Advice to Burundi Women: Sex for Peace
Nelson Mandela had some advice for the women of Burundi. After
relentlessly trying to shame Burundi leaders into an illusive
reconciliation, one of the greatest human leaders of modern times
resorted to one of the oldest approaches in history. He called
on Burundi women to do what the Greek women of Lysistrata did
to stop the men from going to war. No sex unless they refrain
from fighting. The sex for peace formula succeeded in old Greece
but apparently needed more inducements in Burundi. Thus the inducement
came from the European community, which promised about $550 million
on reconstruction funds in case of reconciliation. Will it be
the carrot or the stick? Apparently, it's up to the women of Burundi.
Allo Allo - A Brief Conversation
*Hello, good morning. I wonder if I could have an opportunity
to talk to the Ambassador.
-Who may I say is calling?
*Former UN official and writer…
-Did you say former or formal?
-Thanks. Just to be sure, you know. You never know with everyone
here having access.
*Yes I understand, but I guess you can't help it at a United
-Right, right. What did you say you wanted from the Ambassador?
*Just to have a few minutes on his views.
-Sorry, I've got to pick up another line. Let me call you later.
*You don't have my number.
-We'll find it.
(After a few days)
*Hello, is the Ambassador available, please.
-Who may I say is calling?
*I will be spending a few days in Washington meeting with Senators,
Congressmen and journalist friends- and wondered if he would wish
to give me some input before I arrived there.
(After a short pause his excellency, "liu meme", comes on)
-Helllloooo. Sorry I couldn't get to you earlier. You know, Security
Council, General Assembly, ACAPQ, ECOSOC, CPC, Security General,
such is life in the building.
*Thanks, Ambassador I need not take much of your time.
-Listen, never mind a friend is always a friend- whom did you
plan to see in D.C.?
-Oh, Speaker Hestert. I am a great fan; followed his career since
his wrestling days.
*You are not actually referring to Governor Jessie "The body"
Ventura of Minnesota?
-No, no. The speaker himself was also a great wrestler in his
college days- always a man of consensus.
*Well, I am scheduled to meet Senators just…
-Senators Jesse, you mean chairman Helms. I am a great fan, great
fan. His visit to the Security Council last January was historic,
truly historic. Which friend will you be seeing amongst the media
stars? They are all stellar stars, you know.
*Of course, but may I…
-Of course, you may at any time call me before you go. You must
take with you copies of my recent statements-human rights, reform,
transparency, Security Council, ECOSOC…
*Thank you, Ambassador…
-ACABQ, GA, Fifth Committee, Special Cancus, Shashi and Sashi,
Icky and Ricky…
*Thank you, Excellency.
Amsterdam Yab Yum
Travel via Amsterdam airport may increase confidently in the
coming months. Not only because Dutch airline KLM is considered
a U.N. preferred airline, and indeed caters thoughtfully to international
experts using it to reach elsewhere in this wide world. A new
special boutique in Schippol airport will provide relief for "stressed
passengers". That entails the professional services of Yab Yum
of The Red District where prostitution is legal. According to
a release, a branch at the airport would welcome early arrivals,
late-comers or those keen on putting in some time between planes.
No vouchers accepted.
An official announcement indicated that Iraq refused to cooperate
with the designated Coordinator of nationals missing since Baghdad
1990 invasion of Kuwait, prominent Club 71 member Ambassador Yuli
Vororntsov (former Representative of Russia at UN and Washington).
The statement then proceeds to announce that despite this the
distinguished Ambassador "has continued high-level contacts aimed
at achieving progress". With whom? Progress where?
Annan New York Times Visit
A meeting of The Editorial Board of the New York Times mid January
gave Kofi Annan an opportunity to reflect on the passing year
and project his views on forthcoming issues. Inevitable questions
on his interest in renewing his five-year term when it expires
this year were politely averted with some subtle nuances. A positive
impression in support of United Nations -and possibly- Annan's
position by the Grey Lady of 43rd Street is always welcome. Annan
has ventured successfully in that delicate field of handling top
reporters. He was accompanied in his visit to the Times by his
Communications Director Shashi Tharour. Who has long standing
relations with some reporters particularly in the Editorial Section.
