15 February 2006

A JOINT STATEMENT:

"We are deeply alarmed at the repercussions of the publications in Denmark several months ago of insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and their subsequent republication by some other European newspapers and at the violent acts that have occurred in reaction to them.

"The anguish in the Muslim World at the publication of these offensive caricatures is shared by all individuals and communities who recognize the sensitivity of deeply held religious belief. In all societies there is a need to show sensitivity and responsibility in treating issues of special significance for the adherents of any particular faith, even by those who do not share the belief in question.

"We fully uphold the right of free speech. But we understand the deep hurt and widespread indignation felt in the Muslim World. We believe freedom of the press entails responsibility and discretion, and should respect the beliefs and tenets of all religions.

"But we also believe the recent violent acts surpass the limits of peaceful protest. In particular, we strongly condemn the deplorable attacks on diplomatic missions that have occurred in Damascus, Beirut and elsewhere. Aggression against life and property can only damage the image of a peaceful Islam. We call on the authorities of all countries to protect all diplomatic premises and foreign citizens against unlawful attack.

"These events make the need for renewed dialogue, among and between communities of different faiths and authorities of different countries, all the more urgent. We call on them to appeal for restraint and calm, in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect."
Kofi A. Annan
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
Javier Solana

TOKELAU:

There was once an Assembly-created committee with a name so long that it was conveniently called the "24 Committee." Part of its title was "Granting of Independence for Colonial Countries and Peoples." Its main activity was to travel to exotic places with wonderful sounding names, stopping en route in London or Paris (depending on the Chairman's inclination). It took several trips, of course, to persuade local population that U.N. membership was good for them. Most agreed. Some demurred, particularly those in faraway Pacific tolls totally dependent on Australian beer or New Zealand sausage. Now some U.N. related officials -- four all told -- are exploring the possibility to grant the remote territory of Tokelau its full independence. That seems doubtful as its limited number of citizens depend entirely on Wellington, New Zealand, even for local security. Tokelau, by the way, should not be confused with Tuvalu which is already a member.

WHEN RUBBER HITS THE ROAD:

That must mean something muchomacho for Jose Antonio Ocampo, the ineffective head of U.N. Economic and Social Affairs Department. The man has been there for more than three years with nothing to write home about. He spends his time attending meetings, conferences and seminars as the U.N. role in his area of responsibility deteriorates to an embarrassing low. It may be that his predecessor, Nittin Desai, was a tough act to follow. It may be that the U.N.'s status in general has regrettably eroded with the multiple scandals that hit it over the last three years. All the more reason to refrain from bragging about accomplishments in the Development area. No need for a pompous claim that 2006 will be "the year when the rubber hits the road." People will then be reminded that it had already hit the fan!

BRAMMETZ'S SPOKESMAN:

The newly appointed head of the U.N. Independent Investigation into the terrorist murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri is about to recruit a new spokesman. As an interim measure, someone in Vienna with little knowledge of the situation gave occasional statements to the press. A full-time Arabic speaking officer accompanying Judge Brammetz could help a lot by providing accurate information when available, avoiding unwarranted speculation and keeping quiet when there is nothing substantive to say. Above all, the spokesman should appear clearly to be working for and with the Chief Investigator who seems to have zero tolerance for unauthorized leakage. His interim spokesman -- a woman on loan -- was extended until the end February. The name currently floated is that of a national press officer in a North African Arab country. It will be wise to double-check his proficiency in Arabic to avoid undue confusion. Update: The latest word is that Ms. Radhia Achourie, a competent Tunisian woman who worked with Ambassador Pronk on Sudan was selected. Ms. Achourie is highly praised for her accuracy, discretion and professional competence. Good luck.

THE HORN BY THE BULL:

There must be something about that Horn that attracts those Scandinavians. And not just ordinary citizens of the North but very senior ones. First we had our dear distinguished Martti Ahtisaari, a former President of Finland as Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa. When the ever available MA was entrusted with the delicate task of Kosovo's status (a really relevant assignment), a former Prime Minister of Norway came to the fore. It was just announced that Kjell Magne Bondevik will be available -- "with humility" of course -- "in response to recurrent drought and food insecurity devastating the region." So here they go again -- taking the horn by the bull.

LONDON FELT BETTER:

At Central Hall, Westminister, the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom assembled an impressive throng of the faithful on 31 January by Foreign Secretary Jack Shaw and Lord Hanay (earlier "Sir David" an irrepressible pillar of the U.N. Security Council). An indication of how important London considers the U.N. role these days is that someone with Lord Hanay's stature has taken over the chairmanship of U.N./U.K. Association. Kofi Annan was cheered up enough to splinter his official statement with personal humour. Remarking that the first Acting Secretary General Sir Gladwyn Jebb was British assisted by another familiar British name, Brian Urquhart, the Secretary General quipped: "Right from the start, you see, the Brits had quietly put themselves in charge. And so it has been ever since. You may have noticed that one of your compatriots has even infiltrated himself as Chef de Cabinet." Listening to eloquent praise and warm applause, Mr. Annan wondered why he spent so much time at the other side of the Atlantic.

