Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gloom at the UN

Went into the United Nations yesterday to pick up the daily pile of documents and found that the Spokesman of the Secretary-General had invited all correspondents to stop by her office for a drink to celebrate the end of the year. Expecting the usual merry throng I went by. But approaching the office I was met with silence. There was just one correspondent in there, Edie from the Associated Press, and by the look of it she was about to leave. Not to embarrass our host I quickly pretended to be about some other business and kept going down the corridor, to the escalators that led to the main floor and the cafeteria.

Over a bowl of tasteless vegetable soup in the cafeteria I pondered over the year, which has been pretty dead at the UN. Deader than anything I've seen over the last 3+ decades. Well, perhaps those years when Kurt Waldheim was Secretary-General were worse, but I was young then, and the bar in the Delegate's Lounge offered enough diversions to keep my mind off the stultified politics of the Cold War. Now the bar is rarely busy except for Friday evenings, and the politics of the "war on terrorism" are too scary to ignore. So I decided to start up this blog. It's going to be focused on the UN, but with frequent forays into everything else.

Among the documents I picked up at the UN was a little blue pamphlet. "A stronger United Nations for a Better World" it said: "My Priorities as United Nations Secretary-General." It was by Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean diplomat who has held the UN's top job for a year now. It began: "The spirit and vision that infused world leaders in 1945 inspire me every day." The rest of it was downhill. Under "Guiding Principles That Will Drive My Actions" was the following:

"Lead by example;
Seek excellence with humility;
Set the highest ethical standard;
Pursue dialogue and engagement;
Play the role of harmonizer and bridge-builder;
Make transparency and accountability the corner-stone of my tenure;
Be animated by both passion and compassion in achieving our goals;
Be sensitive to the concern of all member States big and small."

Did no one on Ban's staff have the gumption to tell him those are not principles but good resolutions?

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