Maybe Tharour could make more friends for the Secretary General
and himself if he concentrated on cultivating his professional
Bellamy Invests in Children
While introducing a report on the state of the world children
for 2001, Carol Bellamy UNICEF's Executive Director called upon
governments to stop wasting human potential, stop neglecting the
needs of the very young and pay more attention to that potential.
Investment in the first three years of life "reaps huge personal
and development dividends." According to the report that "for
every one dollar invested… there is a seven dollar return, mainly
from cost saving in the future, citing successful preschool programs
in various countries. Bellamy said that effective investment in
health, nutrition, education, child care and basic protection
were "both a moral imperative and sound economics".
Britney Spears seeking George P. Bush
A discreet mouth from the South mentioned at a private festive
gathering of some New Yorkers and few diplomats that the most
popular pop singer Britney Spears has set her eyes on fellow Southerner
George P. Bush, son of Florida governor Jebb Bush and nephew to
President George W. Bush. Apparently, George P. has established
a following of his own, combining his mother's Latin looks with
his father's heritage wealth and prestige. Those following the
Republican convention were impressed by the poise with which he
introduced his uncle, injecting some popular expressions in Spanish.
It may be just a one sided fluke, but if it connects, the new
administration may be able to claim a star achievement on the
stargazing outgoing one by showing off an overwhelmingly attractive
All-American teenager idol who publicly advocates "family values",
including abstinence until marriage. It's now up to George P.
to tango or wiggle
Combating desertification in Bonn
For two weeks over 2,000 delegates from 170 countries considered
how to combat desertification. That welcome effort was done on
the fertile side of the Rhine River in the lush quarters of Castel
Castagna around the time of the Christmas holidays. The impact
on expanding deserts seemed to be clearly limited.
Correspondents elect Svarzman
Norberto Svarzman, the long time Argentinean correspondent, has
been elected president of UNCA for the year 2001. An intellectual,
economist and journalist, Norberto has been around the …..tower
as long as anyone can remember. His soft-spoken cordial attitude
is blended with a steady determination to find the facts. This
is his second term as President, reflecting not only his durability
but also the renewed confidence of his colleagues.
Exhibit for a Rockefeller
David Rockefeller was there with Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller. So,
of course were the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the ever-dynamic
Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed who pulled the event together. Staff
of the Department of Public Information were there enmasse. This
occasion was an exhibit for posters produced by the United Nations.
It tells the story of its activities over the last half century.
Whether disarmament, human rights, the plight of refugees, peacekeeping
or development posters have been at the forefront of UN anniciatives
and campaigns. While credit was given to those on the receiving
end around the microphone it was also an occasion for those who
actually produced around the world and physically set up the anti-apartheid
posters, Karina Gerlach a dynamo of the 50th anniversary celebrations,
now with Interagency Affairs Paula Refola of D.P.I. together with
Valerie Hampton-Mason and Jan Anderson were all there to witness
the fruits of their often unsung labor. The article was entitled
For A Better World.
Funding for Disarmament Exhibit
While the new comprehensive disarmament exhibit was negotiated
and inspired by the Department of Disarmament Affairs and implemented
by the talented staff of The Department of Public Information,
it required special funding to actually launch it. Disarmament
Under-Secretary General Dhanapala indicated that the needed money
was obtained through the efforts of Kenseko Hogan, Under-Secretary
General for Public Information.
Gugu in Geneva
At least the World Health Organization in Geneva will notice
a new vibrant spirit. Mahenau Agha, universally known as Gugu
left New York to become Communications Officer for Gavi, which
was founded originally by the Gates Foundation, based at W.H.O.
One of the young dynamic talents with a comprehensive approach
to UN work, Gugu has always made her point cheerfully and effectively,
without making enemies. She may initially shock the Genevois with
her original approach, but eventually gain everyone's' affection
and respect. Good luck, Gugu. Bon chance, Geneve. Congratulations
If Michael Douglas, why not Maradonna?
