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"Think of these three things: whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account"--Benjamin Franklin

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Knew There Was Something about 18 September! Long Live Dag Hammarskjold!

In a rather serendipitous turn of events, I found myself last week discussing the UN and how I'm preparing for a long journey to acquire some necessary skills to get there.

As luck would have it, yesterday, I found a job description at the Un Office in Vienna[a very well-designed website if you ask me!]which was practically identical to yours truly--except for one thing: the salary! It was a whopping almost six times MORE than what I earn, and it evidently gave me serious food for thought!

Flippancy aside, it's important to note that for all the quasi-hagiographic manner in which I paint the United Nations, I know it's still a seriously flawed institution, but I cannot but wonder how the world would survive without it. One review in Pakistan's main daily paper opines about the global body's value:

The third world wants it to deliver legal solutions. The United States thinks it is a spendthrift obstacle in the way of foreign policy. It is wrong to think of the UN as responsible for making laws and enforcing them. The system is clearly political and is not meant to satisfy legal and moral demands, but moral and legal opinion can be voiced at the UN, which is good for the third world. All things considered, the UN remains an institution of great value to the small and poor states of the world

It could be argued that coming from where I'm coming, I'm bound to arrive at this conclusion. I have always argued that The Hague International Model United Nations in 1994 convinced me about working for the UN.

It would have been frankly criminal if I hadn't pursued that line of endeavour, and not chosen to set up a website dedicated to the UN--or at least my academic papers( in particular, my university papers) on the UN.

Now to the irony: my Un Apologist blog is as dead as a dodo. Less said about it, the better!

Either way, I would like this post to be less about me--and more about one of my key heroes of the 20th century--Dag Hammarskjold. He might have been gay--he never married for all his experienced years, and rarely expressed interest in women--but he continues to earn serious respect for his dedication to the very difficult job at the UN. Here are some of his achievements: (many thanks to WIKIPEDIA)

  • Hammarskjöld tried to soothe relations between Israel and the Arab states

  • In 1955, he went to mainland China to negotiate the release of 15 US pilots who had served in the Korean War and been captured by the Chinese

  • In 1956, he established the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). In 1957, he intervened in the Suez Crisis

  • In 1960, the former Belgian colony and now newly-independent Congo asked for UN aid in defusing the escalating civil strife. (See Congo Crisis). Hammarskjöld made four trips to the Congo

  • It would be on what would prove to be his last trip to the Congo on 18 September, 1961 "to negotiate a cease-fire" that his plane would crash in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

    Even the rather naive-towards-world-affairs generation in which I grew up believed easily that he had been assassinated most likely by the secret services of the CIA. Turn to WIKIPEDIA, and you learn more:

    On August 19, 1998, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), revealed that recently-uncovered letters had implicated British MI5, American CIA and South African intelligence services in the 1961 crash of Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane. One TRC letter said that a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay was set to detonate when the wheels came down for landing. Tutu said that the veracity of the letters was unclear; the British Foreign Office suggested that they may have been created as Soviet misinformation. [2]

    On July 29, 2005, exactly 100 years after Hammarskjöld's birth, the Norwegian Major General, Bjørn Egge, gave an interview to the newspaper Aftenposten on the events surrounding his death. According to Egge, who was the first UN officer to see the body, Hammarskjöld had a hole in his forehead, and this hole was subsequently airbrushed from photos taken of the body. It appeared to Egge that Hammarskjöld had been thrown from the plane, and grass and leaves in his hands might indicate that he survived the crash, and had tried to scramble away from the wreckage. Egge does not claim directly that the wound was a gunshot wound, and his statement does not align with Archbishop Tutu's information. [3] In an interview on March 24, 2007 on the Norwegian TV channel NRK, an anonymous retired mercenary claimed to have shared a room with an unnamed South African mercenary who claimed to have shot Hammarskjöld. The alleged killer was claimed to have died in the late 90s. [4]

    Another possible explanation is that Hammarskjöld’s plane struck some treetops as it was preparing for landing. Hammarskjöld was the only person whose body was separate from the wreckage and therefore not burnt due to his aversion to seatbelts. He was thrown from the crash or was able to crawl away from the plane, but his injuries were severe enough that he was already dead by the time the plane was found

