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And the next Napoleon will be ...

Posted by Helen Saturday, April 23, 2005

You don’t ask you don’t get. That seems to be the motto of that great and good (you mean completely unknown) London MEP, Nirj Deva. Of course, if you ask you may not get either, but that does not seem to bother him.

Mr Deva, a former MP until the electors of Hounslow got bored with him, a present member of the European Parliament, and self-styled Ambassador-at-Large for Sri Lanka, has thrown his hat into the ring for the next Secretary General of the United Nations.

Fresh from the great success of failing to reform the European Parliament’s freebies (woops, sorry, expenses) system, Mr Deva, who is leading the European Parliament delegation to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (nice one Nirj!), has announced to the United States Council on Foreign Relations and, later, to St John’s University (no, I don’t know what it is either) that

“…as it is Asia’s turn to provide the Secretary-General of the United Nations he had been asked by numerous organisations to be a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan when the time comes.”
Before we go any further, one or two things need to be made clear. Nirj Deva may have been born in Sri Lanka but he is a British citizen (and, as he no doubt, likes telling people) an EU citizen as its consequence. Otherwise he would not be in the European Parliament and would not have been in the House of Commons.

Britain is a permanent member of Security Council. No Secretary General can be from a major country, let alone from one that is a permanent member of the Security Council. Ergo Nirj Deva cannot be SecGen. Q, as they used to say, ED.

Of course, he can suddenly discard his British and EU citizenship but that would mean relinquishing his place in the euro-trough. Somehow I cannot see the estimable Mr Deva doing that.

Getting away from that conundrum, what are Mr Deva’s qualifications for this post?
“They see me as a bridge; being personally and politically rooted in Asia and Europe on the one hand; and my with long standing commitment [sic] to the development of Africa Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) on the other.”
His basic understanding of civil engineering does not seem to be that hot either, but he is not applying for a job that has any useful aspect to it.

So, um, how will he deal with the variour problems that the UN has faced recently? According to his press release
“He called for a closer involvement by citizens to create a new driving force for the effective delivery of aid, and for holding governments and NGOs accountable and transparent through the use of interactive real time internet technology. Being committed to the Millennium Development Goals, he has included the "Quick Wins" solutions on eradicating poverty, in the European Parliament Development Budget of which he is draftsman and called for a New Partnership with developing countries to strengthen, align and build capacities in partner countries receiving European aid.”
I wonder if any of our readers will be able to explain what “interactive real time internet technology” is and how it will suddenly make the UN and NGOs accountable to anyone at all. It is of particular interest, as my spies tell me that Mr Deva does not quite know the best way of switching on a computer.

Further on, he gets into an even bigger muddle. On the one hand, he sees it as the UN’s job to eradicate child labour, as well as child trafficking and child soldiers. On the other hand,
“Another way of promoting sustainable development is through Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) which in developing countries are often family businesses. He called for a greater role for the European Investment Bank, which has a lending base three times the size of the World Bank, to play a major role in assisting the private sector in developing countries and demanded cuts in bureaucracy which increased poverty, stifled growth and encouraged corruption in developing countries.”
But not family enterprises that employ their children, one assumes. When do children stop being children? Are we going to impose the oh-so-successful British system of reluctant fifteen-year-olds in classrooms learning nothing?

Rising to a crescendo of lunacy Mr Deva’s press release and preliminary election manifesto ends with the following stirring words.
“The Secretary-General is more than an Administrator – he is the public face of the United Nations, and it is to him that the people of the world will rightly look when problems need to be solved. He is not a dictator, he is not a line manager - he has limited powers so he must above all be a consensus-builder. This is not a job for a bureaucrat – it is a job for a politician, and perhaps it is time for an outsider who is not steeped in the culture of foreign relations, and especially not in the culture of the UN.
Above all he needs to remember that his job is not about institutions - it is about people. He is the servant of the people of the world whether they be rich or poor and whether they be weak or powerful. He must work with their governments and the international institutions which they have ordained, but he must never forget that his overriding purpose is to achieve so far as he can conditions in which individual men and women can live in peace, and develop and enjoy their human potential to the full.”
Mr Deva was last seen wandering round the endless corridors of the European Parliament in a tricorne with a cockarde pinned to it, one hand tucked into an immaculate white waistcoat and the other one pointing onwards and upwards.