15 September 2007


The high level Security Council meeting on climate change to be chaired by France's President Sarkozy promises interesting encounters of varied kinds. One will be between the U.S. President and the representative of the United Kingdom to that meeting. Bush Administration people have been leaking stories about their unhappiness with the appointment of U.N. Deputy Secretary General Lord Mark Malloch Brown in the newly-formed British cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs for Environment, Africa and the U.N. Guess who will be seated alphabetically next to each other?


Can't they change that name? The abbreviation of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has been an inside joke long enough for those in charge to produce a less awkward one. Now that a "High Level" gathering is contemplated for 24 September, "UN/FCCC" will be highlighted repeatedly as distinguished leaders stress their great and urgent need for one. When approached, a serious official thought that the word "Conclusive" could be injected, thus adding a fourth C. Let's hope they don't inject "Urgent".


A talented young man who joined the office of Secretary General twenty years ago, Javier Perez de Ceullar, as Special Assistant, has now returned to New York as the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations. Through it all, Paul Kavannah remained as sharp-minded, quick-witted, informed and informative as he was a warm friend and helpful team player. Discreet, yet open and easy-going, Ambassador Kavannah knows the inseparable link between the United Nations and his country. Whether as Director of the U.N. Information Centre in Tokyo or as Ireland's Ambassador to the European Community in Brussels, he moved between posts with perfect ease -- knowing what's at stake and the shortest distance between two important points. Valuably supported by his beautiful and brilliant wife, he knows how to spend his time, recharge the batteries, and get things done. While he arrives at a time of hurried preparations for a wave of high level visitors for the General Assembly, he will certainly weather the passing hurricane in his stride. Welcome home, Paul. And Good Luck.


"Things look better (in the Middle East) than any other time over the last seven years!"
-- Michael Williams, Special Advisor of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in a BBC interview.


It seems that by now the skeletons are running the show, and it's US who are in the closet.


Here he is: former world shaker Mikhail Gorbachev, now a commercial model for French luxury merchandise company Louis Vuitton. Here he is: former General Secretary of the former Communist party of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics pictured alongside the signature luggage with the Berlin Wall in the background. It's all for a good cause, we are told. The French firm will contribute to Green Cross International to promote "sustainable development." Members of the once powerful French Communist party must be wondering what's going on. That's their problem. Our point is that the old man looks pretty worn out, particularly when shown next to another panel showing the eternally beautiful Catherine Deneuve.


"Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is deeply concerned by the recent withdrawal of Pelipehutu from the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Burundi and FNL in September 2006. He urges FNL to resume its participation in the JUMM without delay and calls on both parties to refrain from any actions (sic) that might lead to a resumption of hostilities."


Text without context is pretext.

2000 CAMELS:

A showdown between Pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and the Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Information drew special attention because the publisher of the London-based paper is powerful Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, whose father is the Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister while he is Deputy Minister of Defense. A new Information Minister apparently wanted to impose conditions on items to be written and whether a certain columnist could be allowed to continue writing. Issues printed in Saudi Arabia were confiscated as the Minister, a former local journalist, sought to display his newly acquired authority while the influential daily refused to surrender. The Minister reportedly had objected to a column by Saudi writer Abdel Aziz Suede complaining about the mysterious death of 2000 camels. The Minister insisted the camels happened to die naturally. Within a week the Minister backed down. He may be on his way out.


The Annual Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference early September would be the last one in New York for several years to come. Construction projects for the immediate future have excluded it at least from next year's planning. It may be for the good. An NGO Conference away from Headquarters may inject a different dimension and a wider participation, particularly if held in an easily accessible location in Europe. Initial talk is focused on Paris where UNESCO could play host and -- in a reflection of changing times -- a young woman could chair the Conference. Let's keep up our hopes.


The Financial Times tongue-in-cheek blogger Gidion Rachman has posted his own query on our very own U-2's Bono. In a recent comment on "Why I Hate Bono," he explains himself at www.ft.com/rachmanblog:

"It all dates back to a terrible U2 concert that I went to at the Camden Electric Ballroom in (I think) 1978. I took an instant dislike to Bono. It never occurred to me that he would emerge as a global rock star and lauded anti-poverty campaigner.

