After indicating that he had no strategy yet to confront the threat of the Islamic State for Iraq and al-Sham (DA'ISH), U.S. President Obama announced the following after a NATO meeting in Wales: "You initially push them back, you systematically degrade their capabilities, you narrow their scope of action, you slowly shrink their space, the territory that they may control, you take on their leadership...And over time, they are not able to conduct the same kind of terrorist attack as they once could." And, of course, having been thus notified, they will hang around like sitting ducks just waiting to be picked up.


"We wish to scream but there are no ears that wish to hear."
-- Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Catholic Church where people are persecuted by the Islamic State and ignored by the Iraqi government.


One way to let U.S. Foreign Secretary John Kerry get a point about his image in Cairo was to insist on searching him upon arriving at the airport. He was reportedly trying to influence an Egyptian position on the mediation in Gaza. Upset, Secretary Kerry went off to Qatar and elsewhere, but apparently could not get into the real act. The Egyptian government obviously sought to display its own credentials in the region, from Gaza to Libya via Syria and Iraq. Let's hear the type of speech President Sisi will pronounce at the U.N. Assembly General Debate. He will have a new Permanent Representative in New York by then.


Those bicycles placed by former Mayor Bloomberg around the U.N. area are creating more human problems than combating environmental risks. Particularly across First Avenue near the U.N. compound of offices, they hinder traffic, place walkers at risk, and add very little to any climate change. On 47th Street and 2nd Avenue, the bicycle station is so close to the garages and block passage to a building where at least 20 missions to the U.N. operate, including the U.K., France, Italy, Sweden, and Australia. Across the street, two other buildings host another list of missions. Yet no one utters a word of protest to avoid sounding politically incorrect. On Saturday, 23 August, a woman who could hardly ride a bike took one and hit a child on the East corner of 47th Street, next to the Post Office. The commotion of ambulances, police cars and onlookers held the traffic for hours, including those waiting to reach the Midtown Tunnel, let alone the tragic personal injury and shock of the child's family. Diplomats are learning that riding bicycles are not just a photo opportunity. People's lives are involved.


"If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensible nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future."
-- Madeleine Albright


Talk within the Secretariat is that most of the recent senior appointments belong to either those who worked with Chef de Cabinet Susana Malcorra in the World Food Program, or a fellow Argentinean. It started when a retired WFP colleague was given an acting Under-Secretary General post supervising General Assembly Affairs. Most recently, that is, beginning in September, it was announced that Oscar Fernandez-Taranco of Argentina was appointed Assistant-Secretary General for Peace-building support, a post previously held by Ms. Malcorra before taking over in March 2012 her current post at the Secretary General's office. It should be pointed out, in all fairness, that Mr. Taranco is not new at the U.N., nor a novice at field work. He has 30 years experience in varied operations from political to human rights to development in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. He was already -- since 2001 -- Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs in the Department of Special Political Affairs. Before that, he was Deputy Assistant Administrator UNDP in the Regional Bureau of Arab States and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti. His performance speaks for itself. However, once there is a growing impression about musical chairs, it hits the good and bad with the same wave.


How frustrating it must have been for an intellectual who drew all his concepts from the inevitable need for Arab Nationalism to witness a breakdown not only of states within states but of factions and factions fighting with tragic results. Professor Nadim Bitar, a Christian from North Lebanon, never stopped believing in a unified society, an example to the world of how variety can be a source of strength not a pretext for weakness. With regret, he had to leave his country and went abroad and settled in Toledo, Ohio, U.S. Professor Bitar passed away early September, 2014.


Although Manhattan-by-the-Sea, geographically known as The Hamptons, gets overcrowded during the summer, Manhattan itself has never felt any loneliness. "New York belongs to me," is a popular line in the summer as many families go on holiday and traffic only accumulates on Fridays (out), or Sundays (in). One of the refreshing grounds is not by the river spots with so many spontaneous cheerful events, but an increasingly popular area around Lincoln Center with its illuminated fountain: Damrosch Park Summer Evening events from jazz to Latin rhythm to folk music and a series of outstanding restaurants with open air terraces viewing the scene across the street and the Broadway happenings along the road. Should you wish, you could always drive to the Hamptons when traffic slows down -- somewhere around midnight!


