15 February 2004


A repeat showing on television of a film entitled "Perfect Murder" reminded some of us of the "U.N. values" ostensibly placed on measuring U.N. designation of "ambassadors" or "messengers of peace." Mr. Douglas, a favourite of the 38th floor, plays the role of a Manhattanite planning to murder his wife who happens to be a U.N. interpreter. There is also an insinuation that some of those working Conferences services are spies. This is not the only movie in which Mr. Douglas measured up to "U.N. values" but it is specifically mentioned here because the producers at the time wanted to "shoot" it inside U.N. premises which was turned down to the distress of some of those desperately seeking a Hollywood connection at any price. A future issue will deal at length with that.


As U.N. Middle East representative Terje Roed Larsen is expected to leave his post to take over the International Peace Academy in New York, his departure was slightly delayed to accomodate his wife. A partner in political as well as daily life, Mrs. Larsen was awaiting her appointment from the Norwegian embassy in Israel to the Norwegian mission at the United Nations. Now that it is done, the Larsens are expected to hit the diplomatic circuit with vengeance.


Although an updated telephone directory for U.N. staff was printed and ready for distribution, it was withheld. Dated August 2003, the printed version was available in October, but for some reason word came down to stop it. The official explanation is that the Secretariat is promoting a "paperless" organization. Incidentally, the new directory shows an unprecedented number of staff in the office of the Secretary General -- around 60 people compared to 40 in the year 2000 and 35 when Kofi Annan took over in 1997. That is about double those listed in the office of his two predecessors.


To prepare ground for changes on the Secretary General's office, a management consulting firm has been busy looking into offices and officers. Proposals are expected some time in February or March by the latest. Clearly, main suggestions will be discussed discreetly with the Secretary General before making them public. Although there may be some redeployment, it is unlikely to cut down drastically the number of staff working on the 38th floor who have doubled since Kofi Annan took over. See the telephone directory.


* Have you seen my husband, the Ambassador?

- Which Ambassador if I may ask?

* My Country. My husband is the Ambassador of my Country.

- I will try to find out, Madam, if you tell me the name.

* What name? My Country or my husband the Ambassador?

- Anything to go by. Maybe I have just seen him, maybe not.

* You saw him. Alone?

- I am afraid...

* Why are you afraid?


For two weeks in February, a consulting firm, Deloitte, conducted an "Integrity Perception Survey" amongst U.N. staff. According to a spokesman, the survey is "to strengthen awareness of integrity and professional ethics" in the organization. It is expected to develop "strategies and programs" to once more -- "reinforce integrity and ethics within the Secretariat." Instead of sticking dedicated hard-working staff with queries on ethics and integrity, surveyors could get better results raising their sights higher.


The same day Secretary General met with President Bush in Washington about helping in transition plans for Iraq, it was announced that the U.S. government decided to extend a $1.2 million loan for the U.N. to build a new annex. Unlike the money owed by the U.S. to the U.N. which is now reportedly repaid, the loan will be charged with an interest. The Master Plan has been the subject of several rumours rotating around as to who precisely sealed the deal and how it was done. There is also speculation that the interim move would be an occasion to let go a substantial number of staff.


If it is by the Secretary General, then it is policy. Whoever said otherwise is either misled or misleading. After a rare criticism by the Ambassador of Israel -- claiming that a statement by Mr. Annan was a "vague" response to a suicide bombing a day earlier, a U.N. spokesman rightly pointed out that he had always clearly condemned such bombings. However she added that "one statement does not make policy." Wrong. Otherwise, what's the point of making a statement?


Yemen President Ali Abdallah Saleh surprised reporters and stunned fellow Arab rulers by suggesting that "we shave our heads before others shave them for us." It may have been his way of doing preemptive change. And he should know -- for he was able to run one of the most difficult countries in the region for decades. On another continent, in Africa, the Financial Times Observer reports that a popular T-shirt worn on the main street of Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, announces on its front: "Rob Mugaba." The writing on the back continues: "before he robs you."