I know it is hard to object to someone campaigning to relieve poverty in Africa -- but I intend to try. My impression is that Bono is a grandstanding poseur who has intimidated blameless bankers and politicians into taking him seriously by sheer force of celebrity.

The question is whether my objections are purely stylistic of whether there is a broader critique of the Bono view of the world.

My impression is that Bono has adopted the mainstream NGO view of poverty in the developing world -- more aid, trade and debt relief -- and that some of what he says is true, and some is grossly over-simplified. But this all sounds a bit ho-hum. So let me break it down into questions:

  1. Should we listen to celebrities on big political and social questions? Do they play a useful role?
  2. Has Bono had any real influence?
  3. Is there a Bono world view? And, if so, does it make sense?
  4. Is Bono insufferably pleased with himself? (Actually, I think I can answer this one for myself.)"


An excellent exhibit on UNIFIL was recently placed on the first floor of the U.N. building along the corridor between the General Assembly and the Secretariat. The talented Jan Arnesen, a veteran yet continuously creative pillar of the Department of Public Information, was behind setting it up. It was opened by the Under Secretary General of that Department and attended by the new Force Commander of UNIFIL, General Graziano and several officers in addition to senior officials of the Peacekeeping Department, including Lisa Bultenheim, Director of the Middle East Division and Ahmed Fawzi of DPI. The new Permanent Representative of Lebanon, Dr. Nawwaf Salam, dropped by together with that mission's Caroline Ziadeh.


When new French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Senegal, he took with him his newly appointed Minister of State for Human Rights, former Senegalese citizen Ms. Rama Yade. Clearly, he felt he was making a positive point with his official host, Abdoulaye Wade except that in a hurried moment he referred to him as "President Yade" -- perhaps a good omen for the young, beautiful and gifted Rama.


There was a sense of irony in an announcement by the Libyan government about a forthcoming visit by Dr. Condoleezza Rice to Tripoli, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 25 years. The name of the Spokesman who made the announcement was "Ahmed Jibrael." Whether it is a real or invented name, it reminds those with institutional memory that one of the main reasons for the U.S. to wage boycott was suspected terrorist activities by Lybian authorities assisted by a Palestinian militant group headed by Ahmed Jibril. Those who dealt with Colonel Gaddafi know that he loves symbolic moves. When he recently received newly-elected French President Sarkozy, he welcomed him outside his house which was destroyed by U.S. planes on orders from President Reagan.


Prince Abdel Aziz Bin Fahd, youngest son of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia announced that he awarded his uncle King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz "the 12th Middle East Award for Distinction in Communications and Information Technology in the Area of Electronic Transaction."


Following is a disarming photo of a Korean soldier embraced by his kids as he prepared to leave to join a newly arrived Korean contingent of UNIFIL, Lebanon. It was published on the front page of Beirut daily An-Nahar.


With the retirement of Paul Hoeffel, whose sterling work has revived the U.N. Information Centre in Mexico, a new director is to be selected soon. Several applicants are expected for that most senior post in the region. Most insiders bet on Jadranka Mihalic, who had paid her dues over the last few years by effectively running the operations of the Information Centres at Headquarters despite open mistreatment by some of those senior to her at the time. She has also added experience by taking charge of the communications strategy of the U.N. field mission in Timor Leste.


When you offer lobster tails as part of your casual buffet, you certainly will draw the biggest crowd to a national day's reception, even if it fell on a summer Friday afternoon when most New Yorkers will be seeking their way out of town. Saudi Arabia gave the most popular reception on 7 September with crowds filing past an endless buffet of tabbouleh, shish kebab, salmon, shrimp, lobster, roasted almond stuffing of grilled lamb and so many other appetizers that guests stayed way beyond closing time at 8pm. The terrace of the Delegates Dining Room was open for fresher air and more visitors. It was not the usual Saudi reception hosted jointly by the Mission and the Consulate. With the retirement of Ambassador Shoubukshi, the senior official was Consul General A.R. Gidai who decided that -- what the heck -- his country could afford a tempting dinner in honour of its friends, many of them his friends by now.