15 September 2012



The outgoing President of the General Assembly Nassir El-Nasser, seems to have focused on colouring his hair as much as he has (successfully, to be fair) conducted official business. Besides frequent visits to Silicon Valley, the formerly amenable Ambassador seemed to be preparing for especially important meetings with extra black polish. Anyway, all that will be a fading memory as a new President takes over mid-September. Incidentally, the incoming Vuc Jeremic of Serbia is not likely -- nor would he have the means -- for shampoo'd carpets. But he may buy new eyeglasses!

UN Photo/JC McIlwaine


Anyone in a key position is habitually open for claims of favouring friends while actual friends also habitually complain that they had been neglected. Some of that is happening to Susana Malcorra, who was appointed in March as the new Chef de Cabinet of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his second term. A graduate of Electrical Engineering from the University of Rosario in Argentina, she was a rising star at IBM, reaching the highest post as its Chief Executive Officer in her country. When joining the U.N./World Food Programme in Rome, she played a pivotal role in responding to emergency operations. When the Department of Field Support was created, Susana Malcorra figured prominently on the short list. Argentina is not merely a staunch supporter of all U.N. activities; it is a solid contributor to U.N. Peacekeeping operations. It is also the home country of so many outstanding Argentineans who served the U.N. with dedicated distinction. Since her appointment, there were inside comments that she was seeking to place some of her friends in key positions. Others respond that she was mainly trying to place those she believes were most qualified; being a friend should not be an obstacle. To be fair, it is too early to judge.


During the U.S. Republican Convention, the main draw was candidate Mitt Romney's sons. Which one was most attentive to women, was the speculation by attention media reporters. At the Democratic Convention, it was Michelle Obama. She appeared everywhere, and appealed to everyone for the re-election of her husband, the President. Much of the gossip media focus was on her ever-changing dresses, simple yet colourful. Very few noted that they were all sleeveless. Apparently, despite all security measures, the U.S. First Lady insisted on her self-proclaimed right to bare arms.


For decades, UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, depended on helicopters for long-distance travel. Traditionally, it was an Italian contribution. The main points were between its Headquarters at Naqoura on the Lebanese/Israeli border, and Beirut's seaside area next to the Bain Militaire. Recently, sea transport was introduced to move freely between spots even within South Lebanon. The inaugural boat is called Carolyn. The majority of soldiers seem to enjoy riding it. It's all in the mind, you know.


It is an example of a healthy exchange. The new Permanent Representative of Norway to the U.N. in New York is a former U.N. Secretariat. Geir Pederson, until recently Director General of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was a successful Director in the Department of Political Affairs, then Special Representative of the Secretary General in Lebanon with the rank of Assistant Secretary General. In New York and Beirut, Geir Pederson earned the respect of his colleagues and his hosts as a hard-working and thoughtful peacemaker, even in very difficult situations. His return to New York on his country's behalf during a renewed term for Ban Ki-moon is a welcome indication of Norway's continued commitment to the U.N. since the days of its first Secretary General, Trygve Lie.

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pointedly stated at an official occasion: "While the roosters fill the air all morning with their sound, it is the hen that delivers the eggs."


A new hip fad in Europe discotheques is "Silence." A boutique hotel in Cannes, South of France, started a Friday night where crowds are given 3 music menus to chose from -- drawn by prominent disc jockeys. Men and women are then given a helmet to wear, listen and dance -- quietly. The helmets, by the way, are Blue.


Former Spokesman to the Secretary General and DPI Director Ahmad Fawzi has been repeatedly paying his dues to the U.N. despite his untimely retirement. After moving to his wife's country, the Netherlands, he has been called upon to perform a number of U.N. crucial functions, like advising on the set-up for the Communications team of the new U.N. Mission to Libya. He was tried and tested earlier this year again when assigned as Spokesman for Kofi Annan's "almost impossible" mission on Syria. He remained to help out the new joint envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, as the mission gets even more impossible. In the absence of a senior Arab at the Secretary General's Office or Political Affairs or even DPI where a "token" Arab is helplessly ineffective, maintaining the professional services of someone with Ahmad Fawzi's experience and proven dedication will be a valuable asset.