A satirical report on an Arab TV satellite caused a midday stir in European financial markets. When Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI) announced the "arrest without bloodshed" of an "Arab most wanted man" news traveled swiftly to a dinner given by the Lebanese Prime Minister for the President of Greece, who was making an official visit to Beirut. As guests deliberated the implications, a news agency passed on the story which caused confusion in the markets throughout the morning of Thursday January 22nd until it was proven untrue. Viewers of the program could have noticed the word "Lie" on the corner of the screen which some hurriedly mistook for "Live."


The Argentinian soccer legend has not given up on his quest to join a U.N. anti-drug campaign. He claims to have completed a rehabiliation program. Noting that some movie stars noted for violent or oversexed roles were given special treatment, he may feel that Hollywood stars are getting favoured treatment over Latino leagends. Diego Armando rose to international fame during the Mexico Mondial, particularly for using his hand to score a goal against England. At the time he described his action as being inspired by the "hand of God." Let's pray for his full recovery.


Former U.N. Protocol Chief Benita Ferraro-Waldner is the most likely candidate of Austria's Peoples Party for President of Austria. As Foreign Minister during a very difficult time, when Europe boycotted her country for the election of rightist Jorge Heider, Benita worked her charm to gain acceptance throughout Europe and around the world. The ever smiling, ever so polite and always alert, elegant Viennese lady is smoothly waiting in the wings until the retirement of President Klestil later this year.


An Iraqi newspaper published a list taken from the Ministry of Petroleum indicating some of those who had received favoured allocation of oil barrels for sale in the international market by Saddam Hussein's regime. Although some prominent officials breathed a sigh of relief as their names did not appear, they may have overlooked the fact that the list is dated 1999. Anything from 2000 to 2003 is yet to be uncovered by those who hold the real documents.


Finland's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, has been elected president of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), becoming the first woman ever to head the 54-member development coordinating body.

She succeeds Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, the Permanent Representative of Guatemala.

Ms. Rasi has been Finland's Ambassador to the U.N. since 1998. She was deputy permanent representative from 1987 to 1991, during which time she chaired the Security Council's Iraq sanctions committee.

Outlining the Council's work for 2004 on Wednesday, Ms. Rasi said strengthening and enhancing U.N. follow-up to conferences in the economic and social sectors was crucial.

ECOSOC coordinates the development work of the 14 U.N. specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and 5 regional commissions. It receives reports from 11 U.N. funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the U.N. system and to member States.

From time to time, ECOSOC has been given additional related tasks, including supervising and promoting the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to halve extremem poverty by 2015.

Ms. Rasi is highly regarded around the U.N. for her hard work, tough and practical yet pleasant handling of business, and a compassionate approach to human development issues. Her country, Finland, is one of the foremost contributors to the U.N. in all its areas of work.


A breakthrough for U.N. Development Programme and a personal accomplishment for its Administrator Mark Malloch-Brown. After a meeting in Davos with Bill Gates, Microsoft announced it would pump $1 billion in cash and software into a computer training venture with the U.N. Programme. Gates confirmed the agreement to journalists in the Swiss resort, where he was attending the annual World Economic Forum. The contribution will be spread over five years.


United Kingdom Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell was the main speaker in a roundtable by the International Peace Academy on "Why we Need the U.N." In a concise and clear review of challenges facing the international communtity, Rammell highlighted the link between multilateralism and global security. He carefully took note of questions raised, responding to each with the attention of a popular representative in contact with his constituency. There was standing room only at the private office of Strook & Strook & Lavan, which hosted the gathering, and was chaired by Giandomenico Picco, Chairman CEO of GDP Associates and IPA Board Member. Picco, who was a remarkable U.N. senior official, was mostly known for his active role in negotiating the release of Western hostages in Lebanon in the late eighties. His handling of the roundtable indicated that he still maintains not only his interest in U.N. issues, but his ability to communicate them effectively.