UNITED NATIONS. WHY DID MONA JUUL CRITICIZE THE SECRETARY GENERAL WHILE HER HUSBAND IS HIS ENVOY?

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2009

WHY DID MONA JUUL CRITICIZE THE SECRETARY GENERAL WHILE HER HUSBAND IS HIS ENVOY?

By now the news story is history. Ten days before an agreed visit by Ban Ki-moon to Oslo, a memo by Norway's Deputy Permanent Representative Mona Juul sharply criticizing him was leaked first in Aftenposten, the country's major daily, then through news agencies like Reuters and Agence France Presse, reproduced by main dailies around the world.

Ms. Juul's memo was perceptive, descriptive and very coherently presented. Mr. Ban, unable to display effective leadership, was having constant fits of rage on the 38th floor, making it very difficult to find out precisely where he's going and how to work with him. His inability to assert the U.N. role allowed the G-7 group to fill the vacuum. A powerless observer whose moral voice and authority were obviously lacking, Mr. Ban demonstrated neither engagement nor involvement. His voice on behalf of the poor was hardly being heard. He lacked leadership and was unable to deliver on behalf of the Organization. Some people in Washington started to refer to him as a one-term Secretary General.

An increasing number of recent articles had sharply attacked Mr. Ban's performance: "Nowhere Man" by the highly prestigious Economist in London, Foreign Policy in Washington, El Pais in Madrid, Le Monde and others in Paris, let alone blistering attacks by Arab newspapers like As-Safir of Lebanon, which had described him in an editorial by its publisher as confused even between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

But Ms. Juul's was the first solid comprehensive insider evaluation by a delegate representing one of the most generous and participatory U.N. members. The first U.N. Secretary General Trygve Lie came from Norway. It is perhaps the third or fourth overall contributor to the U.N. system after the U.S. and Japan (and possibly Finland). At least three of its diplomats have the official function of Special Envoy or Representative of the Secretary General -- THIS Secretary General. One of them is Terje Roed (Herring) Larsen, HUSBAND and political partner of Mona Juul. The couple had worked together over the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo Accord; they were both accused (and investigated) of obtaining $100,000 from an Institute in Israel overseen at the time by now Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Ms. Juul was transferred to New York when her husband was selected by Rita Hauser to run the Peacekeeping Academy. She was with him last year at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, chauffeured in a Rolls Royce. Ms. Juul was noted for her affectionate hugging of a stuffed teddy bear which the hotel management places in guest room cabinets. This summer, while she was most likely drafting her note, Larsen was again lounging at the plush hotel, hanging around the bar and lobby, awaiting a phone call that apparently never came.

Those who know the couple will point out that she is by far the brilliant one while he is the street smart bread-winner. She is more typically a straight arrow Norwegian, while he is constantly trying to act as a smooth operator. She is very much liked in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (President Abbas has special regard for her), while he is generally detested in the Arab world to the point of being persona non grata in some of the countries where he is supposed to represent the U.N. Secretary General. While Terje Roed Larsen's reports lack any credibility as they are drawn without the required benefit of surveying the actual ground, Ms. Juul's are habitually credible, based on sharp observation and factual information. Her most recent report was a vivid example.

Did she leak it to Aftenposten?

Very unlikely. It is not her style, and the Norwegian daily would not do her any favours having kept her and her husband within its sniping range. A headline about a year ago "exposed" the reluctance of Mr. Larsen and Ms. Juul to hand over documents relating to the confidential negotiating process leading to the Oslo accord, and would show Mr. Larsen as partial. Anyway, a leak would not be to her practical advantage. It would burn her out politically with the current Secretariat. Even if he was a one-term Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon still has more than two years to go and as number 2 in the Norwegian Mission, she certainly will need to have a smooth working relationship with him personally (despite his tantrums), and with various members of his appointed team. In fact, a question would be how long would Ms. Juul be able to hang on to her post in the Norwegian Mission. One has to be an expert in the internal politics of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in order to find the answer.

By the way, as reported at the time in unforum.com, Ms. Juul had applied for a job at the U.N. Secretariat about a year ago. It was the Assistant Secretary General post vacated by Angela Kane, who was promoted to Under-Secretary General for Management. Another fact is that the personal relationship between Ban Ki-moon and Terje Larsen has its ups and downs. The Secretary General may feel sometimes that his "envoy" is operating on his own, and Larsen most likely feels that with the influential support he had he could operate singularly with impunity. Also, it is no secret that Larsen would like to be THE Secretary General, an aspiration not entirely appealing to the incumbent. There is serious speculation that he was told in August that he will not be staying beyond January.

In brief, Mona Juul criticized Ban Ki-moon because she was habitually doing her job in the most effective way she could. She may have been influenced by her being overlooked for an ASG post or by her husband's occasional frustrations, or his interest in becoming Secretary General. But she presented a factual picture as she clearly and frankly saw it.

The sharp attack was widely leaked, most likely to tell Mr. Ban that he need not come visit if he intended to lecture them on climate change, an issue they have been handling for years; and that he should try harder, as Secretary General.

More to the point, they may have wished to convey a message of a growing consensus in certain key capitals that a second term may not be an easy picking. A hospitable reception was arranged. He and his hosts did and said all the right things on the occasion. Wisely, Ban Ki-moon kept the schedule and visited Norway. But, if he had any aspirations of a Nobel Prize -- for Climate Change ("ala" Al Gore), or Peace ("ala" Kofi Annan), as a New York Italian would say: Forgeddabout it!