    If we were to be a bit more technical about the whole thing, there are two articles in the UN charter that allows the UN Secretary-General to have power:

    Article 98 of the United Nations charter adds that the Secretary-general “shall perform such other functions as are entrusted to him” by the UN organs. Article 99 states that the Secretary-general “may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

    As head of the organization, the Secretary-General’s raison d’etre is exemplified by the three articles in question. To an extent, is through these articles that he becomes “guardian of the peace” , because it is he – and he alone – who possesses the unique right to directly liaise with the Security Council. He does this by raising their awareness of any “matter”, which he deems to pose a menace for international peace and security. This is what many of the authors I used in writing this paper refer to as a “special right”.

    The Secretary-general’s “special right”

    This “right” in question is also known as article 99. It confers prerogative to the Secretary-General to exercise his judgement rationally I matters of international politics, or world peace. Implicit, also, in this article is the belief that should the Secretary-General consider any situation which may adversely affect either politics or diplomacy, he should, or at least must be compelled to, invoke the article in order to obtain a response from the Security Council. Gordenker in fact writes “the article was designed precisely as an alternative to a complainant by a member government to the Security Council.” He goes on to argue that however, “article 99 exists primarily for use in a crisis.”

    It is important to note that "never again since Hammarskjold has it been invoked."

    So, I sometimes wonder--that despite the ostensible success of my fellow countryman Kofi Annan, and the more passive Ban Ki-Moon, which UN SG is going to deliver the goods -- at all costs. I believe in my heart of hearts that Hammarskjold died for going beyond his supposed remit--and the Western security services made sure that the then-popular SG had to go--by fair means or foul.

    Reading contemporary UN politics, such as that of the very-critical Inner City Press reporting scandals and whatnot within the UN, you begin to wonder more about the effectiveness of Ki-Moon.

    Today, I'd just like to say that Hammarskjold is my hero.

    Forty-five years after his untimely demise, may he continue to rest in perfect peace, and may we have better UN administrators who will not feel afraid to push the envelope--just that bit.

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    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Weekend Woes: Smart Women? Smart Men!; UN-Bound

    Smart Men!
    Yesterday I saw my girlfriend off at the same place I saw her off last week. For a second, I was tempted to go to the place where I met that smart woman of last two weeks, and tell her that I just came to say "hi", and that I had just seen my significant other off.

    I resisted the thought. It looked stupid, and wrong, because it was like I was trying to re-assure both myself and the lady that I wasn't going to try anything. If there is nothing at all, why the re-assurance?

    I reckon that must be the smartest move I've made in a long time!


    Yeah, so it's no secret that I want to work for the United Nations. Whether it's in the capacity as Communications officer, or Political officer, I'm still seriously unsure. What I am sure about is that there is a lot I need to do to get myself there! Last time I attended a "real" UN Conference was in Brussels--back in 2001--for the Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries, which resulted in a statement I wrote here: the picture!--I'm the one to the right in the brown suit!)

    I started off by editting my profile on Un Jobs. Last time I did that was in 2003, when United Nations Non-Governmental Liason Office had turned me down after having actually interviewed a much-ecstatic yours truly!! That was when I knew I had a chance.

    Ofcourse, since then, I've become a de facto blogger and added a few other experiences on me, but I got to tell you I got stumped when, in the personal profile space, I was asked to put down "Achievements". As compared to my internship at the NGO I worked for in Brussels, I could not think of a single achievement I had chalked here!

    Talk about ironic...

    It was serious food for thought, however, into getting me to think what concrete things I have to do to ensure I can clock down something at least! Can it honestly be that bad--or is it that I'm under-estimating myself. These are details for me to work out, evidently, but the mind does surely boggle...

