With the Obamaadministration in office for a little over a month now time has come to write a little something about the Obamaeffect in the UN circles. There is a whole lot of hope of change in the air and a great deal of enthusiasm floating around in the permanent missions and UN meetings. Many of course hope for a new era of mulitlateralism which would increase the importance of the UN with the US as an ally rather than opponent. This hope does of course have a foundation in the statements made by the president himself, the value of acts such as the closing down of Guantanamo, recruitments of keyfigures to important positions and so on. The US representatives in the commission I have monitored have not made one statement without refering to Obama, Clinton or Gore and their longlasting committments to mulitlateralism, human rights and international development. The US have even avoided debarking on the usual conflictlines when controversial statements have been raised by their usual rivals. It is clear that they want to mark a distance from the Bush era and signal a willingness to cooperate.
But in actual policy terms many issues are still unclear and the gaps then tend to be filled with hope and anticipation. The US delegation is still busy with recritments of middle management and in most issues they are still awaiting further instructions. And in the meantime you hear people dreaming about change in all areas from the deathpenalty to support to disabled people.
And just for fun I might mention that ne of the delegates at the Swedish PM just had a baby and named him Obama for a middlename…. So the Obamaeffect takes many forms.
“You know, just another day in New York” I would say with a blink of an eye.
Today has actually been quite a great day. Not only have I had a massive amount of gossiping with P5 ( I think that Alanis Morrisette look-a-like who found Johan Saturdaynight should take a look at the wonderful work of Lilly Mcleroy…) and not only did my working day begin by the very pleasant surprise of a me answering the phone not to find a grumphy UN emplyee or stressed out diplomat, but my lovely friend Jon at the other end. No today was the day of Patricia’s five minutes of fame. That is the statement she drafted was to be held at the Philantropy event next to speeches of Ban Ki-moon and Bill Clinton. So at 5.30 we headed down to the Trusteship Council at the UN skyscraper to listen to Mr Clinton speak on the importance of private donations to battle issues of global health (yes the blogpost will be updated with photos very soon). The reason for the Swedish statement was an enormous donation made by IKEA to a project in India. Then there was of course another reception of chardonnay, finger food and mingling ( I almost wish I hadn’t watched the last episode of the Swedish realityshow called the Diplomats because now I can hardly go through these events without looking at it from the outside with a certain sense of absurdity. That is a show that would definitely deserve an entire blogpost, but I will begin by saying that it certainly don’t do the Foreign Ministry and the diplomatic profession a favour in terms of PR) The reception passed with a lengthy conversation with a guy from UNDP who worked at the Obama campaign and some other guy pulling the Scarlet Johanson-line ( people of Scandinavian descent must all look the same to outsiders). So quite early I headed out for drinks with my old roomie Jo. Jo is the most energetic woman ever and I so loved spending the evening talking about saving the world and all other important things with her. She does the most amazing work, that actually fitted quite well with the philanthropy theme of the day, of involving private comapanies in development work around the world.
I have such a weakness for old Afro-American musik be it jazz, soul or blues. I love the sound and aesthetics of early 20th Century jazzmusic. There is something so classy about the black and white photos of Ella, Billy, Louie and the others of that time. And there is no better music to cheer you up thne warm soul. I was therefore glad to run into the 75th Anniversary of the Appolo Theatre by chance today, the scene where people like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were discovered at the famous Amateur nights. I was walking on 125th Street to visit an art exhibition of Barkley L Hendricks called Birth of the cool at The Studio Museum in Harlem. In the exhibition Hendricks portrays Afro-Americans from Harlem and they do have an ability to look cool that I could never match. Do make you understand why Lou Reed wrote the song Wanna be black…
Just listen to Nina Simone
It is 05.08 and I’ve just finished a late dinner/early breakfast after celebrating Stephanie’s 25th birthday all night long. Now Stephanie is a chick who’s company I have come to seriously appreciate and for friends like that you stay up partying to the bitter end. In New York that does not only mean past the 3 o’clock closing time, but past the dodgy Chinatown afterhour clubs (in our case a place with the appropriate name Happy Ending which looked like an old sauna/gym in some basement) and the late night munchie-diners. I have had a great time and if I hadn’t I would have loved it anyway because I am at heart actually also a Saint Bernhard (and when I am not that I what I long to be).
The Saint Bernhard is one of the categories of friends that me and Stephanie have come up with in our systematization of friendshiprelations. Just as the dogs the Saint Bernhards put loyality first and they are the friends you can always count on being there for you. Not only to party till the night ends on your birthday of course.
The Saint Bernhards are contrasted by the flickers, the straydogs and the surfers. The flickers are like fireflys- always looking for where the action is, unthoughtful of the that they might burn their bridges in their eager hunt for being at the right place at the right time. They are the people who always say that they will show but always call in te last minute to cancel when something more fun shows. Or the straydogs. They are so eager to be loved that they inflate the value of their friendship by the unselectivity and despererateness with which they approach you. But the surfers may be the most decieving. They come with such intensity and passion, but ones the fire burns out they loose interest in you completely already enchanted by the next great wave. Blessed be the Saint Bernhards for they are loyal, reliable and trustworthy.
In my endless pondering on the spirit of New York City I have come to realize that one of the things I appreciate about the mentality here is that it is so fearless. It is as if life here, and certainly my life, has such intensity and pace that there is no time for doubt, at least not for self-doubt. Of course fearlessness can take the shape of lack of reflection or self-criticism (a feature Swedes often like to criticise Americans for). But on the other hand the frightend ones are often more occupied with their own demons that the task at hand. Fear is blinding.
We have a wonderful chief at the Permanent Mission called Per who has the unusual yet so precious leadershipability to shift peoples focus from doubt and criticism to constructive action. When Per held the first introductory talks with us interns he said that the greatest hindrance to our success here would be fear. And I think he is absolutely right. Just yesterday as the same Per invited the entire mission to a beer and hot dog after work I came to think of that again as dear Patricia was sitting next to me drafting a speech to be held for Ban-Ki Moon and Bill Clinton. It is so incredibly brave of her to do that after only three weeks here. Its those without fear that have the courage to change the world.