Some feedback on the "Perfect Murder for Peace Messenger" inquired
if UN officials designated someone with the background of Michael
Douglas why not designate Diajo Maradonna? Particularly after
seeing Mr. Douglas' new holiday movie "Traffic", some wondered
what was the difference except Mr. Douglas is Hollywood and Mr.
Maradonna is suburban Bears Acres. Actually Maradonna plays clean
on the soccer field and was just selected by popular vote as the
"player of the century". Mr. Douglas plays dirty on the screen.
His personal life is his own business, but it is his movies that
people would emulate. And if Mr. Maradonna had a drug problem,
which he tried to beat through rehabilitation, Mr. Douglas had
an extended extra-marital sex record, which he sensibly tried
to beat through a rehabilitation clinic. At least, Dioja Armando
remains married to the same woman. All that may seem like an exaggeration,
but it shows to what extent those in charge (who are they?) should
be careful in their choice.
Ifitkhar Ali leaving Teheran
Director of the Information Centre in Teheran Iftikhar Ali will
be retiring soon, having revived that Centre after years of inactivity.
Iftikhar was well received by media, government and all political
groupings, helped by his professional skill, Pakastani background
and flexible approach. He was most valuable in reflecting the
views of Iranian media while being an effective communicator of
United Nations issues. His talents will still be utilized by the
UN as he will have a fixed team assignment in Kosovo.
Kuchner leaves Kosovo
By all counts the performance of the UN special high commission
for Kosovo, Bernard Kuchner was outstanding. The French politician,
communicator and committed internationalist worked against great
odds to establish an atmosphere of peace by encouraging all sides
to talk and build a joint future and discouraging extremists from
spoiling it. He earned the respect of everyone and the affection
of the Kosovos.
Latin/Caribbean for DPI
With the departure of Japanese diplomat Kenseko Hogan in January,
the competition for heading the Department of Public Information
is on. Many holding D-2 level posts are aspiring to it, some openly
indicating they could cut it down to an Office with an Assistant
rather than Under-Secretary General past if given the chance.
It seems that the Secretary General may opt for an outside candidate
from Latin America and the Caribbean region who would go along
with the current set up of information fiefdoms.
More traffic for Peace Messenger
Designated UN peace messenger Michael Douglas has escalated his
efforts on behalf of peace, dialogue and disarmament through his
newest movie released during the holiday season. "Traffic" is
action packed with normal UN gear like guns and explosives, depicts
the human condition in deadly terms and provides somewhat dubious
role model. The motto of the movie is "no one gets away clean".
Moroccans praise Benami
In an elaborate statement to an Arabic paper, a Moroccan official
elaborated positively on an earlier visit by current Israeli Foreign
Minister Sholomo Ben Ami. Initially, the visit was supposed to
be discreet and thus not reported by the Israeli media. Most Israelis
of Moroccan origin maintain close ties and often visit the old
country, which traditionally maintained hospitable contact. Many
special medication efforts were played discreetly by Morocco in
the past including the preparation of the unprecedented visit
by Egyptian President Sadat to Israel. Equally significant, Morocco
chairs the Committee on Jerusalem formed by the summit of Islamic
heads of state. After reporting on Professor Ben Ami's visit,
a "Moroccan source" described him to weekly "Al-Wasat" as "one
of the most intelligent Israeli officials and most moderate",
adding that he was "creative in finding solutions to pending and
complicated problems". The experienced Moroccans should know.
Ben Ami was born in Tangier. Others- also Moroccan-born- who had
received equally hospitable treatment did not rate such high marks.
New head for Egypt UN Bureau
Egypt's Deputy Permanent Representative Ahmed Darwish was appointed
as Head of The United Nations Bureau in the Egyptian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. Attendance by almost all delegations and senior
Secretariat Officials of his farewell given by Ambassador Ahmed
Aboulgheit indicated the extent of the high regard he earned during
his term in New York. Mr. Darwish was very effective in gaining
political friends. But it was his work in the field of Communications
and and administrative management where he made his imprint most.