"Congratulations (to Mr. Erdogan) for reaching self-set goals. I am against your political agenda but a majority of Turks seem to like it -- some even adore you. So be it, it's the Turkish peoples free choice. One request: now that you are at the very top, please become mature and treat your opponents with respect; show generosity and mercy. These are the traits of true leaders." -- From The Financial Times reader comments


The new Prime Minister of Turkey, Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, former Foreign Minister to new President Erdogan, is likely to work very closely within the new regime. He had started with a vision of "no enemies" beyond the country to the whole region and to the world, which placed him once as one of the most influential political thinkers. With tragic events all round, he will have to find his way in a very rough neighborhood. Good luck.


Over a quarter of a century of working at The New York Times, Serge Schmemann did not appear too much in print. Except of having his name listed either in New York or Paris with the former International Herald Tribune (now Times edition), published articles were few and far between. Even a brief stint at U.N. Headquarters, following Barbara Crossette, did not seem durable as he was reported to be more keen on reporting from Israel. For a while, he was listed as in charge of an editorial page in the European edition. More recently, however, Serge seemed to have surged into a Sunday column, summarizing main events of the week, with an indication that he is a member of the Times Editorial Board. With so many changes within the Grey Lady, the next weeks could clarify whether it's a surge, an urge or some sort of purge.


The Geneva-based private bank, operating secretively since 1805, took an unusual step in opening a side window, not because of any governmental decision (they are the real government, some would claim!), but "to meet clients' wealth management demands in an increasingly complex world." It announced it had 404 Billion (yes, Billion) which is over $440 billion; its operating income this year was about 975 million and net profit 203 million. It has 3,611 employees operating in 17 countries. Some U.N. senior officials in Geneva's European office must be familiar with the Pictet Group, which supports a number of initiatives and has its preferred picks. The very thoughtful Mr. Pictet was reported to have offered a pied-a-terre in the elegant old town hillside to one of our former senior colleagues and most likely helped in improving the status of an Acting one. Perhaps someone could explore whether one of the 17 countries where that private bank is involved would be the Republic of Korea.


Whom does she work for?!


Following is a farewell message sent by Franz Baumann, Assistant-Secretary General upon leaving the Department of General Assembly and Conferences to the Department of Management:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Tomorrow is my last day in DGACM, and Monday will be my first in the Department of Management, where the next challenge awaits me: coordinating the deployment of Umoja at Headquarters. Five years and three months have gone by. I thank you for your collegiality, friendship, professionalism and commitment to the Department and the Organization. I will look back with pride on what has been achieved and with regret on what did not go as well as might have been hoped.
Our work as a Department is absolutely topnotch, in terms of quality, consistency and timeliness: it is something you all can take great pride in. Cooperation between the four duty stations - New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi - is close and collegial. At last, Integrated Global Management (IGM) is no longer merely a theoretical concept. Cooperation is excellent, and convergence a reality. The various IT tools which have matured and are now deployed - gDoc, gMeets, gText, eCorrespondence and others - have made a positive difference in the way the Department operates, and I am confident that remaining issues with gData, ODS and systems' maintenance are well on their way to resolution. It cannot be emphasized enough how cooperation between business users and IT colleagues contributed to a successful outcome. Repositioning the documentation processing chain is well under way, and outreach to universities, training as well as succession planning are all moving to firmer ground. The negotiations with AIIC and AITC have resulted in solid agreements, which benefit both the CEB Organizations and freelance staff. Cooperation with our MoU Universities and with IAMLADP partners, not least with the European Parliament and the European Commission, has intensified.
Progress has been made in reducing costs, harnessing technological innovations and shifting the Department's output from hard copy to electronic. The Department responded well to the Secretary-General's call to do more with less: the 2012-2013 budget was reduced by $42 million, and that of the current biennium by a further $21 million. While 140 posts were abolished, no one who wanted to stay lost their job. Print output has shrunk by nearly 90 per cent since 2009, while the number of electronic subscriptions has grown from zero to well over 30,000. Leased digital equipment has replaced labour-intensive offset technology. State-of-the art LED technology has been introduced in all the conference rooms at Headquarters and PaperSmart services now complement traditional methods. I do not need to elaborate on the challenges these changes entailed, but I will say that I am grateful to all who put their shoulders to the wheel.
These five years were not easy and when reflecting on them, I am reminded of the previous Chef de Cabinet's comments to a journalist:

