15 March 2004


Speculation on who will replace Horst Kohler as managing director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington has spread across Europe. The German who received high marks for his brief tenure will not be replaced by another compatriot while he runs for his country's presidency on behalf of the opposition parties to succeed Johannes Rau. He had accepted the nomination "with a laughing and crying eye, as we say in German." The French may be interested in regaining that job through Jean Lumierre who is running the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. But a senior Frenchman just took over as head of the Central Bank of Europe. Britain's Gordon Brown could take it if he wanted to; but he may be patiently waiting other prospects in London. Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Finance Minister is a likely candidate, but may not have the full enthusiasm of his own government. Stanley Fisher, who almost got the post by default as first deputy managing director three years ago, may not have necessary support in Washington which is more keen on replacing James Wolfensohn at the World Bank next year with a distinguished American. The Fund is usually designated for a European and the selection is made by its Board dominated by the Group of Seven. A likely contender could be Spain's current Finance Minister Rodrigo Rato. A new government will be formed in Madrid soon and the Bush administration would welcome a European friend in Washington.


Growing speculation in New York that Kofi Annan may be seeking a third term did not prevent Foreign Ministers of Asia to review likely candidates to succeed him during a recent ASEAN meeting. The "Nation" of Bangkok reported that Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sothirathai was officially in the running (once his name sank in!). Another official candidate is the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka (whose name never caught on). Diplomatic reports from that meeting indicated that ASEAN consensus was for a need to present one simple candidate -- although some still propose the African approach of proposing any of five agreed names.


Someone who had lunch with a senior Secretariat official was told in hushed terms that Lakhdar Brahimi was on his way to Baghdad -- but don't tell anyone. By the time he returned home some Arab television satellites were already reporting the arrival of the experienced envoy in Baghdad and his meetings with key personalities. Reportedly, even the U.N. team that was flying to the Iraqi capital did not know until the former Algerian Foreign Minister joined them at the departure lounge in Paris airport. It is a measure of Brahimi's confidence -- and focus on a successful outcome -- that he did not treat his mission as a photo opportunity or a media circus. He wisely took with him one capable press officer, Ahmed Fawzi with whom he had worked over Afghanistan and who had traveled with the late Sergio Vieira de Mello. It was a winning team. Brahimi achieved for the U.N. within two weeks what many of those in the Secretariat could not achieve in two years.


Celebrity actress Angelina Jolie appealed for helping Sudanese refugees in Chad the same day she was describing to a New York reporter her emerging habit of spending loving time in a hotel room with a "trusted friend" before going home to tuck her child in bed. Which Angelina would you prefer?


High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers told a gathering of agencies that "prospects were bright" for settling chronic conflict in Africa. The former Dutch Prime Minister of Sabrenica fame, did not bother to explain the reasons for his optimistic analysis. Last year, another senior U.N. official, Jean Marie Guehenno, told the press he saw a "window of opportunity" after the death of President Kabila in the Congo. Since then, conflict widened and thousands of Africans were killed in conflict.


The French government bestowed a post-mortem honour on Jean-Selim Kanaan, the young French-Lebanese political officer who died in the criminal assault on the U.N. Baghdad office last summer. The medal was handed to his family in Paris in a small ceremony by the French President. Is it time to wonder what the U.N. Secretariat may be contemplating in memory of our fallen colleagues? Could the press briefing room, for example, be named after Nadia Younes or a conference room in Geneva's Palais Wilson be named after Sergio Vieira de Mello?


This year's Model United Nations at the American University of Cairo was a weeklong program commemorating Nadia Younes. An inaugural ceremony was held on Tuesday evening the 9th March at the University. University President, David Arnold, made the opening speech and announced a memorial fund that the University and the family of Nadia will put together to keep her memory alive for years to come. This will be finalised in the next few weeks. The keynote speaker was the Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher. Nahed Younes, Nadia's sister, said that the family is very excited about this project and hopes it will be a fitting tribute to Nadia, and serve as a lasting example to today and tomorrow's students of what a hard working life dedicated to the United Nations can achieve.


We received a belated copy of "Frankfurter Allgememeine" which devoted a full page to the greatness of Hans Klink. Little known to most bureaucrats around the world, it was Herr Klink who invented the precut toilet paper roll seventy five years ago. Why the Chef Dec wasn't informed about this remains a mystery.


Is what is good for Greece good for Cyprus? Maybe this time. The family of the newly elected Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis comes originally from the Turkish province of Karaman. Will that make him more amenable to a deal with Turkey over the disputed island? Maybe, maybe not. But at least he is closer to understanding where they were coming from. Let's hope.


The Chef de Kebab tried to find out discreetly how we found out about his Victor/Victoria secret recipe. He had been deprived of it for months because of unhealthy ingredients which keep interrupting any gastronomic pleasure feasible with a busy schedule and demanding decorum of the office.


"I am. Therefore...I am!"


While UNESCO Director Matsura called on authorities to punish those responsible for the targeted murder of a Spanish journalist in Haiti who was shot while covering a demonstration, there was absolute silence on the part of U.N. Headquarters. While talking generally about the need to join together to rebuild Haiti and help its people. The specific case of the journalist seemed to be off the radar screen. Of course, that will not preclude a ceremonial celebration of the World Press Freedom Day next May.


Under Secretary-General Catherine Bertini made a successful visit to Lebanon where she was received by the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and senior government officials. She also met with representatives of civil society. Beirut press reported that the President highlighted the host facilities offered to a unified U.N. presence while the Prime Minister sought to discuss "the situation in the region" and wanted to send a message to the Secretary- General. Ms. Bertini may or may not have been impressed but seemed to take it all in her stride.


Obviously she has a real name. A distinguished Pakistani one. But everyone knows her as Gugu. Pleasant as much as she is efficient and hardworking, she surfaces in New York from time to time, having left to Geneva. Officially she works for the U.N. Development Program but she really works for the whole U.N. system. Wherever she goes, it's the U.N. she defends, not just her own office. Her heart, however, is in Environment. She has not been spotted for a while. Good luck wherever you are.


A year after the confrontation between the Administration and Staff Committee on newly introduced appointment and promotion measures (canceling the checks and balances of open competitive process), staff management discussions were deadlocked. Attempts to toy with staff representation backfired. Almost the same persons were re-elected to represent the staff. A new head of the office of Human Resources Management, under the guidance of Catherine Bertini, new Under Secretary General for Administration and Management may be trying hard to find a way out -- so are staff representatives. But the issues at stake seem to be much wider, possibly higher up, and more political.