15 May 2005

WHOM TO BELIEVE:

A delegate to an administrative committee asked on Monday 2 May whether the Assistant Secretary General, Office of Human Resources Management Rosemary McCreery was leaving. The emphatic response was negative. Don't believe what you hear in the corridors came the emphatic answer. Less than two hours later it was announced that Ms. McGreery was leaving. She will return to UNICEF. No reason was given for the sudden decision. Maybe she found out that with the spread of fiefdoms of real influence, she had very little to influence while being blamed for what she was not really accountable.

VOICE RECORDINGS:

There is increasing talk about some voice recordings of interviews with a certain high-level official which may circulate if those who possess them felt they were not getting appropriate hearing. Efforts are reportedly underway to find a satisfactory outcome.

WEATHER BROADCASTER:

We received several enquiries about the identity of the very senior official who developed a recent passion to broadcast the weather. Apparently the man got quite worried when a visitor philosophically mentioned that you did not need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind was blowing.

CANNES JUNKET - CONTINUED:

In addition to the "30-strong" team to the April junket in Cannes, one officer from the Department of Public Information who was instructed to urgently join the hurried "leader" was requested, equally urgently, to stop in his tracks. As the man was already on his way, with a valid travel authorization and partially used ticket, he was asked to explore further excuses for his travel but not to approach the location of the conference. Thus a perfectly good professional was given a perfectly good excuse to have a perfectly good time. Not having to see the self-proclaimed leader was an added bonus.

READ CAREFULLY:

A news item that quoted a Chinese official as supportive of a bid by Thailand for the post of U.N. Secretary General raised interest amongst diplomats who had noted a remark days earlier by Secretary General Annan that there was a consensus on Asia's turn -- giving the impression of an orchestrated approach. While it is difficult to ascertain what Mr. Annan actually said or meant during his Bendung Asia visit, it may be advisable to read the news item carefully. It was originally by a Thai news agency and the only direct quote from the Chinese was that they consider the Thai Deputy Prime Minister a "qualified" person. Another Asian candidate is former U.N. Under-Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala. Maybe Sri Lankan authorities need to check with neighbourly Beijing whether he is equally "qualified" -- if not more.

INVITATION TO MOSCOW:

There were those who were invited to Moscow and those who were not -- but asked to be invited. That was what a senior Russian official explained when questioned about accommodations to varied visitors to the Russian capital to commemorate 60th anniversary victory of Nazi Germany. Mr. Kofi Annan reportedly was amongst those who had asked, according to that official. Hence, his absence from central media viewing. Accomodation was eventually arranged at the Metropole, nearby some members of the Chinese delegation. Other delegates were spread out in several hotels, like The Beijing (where, naturally,some more Chinese felt at home), or the Berlin (where, you guessed it) the Germans were billeted. Why would our Secretary General seek an invitation? Would he hope to mend a fence, rub a shoulder, explore a distant option, seek to read tea leaves, or just get away from New York these days? Only his close or other advisors would know.

PRO BONO BONO:

Our distinguished Secretary General may have one-upped every international figure in accumulating pro bono lawyers, pro bono public relations consultants, and pro bono advisors. However, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has the real Bono. And Pro bono. Yes, the Strong man and the "U-2" Jazz man had a slight misunderstanding recently, mainly because Irish eyes (with dark glasses) felt that his Canadian pal was not paying enough attention to the poor of the world championed in such hell holes like Davos, Switzerland or Cannes, France. But, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, their bond is "a strategic partnership." In fact, the temporarily jolted Prime Minister insisted he will be attending a forthcoming concert by "U-2" in Ottawa and might even sing on stage. Tickets of course will not be pro bono and the revenue is not likely to go to Bandar Aceh.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

It was announced early May that Michael Von der Schulenberg, a former U.N. representative in Teheran, among other places, was appointed Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs in Iraq. It was also announced over a month ago that Steffan Demistura was appointed Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in Iraq (we understand he was mainly based in Amman Jordan). Over a year ago, it was announced that Ashraf Qazi was appointed Special Representative in Iraq. What these people do remains one of the best kept secrets.

SHASHI & SHASHI:

It seems the shameless promoter, despite his short span of attention, recognized his nosedive in general perception. Hence his search for relief from his last and only resort. He obtained a letter extolling his "modernizing" efforts and expressing pleasure and satisfaction with the progress achieved under his leadership. With such manifestation of confidence, proudly circulated to all DPI staff, the drafter and draftee will more likely be drafting together along a more downward trend in public perception. Carry on, Shashi.

NEWEST BUZZ WORD:

Its "modernist." Since our good friend John Ruggie separated the flock between modernist and traditionalist, anyone with a determination to "curry" favour describes himself or herself into the newest category. No hard work required; no experience needed. Just get someone to describe you as such -- verbally, or in writing (provided you drafted the right sequence). Regular staff devoting their full-time to performing their functions have not yet caught up and they have only themselves to blame. If you're a "traditionalist," a "modernist" will have every right to freeze you out. When in doubt, look at the shameless curl's display of notable photographs, and follow suit.

