1 APRIL 2014


Picasso's masterpiece depicting the horrors of war had been posted on the wall at the entrance of U.N. Security Council chambers since its inception. It mysteriously disappeared one day in 2003 when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to address the Council to prepare for the war on Iraq (and presented claimed photos of Weapons of Mass Destruction!). When unforum raised at the time the question of its disappearance, Secretary General Annan's Spokesman Fred Eckhart dutifully called to say that it was actually his own doing, not that of his boss.

How could a Spokesman -- with due respect -- delete a Picasso from an historic spot without any consequence remained unanswered. To avert an uproar, the painting was swiftly and quietly returned. But not for long. It disappeared at the first approach of the Master Plan -- the billion dollar project to "upgrade" the U.N. compound in line with Mayor Bloomberg's avid interest to get rid of asbestos, flooded floors, and other vested interests seeking to reshape the U.N. while a beleaguered Secretary General was mainly seeking to hang in until the official end of his second term.

Now that the Master Plan is almost over (Almost?!) and the Security Council is back meeting at its original Norwegian-contributed chambers, there was no more reason (pretext or excuse!) for its disappearance. In early February, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon celebrated the return of the Guernica at a special event at the Residence. New and old U.N. senior officials attended, including the formidably-dedicated Ambassador Vernon Reed, Dean of Under-Secretaries-General, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and White House Protocol Chief under the 41st President (and former Ambassador to the U.N.), George Herbert Walker Bush. There were tributes all read for retaining an historic symbol where it matters most.

Let's hope that the return of Picasso's Guernica will inspire Permanent and non-Permanent members to perform their functions at the House of Peace.