15 MAY 2016


An excellent initiative by Italy and Jordan together with UNESCO on protecting cultural heritage was held on 28 April. At least there was an initiative to explore acting together against the destruction and trafficking of cultural properties by terrorist groups and organized crime. It is an effort in the right direction, particularly with the obvious silence of the Security Council and other powerful parties on taking real action in that regard.


An interesting exhibit was displayed by Kazakhstan inside the UN premises on "building a nuclear-safe world," a world without nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan is one of the very few countries which openly and publicly redeployed its nuclear capacity. Remember Chernobyl. It was a painful yet necessary commemoration of how nuclear capacity could go wrong and ordinary people could pay a heavy price. Ukraine, with its current weak government, at least put up a commemoration, yet so did many countries directly involved. However, quite frankly, more attention could have been paid not only for the memory, but for drawing appropriate lessons from that catastrophic event.


The annual report with statistics of the Institute for Strategic Affairs (ISA) indicated that there were 160,700 people killed during conflicts in 2015; one third in Syria, and generally eighty percent in Syria, Iraq, Latin America - particularly Mexico - Afghanistan, and Nigeria. The number of displaced people in 2015 was 46 million, compared to 43 million the year before, and 33 million in 2013. The world is really in very bad shape, with no leadership in sight. Also, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, over the last ten years, 1,189 journalists have been killed, with no one being held accountable. It seems the world is helpless.


There was an obviously low-key commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, with a normal-schedule morning gathering, and little attempt to draw attention to it, or involve prominent media. It is a long way from when the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) was at the forefront of highlighting the day, after it arranged to obtain the General Assembly Resolution declaring it. Noting the special effort by the International Press Service on that occasion, there was a feeling that it was indeed replacing the DPI in that regard. Changing times? Certainly.


AFICS has called for a general meeting on Thursday, 19 May at the Trusteeship Council in the UN Secretariat, from 3 PM to 6 PM. Access to the UN grounds will be via the 46th Street or 42nd Street entrance, with a valid UN ID. A reception will follow at 6 PM at Piccolo Fiore restaurant located at 230 East 44th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues). Cost will be $30 per person, by cheque payable to Treasurer, AFICS/NY mailed to AFICS/NY, United Nations, Room DC1-580, New York, NY 10017. Credit card payments are not accepted. A flyer can be found at http://www.un.org/other/afics.


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Director-General Irina Bokova of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) appointed 12 new members to the governing UN University (UNU) Council. The new appointees, who took office as of 3 May, replaced the retiring 2010-2016 cohort of UNU Council members and will serve for terms of either three or six years. The main functions of the Council are to formulate the principles and policies of the UNU, govern its operations, and consider and approve its biennial budget and work programme. Appointed members of the UNU Council serve in their individual capacity - not as representatives of their country's Government - and are selected with the aim of achieving a geographic and gender balance, with due regard for major academic, scientific, educational and cultural trends, as well as each member's fields of expertise. The new members of the UNU Council are:
Ernest Aryeetey (Ghana), Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana
Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz (Brazil), Scientific Director, Săo Paulo Research Foundation, and Professor, Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute, State University of Campinas
Simon Chesterman (Australia), Dean, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore
Elizabeth Cousens (USA), Deputy Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation
Isabel Guerrero Pulgar (Chile), Director, IMAGO Global Grassroots, and lecturer at Harvard and MIT
Angela Kane (Germany), Senior Fellow, Vienna Centre for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, and Professor, SciencesPo, Paris
Segenet Kelemu (Ethiopia), Director General and CEO, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
Bassma Kodmani (Syria), Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
Radha Kumar (India), Director General, Delhi Policy Group
Irena Lipowicz (Poland), Professor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (Warsaw)
Tsuneo Nishida (Japan), Director, Institute for Peace Science, Hiroshima University, and Director, Toho Zinc Co., Ltd.
Lan Xue (China), Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, and Director, China Institute for S&T Policy


"A politician is a man who approaches every question with an open mouth."
-- Adlai Stevenson, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN


"The Eleventh Commandment is: Thou shalt not be found out."


