15 MAY 2017


A delay in producing www.unforum.com was due to a number of elements, including pre-occupation by its Executive editor Samir Sanbar with producing his new book: "Inside the U.N. in a Leaderless World," together with a number of medical exams following travel abroad, in addition to the basic change at the U.N. with the election of the new Secretary-General, requiring consideration of the evolving new set up. As of now, we hope to keep posting regularly.


"I appeal to all governments and societies to promote the values of tolerance and respect for diversity and to build a world where no one has to be afraid because of their orientation or identity."
-- Antonio Guterres, new U.N. Secretary General


He's already gone.


Artist, actress and activist Angelina Jolie visited the headquarters of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to renew her commitment to offer help during a drastically growing expanding tragedy.


The American University of Cairo indicated that the annual Nadia Younes Memorial lecture for this year will be cancelled "due to unforeseen circumstances."


After initially joining the U.N. as a speechwriter, James Sutterlin became a valuable mainstay at the Secretariat, particularly during the term of Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. His welcoming friendly smile and open mind made him a focal point among colleagues to whom he consistently volunteered caring advice. After retirement, he initiated a valuable Oral History to create an impressive series for his family. May his soul rest in peace.


A new Executive Secretary was appointed to head the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Africa, Ms. Vera Songwe of Cameroon; for Europe, Ms. Olga Algayerova from Slovakia; and for Western Asia, Mr. Ali Alhakim of Iraq. One year extensions where given to the Executive Secretaries of Asia and Pacific and Latin America.


The generally embarrassing U.N. mission in Haiti was closed down to adapt to a new smaller less expensive operation. MINUSTAH was replaced by MINUJUSTH. Let's hope it doesn't get labeled like its predecessor, as TOURISTAH.


Not exactly. The head of the U.N. mission in The Central African Republic is Mr. Parfait Onanga-Amyanga. Despite repeated awkward press reports about sex abuse and other misbehavior by troops, including those from his own country, Gabon, the former special assistant to a former Deputy Secretary General and personal assistant to a former General Assembly President remains untouched, ceremoniously placing wreaths of flowers on stones marking dead U.N. officials. "Parfait" would certainly not reflect the state of that mission.


Varied interpretations were given over the years about what were the secrets that were kept passed when three young Portuguese shepherds felt the sun dancing as they had a vision. Some mentioned a world war, another a revolution and a third related to an attempt at the life of a Pope. Mysteries still remain out of public domain. Yet the site of the apparition itself draws faithful and tourists from around the world. An apparition in Portugal a hundred years ago this May was celebrated by Pope Francis who visited the shrine of Lady Fatima and held a mass at its cathedral amongst over half a million participants who carried candles and chanted at the site where canonized shepherds Jacinta and Francisco Marto together with their cousin Lucia de Jesus dos Santos reported their vision. As one of the reported secrets related to an attempt at the head of the Vatican, Pope John Paul of Poland made a special visit to seek more details after an attempt by a Turkish expatriate to kill him.


Eurovision song competition is the most contested musical event among aspiring artists. It was held this May in Ukraine. For the first time the voted winner was from Portugal. Salvador Sobral sang "Amar Palos Dois," which was written by his sister who, when receiving the prize, joined him in a duet. A Bulgarian won the second prize and the third went to Moldova, A young Italian singer who attracted popular applause for his theatrical performance came sixth. It was about Amore.


A collective thrill by U.N. mainstream media when President Trump approved hitting a Syrian airport with missiles in response to the use of chemical weapons went beyond political support to an emotional welcome for using weapons. Brian Williams, a former prominent NBC anchor who was sidelined after a credibility issue, went on CNBC to extol the "beauty of our weapon" quoting Canadian poet and singer Leonard Cohen, who certainly would not have approved. Perhaps Brian Williams was guided more by his own perception of the song than by the military action. Having been sent into media wilderness after a very central role he would identify with other parts of the song/poem, like "they sentenced me to years of boredom for trying to change the system from within." Then the poet proclaims "first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin."


The decision to appoint German diplomat Achim Steiner to head UNDP was taken while a popular French candidate Ms. Ségolène Royal was making a special effort to get it. Ms. Royal, who had once competed for her country's presidency and is the mother of the children of outgoing President François Hollande (long before his helmet cycling experience!), may not have been fully supported by diplomats at the Q'uai d'Orsay who would have perceived it as a way to give up another senior post, that of Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping. In the usual distribution of posts among influential countries, two high level posts like UNDP and Peacekeeping would not usually be taken by the same country. Now that a German has taken over UNDP and a French diplomat given one year at Peacekeeping, another Q'uai colleague would be hoping to get it next year. Mais, qui?


