Mavericks and Team Players on Migration Policy with Reflections on Kofi Annan and John McCain

From Kofi Annan” the team player” to John McCain “the maverick” would seem like quite a jump. And in many ways it is. Calm versus flamboyant temperament. Collaborator versus boat rocker. Global citizen versus national patriot. Progressive (i.e. more to the left) versus conservative (i.e. more to the right). But both were “greater than life” figures who aspired to do more than their self interest.  Each has been eulogized for rather different reasons. In this commentary, however, I reflect on the impact both of them had in one area of commonly shared concern, migration policy. READ MORE HERE. Continue reading “Mavericks and Team Players on Migration Policy with Reflections on Kofi Annan and John McCain”

Kofi Annan the Team Player

Kofi Annan was a team player. How lucky to have been a part of his entourage. I remember the first time I met him. It was in Toronto shortly after he had assumed the position of UN Secretary General. As with so many others who came to know him, I was entranced by his soft-spoken style. And as Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from his inclusive leadership style.

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Open Doors – Not Fences and Not Walls, Either

In these days when the  American political scene is deeply divided, even when it comes to foreign policy,  there comes along an issue that is often misconstrued because of this divisive atmosphere. And that is the issue of opening the doors to multi-stakeholder collaboration in the area of nutrition. It is regrettable that the US role in advancing this collaboration has been miscronstrued, specifically in the context of US leadership in opposing  a particular resolution at the most recent World Health Assembly that was updating global health policy on infant and young child feeding. As reported by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times on 8 July, 2018 (available here) and picked up in numerous other media outlets), I believe that the US leadership has been incorrectly described as being opposed to breastfeeding because of its opposition to this resolution. The headline even suggests that the US action “Stuns World Health Officials”.

The article, which was widely circulated, describes US intervention on a resolution that was ultimately adopted at the annual gathering in May 2018 of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the chief governing body of the WHO.  My personal view is that this effort to condemn the US actions has actually been influenced largely by opponents of an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform for infant and young child nutrition. Whatever the rationale might have been for the US to do what it did, I believe that the critics have misrepresented the impact of the US position.

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Picasso and Ardéco in Vallauris

Vallauris has been a favorite haunt of ours for as long as we can remember. Famed for its pottery, the town has had its ups and downs. The walk along its main street, starting with Picasso’s famed statue “L’Homme au Mouton”, his powerful “War and Peace” panorama and a collection of his ceramic works in a museum at the top of the hill, and our personal favorite pottery shop Ardéco owned and operated by Gilbert and Martine Azéma at the bottom of the hill, is a nostalgic one these days. The town seems to be more “down” than “up”.  Without being too disheartening, however, we were “re-inspired” by what we learned from our latest visit (27 June 2018). At the one end, we took in the special exhibit of “Picasso’s Vallauris Years” that is part of a two-year “Picasso-Mediterranée” project running from 2017 to 2019. At the other end, having been saddened last year by the demise of Gilbert Azéma and the closing of his famed Ardéco, we were thrilled to come across the reopened Ardéco under new management.

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The Interplay between Gender and “Genderedness”

Gender equality has been at the forefront of French political debate in recent months, with a series of legislative proposals that reflect a uniquely French approach to both gender and equality.  My musing back in March on gender equality in France was intended to feature the excellent exhibits for International Women’s Day in the nearby village of Peymeinade. One exhibit had a historical perspective of 100 years of the feminist struggle dating back to 1918, while the other exhibit was a delightful mixture of paintings specifically prepared by three local artists for this particular International Women’s Day in Peymeinade. At a reception for this exhibit, Leila Zarif, the lead artist and her artistic daughter and grand-daughter explained their choice of featuring remarkable women whose impact went well beyond feminism per se – Rosa Parks, Simone Weil, Frida Kahlo and others.  The event also included remarks from the mayor about being true to yourself, specifically triggering an appreciation for the “gendered-ness”, as it were, of the French approach to gender equality. Since then, I have been reflecting on my own fixation on the interplay between modesty and provocation that reflects my Anglo-American perspective. Continue reading “The Interplay between Gender and “Genderedness””

