastrophic conflicts in areas covered by the U.N and where some of the partying correspondents actually came from. Still, it remained an occasion, once a year, to get together in a relaxed atmosphere and helpfully offer rewards to those making a distinctive talented effort. Incidentally, this year, it is most likely that Angelina Jolie would be a guest; she remains a Special Envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees -- since when the High Commissioner post was occupied by the new U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


It's really puzzling. Recent reports on sexual harassment of women by prominent entertainment/media men indicated they were wearing open bathrobes in front of aspiring women. How would a usually intelligent older man assume that a younger woman would be swiftly seduced by that sight? For example, how could a somber intellectual posing interviewer like Charlie Rose think that showing his 75 year old self could promptly overwhelm any female resistance? Was it about sex, an ego trip, a sense of power, or just no sense at all?


On men with open bathrobes, a veteran internationalist recalled an incident decades ago when a diplomat in a European capital invited a woman he had met at a bar to join him at his hotel room. Without much conversation, he went to take a shower, got out with an open bathrobe and displayed himself to her. She observed him for a few moments then quipped: "I'd rather watch TV," and left.


An experienced diplomat: "someone who is able to tell you to go to Hell and persuade you to look forward to that trip"
(A diplomatic advice)


"We are not without accomplishments. We managed to distribute poverty equally."
(A Foreign Minister of a developing country at a Second Committee meeting)


Rosario Green - a dignified proud Mexican diplomat and an unassuming international Civil Servant. Rosario Green served both her own country and the United Nations as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs during the term of Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who counted very much on her advice and included her in his travels to various regions, not only Latin America but also Europe, the Middle East and the Vatican. Her recent passing in November was mourned nationally by her own country and internationally by her admiring colleagues. May her soul rest in peace.


He once dominated the European popular music scene. Johnny Hallyday was born in Belgium, lived in France, spent time in Los Angeles, and launched his own gender of Rock and Roll. French President Jacques Chirac, who rewarded him with the highest honour "Legion d'honheur" lauded him by saying he was one of his ardent admirers who had attended his concerts four times. Mr. Hallyday passed away in Paris at age 75. His music will always remain with his fans.


Je vous chante ma nostalgie
Ne riez pas si je rougis
Mes souvenirs n'ont pas vieilli
J'ai toujours le mal du pays

Ça fait pourtant vingt-cinq années
Que je vis loin d'où je suis né
Vingt-cinq hivers que je remue
Dans ma mémoire encore émue
Le parfum, les odeurs, les cris
De la cité d'Alexandrie
Le soleil qui brûlait les rues
Où mon enfance a disparu

Le chant, la prière à cinq heures
La paix qui nous montait au coeur
L'oignon cru et le plat de fèves
Nous semblaient un festin de rêve

La pipe à eau dans les cafés
Et le temps de philosopher
Avec les vieux, les fous, les sages
Et les étrangers de passage
Arabes, Grecs, Juifs, Italiens
Tous bons Méditerranéens
Tous compagnons du même bord
L'amour et la folie d'abord

Je veux chanter pour tous ceux qui
Ne m'appelaient pas Moustaki
On m'appelait Jo ou Joseph
C'était plus doux, c'était plus bref

Amis des rues ou du lycée
Amis du joli temps passé
Nos femmes étaient des gamines
Nos amours étaient clandestines
On apprenait à s'embrasser
On n'en savait jamais assez
Ça fait presque une éternité
Que mon enfance m'a quitté

Elle revient comme un fantôme
Elle me ramène en son royaume
Comme si rien n'avait changé
Et que le temps s'était figé

Elle ramène mes seize ans
Elle me les remet au présent
Pardonnez-moi si je radote
Je n'ai pas trouvé l'antidote
Pour guérir de ma nostalgie
Ne riez pas si je rougis
On me comprendra, j'en suis sûr
Chacun de nous a sa blessure

Son coin de paradis perdu
Son petit jardin défendu
Le mien s'appelle Alexandrie
Et c'est là-bas, loin de Paris

And our own editor's daughter, Alexandria...