After the Brexit vote, Britain and Spain have been fighting over Gibraltar, a mountainous rock named after an Arab. Gabal Tarek, its historic Arabic version with eventual adaptation was initially named after Tariq bin Ziyad who commanded his troops from there to conquer Spain after burning his ships and announcing in a famous speech. "The sea is behind you and the enemy in front of you..." Andalucia became their seat of power for about 800 years during a golden period of creative innovative culture until an obsession with palace intrigue, music, poetry and luxurious life amongst an increasingly impoverished population eroded their rule. As Grenada fell, the fleeing Emir started to sob when reaching a nearby boat. His mother scolded him saying: "Don't cry like a child over a throne you could not keep like a man." Most inhabitants remained and mixed or converted, injecting many words in what is now Yanito. Some would claim that about 40%, even in the current Spanish language, is originally Arabic-like alzeite (oil) al savon (soap), camisa(shirt). Even the town nearby Gibraltar is known in Spanish as al-Jazaeras, Arabic for island.


While it is almost certain that the Under-Secretary-General for Management Yukio Takasu will be leaving that post, he will still remain linked with the UN Secretariat as the Special Adviser on Human Security. Days before leaving his main office he was designated in an additional, yet familiar, capacity. Mr. Takasu was formerly appointed as Special Adviser on Human Security in 2010, a role which he concurrently undertook during his tenure as Under-Secretary-General for Management (2012-2017). He will lead the follow-up to the General Assembly resolution (A/RES/66/290) on human security. He will work closely with Member States, in partnership with United Nations system of organizations and other stakeholders to advance the human security approach in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and the sustaining peace agenda. Mr. Takasu will lead the United Nations advocacy efforts on mainstreaming human security, advance the implementation of the framework for cooperation on the system-wide application of human security approach, advise the Secretary-General on the management of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security and future expansion of its donor base, and provide operational guidance to the Human Security Unit. The position is unsalaried. He has a long and distinguished career related to the United Nations activities in the Government of Japan, the United Nations and as an academic. He has held several senior diplomatic positions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, including Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, and senior positions in the United Nations, including Assistant Secretary-General, Controller of the United Nations. Mr. Takasu has held academic positions at Harvard University, the University of Tokyo and the Graduate University for Policy Studies in Japan. Mr. Takasu was educated at the University of Tokyo (Faculty of Law) and Oxford University (Merton College).


*He is "I" on specialist.


The month of May signals 50 years of the most widely sold book of fiction in the 20th century "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Initially, it took him about ten years to write it and the original printing house in Buenos Aires was not sure to produce it. He was so poor at the time that he had to borrow money for postage to send it to print 800 copies. It ended up selling 30 million.


"INSIDE THE UNITED NATIONS IN A LEADERLESS WORLD" -- obtainable via Amazon.com -- offers an account of personal observations and inside anecdotes by SAMIR SANBAR who worked at the United Nations for 33 years in varied assignments with Five Secretaries-Generals.

Inspired as a student reporter by an encounter in Beirut with a peacemaking Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, he joined the U.N. as a press officer and left as Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Department of Public Information. In a practical perspective, he contrasts an earlier vital role by the U.N. to a currently less practical perspective, and less relevant one, giving examples of a once Nobel-Prized Peacekeeping to recent embarrassing reports.

He worked at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, and was also an active representative in field missions helping to establish the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, the extension of UNDOF along the Syrian-Israeli border, serving on a mediating team during the crisis over U.S. hostages in Tehran and an Iraq-Iran ceasefire. He strengthened the world-wide network of U.N. Information Centers, organized world television summits, launched "Voices for Peace" where popular stars like Maestro Pavarotti highlighted human issues, and initiated gatherings to encourage dialogue among professions, regions and cultures. As chairman of the Appointment and Promotion Board he implemented the designation of women in senior positions, raising their representation to 60-percent in his own department.

The opening chapter, "Crossing First Avenue" recounts what happened at Headquarters on the East River, particularly when New Yorkers mainly experience traffic jams. "Absolute Power" displays how usually sensible individuals turn insensitive. "Misunderstanding the World" recounts examples of conflicts caused by unintended consequences. Lighthearted chapters "A Name is Just a Name," "A Song on the Side" and "Watch Your Language" are followed by an insider perspective of electing a Secretary-General.

Examples of performance by Peacekeeping missions are recounted during a changing pattern of war and a changing nature of peace, pointing out a new tendency to inflate the number of Special Envoys: "never had so many accomplished so little." The impact of digital communications in international relations is evaluated in "E-Diplomacy: Where's That Bridge?" pointing to a claimed accomplishment of preparing effectively for the 21st Century. "Where are the Leaders?" notes, while viewing "high-level" gatherings, the erosion of national leaders with international appeal. "Are Halos Out and Selfies In?" is one of many questions raised, reviewing lack of effective handling of current extended expanded conflicts.