She is one of the most dedicated, qualified, decent civil servants at the U.S. government. Huma Abedin has been of invaluable assistance to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She not only put up, very graciously, with a wayward husband while she was pregnant, but had to endure unfair and ignorant claims by politically motivated adversaries who try to exploit her moslem faith to wrongly and ruthlessly accuse her of being close to "jihadist" groups abroad fighting against U.S. interests. It is a tribute to her outstanding qualifications that the U.S. President and other senior figures came to her defense. It is a tribute to her character that she took it all with decent and gracious silence.


A Libyan television announcer Sarah Mesallati was proud when assigned to cover the ceremony in Libya for handing over the authority to the newly-elected government. She was shocked when the "President of the Transitional National Council," the obsessed sexist Mahmoud Abdul Jalil, refused to allow her to proceed with the broadcast because she was not wearing a veil. Ms. Mesallati strongly protested indicating she was a devout Muslim and needed no lecturing on her faith. "Abdul," a former lackey of Seif Islam Qaddafi, is reported to be on the payroll of several countries. His first announcement after his Colonel's defeat was to declare that men are now free to divorce their women and marry at will.


Many parts of the Secretariat building are now "restored." Some senior officials, like the new Under-Secretary General for Management, Yukio Takasu, have already returned, while new Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, remains on the second floor of the "North Lawn" interim building, most likely to remain within proximity to the Secretary General's Office on the same building's third floor. Others are still spread among the 42nd, 44th, 45th, Madison Avenue, and other Manhattan spots. We are told that everyone should be able to return to a full house by next January. Let's hope so.


Jean-Jacques Graisse was just appointed Acting Under-Secretary General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management. A former UNDP Assistant Administrator, Jean-Jacques was always as pleasant as he was efficient. A citizen of Belgium, he had retired some years ago. He was part of a team of refreshingly smiling men and women who worked closely and warmly with other colleagues at the U.N. Secretariat. He replaces the ineffective Shaaban Shaaban who may be still exploring his way to the new Egypt. Jean-Jacques Graisse is an excellent choice. He has the experience and temperament to handle it smoothly. The only question is why Acting? He is more of a player than an actor!

UN Photo/Evan Schneider


In those olden golden days, the Guided tour unit was a fountain of youth, beauty and full-time dedication. Talented and creative young men and women from various cultural backgrounds joined together like one team in a unifying lounge to portray a vibrant image of the U.N. Secretary General U Thant described them as "our ambassadors to the public." A couple of male guides returned years later as Permanent Representatives of their country to the U.N. They included Finland and Angola. Some female guides made their special mark on media, fashion, education, cinema, and civic society. All of them are now invited to a reunion early November at U.N. Headquarters. Time and people change, of course. Most of the gorgeous young women and dashing young men may not look precisely the same. That's why some may be hesitant to attend. But surely everyone's spirits will be refreshed once they get together at their original fountain of youth.


Those who stayed in New York during the Labour Day long weekend had the opportunity to attend one of the most pleasurable evenings at Lincoln Center. For 8 days at the end of August and early September, successive operas were played in open air for free; you just had to show up early enough to get a folding seat and join others in joyous harmony. It was a mixture of young and old, Big Apple residents and tourist visitors. Good weather cooperated and soft winds blew the sound to nearby trattoria restaurants across the street like Fiorello's and Bar Boulud. It was not only one category, like the famous mostly Mozart in earlier years; but a wonderful impressive variety that enchanted a peaceful audience. Thanks for whoever made it possible.


"Dolce il caffe, Amare le donna."


There was once a Second Secretary
Who started to count every calorie
Her Ambassador, in disgust
Said if she lost half her bust
She'd be worth only half of her salary.


It may be the heat or some unknown breeze. That fellow is getting scared and scarier by the day. Some say he is talking to himself more frequently than usual. He says that very influential people are behind him now. He's whispering that soon, very soon, he will be promoted to Under-Secretary General. Herrr!


A friend passing through the area between St. Raphael and St. Tropez known as the "Var" region during the summer holiday, spotted an interesting promotion for an audience in the local "Var-Matin." It announced a performance of "The Vagina Monologue" for prices ranging from 15 - 25 Euros. However, it added: "Children can attend for free."