15 June 2007


Having failed to produce anything since taking over, the Chef de Tandoori is itching to get a sous-chef. And who would a pliable "sous" be except an amenable equally compliant compatriot practiced in the techniques of the tandoor. Only problem may be that there were already TWO investigations (one of sexual harassment) against the aspiring climber who initially seemed so docile but is apparently throwing his weight around as if no one knew where those reports were buried.


Growing talk since January that Bob Orr would be replaced at the Secretary General's office may prove to be premature. Speculation about his replacement mainly revolved around the name of Ed Luck, Columbia University Professor and former U.N./U.S.A. official who reportedly gave informal advice to the incoming team. By the end of May it was mentioned with certainty that Ed's Luck would propel him to the 38th floor very soon. A week later, however, we were told that Mr. Orr managed to maintain his foothold. Apparently he has the inside word on Climate Change.


The hottest document sought by most senior officials in May was a final report written by Alvarao de Soto, outgoing U.N. co-ordinator for the Middle East. It contained sharp observations blended with the wit of an experienced insider. As he had mainly dealt with political affairs, very few know that Mr. de Soto is an accomplished writer. Out of courtesy to him we refrain from reproducing his hotly demanded report in the hope that he will come out with his own version of events in printed form. Stay tuned.


J.M. Jakobowicz, Redacteur en chef of www.unspecial.org in Geneva wrote in its May edition:
"The United Nations is seeking collaborators without any expertise, 15 years of experience in this area required. PhDs, MBAs, MAs and self-made men need not apply." This ad seems absurd to you but you are wrong. This is what you'll be able to read a few years from now in Elle, Mayfair or Playboy. It is the direction that recruitment is heading in the U.N.
"Indeed, why should the U.N. recruit PhDs in economics or mathematics or even a plumber if five years after starting to work at the United Nations they are obliged to change jobs! We have just been told that what counts is not our training but our potential. A nurse may have the potential to become a printer, while an economist could very well become a gardener.
"The problem is that once you have entered this system, you will never be able to leave it, since as far as I know the U.N. is the only employer in the world, and even beyond, that has set itself a target to transform any type of specialist into a generalist. Just imagine if tomorrow you want to leave the U.N., what enterprise is going to hire someone who has spent five years as a statistician, five years as an electrician and five years as a quality controller. The answer is -- none. Thanks to this intensive U.N. {de}formation you will end up in the long queue of unemployed with no recognized expertise. A big thank-you to our bureaucrats, who work hard to improve our job satisfaction and the efficiency of the Organization.


A bold proclamation in a Spokesman briefing preview declared that the Secretary General had written to the leaders of the summit of Industrialized Countries (G-8) "drawing their attention to their need for leadership" in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and combating climate change. Within less than an hour, however, that leadership show somehow disappeared. The briefing itself mentioned a letter in subdued terms. Who called in-between?


This time it's with three CCCs -- as if one was not enough these confused days. For those who had no time to closely follow the "climate change" episodes, the initial name was for a Framework on Climate, then Climate Change until it got to the Convention on Climate Change Convention. A fourth "C" may be added after a Conference in Indonesia in December. Initially we thought it was a prank by Mr. Pronk who had threatened to close the doors on the meeting room in Kyoto until he got his UN/FCC. Now that he's gone, we understand that those innovative additions were the handiwork of a Yvo de Boer. What a coincidence.


The special article by Nitin Desai on reform inspired a number of complimentary feedbacks, particularly from U.N. staffers who had collaborated with that pillar of International Development from Rio in 1992 through the conferences of the mid-nineties to his individual initiatives on specific issues. Several respondents expressed an interest in reading a monthly contribution by Mr. Desai who has a lot on his plate right now but has agreed to join in the debate whenever he felt necessary.


Former Under-Secretary General, Foreign Minister of Ecuador and its outgoing Permanent Representative Diego Cordovez was recently sighted on Second Avenue and 46th Street, most likely after lunch with two other former insiders at a nearby steakhouse. His friends are glad to note that his energy is back to normal after a bout of illness which had slightly slowed him down. He's now commuting between Quito and New York and other world capitals where his experienced advice is valued. Also sighted in New York was Joe Sills, former Spokesman for the Secretary General and Director of U.N. Washington Office. He visited during the first week of June and was welcomed by his many friends and colleagues.


Francis Deng finally gets a break in his own field. A former Ambassador of Sudan to Canada, Scandinavia and the U.S., Deng had to be placed against the ridiculously futile role of the Secretary General's Special Representative "on internally displaced persons." It was ironic that a growing problem of displacement was taking place in his own country of Sudan in Darfur. He did the right thing by leaving in 2004 to work as Director of the Sudan Peace Institute. Recently, the new Secretary General asked him (obviously upon some strong recommendation) as his "Special Adviser for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities." Let's first give him a chance to see what he'll accomplish -- in Darfur, for instance.