While ending with a description of the visitor's area at the U.N. compound, the unique role of a credible international civil service is highlighted with a need to invigorate it with young women and men with equitable representation. The author add that a revived dynamic U.N. is worth a special effort. In a conflicted, leaderless, fragmented world with pressing issues requiring concerted action across borders, a credible U.N. would offer a hopeful role.

Inside the United Nations: In a Leaderless World by Samir Sanbar; Category: Memoir, International Politics, Diplomacy; ISBN:978-0692770184, Soft Cover, 482 pages, $19.95; Available: Amazon.com


"When the winds of change blow, some build walls, some build windmills."


Our former colleague Manoel Almeida E Silva has produced an interesting book on the secrets of his hometown, Rio de Janiero. Having served initially in the UN Rio Information Center, Manoel worked with UNHCR, the UN Commission in Africa and as Deputy UN Spokesman in New York, before deciding to return home. Throughout, he was a prominent member of, the Rio annual carnival dancing group.


An interesting group has been formed on Facebook involving "former and current UN staff," FCUNS. There is active membership by a number of colleagues with daily notification by UN staff union representative Lowell Flanders and DPI NGO Chief Maria Luis Chavez while others join in as it gains popularity.


Desperate Times:

"Time to build an ocean and have Australia pay for it."


Talk about Israeli Palestinian relations would suggest the following translation of a human interest poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:

He is calm. So am I
He sips lemon tea. I sip coffee.
That's the only difference between us.
He, like me, wears a striped wide shirt.
I, like him, read the evening papers.
He doesn't see me stealing a glance at him
Neither do I when he does.
He is quiet and so am I.
He, like me, asks the waiter a question.
A black cat passes between is. I touch its nightly fur and so dies he.
I do not tell him that the sky is clear and more blue; he does not tell me the sky is clear.
He sees and feels being seen.
I am seeing and feel being seen.
I move my right leg; he moves his left leg.
I hear my tune, he hears his-
I think: is he the mirror of my real soul?
Then I look but he is nowhere. I think: he may be my killer or perhaps a person who I thought I was his killer. He is afraid. And so am I.


Why did Adele cross the ocean?

To say "Hello".


The Rockefeller family gave the UN its current compound to help establish it in NY as opposed to San Francisco, where the Charter was signed. David Rockefeller died recently at the age of 101. One of the architects planning the Secretariat building enjoyed telling a story of how an interior decorator charged with decorating the Rockefeller's new Wall Street office in its Chase Manhattan headquarters, made a special effort to show a very impressive collection of ornaments and statues. Instead, Mr. David Rockefeller cut it down to a very simple desk and chairs overlooking the river after commenting: "Whom do I need to impress?"


Devant les conflits qui ravagent le monde, on se demande souvent à quoi sert l'ONU. Elle est à la fois dénigrée pour ses insuffisances, souvent critiquée pour son impuissance mais aussi louée pour ses réussites. Les chefs d'Etat se pressent à New York tous les ans à l'ouverture de la session de l'Assemblée générale. Le feraient-ils si l'ONU ne pouvait agir, si sa tribune ne comptait plus ? Ou est la vérité ?

L'ONU est née il y a soixante-dix ans, à la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Elle devait assurer la paix et la sécurité internationales, favoriser le développement et le respect des droits l'homme. Les années ont passé. Les Nations Unies sont toujours là mais le Moyen-Orient est en feu, la population syrienne souffre le martyre, de nouveaux flots de réfugiés sont apparus, la pauvreté n'a pas été éradiquée, le réchauffement climatique menace le monde.

Alors, que fait l'ONU ? A quoi sert-elle ? Que peut-on attendre du nouveau Secrétaire général, Antonio Guterres ?

Jean-Marc de La Sablière, Ambassadeur de France, ancien représentant de la France au Conseil de sécurité qui fut également conseiller du Président Chirac est l'un des meilleurs connaisseurs en France de l'ONU. Il nous emmène sans complaisance au coeur de l'Organisation. Ce voyage parcourt avec réalisme tous les chemins, celui des crises et des conflits, des droits de l'homme et de l'action humanitaire, du développement et du climat .Il croise également dans une narration vivante, les Institutions ou s'élaborent les normes qui encadrent bien des activités de notre vie quotidienne à l'heure de la mondialisation. Il avance en répondant aux questions qui lui sont souvent posées et à chaque étape il s'interroge : quel est l'apport de l'ONU ? Est-il majeur, secondaire, remplaçable ? La conclusion se construit au fil de la lecture : l'ONU, malgré toutes ses imperfections, reste indispensable ; c'est un bien commun trop précieux pour ne pas avoir l'ambition de le défendre et de le réformer.


