MARCH 1, 2018

GENEVA CONNECTION:

While a number of hopeful European diplomats were angling for the Geneva post heading the U.N. European Operations, current Director Michael Moeller was discreetly extended for one more year. He had taken the post as Acting in 2013 under Ban Ki-moon, then confirmed in 2015 (perhaps for good acting!). This will be Moeller's third Geneva posting. The son of a Danish diplomat who had served in Greece -- where he met a U.N. staffer who helped him join an Anti-Apartheid office at P3/P4 level -- first joined the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in 1979. He returned more than a decade later as the main assistant to the Director General, giving him a valuable opportunity to explore the intricacies of the office -- and perhaps prepare his desired furniture for an aspired return. He then served at Mr. Annan's Secretary-General Office and eventually at the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva. In a way, a former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Antonio Guterres, currently U.N. Secretary-General in New York, has extended a former UNHCR staffer, currently heading the U.N. office in Geneva, one more year. As with other designations, it could be the Geneva Connection, an HCR link, or very good Acting. Or all of the above. Most recently, staff mentioned that when they decided to have a symbolic strike during the visit of the Secretary General, he threatened to take "disciplinary measures."

OMEGA MAN:

Still on Geneva, there was once an ever-smiling networker, not worker, who tried to make his way up by offering expensive Swiss watches to individuals with potential influence. He was known for catering to those above and trashing those under his supervision -- except in one case when a security officer reported surprising him while opening a locked office door with a master key and found him lying on a table. The charge was somehow overlooked, most likely with a few Omegas spread between Geneva and New York. Starting as a Personnel Officer, he claimed protocol expertise to the point of seeking a D-2, most senior professional post. Although long retired, word is that he is still hopeful through a helpful Geneva Connection. Or, perhaps, an Omega Connection.

DIPLOMAT/COMMUNICATOR:

The Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, has made a positive mark as a Communicator and Diplomat. She combines solid diplomatic experience with an enlightened background in media communications. Born in Lahore, she is the first woman representing her active country in New York. Impressively, she brings both an intellectual fellowship at Harvard and a doctorate from London's School of Economics (famously known as LSE). Before her appointment, Ms. Lodhi was Special Adviser on International Affairs to the Geo/Jarig Group in Pakistan. Between 2008 and 2010 she was a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics and an international scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. From 2003 to 2008, she served as her country's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Before that, she held two terms as Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States (1999-2002 and 1993-1996). She was the founding editor of The News daily in Pakistan. Ms. Lodhi, who holds a doctorate in politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and has served as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. She serves her national interests with an effective international approach and a human intellectual touch.

TARTUFO:

Outgoing heads of U.N Departments would habitually leave senior key appointments in their area to their designated successors. As Jeffrey Feltman is due to leave within weeks to allow for another U.S. candidate proposed by President Trump's Administration, staff was informed by letter that the new head of "Middle East and Western Asia Division" is Susanne Rose -- who had worked at the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, where Mr. Feltman was Ambassador. Actually, Ms. Rose, an experienced informed diplomat could have been introduced at a better time and more considerate presentation. In addition to Beirut, she served in Rome, at the State Department in Washington, D.C., and in the Caribbean. A Berkeley-born Californian, she speaks French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Her Arabic was described as "basic," though -- if she will be dealing with U.N. Middle East and Western Asia -- she will have to improve on it, like taking a readily-available free course at U.N. Headquarters. In the letter, issued under the name of the Department's Deputy head, there is a somewhat amusing yet hardly relevant mention that she has a 14-month-old Havana dog named "Tartufo." In Italian, it means "persona hipocrita y falsa"! It could also refer to an ice cream -- sweet or bitter. Let's hope for better.

TO INVESTIGATE?:

An announcement that the Secretary General appointed Dmitry Titov "of Russia" to lead a special investigation into recent attacks on peacekeepers and peacekeeping bases in the Beni territory of North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, indicated that he "joined the United Nations" in 1991. Interestingly, that year he was actually a delegate in the Mission of the Russian Federation and not at the U.N. Secretariat. That reference sounded as vague as his precise daily functions within the Secretariat when he indeed joined later. To be fair, he was perceived while at the Mission as a dynamic rising star who -- together with his socially active wife at the time -- enjoyed exploring Manhattan's lively spots, He seemed to undergo a personality change at the Secretariat -- perhaps due to pressure of work or new surroundings. For ten years, from 2007 to 2017, throughout Mr. Ban's tenure, he was Assistant Secretary General for the Rule of Law in Peacekeeping, which some thought duplicated work of the Legal Affairs Department. Mr. Titov also served as Africa Director in DPKO's Office of Operations.By now, Mr. Titov "of Russia" has spent 27 years in New York. His new Congo assignment by a new Secretary-General would offer amenable time to thoroughly investigate. Skol.