BRUSSELS OPENING:

As one of the most effective U.N. field Information Directors, Hassan Fodha prepares to leave end June, jockeying is underway for his position as head of the newly created "Regional European" centre in Brussels. It is no secret at Headquarters that DPI current head Shashi Tharoor would like to appoint someone he has known for at least fifteen years, former Le Monde New York correspondent Afsane Basir-Pour. The French-Iranian also knows Secretary General Kofi Annan fairly well. Now living in Geneva, Afsane made a point of needling then-Secretary General Boutros-Ghali; but that was in the course of her work and he eventually took it into stride. It was noted that the job announcement had to be re-issued because the initial one would have made it more difficult for her to be selected. Still, the office of Personnel reportedly finds she does not have management experience to run a regional office. Her supporters, however, say that she is experienced and smart enough to learn quickly. There are already 17 candidates including several European communicators with recognized experience in the international press field. Although the "regional experiment" will have to undergo a review, it may be advisable to base the selection on the kind of office required -- whether Brussels would remain the only office or it is realized that other focal points in key capitals are crucial. Another viewpoint is that the type of director could determine the nature of the future operation. Let's wait and see.

AS PREDICTED, LAMY FOR WTO:

As predicted in the last two issues of unforum, Pascal Lamy has won the leadership of the World Trade Organisation. His confirmation is expected during a general meeting 26 May. We had first mentioned Lamy while explaining the reason for the quick unexpected appointment of the Thai incumbent to the top UNCTAD post, indicating it was mainly aimed at vacating the post for Mr. Lamy. We repeated it in the last issue in a story reviewing candidates for UNHCR by explaining that the European agreement on the American proposed World Bank directorship was in return for having the Frenchman at WTO. Mr. Lamy, a socialist graduate of elite French ecoles served as Chief of Staff to former European Commisioner Jacque Delors. He takes over officially next September.

DEPUTY DIRECTOR UNICEF:

Rima Salah has taken over as Deputy Director of UNICEF. An experienced professional with proven commitment to the welfare of children, Ms. Salah managed successful operations in some of the most difficult field areas. A national of Jordan, she gained high regard not only in the Arab region but throughout the developing world where she left an impressive mark. Based on her record, she will provide a valuable back-up for newly-appointed UNICEF Director, Ann Veneman.

COMMITTEES MERGED:

Two committees were announced to reinforce and to implement internal management reform recommendations, as well as a new board to assess the performance of senior managers. A 12-member Policy Committee will meet once a week to consider issues requiring strategic guidance and decisions and identify emerging issues, and will have its own secretariat in the existing Strategic Planning Unit, Chief of Staff, Mark Malloch Brown, said in a letter to all UN staff last Friday. A Management Committee, with seven members, will meet once a month on internal reform and management-related issues, he said. The two committees, to be chaired by the Secretary-General, will replace several existing single-issue coordination mechanisms, which had been formed on an ad hoc basis, according to Mr. Malloch Brown. A Management Performance Board, chaired by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette, will monitor and analyze the performance of managers to ensure that they properly discharge their responsibilities. Two Under-Secretaries-General have been asked to sit on the Board -- in their individual capacities -- for two years. They are UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland and Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management Jian Chen. Former World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Namanga Ngongi will serve as the external third participant, required to have extensive experience at the UN. The Under-Secretaries-General of Management and Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) will also sit in on the Board's meetings. The existing Senior Management Group will now meet every two weeks for exchanges of information and experiences among a wider group of managers and to provide guidance on important, cross-cutting issues, he said.

OLD RENEWABLE ADVICE:

The following advice was volunteered by a true friend of an Arab ruler who thought he was invincible and surrounded himself with incense burners and opportunists just before the fragmented crumbling of the empire: "Those who lie to you do not help you. Those truthful to you will not deceive you. Do not encourage your senior officers to hit others, for they will acquire the habit and hit you. Do not nudge them to break their word of honour for they will break it eventually with you.

NICOLE'S PASS:

Actress Nicole Kidman may be a well-known actress around the world but she needed a pass to enter the U.N. compound. During a chat in London, the former Mrs. Tom Cruise said that every time she had to enter the building during the filming of the "Interpreter" she had to present identification then wait for about 10 minutes for calls to be made and instructions to be allowed through. Clearly she could have been given a special pass. But that would have deprived her from contacting the one and only facilitator who would arrive hurriedly to offer a profuse welcome.