Nobody believes a rumor until it is officially denied.


"I have left orders to be awakened at any time during national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting."
-- Ronald Reagan


New York East Siders are used to traffic blocks and car sirens in September during the General Debate of the Assembly. They were surprised to witness it this April and wondered what was going on. It was Climate Change, actually. A number of senior government officials arrived to sign the Paris December Accord. They were not as many as those in December, but a couple or so expected the usual courtesy - and NYC obliged - just for two days.


"Nothing is so silly as the expression of a man who is being complimented."
-- André Gide


A British member of parliament, Ed Balls, was attempting to join the young digital generation by using his newly acquired Apple iPhone (smart phone/device) while in a shopping mall. He thought he sent a message, but ended up merely by placing his name, which went viral. Celebrated for being clueless, a day was informally pronounced throughout the United Kingdom "Balls Day". Ed is taking it in stride. Indeed, as a politician, he thinks it's given him wider publicity. After all, clueless people deserve representation in parliament.


A list giving the salaries of heads of state indicated that regardless of power, officials' salaries remain within specific bounds except of course for the Queen of England, who gets over 6 million dollars a year. For example, the US president gets about $400,000 a year, Russian president Putin 115,000, Syrian president Assad 252,000, Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping 20,000 (really?!), Venezuela 50 ,000, Germany 240,000 and France almost the same. The pope in the Vatican apparently gets no salary at all. That is perhaps why it was once said, "Thank God the pope has no children."


"The next time you want information, don't scratch for it like a dog, ask for it like a man!"

-- From "Sweet Smell of Success"


It is no longer a secret. An announcement was made by The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger that the international edition of The New York Times. published in Paris, will be closed down, while the global version will go digital. The Times had bought what was known as the International Herald Tribune, which had been a mainly European printed media since 1887. For a while, since 1967, The Times bought a share into it together with the Washington Post. A joint effort consolidated an international approach and gave the Paris-based paper more prominence and influence. With the total takeover by The Times, the paper was perceived differently yet still popularly noted as one of the main English-language prints in Europe. By now, and particularly with the impact of digital media, Times have changed.


Presidents of the general assembly come and go. Each has one rotating year to prove their acumen, irrelevance, or just regular performance. Some of them played a remarkable role, from a number of distinguished presidents in earlier years to president Samir Shehabi (Saudi Arabia) in 1990s, and president Jan Elaesson in the 2000s. There are also those who were totally neglected, others who may have overused their Office, or indeed one who was recently indicted. The current president of the 70th session of the General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, seemed to be doing fairly well particularly at accurately reading the scripts drafted for him by devoted staff. Yet apparently he has been feeling the pressure of time as he is about to leave. In an official note he had called for a "high level conversation" on religions for peace on 6th May. That would have been fine as an attempt to explore ways of solving an obvious problem, except that those "high level" speakers were expected "in light of time constraints" to limit the length of their statements to five minutes." To begin with, Mr. Lykketoft had no advance indication of how many speakers would fit within that time constraint. More to the point, however, how does an experienced politician from Denmark perceive such a problem to be solved in a 5-minute presentation? What would a "high-level" representative be able to say between "Mr. President" and "thank you?" -- what are the basic premises for that discussion? Any general guidelines? Any proposed consensus drafts? Who precisely are those high-level representatives purportedly suggesting solving an intricate issue facing the world for at least the last decade within five minutes under Mr. Lykketoft's watchful eyes? This issue is a very serious one. With millions of casualties, refugees, tensions and ongoing issues among states, it is a catastrophically serious one: give it the really serious consideration it deserves.


