Here are the latest highlights from UN Forum, an online publication produced by Samir Sanbar, who was assistant secretary-general for the UN Department of Public Information from 1994 to 1998 and was a special envoy of the UN secretary-general in 1993.
Gen. Robert Mood and Syria
From The Insider
You can’t misunderstand Gen. Robert Mood, even if you tried. The veteran Norwegian senior officer, who is a veteran of several UN field assignments, has just been designated as Chief of UN Military Observers in Syria. A talented soldier who is similarly a shrewd diplomat, General Mood has served in UNIFIL, Lebanon and Kosovo. The impression he made there was of someone who understands every side’s point of view and presents a consensus. That qualified him to return to Oslo as chief of staff of his country’s armed forces. He knows Syria very well. He was the Chief Ismac (Israeli Syria Mixed Armistice Commission) Observers Mission from 2009 to 2011. That’s a year ago. At that time, he told the Beirut Daily Star that “it would be counter-productive if you acted like a bull in a china shop — trying to impose your will. That’s counter-productive.” One of his assets is his reputation — straightforward, professional, and a straight talker. Charming but no-nonsense. His strongest point lies in the warm friendships he had established with senior Syrian army officers. That may prove crucial. To read more, click here.
A serious shortage of funds for the renovation of the substantially gutted Secretariat compound has left the UN scrambling. Over $1.8 billion in overruns have accrued “due to inflation and delays in execution,” according to a statement by officials of the Capital Master Plan. There was no convincing presentation as to where the money really went and why $265 million (over 14%) more will be urgently required. The statement referred to “many factors, including numerous unforeseen conditions and complexities in the basements” plus, of course, the politically fashionable reference to “asbestos-containing material exceeding initial assumptions.” Asbestos, by the way, was one of the main reasons mentioned initially (by Mayor Bloomberg, we were told) for the need to overhaul the whole building. Some costs, approximately $146.8M, were described as “temporary,” including buying new furniture — temporarily! Link to page
A New, Valuable Appointment
Newly appointed Under-Secretary General for Management, Yukio Takasu, has 40 years of wide experience in multilateral work.
He was Japan’s Permanent Representative to the U.N.; member and President of the Security Council; Head of U.N. Affairs at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions; Special Advisor of the Secretary General on Human Security; Ambassador, U.S. Embassy in Washington, D.C.; Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA; United Nations Controller within the U.N. Secretariat; among many other varied efforts. Link to page
Ethiopia and Sudan Harass UN Staff
The United Nations Staff Union and its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service express great concern at recent events that represent a breach of the independence of the international civil service. Holding staff for long periods without charge is alarming, and continued harassment is a violation of international agreements that is affecting the ability of the United Nations to operate. The Staff Union and the Committee call on all Member States, as well as other parties, to respect the independence of the international civil service and to guarantee to all staff, national and international, the conditions necessary for the United Nations to carry out its mission. Following are recent incidents of detention of United Nations personnel in the Sudan and Ethiopia. Link to page