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.
WHICH ASEAN CANDIDATE?
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?
LUBBERS "BRIGHT PROSPECTS:"
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?
"MODEL U.N." IN CAIRO:
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.
BUREAUCRAT AT LARGE:
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
DEEP THOUGHT BY THE CHEF DEC:
"I am. Therefore...I am!"
WHY THE SILENCE?
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.
BERTINI IN BEIRUT:
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.
WHERE IS GUGU?
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
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.