Immediately upon taking over, Secretary-General Guterres promptly appointed the highly-regarded Mrs. Viotti, former Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations, as Chef de Cabinet, Ms. Amina Mohamed as Deputy Secretary-General, and other executives in his office. There are pending questions of regular appointments of department heads, particularly from the five permanent members of the Security Council. Until now, perhaps wisely, he gave several months to one year extensions/appointments. What happens to the US post for Political Affairs under President Trump administration; the Russian post, the British under Prime Minister Ms. Teresa May and France under President Macron remains to be seen.


Yusra Mardini tells her story at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. © David G McIntyre/Zuma Press

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today announced the appointment of Syrian refugee and Olympic athlete Yusra Mardini as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Since her selection for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Mardini has worked closely with UNHCR, highlighting with her own inspiring performances the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team and the wider global refugee crisis.

She has become a powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and a powerful example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities.

At the UN General Assembly in September 2016, Mardini advocated for the rights of refugees to have access to safe shelter, education, livelihoods and training opportunities.

In January 2017 she represented UNHCR at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she was the youngest participant. Addressing high profile audiences she stressed that, with the average length of exile now standing at 17 years, refugees need hope for their future and the one of their children, and not just a life in limbo. "With food for our stomachs, refugees can survive. But only if they are given food for the soul will they be able to thrive," she said.

Over the past year Mardini has also advocated for the refugee cause during meetings with the Pope, President Obama as well as with royalty, influential business figures and other world leaders.

"There is no shame in being a refugee if we remember who we are. We are still the doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, students we were back at home. We are still the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. It was war and persecution that drove us from our homes in search of peace. That is refugee. That is who I am. That is who we all are, that growing population of people without a country. I am a refugee and I'm proud to stand for peace, for decency and dignity for all those fleeing violence. Join me. Stand with us."

Welcoming Yusra Mardini's appointment as UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi said: "Yusra is a deeply inspiring young woman. Through her powerful personal story, Yusra represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than ten million young refugees around the globe," he said.

IOC President Thomas Bach said: "The participation of Yusra and her fellow athletes of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 sent a message of hope to all refugees in the world. It demonstrated to a global public that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. It is my hope that through her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra will continue to inspire refugees, reminding us that anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit."

Accepting her new role, Yusra said: "I am thrilled to join the UNHCR family and eager to continue spreading the message that refugees are just normal people living through traumatic and devastating circumstances, who are capable of extraordinary things if only given a chance. The UN Refugee Agency does the most important and incredible work for refugees under extremely challenging circumstances, and I am proud to use my voice to support UNHCR."


Anne Gueguen was appointed Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York on April 24th 2017. Since September 2016, she has served as Political Adviser / Political Affairs Coordinator of the Security Council at the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York. Previously, Anne Gueguen served for 3 years as Deputy at the French Embassy in Tunis (2013-2016). She has also worked for more than seven years as an international civil servant in the Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat in New York. There, she first served within the Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions surveillance team, then within the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and finally in the Middle East and West Asia Division, where she was in charge of the Middle East (2006-2013). Anne Gueguen also served as Deputy Director of North Africa and the Middle East at the Quai d'Orsay (2004-2005); First Secretary to the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York, in charge of North Africa and the Middle East (2000-2004); Second secretary in Cairo in charge of political affairs and press (1997-2000) and followed several files in the North Africa and Middle East zone at the beginning of her professional career in the administration (1994-1996). Anne Gueguen graduated from Sciences Po Paris and holds an undergraduate degree in Arabic studies. She is a Knight of the National Order of Merit.


UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

During the Security Council meeting on Non-Proliferation DPRK, presided over by the U.S. Secretary of State, obviously visible seating just behind the Secretary-General was South Korean (outgoing) staffer, Mr. Kim, who was prominently close to outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and who mysteriously remained, however temporarily, a part of the current group. The question raised by diplomats was what was the point of having an obvious position during a controversy over North Korea for a South Korean behind the U.N. Secretary-General whose good offices could eventually be helpful in finding a diplomatic way out of the current crisis? Mr. Kim's presence would certainly erode such a likelihood. If it was to impress the presiding U.S. Secretary of State it would have been counter-productive, particularly after President Trump publicly suggested a negotiated overture.


Over the years, International Woman's day was prominently celebrated by the U.N. Secretariat throughout the day with active participation by prominent women, within and outside the U.N. system. Regrettably, this year there was hardly a gathering to highlight it. An average meeting on 8 March 2017 with the regular statement by the Secretary-General, which was the least that could be done. To be fair, in terms of actions, Secretary-General Guterres has appointed a woman as his Deputy, another capable female as his Chef de Cabinet, as well as the recent appointments of three women to senior posts in regional commissions ESCWA, ECLAC and ESCAP and extended a fourth for a year in ECLAC.