    Either way, here's a sure list of "competencies" the UN would look for. A tall order---if ever I saw one!!:

    • Demonstrated expertise in area of assignment;
    • proven conceptual and analytical skills that lead to formulation of options and recommendations.
    • In-depth understanding of and ability to evaluate international political situations.
    • Good knowledge of the United Nations, especially its role in peacekeeping operations.
    • Excellent communication (verbal and written) skills,
    o including ability to prepare reports and conduct presentations by clearly formulating positions on issues, articulating options concisely, conveying maximum necessary information and defend difficult issues.
    • Ability to plan and organize drafting work efficiently,
    • also to organize large meetings in cooperation with diverse entities,
    o including government officials, diplomats, representatives of NGOs, press corps and inter-governmental organizations, both within and outside the UN system.
    • Excellent interpersonal skills,
    o ability to listen and work in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity.
    • Judgment and initiative, imagination and resourcefulness;
    • proven ability to operate with diplomacy and tact

    I keep on asking myself: "how on Earth does one prove an ability to "operate with diplomacy and tact"?

    Any takers?

    Have a constructive and GREAT weekend, and while you're at it, here's a deeply reflective site ( you'll find very interesting;-)

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    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    Not Calling the Ex Could be Construed as a Sign of Incipient Maturity

    With a title like that, who needs an entry?

    Seriously, I flipped over, the other day, to what I was blogging about last year this time, and it turns out I was writing about calling my ex to wish her a happy birthday, merely because I cannot forget it seeing as it follows my brother's.

    Either way, as if by an act of unwitting sagacity, my significant other and I were having a chat--as you do--about people and how funny they can be, when she told me how the other day her ex called her out of the blue to find out how she is.

    She said--and I whole-heartedly believe her--she got angry and told him that she didn't have anything to do with him, and why was he calling. She then told him not to call her again.

    I respected that.

    So I followed suit... in not calling my ex again.

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    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Making Love over a Cup of Desiderata

    The art of making love is not just about the physicality of the act; it's inevitably also about using words to heal and soothe and encourage, without using to many "ands";-)

    So there Sandra and I were the other day talking and contemplating about the Desiderata, a poem that is reputed to have been found in St.Paul's Church, Baltimore in 1692 but is also reputed to have been written by by one Max Ehrmann.

    I've been told that it's important to feed the soul every now and then, and in my estimation, the Desiderata is the greatest exponent of soul-food there ever is -- and probably will be.

    She had never heard of it, but was humbled by the wisdom exuding from these important words:

    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    When we decide to tie the knot, it's going to be a veritable staple of our emotional and relationship diet. The world sometimes moves far too fast, and if we can be slowed down by such sagacity, I'm all for it, whilst remembering these even wiser words:

    be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

    Strive to be happy.

    I came across an old post from two years ago which goes like this:

    The violence that is flaring up on our streets and in many corners of the world is the inevitable expression of the hostility in our hearts. Hostility is like an infectious disease. Whenever we indulge in a violent act or even in hostile words, we are passing this disease on to those around us. When we quarrel at home, it is not just a domestic problem, we are contributing to turmoil everywhere.

    Maybe, just maybe, this poem can help reconcile justice and peace of mind with the incredible injustice and chaos in the world.

    May it work for you as it has done, and continues to work for me...

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    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Responding to a Tag by Peculiar Virtue

    I was tagged by Peculiar Virtue (

    Here are the Rules:
    1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
    2. Players start with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
    3. People who are tagged need to post to their own blog (about their 8 things) along with these rules. (**if you're a non-blogger, you can e-mail them!)
    4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose 8 people to tag and list their names.
    5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them, "you're tagged, now go read my blog."
    1. I want to work for (the much-maligned and flawed) United Nations one fine day.
    2. I want to train as a qualified journalist (someone told me recently given my inquisitorial type of questioning, a little stint at a media house, and I'd be blazing trails;-) )
    3. I am a rather hirsute man.
    4. I will publish my crime thriller before I turn 32.
    5. I am often impetuous, ending many times with egg-on-my face. In that respect, I find great affinity with the US-based NBC comedy show "Frasier", which I am a great fan of.
    6. Classical music and Jazz are my therapy for sinking into a soulful place.
    7. I am convinced I will have twins.
    8. I can see a very good and caring wife in my significant other.
     I am tagging : Daniel (; Soap ( ); Laura Tooth (; Elsa Brobbey (; Enoch Darfah Frimpong (; Akosua Nyako; Patrizia Uccheddu-Murray; Elodie Windels (

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Back by 7th September

    Am currently in campaign-mode at work, working with my colleagues, away from the office; and some time away from my desk...seriously deprived of my habitual radio-fixes!;-)

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