Although he will be missed in New York, Mr. Darwish will be a
great asset to the UN in Cairo, whatever his official as one of
two candidates who fulfilled all the requirements as Director
of the UN Information Center in the Egyptian capitol. The grapevine
has it that the Chef de Cabinet had issued a note limiting the
instances where a national can be a center in his or her country.
Ogata always helpful
During a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to Africa,
he was accompanied by former UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Sadako Ogata. Although the objectives were interpreted to be political-
that is in search of support for a UN Security Council Seat- the
tone of Mr. Mori's remarks and the presence of Ms. Ogata gave
that new opening to Africa a helpful credibility. Two of the three
countries visited, South Africa and Nigeria, are also potential
contenders to a Security Council seat.
Questions on Field Volunteers
A special celebration at UN Headquarters of the International
Volunteers Day, including a luncheon attended by the Secretary
General raised questions on the specific role of those volunteers
in the field. While receiving deserving praise for accomplishments
by many, there are those in the field who feel that in specific
professional cases, like public information, volunteers were unsuccessfully
used to replace local professionals who have more experience and
know the area far better and cost much less. It may be a question
to consider on a case by case basis.
Remembering Mitch Werner
During holiday seasons one remembers family and friends, particularly
those who are in close touch but somehow are not with us. Mitch
Werner, a loyal friend and valuable colleague passed away this
year at an early young age. He had worked in Political Affairs,
Public Information and the Secretary General's Office, after a
brief stint in the private life. Wherever he was, Mitch never
flinched from his duties, never turned down a request and never
undercut any of his colleagues. His cheerful smile and earthy
sense of humor was part of his warm personality. He was popular
among staff at all levels and treated everyone with courtesy and
respect. He excelled in moments of crises- keeping his cool, thinking
clearly and providing valuable advice. We miss you, Mitch.
Timely appointments in Lebanon
The appointment of Staffan de Mistura as Representative of the
Personal Secretary General for Southern Lebanon was well-received
not only by Lebanese officials, but also by various political
factions. De Mistura, who recently was heading the Rome UN Information
Center is an accomplished and polished troubleshooter who paid
his dues through several field operations. In fact, he almost
spent his UN career in the field since he joined in 1970, working
with various agencies in numerous countries. His command of Swedish,
English, German, Italian, Spanish and Arabic helped him understand
the main issues at stake. He played a quiet, though substantive
role in arranging Secretary General Kofi Annan's mission in Lebanon
will be to ensure the right degree of UN support for the rehabilitation
and reconstruction of Southern Lebanon. He will obviously play
a wider yet discreet role. He replaced Rolf Krusson, another Swede
who in turn replaced Jean Claude Aime in Geneva.
Tributed to Sadako and Sadik
Two outstanding women left the Organization by the end of 2000:
Sadako Ogata and Nafis Sadik. Working in different yet related
offices, the High Commissioner for Refugees and Executive Director
of the UN Fund for Population Activities have dominated their
field during the last decade. Two women from Asia have demonstrated
without a doubt that talented women in general and Asian women
in particular can achieve almost impossible tasks. Towering way
above some men in equal positions, Sadako and Sadik (as they were
affectionately known) made their presence felt in every operation,
meeting or event. In a tribute.to Ms.Sadik, Secretary General
Kofi Annon applauded her achievements and her courageous advocacy.
"More than anyone she worked to bring about radical changes in
the way the world sees the population issues- not in isolation
but as integral to all development efforts." A similar tribute
was made to Ms.Ogata whose dynamic management of an increasing
number of refugee issues won her admiration and respect around
the world. Nafis Sadik, a born communicator, is a citizen of Pakistan.
Yet she was perceived as a leading, if not the leading figure
in population issues. Similarly, Sadako Ogata always close to
her Japanese roots, shone high above Japanese dutiful functionaries
imposed by someone in the government. Reflecting true Japanese
traditions of hard work, loyalty and dedication, she was a great
asset for Japan in the international community and a sincere advocate
of international causes in Japan. Both leave at a time when the
UN system is in serious need for their leadership.