NEW DRAFTER?:

New statements and speeches by Secretary-General Guterres have been more usable and better circulated in mainstream media world-wide. Since October, he appeared -- with his photos -- almost regularly after his initial months of almost total oversight. Not only The New York Times (where the current Under-Secretary-General for Communications Alison Smale had worked) but other dailies in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere started paying attention. Whoever is operational in that direction deserves encouragement. After all, a better perceived -- and better heard -- Secretary-General is a welcome valuable asset for a relevant U.N.

3 DAQAT:

A casual Egyptian song at sunset in a beach resort went viral within weeks. "Abu," its main singer, achieved prominence as "3 Daqat," and received millions of hits. Yusra, a prominent Egyptian actress who shared in singing reached out to popular attention when she danced on its tune at a restaurant with all the waiters. Billionaire businessman Najib Saovirus was filmed joining in a rhythmic session. Arab TV stations from Al-Jazeera of Qatar to Al-Arabiyyah of Saudi Arabia to MBC in Dubai interviewed anyone connected with the song or appearing in it. "3 Daqat" means three heart beats.

NOT TONIGHT:

Snowbirds escaping record cold weather to the warmth of Caribbean's Martinique discovered that the French-administered island was the birthplace of Marie Josčphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, better known as "Josephine," the keen loving mistress of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who was himself born on the island of Corsica, which is obviously closer to Paris. Her reputed desire to being in constant loving with an otherwise busy commander-in-chief led to the famed quip: "Not tonight, Josephine."

PAUSE:

Make sure you are not irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

ADVICE:

When you let guys use you, be sure they're smart guys.
-- From "The Racket"

"CHANGING MIND":

Next time you change your mind, you do it with your own money.

LEBANE FIRST:

When Dr. Amal Mudallali presented her credentials to the Secretary-General, she became the first woman Permanent Representative of Lebanon to U.N. Headquarters. A wide number of Lebanese women served in various diplomatic posts. The Deputy Permanent Representative until very recently, Caroline Ziadeh, had served in Acting capacity for long periods; she has returned to Beirut to head the division for International Organization. There was also a woman as Permanent Representative in Geneva -- who happily married the Ambassador in Paris. Ms. Sahar Baassiri, a noted former columnist, was recently appointed as Representative to UNESCO. Obviously, Dr. Mudallali has a challenging task of reviving Lebanon's Permanent Mission after a somewhat obscure period of ponderosity. Yet she has a solid Communications background from her initial days as a journalist in An-Nahar daily (whose publisher, Ghassan Tueni, incidentally served as Permanent Representative in New York during a very delicate period, helping to establish UNIFIL in South Lebanon). After helping evolve Rafic Hariri Foundation in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mudallali sharpened her skills in working with a network of the U.S. capital's Public Relations professionals. That experience will come in handy as she handles particularly intricate U.N. issues.

NEW COUNCIL MEMBERS:

By January 1, 2018, Cotes d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland became the new five members of the U.N. Security Council, replacing Japan, Egypt, Italy, Senegal, Ukraine, and Uruguay. Other non-permanent members through the year are Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden, and -- sharing the arrangement -- the Netherlands and Italy. Five Permanent Members with veto rights are, in alphabetical order: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

HORST STUFF:

When German diplomat Horst Kohler was appointed last September as Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Secretary-General Guterres indicated that he looked forward "to travelling to the region" and "engaging with the parties in a spirit of trust and compromise." The appointment and hopeful remarks were particularly significant as the former envoy, Christopher Ross, a U.S. diplomat, was declared "persona non-grata" by Rabat. Yet, by January -- less than five months later -- Herr Horst's mission seemed to be floundering. Obviously without due preparation, he invited various parties to hold "indirect negotiations" in his capital city, Berlin. Morocco and the Polisario, plus Algeria and Mauritania, were invited. Anyone with slight knowledge of history will realize that such an initial gathering could not work without delicate consultations. Algeria is traditionally a direct supporter of Polisario, and Mauritania is actually split as a new country from Morocco. An already suspicious Rabat turned down the invitation. A local paper publicly "denied" any participation in Berlin. A week later, a Foreign Ministry official, announced that the harried Envoy will not be visiting Rabat in the near future. Here we go again. Another failure by another Personal Envoy. At least Christopher Ross spoke Arabic -- admittedly with a Syrian accent (having served earlier in Damascus) -- but could figure out what the various sides were talking about.

VALENTINE CARD:

An Irishman who enjoyed singing "My Funny Valentine," with emotional gusto, decided to go a step ahead of everyone else. He called his son Valentine. "Card" was his family's name. He wanted to make sure that on 14 February of every year, the favourite love of the young man will get a really personal Valentine Card.