TAILGATE TO BEIRUT:

Those young opportunists know no barriers to their keen urge to arrive quickly to any promising destination. Salman Tailgate is urgently trying to go to Beirut. Having sensed that his equally young compatriot has lost influential backing with the departure of his father, Salman is now trying to replace him. Merely tailgating his new boss in New York isn't delivering worthwhile results; the target is moving too fast. In Beirut, he hopes to have much more to report about to his bosses. He will be well-advised however to control his habit of extending his ear at reception parties; it may be misinterpreted in that rough neighbourhood.

UN AIDS:

The ambassador of Guatemala, Eduardo Sevilla, must have been overwhelmed by the beautiful Ms. Universe, Natalie Glebova, who despite her Russian name is apparently one of his compatriots. His Excellency offered a big luncheon to introduce her to U.N. officials from various agencies, including "those with UN AIDS"!

A PAUSE...:

Those who dance are considered insane by those who don't hear the music.

POLITE QUERY:

Whatever happened to damsels in distress?

A QUESTION:

"What is the secret of success?" asked the Sphinx. "Push" answered the Button. "Cool" suggested the Ice. "Be up to date" said the calendar. "Make light of everything" said the fire. "Be sharp" opted the Knife. "Find a good thing and stick to it" concluded the Glue.

HILTON HEAD BLUES:

The Renaissance Club which held its regular annual gathering at Hilton Head Beach end December included the usual collection of Friends of Bill and Hillary Clinton together with a number of professors, business professionals and political groupies. One shameless self-promoter who used to make every effort to be there when the Clintons were in power and bragged about it to U.N. colleagues was not there -- having, of course, shifted gear to a new power centre. However, one of the participants privately shared disappointed memories of malicious betrayal and blatant arrogance.

CORRECT SPELLING:

Thanks to Alexandre Gorelick, Director UNIC, Moscow, we now know the exact spelling of the name of the Russian Federation's new ambassador in Geneva. It is Loshchinin, not Luchinin as we had reported in the last issue. Until recently, Ambassador Loshchinin (repeated to memorize!) has served as First Deputy Foreign Minister. Of course, the Russian diplomat who heads the U.N. Geneva office is Sergei Ordzhonikidze. His official title is U.N. Under-Secretary General and Director General of the U.N. office at Geneva. And while we are at it, we would add, incidentally, that Moscow U.N. Director Alexandre Gorelik had served at Russia's Permanent Mission to the U.N. in New York. So did Mr. Ordzhonikidze.

A FARCE:

"International Civil Service Then and Now. Theory and Practice." was the farcical title of a "seminar" exploiting to the last possible drop the 100th birthday of our beloved former Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold and the prestige of our distinguished colleague Brian Urquhart. The moderator was (you guessed it): the shameless self-promoter who had never supervised nor managed any civil servant before winning the Kofi Annan lottery ticket.

ELECTRONIC SECURITY:

Visitors to U.N. Headquarters notice the construction of electronic checkpoints at all major entrances. It seems that one "reform" measure is to do away with familiar smiling courteous guards and replace them with machines that would electronically read your identity pass, time of entry and departure. Tough luck if in a hurry, forgot your pass, or visiting from elsewhere -- Security comes first. A similar plan was contemplated ten years ago and some checkpoints were actually constructed but eventually dismantled at great expense. There is lots of speculation. Some explanation would help stop the rumours.

TUNISIAN STAFF COMPLAINT:

Only after a welcome intervention by the Secretary General did U.N. Tunisian staff get back their due expenses. It occurred during the so-called Information Summit when the staff mobilized as usual to serve their chief full-time. They were available at his hotel, carrying their tasks the best they can. However, the main official car of the Information Centre was commandeered by the shameless exploiter of everything and everyone with the compliance of the National Information Officer who seemed to care more about Tharoor than the Secretary General. Anyway, staff that had to take taxis and incur other expenses were told that they had to absorb it from their own pockets. When it got to the point when they could not take it anymore, a staff complaint was sent directly to Mr. Annan who ordered immediate investigation. The staff were eventually refunded -- from DPI budget.

AHMAD FAWZI RECUPERATES:

Our colleague Ahmad Fawzi who underwent an intensive medical emergency is now recuperating. The many friends of the competent U.N. media director, former director of UNIC London, were surprised by the sudden illness. Most of them did not even know until much later through word of mouth. Fortunately, with professional care by Dr. Pamakian and his team, Ahmad is back home recuperating for a while. It may take a couple of months for him to go back to his normal hectic pace. But everyone wants him to look after himself and his health first and foremost. We wish him speedy recovery.

TANAKA FOR DISARMAMENT:

The new Under-Secretary General for Disarmament will most likely be a Japanese with an elegant style and experienced knowledge of internal U.N. operations. Nobaki Tanaka, currently Japan's ambassador to Pakistan had worked in the Department of Public Information during its leadership by Yasushi Akashi, and after a number of key postings in Tokyo, took over as Assistant Director General for Administration at UNESCO in Paris. His U.N. colleagues recall his loyalty, elegance and efficient handling of delicate tasks. He is expected to take over by mid-March.

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