The Aquarius Challenge to France

The significance of different attitudes and policies on migration has been on my mind for some time. The anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions of the current occupant of the White House are deeply distressing – worse and worse, it seems, and without any end to the disregard of human rights and rejection of humanitarian standards. The impasse on reforming immigration laws in the US is aggravated by this erratic and inflammatory figure who happens to be President. But then comes Aquarius! And here we are in France, coping with yet another set of complexities (and barriers) to resolving the suffering of current migrant populations. Things are not so clear-cut, in either place, the US or France. But we start with our French vantage point before moving on to the broader picture. Continue reading “The Aquarius Challenge to France”

Flower Power in Grasse

On the occasion of the 2018 annual Rose Expo on 17 to 20 May in Grasse, celebrating its 2018 theme of “Flower Power”, we took advantage of the four-day event to savor the fragrances and lush floral displays along the cobble-stoned streets within the ramparts of the old town. This was not our first time to the annual Expo, since we had been May-time visitors of the region with my in-laws in years past, but this was the first occasion for us to explore the wide array of rose-oriented celebrations as actual residents of the town. Continue reading “Flower Power in Grasse”

Matisse, Picasso and Villa Ndio

The Cote d’Azur conjures up images of brilliant sunshine, shimmering azure-blue seas, fields of lavender, vineyards and olive trees, cream-coloured villas with red-tiled roofs, and museums filled with the works of famed impressionist and twentieth century artists. Our first exposure to the Riviera was through what we called the “Matisse Room”, the guest bedroom on the top floor of a modest but very charming villa called “Lou Baguié”. But first impressions were also permeated by the visions of Monet and Manet, Cézanne and Renoir, Leger and Gauguin and Van Gogh, and ultimately, too, of Picasso. These impressions have influenced how we have incorporated our worldly possessions from a “globally nomadic life” into a uniquely Provençal environment.

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The IWM Experience

Having been on a family road trip to Normandy a few years ago, the experience has remained a vivid remembrance of the horrors of a war that was fought mostly in France. Well, that is not entirely fair since the Eastern Front in Poland, Ukraine and Russia had far more casualties, and World War II did also involve battles in East and Southeast Asia as well as Northern Africa.

Scene from Normandy 2013

But nonetheless, it is just one example of how the horrors of war are entrenched in the land of this country and in the psyche of its people.  In this “musing”, I build on earlier reflections about the lingering effects of World War II on the Riviera with my impressions of a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.

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Peymeinade au premier plan de la journée internationale de la femme

La Journée internationale de la femme (8 mars) est une journée mondiale célébrant les réalisations sociales, économiques, culturelles et politiques des femmes. Pour moi, ce fut une journée marquée par des événements spéciaux, que ce soit à Genève où j’ai travaillé pendant plus de 20 ans ou à Washington, DC et ailleurs aux États-Unis, pour sensibiliser à l’égalité des sexes. En cette première année de ma retraite dans le sud de la France, j’ai été ravie de découvrir que la petite commune de Peymeinade près de chez moi faisait activement la promotion de toute une série d’événements pour célébrer la journée, pas seulement le 8 mars, mais pendant 2 semaines!

Les expositions sur «100 ans de lutte pour l’égalité» et sur «Les femmes exceptionnelles» sont les traits marquants de l’actualité. Le premier était exposé à la Salle art et culture jusqu’au jeudi 15 mars 2018 et le second était exposé au Hall d’honneur de la Mairie jusqu’au Vendredi 9 mars 2018. Je me suis risqué l’autre jour, une journée relativement douce et ensoleillée après la tempête de neige de trois jours qui avait soufflé sur la Côte d’Azur plus tôt dans la semaine, pour explorer la ville à la recherche de ces expositions.

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