"BEST" CARD:

When a general trend to exchange Valentine Cards was not yet popular world-wide as it is today with digital social media, a U.N. staffer, newly joined from a far-away country, was puzzled when he saw certain colleagues enthusiastically prepare Valentine Cards. When told that it was a wonderful occasion to contact those particularly important in one's life, he decided to send one to his immediate British male supervisor. It read: "East is East and West is West. From everywhere, I love you best."

NADIA YOUNES LECTURE:

The American University in Cairo indicated that the Nadia Younes Memorial Lecture this year will be given by Lubna S. Olayan, CEO and Deputy Chairman, Olayan Financing Company, on Monday, March 12, 2018 at Moataz Al Alfi Hall, AUC New Cairo. Lubna S. Olayan is the CEO and deputy chairman of Olayan Financing Company, the holding company through which the Olayan Group's trading, real estate, investment, consumer and industry-related operations are conducted in the Gulf region. In 2004, Olayan became the first woman to join the board of a publicly listed Saudi company when she was elected to the board of directors of Saudi Hollandi Bank (now Alawwal Bank), where she currently serves as vice chair. She is a trustee of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), as well as the Asia Business Council. In addition, Olayan chairs the UK-based Alfanar, the first venture philanthropy organization working exclusively in the Arab world. In recognition of her accomplishments, Olayan was named by Forbes as one of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2016 and 2017, and she was among Time magazine's 2005 list of the world's 100 most influential people. She has also been named by Fortune for many years as one of the Most Powerful Women internationally.

BEING A WOMAN. UNDERSTANDING LOVE:

On the occasion of International Women Day on 8 March, we reproduce a relevant quotation by Mother Teresa, who has recently been elevated to sainthood: "You and I, being women, we have this tremendous thing in us, understanding love. I see that so beautifully in our people, in our poor women, who day after day, and every day, meet suffering, accept suffering for the sake of their children. I have seen parents, mothers, going without so many things, so many things, even resorting to begging, so that the children may have what they need. I have seen a mother holding her handicapped child because that child is her child. She had an understanding love for the suffering of her child. I remember a woman who had twelve children, the first of them was terrible disabled, terribly handicapped. I cannot describe to you what the child looked like, mentally, physically, and I offered her to take that child into our home where we have so many like that; and she started crying and she said to me, 'Mother, don't say that. She is the greatest gift of God to me and my family. All our love is centered on this child. Our life would be empty if you took her away from us...' "

KISSINGER'S DOG:

Residents at Sutton Place neighborhood near the U.N. noticed special attention in handling a favorite dog by the most influential former Secretary of State. "Abby." a Labrador Retriever, is regularly driven for physical therapy treatment sessions while entering and leaving the car via a specially -- perhaps diplomatically -- slanted backdoor. The dog is 15 years old -- that is really old for a Retriever. Yet it seems to enjoy the luxury of its continued prominence. Just like its master.

SRI LANKA UNITY:

The U.N. diplomatic community joined Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera in celebrating Sri Lanka National Day at its Mission at 820 Second Avenue. In his address, the Ambassador highlighted his country's national unity -- which was reflected on the occasion when the national anthem was sung in the two local languages: "Namu, Namu, Sri Lanka." As the National Day, 4 February, fell on a Sunday, it was conveniently celebrated on Wednesday, the 7th. Traditional music and delicious food was enjoyed by all.

ARTIST:

"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist."
St. Francis of Assisi

DAMASCUS:

"My town. My love. Embrace me, no questions asked. You are in everyone I loved. Any love without you is untrue. Damascus. My wounds are like waves without shores. When will you wipe away my sorrow, my exhaustion?"
From a poem by departed prominent Syrian poet, Nizar Kabbani

NO CLASS:

The Ruling Class does not rule. The Working Class does not work. And the Middle Class is not in the Middle.

LA BAGETTE:

If Napoli's pizza could be declared a cultural heritage, why not the French Bagette? President Macron, a former finance expert devoted to enhancing France's unique culture, has suggested to UNESCO, headquartered in Paris and currently headed by a French citizen, to make an official adaptation. As every French man and woman carry their valued fresh bagette home, they will certainly appreciate their young President's quest. It's all in the crust.

PAUL BOCUSE:

When the Dean of World Chefs, certainly those from France, French chef Paul Bocuse died recently, other top chefs participating wore their professional outfits, while all attendants at the prayers in the church wore symbolic white. The first to highlight his role to an attentive constantly curious media, he built a legendary aura around cooking food. Varied sauces and creative combination drew gourmet writers everywhere. Although he rarely travelled away from Lyon, his name circulated worldwide.