I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager)
I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 50 years later.
I don't have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance every month.
I have my own pad.
I don't have a curfew.
I have a driver's license and my own car.
I have ID that gets me into bars and the wine store.
I like the wine store best.
The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant,
They aren't scared of anything, they have been blessed to live this long,
Why be scared.
And I don't have acne.
Life is Good!
Also, you will feel much more intelligent after reading this, if you are a Seenager.
Brains of older people are slow because they know so much. People do not
decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because
they have more information in their brains, scientists believe this also makes
you hard of hearing as it puts pressure on your inner ear.
Much like a computer struggles as the hard drive gets full, so too, do humans
take longer to access information when their brains are full.
Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get
there, they stand there wondering what they came for. It is NOT a memory problem,
it is nature's way of making older people do more exercise.
(jovially forwarded to friends by Feodor Starcivic)



Carnegie Hall was full of Portuguese expatriates on Tuesday, April 26 as hip Fado singer Ana Moura, a young Portuguese singer, performed her modernized perception of her country's traditional music. Dancing with rhythm, she had helpful backup from guitarists who obviously travelled with her. Ana Moura is now one of the most popular artists in her country, particularly after her 2012 album Desfado, which remained at #1 for 45 weeks on the Portuguese language music charts, selling the most copies of any Portuguese record in the last decade, while reaching the charts in the UK, US and Spain.


Born on the Spanish island of Mallorca, Maria Concepcion Balboa Buika started singing when she was very young after joining a group of gypsies. She was motivated by her loneliness and to a degree the rejection of her talent where she felt she was considered as a "cero a la izquierda." Famous filmmaker Pedro Almodovar expressed admiration for her ability to draw from different genres as tango, bolero, Cuban music, and jazz with spontaneity and emotional ease. He cast her in one of his films, "The Skin I Live In," which led to her growing demand on her album "En Mi Piel". Buika performed at Carnegie Hall on the same evening as Ana Moura, only after the interval. Portuguese fans of Moura stayed along for Buika only to be strengthened by a fresh injection of Spaniards clamoring for more, even when the curtains were firmly closed, and were not opened again regardless of ten minutes' applause.


Apparently Adele will not go away soon. She is scheduled to return to New York, this time in a public venue with appropriately high prices. She will appear in September at Madison Square Garden with tickets starting at about over 350 dollars. This time, she will not be crossing the Atlantic to just to say Hello, but to charge highly for the call.


All music is appropriate to pay tribute to Congolese artist Papa Wemba, who passed away while performing in Cote d'Ivoire. While Congolese is one of the most underestimated and perhaps least known musical scenes outside of Africa, Papa Wemba managed to produce typically African songs like "Yolele," "Kaokokokorobo," and "Sai Sai," together with French titles like "Pourquoi" and English like "Show Me The Way". UN visitors to his country recall the pride with which his people welcomed his mingling with them during taking visitors across the river. He was a gracious host as well as a talented artist.


With tragic images of migrating children dying at sea and victims of terror, bombings in Brussels, some delegate in New York, for some reason, found an opportunity to push for the proclamation of "Happiness Day." "Where is that delegate living?" would be one question. Another is, "Would someone now have the nerve to designate a special advisor for that day?!"


Finally, after about two decades of managing to hang on to an almost titular but obviously valuable U.N. senior appointment, Terje Roed-Larsen will be leaving as Special Envoy on the Implementation of Resolution 1559 relating to Lebanon, which he was unable to visit in recent years. By the end of May, according to an official notification, his presumed task will be handled, as appropriate, by the Under-Secretary General of Department of Political Affairs.


Eric Solheim of Norway was approved as the new Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) based in Nairobi. He succeeds Achim Steiner of Germany who had served for ten years. Two pillars who built that operation, Maurice Strong of Canada and Mustafa Tolba of Egypt, had passed away earlier this year. Would its newly-designated Director revive its fading fortune or would merely be another politically expedient appointment?



Photo Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe


Photo Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe


Photo Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Photo Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard


Photo Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten


Photo Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas