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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Finally a second shoe comes of at the UN Department of Public Information that services the Ban Ki-moon UN Administration. After the replacement of the officer in charge of Media Accreditation, now also a new Spokesperson.

November 30, 2009 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is getting a new Spokesperson – a real professional – Martin Nesirky – that will hail from Vienna where he was not just spokesman for over three years at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) but was also Head of Press and Public Information.

Nesirky will replace Michele Montas of Haiti who served since the beginning of the term of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, January 1, 2007, till now, November 30, 2009, thus leaving one month ahead of the end of a three years contract. Ms. Montas is retiring from the UN.

Mr. Nesirky came to OSCE from Reuters where he served over two decades as an international correspondent and editor. He covered issues the like of  the fall of the  Berlin Wall, events in the Balkans, and nuclear non-proliferation issues. Further, he had a stint as the Moscow Bureau Chief of Reuters with responsibility for coverage of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and as senior editor in London handling political stories, including the Middle East and Africa. He has been posted in Berlin, The Hague, and Seoul, though it is not known if he also speaks Korean, the language of the current UN Secretary- General – the subject of a question from one of the correspondents that remained unanswered.

More recently Mr. Nesirky in his Spokesman capacity at OSCE was instrumental in navigating the Russia backed OSCE Chairmanship for Kazakhstan for 2010. At the UN he may find his personal talents helpful in creating a new persona for the UN Secretary-General whose popularity with parts of the UN have hit a low, at a time that his reelection for a second term will be put on the table.

Ms. Montas whom he replaces had none of such credentials. Prior to her appointment, Montas headed the French unit of UN Radio. From 2003 to 2004, she served as the Spokesperson for UN General Assembly President Julian Robert Hunte, of Saint Lucia, soon after she fled to New York from Haiti. In Haiti, she and her husband were also radio journalists and activists. Her husband was killed in Haiti, and she escaped to New York. We can vouch that in her first several months in the job Mr. Ban Ki-moon set her up, she had no understanding or patience for subjects of climate change – not even when the subject was raised in connection to killings going on in Africa, or the dangers to Small Island Member States of the UN. Not even in matters of the Middle East – she seemed as a fish out of water and effectively harming  positions that the SG might have been more forthcoming. In press conferences of the SG she allowed only questions that she thought he would be interested in while guarding him from such questions as climate change.

The real question is now if Mr. Martin Nesirky will find it acceptable to fit in her shoes and submit to further layers of UN functionaries in a UN Department of Public Information where the Director of News and Media Division is Mr. Ahmad Fawzi who acts as a factotum on Press Accreditation and also whenever there is the need to talk to the press upon fighting in the Middle East. We feel that Mr. Nesirky may be inclined to become his own man in those areas while serving the needs of the Secretary-General.

The announcement about the new Spokesperson was made by Mr. Farhan Haq, of Pakistan, an Associated Spokesperson, third in the ranking below Mr. Nesirky (The second ranking Spokesperson is the Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe of Japan). Farhan started the announcement by saying: “And finally, a message that you’ve been waiting for some time. The Secretary-General today has named Martin Nesirky of the United Kingdom as the new Spokesperson for the Secretary-General,” but when asked by a correspondent if there will be in parallel an appointment for a position called Strategic Communications, he also gave no answer and showed impatience by mentioning that “our guests are here.”

Another correspondent asked nevertheless about the Small Pacific Developing Island States that called upon the Security Council to take up the issue of climate change “as a matter of security, because they say that their islands, their countries, could potentially disappear together for the first time in history, and they’re looking for the Council to develop enforceable emission targets. What does the SG think of this call to the SC to take up the Climate Change issue?”

The anemic answer was: “As you know, the SG has been encouraging all of the relevant bodies to deal with climate change and its effects across a variety of fields.At this stage, however, what the SG is concerned with is making sure that Member states and leaders at the highest level will come to Copenhagen to deal precisely with all of the challenges of climate change and seal a deal that can help resolve all the various problems that member States face.” That was quite a lame answer from the source of “Hopenhagen” and a clear show why finally the UN deserves a professional Spokesperson it was denied during the first three years of the Ban Ki-moon Administration of the UN.

The Correspondent continued with his insistence for an answer:
“There is nothing about the council taking up this matter?”

Final answer from the Associate Spokesperson: “It’s always up to the Security Council which matters it chooses to take up under rubric of peace and security issues.”

From our point of view, will Mr. Martin Nersirky accompany Mr. Ban Ki-moon to Copenhagen, or will it be Marie Okabe?

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N.B. – to be fair to Michele Montas –
Montas was one of the producers of Jonathan Demme’s documentary, The Agronomist, which depicted the life and death of her husband Jean Dominique and his career at Radio Haiti-Inter, the radio station that he founded. She was also involved with MINUTASH – the UN mission to Haiti. Montas worked  as a journalist at that Radio-station and has been  a human rights activist in Haiti and later a consistent international lecturer on Haiti – but the subject matter of the UN extends beyond Haiti and the Aristide government interests.
We do not imply that Montas was a negative person as such, only that she was not the right person for her job which allowed Mr. Ahmad Fawzi of Egypt to take over some of the responsibilitires that were hers, and the Under Secretary-General for the UN DPI, Mr. Kyotaka Akasaka, another strange appointment in the Ban Ki-moon cabinet, could really not care less.

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P.S. – On November 23, 2009 Martin Nesirky met the media correspondents to the UN and said:

A couple of things I just wanted to mention.  First of all, I’m really looking forward to working with all of you; getting to know you.  This is a huge challenge, of course, and I’m very keen to try to get to know you so I can help you the best that I can.  That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that, needless to say, I do read what’s being written.  And I think there are a couple of things I’d like to make absolutely clear and very straight at the beginning.  My language skills: I speak German, I speak Russian, I speak English after a fashion, I speak a little bit of Korean and an even smaller amount of French.  I realize that it’s very, very important to be able to speak French. I’m going to be doing as the Secretary-General has done, which is to take extra French classes to improve on that. And that’s really all I wanted to say on that matter.

The other is that I really believe that coming from outside the UN has advantages and disadvantages.  You will have to bear with me as I get to know the system that you, many of you, know far better than I probably will ever do.  But I am very keen to work with you so that you can help me to help you to have the stories that you need to write.

Also, it seems that the UN expects Mr. Nesirky to start his work at the UN on only December 7th, which is coincidentally the day the Copenhagen Conference opens officially, does it mean that he will be there, or it means that Marie Okabe will be there and he will be in New York? We shall see!

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