Change is difficult, especially in an organization as large and
diverse as the United Nations. Change often meets with resistance.
Not everyone will agree on the right policies or direction of this
change. ... But change is necessary. In our current situation,
business as usual is not an option. That, more than anything,
is a prescription for irrelevance. (Vijay Nambiar's letter of 19 July 2010
to Colum Lynch, United Nations Correspondent of the Washington Post).

It has been my endeavour to bring about positive change, to make DGACM better and more effective. What we have achieved together fills me with pride. On leaving DGACM, I want to assure you of my confidence in the staff of the Department in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. I thank all of you and wish my successor, Catherine Pollard, the best of luck.
Auf Wiedersehen!
Franz Baumann


Colum Lynch, an experienced U.N.-based correspondent who had worked with The Boston Globe and The Washington Post before joining "Foreign Policy," paraphrased the U.N. Charter somewhat inaccurately on the issue of a possible U.S. strike of ISIS in Syria. "Under the U.N. Charter, the U.S. could, in theory, attack Islamic State fighters in Syria if the President determines they pose a threat to U.S. interests and the Syrian government either can't or won't attack the fighters." By now, Colum would know very well that such a determination alone is not enough. Actually, as he later correctly pointed out: the U.N. Charter under article 51 would allow a government to use force against armed aggression in self-defence. It could also invite other governments to help it defend itself. That would entail an arrangement with the Syrian government. The other track, under article 42, is for the Security Council to authorize a military intervention. My. Lynch thought it illustrated "the constraints of the U.N. Charter" rather than ponderosity of current U.S. position.


  • What's the difference between a soprano and the PLO?
    - You can negotiate with the PLO
  • What's the definition of a gentleman?
    - Someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn't
  • What's the difference between a shotgun and an accordion?
    - A shotgun stops after 20 rounds
-- Quips on music by Groucho Marx


Finally, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made it at New York's Grey Lady. The Quotation of the Day on 27 August belonged to him. Actually, it was a well-selected one:

"Any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence."

Could we have more of the same. Please.


"He never actually said so, but I think he made his peace with God."
-- Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump"


"Lordy, Lordy," as the "Old Lady from South Carolina might say." (copyright pending) "It gives one the vaypuhs. What to do? What to do? That nasty, tricky Assad man, and his Rooshun friends...Why wasn't Assad gone three years ago? All the expuhts at WINEP and ISW and in the retahred ambassaduh boneyahd said he would be gone. And he is still heah! Nobody at lunch at the Cosmos Club evah said that he might still be heah. I will ask John but I am shuah they nevah said anythin' about him still bein' heah to plague us."
-- From "Sic Semper Tyranis"


Lobbying for one of the ten 2-year Security Council seats has turned into a full-blown Public Relations exercise. Voting for the positions is not until October. But particularly the three countries competing for the two seats of "Western Europe and Others:" Spain, New Zealand, and Turkey are already holding supportive events. While Turkey is not a member of the European Union, neither is New Zealand. Spain is the only one and seems to have wider support. The real edging is between New Zealand and Turkey, whose new President, "Sultan" Erdogan, would not let such an opportunity slip by without a serious effort to grasp it. New Zealand, which gave a barbecue party by the East River in August, has positive pro-U.N. credentials. It may be keen on getting the seat because 2015/2016 coincides with the campaign to select a new Secretary General. Its former Prime Minister, UNDP's Ms. Clark, seems to be pushing (some would say too pushy) as a candidate for that post; that impression, by the way, may become a handicap rather than an asset for new Zealand. The atmosphere will become clearer as heads of state and governments descend on the U.N. later this month.