KWAKWA:

Thanks to Mr. Kwakwa we learned that staff of the World International Property Organization (WIPO) were permitted to have outside business interests "as long as they were reported to the agency, approved by the Director General and did not involve intellectual property." He was explaining away an investigation by the Swiss authorities of WIPO staffer Khamis Sueidi who reportedly received 325,000 Swiss Francs from Ghanian "businessman" Michael Wilson who admitted receiving a large "consultation fee" from a consortium that help review WIPO Geneva headquarters. Wilson was mentioned in the Volcker report as a sometime business partner of Kojo Annan. A Cotecna Vice-President, he had discussed Kojo's future upon graduation and found him a job with Cotecna. Mr. Kwakwa is WIPO Legal Counsel.

HELLO FARKAS:

Less than two years inside the building and Susan Farkas considers herself an authority of what is good for the U.N., what would help the Secretary General and, in brief, what should or should not be said and done. The diminutive newly appointed head of radio and television is a professional who had received a welcome upon the advice of some of her friends, in the hope that she would be considerate with her colleagues, focus on the work at hand, and LEARN rather than try to lecture others that know much more than she does about an organization which she used to describe to others, before joining it, in unprintable terms.

LOW PRIORITY FOR FREE PRESS DAY:

The freedom of the press seems far from being assured, according to Reporters Sans Frontier in a statement issued on the World Press Freedom Day. Last year, 2004, witnessed the highest number of victims amongst journalists since a decade: 53 dead. The International Federation of Journalists in Brussels also issued a similar bleak assessment highlighting an erosion of civil liberties and freedom of expression, even in countries habitually known for tolerance and pluralism. At U.N. Headquarters which had adopted and launched World Press Freedom Day in braver times, the commemoration was so low key that it did not figure as one headline in its main page, but it appeared with small letters under a small subtitle entitled U.N. Affairs, the Secretary General mainly carrying the usual message of the day. How low can you go?

THREE COLOMBIAN PRESIDENTS:

The Vatican Protocol Chief was somewhat perplexed during the inauguration facilities of Pope Benedict XVI. First he had to introduce "His Excellency Presidente Alvero Oribe" then he was faced with the real Alvero Oribe, President of Colombia. After sorting out that the first visitor was a hoax, a third man strode up pronouncing himself with confident pomp to be the President of Colombia. The new Pope seemed to have taken it in his stride. Maybe the real senior Oribe will have to work on his international image. Otherwise, it may be wrongly assumed that if you've seen one Colombian president, you've seen them all.

GEIR PEDERSEN FOR LEBANON:

As predicted in an earlier issue, Geir O. Pedersen was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General for South Lebanon. During a party given in his honour by Lebanon's Charge d'Affaires Ibrahim Assaf, Pedersen displayed an ability to listen and an open attitude to his new delicate assignment. Having worked closely with the experienced Under-Secretary General Sir Kieran Prendergast, the former Norwegian diplomat will have an informed support system at Headquarters while exploring the shifting terrain of his new assignment. He is likely to play a more effective and substantive role with less fanfare than the outgoing photo enthusiast Demistura.

A SWEDE AT OIOS:

The Auditor-General of Sweden Inga-Britt Ahlenius was appointed head of the Office of Internal Oversight, replacing Dileep Nair. A general agreement is to rotate that almost independent post between developed and developing countries. Nair's predecessor was Karl Paschke, an enlightened German communicator/diplomat who had the added talent of playing good jazz music. We don't know what personal talents Ms. Ahlenius may have; but as a Swede she must have that unflinching devotion to the United Nations that her compatriots seem to have. Sweden has offered so many sacrifices for the international community -- starting with Count Bernadotte and our greatest incomparable Secretary General Dag Hammerskjold, not to forget Olof Palme and our dear friend Anna Lindt.

WARREN SACH, CONTROLLER:

It was not only fair to appoint Warren Sach as Controller, it was the right thing to do. Warren, a U.K. citizen, had toiled through the labyrinth of financial and administrative committees for over a decade. Even as Deputy Controller, he maintained his tireless routine, always trying to follow up the latest demarche and doing his best to arrive at a consensus. He takes over from an equally dedicated, hard working and experienced colleague, former Controller Jean-Pierre Hallbachs, who opted for early retirement -- considering the mess in which he had nothing to do but -- as a good soldier -- had to confront. Thanks, J-P. Best of luck, Warren.

WHY THE PROMOTION?

Swiss investigation into the renovation of World International Property Organization headquarters in Geneva focused on the role of Khamis Suedi who, according to investigated businessman Michael Wilson, received a payment of 300,000 Swiss Francs. WIPO Director General Kamel Idriss has backed Suedi's claim that he did nothing wrong and that the money involved a joint project in his native Tanzania. Mr. Idriss must have thought very highly of Mr. Suedi. When taken over WIPO, the new Sudanese Director General proposed the promotion of his Tanzanian colleague from Director of U.N. Relations to Assistant Secretary General and Special Advisor. According to internal rules, now under reconsideration, staff could conduct business upon the approval of the Director General. What business will never be clear as Mr. Suedi returns home later this year covered by full immunity. Sounds familiar?