During a total of 13 1/2 years as a diplomat in New York, Adamantios Vassilakis made so many friends that only a fraction of them were able to squeeze into the Delegates Dining Room to bid him farewell. The majority had to fend for themselves trying to beat the crowds of whom only a specific number is allowed in accordance with New York building regulations. Until the last minute outgoing Greek Ambassador and his Lebanese-born wife Faye Malouf were promoting Greek culture and music. A book of Ancient Greece was available as a free gift to fellow diplomats. Like the exhibit on the Greek olive, or the celebration of the National Day, Ambassador Vassilakis made every effort to ensure that everyone was welcome and that his guests that evening, from all nationalities, felt that they were all Greek.


The Spokesman firmly announced that contrary to speculation, Matthew Nimitz is not resigning. Rejoice all ye who hath been awaiting his eternal quest for an agreed name on Macedonia, Mother Theresa's birthplace. Greece-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia talks shall continue forever and ever. Amen.


Apparently, we had underestimated the role of Korean Toilet chief Sim Joe Duck when we reproduced two issues ago a circular by him praising his country's toilet culture and appealing for solidarity worldwide. We now are told that Mr. Sim is a distinguished member of South Korea's National Assembly and Chairman of World Toilet Association. Moreover, he has just inspected his area of special interest is our great city of New York and was very disappointed. Not enough public toilets to his standard. Furthermore, one often has to pay for their urgent use. Very inappropriate. "Every individual is entitled to clean sanitation," he opined. Having to pay to go is a violation of international principles, he said to IPS during a quick interview. Toilets should always be available pro bono. "It is a basic human right."


A decision to avoid naming one more Special Representative for Myanmar was welcome. Not only did the Secretary General delete a post, but he assigned the right man, his Political Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari to take it over. In a previous capacity, the former Nigerian Foreign Minister almost managed to handle the case of our imprisoned Queen of Democracy through discreet quiet diplomacy; but press statements by U.N. Spokesman at the time pre-empted his handiwork. Let's hope he will be allowed to complete that task -- quietly -- in the near future.


An email on security by a UN/ESCWA junior officer in Beirut to her colleagues was widely circulated to claim (very unfairly) that some U.N. sources in Lebanon were spreading panic and even worse -- that they may have had advance information about brewing trouble. That was sheer exaggeration. The woman in question at a P-2 level is very unlikely to be anything but an excessively zealous volunteer, taking her extra assignment as "international deputy warden of zone 7 (Ain Mreisseh)" too pompously. The card of a Ms. Pak, "Associate Economic Officer, Trade and WTO Issues Team, Globalization and Regional Integration Division, United Nations ESCWA" was sent around with an email: "I'm copying you on this email -- for a cause." She then listed a number of possible targets in Beirut like Monot Street (a popular night spot), Gemmeyzeh Street, local transportation (buses), "big" schools and universities, ABC Mall, Cassiono de Liban, and "any other business centers and shopping streets." To nervous Lebanese, that sounded more like a destabilization plan rather than a precautionary warning to colleagues. Next, someone would use that move by an Asian staffer to accuse the U.N. of participating in fomenting trouble. As if we didn't have enough bungling by senior officials. Now they set an example for juniors.


That's it. Rolls-Royce will not sell its luxury cars in Darfur anymore. How many of those hunger-stricken poverty-dying people have seen a Rolls, let alone owning one, does not matter. Fact is: Rolls is displaying its feel-good credentials. That reminds us of the appointment of clothing designer Giorgio Armani as Special Envoy to Afghanistan where the majority of the population could not afford even one of his t-shirts.


Nikitas Nevrodis was known to friends and colleagues around the world affectionately and simply as Taki. An Egyptian of Greek origin (or vice-versa) he joined U.N. Emergency Force in Sinia from his nearby hometown of Port Said. Then he went to the Congo before joining UNDP to help open its offices in Aden and Ryadh. He was brought to New York to run the Travel Unit then pioneer a Office for Project Execution. When Administrator Bradford Morse sought to establish an operation in the West Bank and Gaza, Taki assisted to start from scratch one of its largest programmes, convincing both Arabs and Israelis of its crucial work. When he retired in 1991, he left behind a number of highly skilled young Palestinians and a legacy of affection and respect. He returned to Athens and New Jersey where his son and daughter live. Most sincere condolences to his wife of 45 years Angeliki, his son George and daughter Evelyn. His determination to succeed, in the most difficult challenges, his friendly smile and his loyal dedication to U.N. principles will always be remembered. Farewell, Taki. Keep smiling, wherever you are.