UN, Rumi Tunes Show Softer Side of Ban, Myanmar Efforts Unclear
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, June
26 -- Amid disputes not only about Darfur but even about whether the African
Union was invited to the meeting on Darfur attended by Ban Ki-moon in Paris on
Monday, Tuesday at UN headquarters a strange peace descended, from eight
centuries ago by way of a digital music synthesizer.
celebration of the poetry and music of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, UN Conference Room 4
filled up to overflowing. There were bodyguards aplenty, for Ban Ki-moon and
Mrs. Ban, and unobtrusive for once, for U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Iran's
Ambassador was there, soon to leave New York, still being feted.
gave a speech, tying Rumi to the UN's Alliance of Civilizations. He also
mentioned love. General Assembly president Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa spoke,
in Arabic, of Rumi's story of those who were "touching his elephants" (without
realizing what they were).
Afghanistan's permanent representative to the UN noted that rather than fight
over Rumi, his country and Iran and Turkey had all agreed to share him. He wrote
70,000 verses, mostly in Persian. Some few dozen were read out, and translated,
and then the music began.
was mesmerizing. A synthesizer played circular and sad; the sound of panpipes
weaved in and out, punctuated by chimes and other rhythm. Ban Ki-moon sat
pensive; even his bodyguard sat down. There was Vijay Nambiar, who some in the
building say may not stay long in his job, titular chief of staff "not even
chosen by India," one insider source disclaims.
was not a night for politics, but music and reflection, and then for cheap
wordplay. One wag riffed -- inappropriately, for sure -- about the many meanings
of Rumi. Roomy as in spacious; roomie as in roommate. Rheumy as one who has a
runny nose. Rumi! This is a poet who's work has stood the test of time.
Ban and his double in Doha, Rumi not shown
the UN recalls a quite different anecdote, retold in the recent book
"Independent Diplomat," about when Security Council experts began choosing songs
to play before their sessions. It led, as Rumi would have (it), to more meetings
of the mind. But when Reuters reported it, those incensed by Iraq sanctions saw
it as cavalier.
did Tuesday's Rumi music play? Perhaps the rest of the week will tell. Another
side of Ban we'd be remiss to not report, amid a wider frustration with
continued lack of transparency, is that the man works hard. One recent example
involves the UN's labor issues. As Inner City Press reported, the New York Staff
Union quoted Ban recently as not knowing much about the Staff-Management
for that. But then late last week, Ban met with union representatives from
elsewhere in the system. He asked rep after rep detailed questions about their
issues. Clearly, he had studied. And in fairness we report it.
only that degree of seriously could be applied to human rights, without regard
to the pet peeves and vetoes of the Council's Permanent Five. Or even if that
effort could be devoted to making sure that his own envoy on Children and Armed
Conflict could meet with those with power in Myanmar. On Tuesday,
Inner City Press asked:
Question: Can I ask you something about
Myanmar? The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is there,
and itís said that it's not clear yet if the Government, or who in the
Government of Myanmar, is going to meet with her on the issue of children and
armed conflict. Has either the Secretary-General or Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari or
anyone in the Secretariat reached out to the Myanmar Government to see that this
visit is actually met by the appropriate Government officials?
Spokesperson: I don't know at this point,
but I can inquire for you.
This later inquiry, by hard-working
staffer, yielded this:
question today at the noon, we don't have a list of specific meetings of the
SRSG in Myanmar. Her office will issue a press release on her visit on Friday --
and you can of course pick that up here."
But as subsequently pointed out, the
question wasn't only with whom she would meet, but what efforts Mr. Ban, Mr.
Gambari and others were and are making. We'll see.
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