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Reasons for hope
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 20 - 10 - 2005

By Seheir Kansouh Habib, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beyond
Amidst crisis and criticism and the outcome of last month's summit that fell short of expectations, the UN, nonetheless, has reasons to cheer. For the eighth time, a UN organisation or head has won the Nobel peace prize. Before the International Atomic Energy Agency -- created in 1957 and the latest recipient -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN as a whole shared the 2001 prize. UN peace-keeping forces were honoured in 1988, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 1965, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 1981 and 1954, and the International Labour Organisation in 1969. The late UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold won the prize, posthumously, in 1961.
"The prize is a welcome reminder," said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan following the announcement that this year honoured the IAEA, "of the acute need to make progress on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at a time when weapons of mass destruction continue to pose a grave danger to us all." IAEA Chief Mohamed El-Baradei's own reaction was humble, promising "resolve at a time when we have a hard road ahead of us" and "to keep doing what [we] are doing, be impartial, and act with integrity". El-Baradei honoured his colleagues who work with the IAEA: "This is a tremendous recognition of their untiring efforts in the service of peace."
The 2005 Nobel award has highlighted one of the most central aspects of the UN's mandate: peace- keeping. But there are other roles assumed by the UN, often diverse, intricate and diffused worldwide, that don't receive due recognition and appreciation, such as development assistance. There is an entire edifice of UN socio-economic organs, development programmes, specialised agencies and partners. Yet all attention is fixed on the faulty actions of some individuals, such as in the Oil for Food programme. Regrettably, failings by a few men or women obscure the work of thousands of dedicated UN officials some of whom -- such as the late Nadia Younes, killed together with other UN colleagues in Iraq -- have lost their lives in service.
On the occasion of the UN's 60th anniversary, Beyond and its partner Al-Ahram Weekly take pleasure in shedding light on some of the work of UN agencies in Egypt, as well as recognising the distinguished contributions of a number of Egyptians in top UN positions. For reasons of space, it is certain that many names are missing from our list of honour. We, however, salute all those who work in silence and dedication -- and not necessarily in lucrative positions -- in the service of mankind.
In addition to calls for reform, the UN and its people deserve recognition, support and encouragement to pursue their often- arduous work. It is our hope that this modest contribution can do just that.


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