A conference on Small Island States Development in Samoa attended by the Secretary General (and accompanied by the inevitable whisperer) did not receive the media coverage its purpose deserved. A press conference by the U.N. Chief was very poorly attended; only three reporters present. Part of the problem may have been in the lack of professional competence of its expediently-designated "Spokesman", who foolishly ignored a basic requirement: getting operational support from the U.N. Information Centre covering that region. Despite efforts to look important and repeatedly announcing his name, he received no mention anywhere. Even a national "crowning" of Ban Ki-moon , which would have been a fun folkloric opportunity, was wasted into the photo files.


"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together."
-- Chief Seattle Suquamish Indian Tribe (1786 - 1866)


An official U.N. Secretariat listing of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's appointments for Thursday, 7 August 2014, simply stated in one line: "The Secretary General is in New York."


After a meeting in New York of the two most famous Koreans internationally -- Ban Ki-moon and Psy -- there was bound to be a Gangnam effect in the U.N. area. A restaurant serving Kimche dishes appeared on Second Avenue and a cafe (with delicious Cappuccino, actually) opened on 45th Street with increasing number of Secretariat staff in offices around that street. A new addition was a Gangnam cleaners on 49th Street, with little apparent interest. "U.N. Piece" Cleaners across First Avenue is still the best located. However, that doesn't change the motto of all those Cleaners shops in the neighborhood: "No ticky, no laundry."


U.N. operations in Cyprus seem to be well run by Lisa Buttenheim, the Acting U.N. Envoy and actual Representative in the Island. Still, some diplomats increasingly perceive such missions as job opportunities for a privileged group of tired, retired, or dis-employed friends. One proposal by a British diplomat was to nominate Shashi Tharoor for the post in Cyprus. The formerly close aide to Secretary General Kofi Annan had gone through a number of headlined reports since he left the U.N., including a cricket scandal where he had to leave his government post, and a suicide by his wife after a public argument in Dubai. Perhaps he has no more leeway in India, particularly with a new party in power. But, why would British officials make a special effort to help an outgoing Indian official? Would he perchance have a U.K. passport?


UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Raquelina Fernando Langa, a high school student from Mozambique visiting U.N. Headquarters, as his guest on World Youth Day 12 August. Mr. Ban had visit Raquelina's school in Maputo last year where she asked him how a woman could become Secretary General.


UN Photo/Mark Garten

During a visit to San Jose, Costa Rica, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (with guard walking behind) joined in riding a bicycle with its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manuel González Sanz.


"You...you alone will have the stars as no one else has them.
In one of the stars I shall be living.
In one of them I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky tonight...
You -- only you -- will have stars that can laugh."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, quoted by Zelda Williams on the passing away in August of her father, the outstanding comedy actor Robin Williams. She added: "I love you. I miss you. I'll keep looking up."


Most of you would not know who he is or what he does. Many of you could hardly pronounce his name. Some of you may be interested to know that Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin has been the Executive Director of U.N. Fund for Population Activities, once known widely through its outstanding leader, Dr. Nafis Sadik. Due to his negligible impact in a colourless period of U.N. life, Dr. Baba was duly rewarded by extending him this August for another term. Whether the Population Activities of the world would notice is another matter.


In a play of words in French, a wine store that opened downtown near Greenwich Village attracted the profitable attention of the young international crowd. "Wine on Wine" could also sound like "Twenty Twenty," a certificate of excellence. They also produced shoulder bags (organic, of course!) to go with it. It's popularity was just expanded uptown, to Fifth Avenue, actually. It will now have a spot in the food gourmet basement of the Plaza Hotel -- next door to the delicious Japanese pastry shop of Lady M. What? you haven't heard of Lady M?!


It was the turn of our distinguished Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be introduced to a "new culture" of jovial treatment when he was a guest of Jon Stewart in his Comedy Hour. We will not spoil anyone's fun by offering further details!