Winter 2001 (9.4)
Infinitesimally Short - Why Are we Killing Each other
by Paolo Lembo
We Forget: The UN in Iraq - Sergio Vierira de Mello - Paolo Lembo
Interview with Paolo Lembo - Interview by Betty Blair
from Kosovo - Paolo Lembo
of the Birth of a Nation - Azerbaijan - By Paolo Lembo
[The following letter
was written personally to AI's Editor Betty Blair and is printed
here with permission of its author Paolo Lembo].
1, 2002, and only now have I found time to read my mail and to
answer friends and relatives. At the very, very top of my list
I'm in Rome now, having arrived here on December 30 from New
York where I spent the last month as a member of the UN Interagency
Afghan Task Force. This is a committee that has the responsibility
to design the initial policy framework and organizational structure
of the operation that will have the mandate to consolidate peace
and promote institution - building for the Afghan "entity".
The goal is to quickly lay a foundation upon which a democratic
reality can be built for the people of Afghanistan.
In the meantime, I have retained my responsibilities for that
other reality which is called Algeria where I am currently assigned.
You can imagine how hectic this has all been. I haven't even
had time to breathe. Fortunately, the initial phase of planning
related to Afghanistan is over, and next week I'll be heading
back to Algeria to resume my regular responsibilities (if you
can define anything about my life as "regular").
I've just read the latest issue of Azerbaijan International,
"Ten Years After," Autumn 2001 (AI 9.3), which includes
my article ["Another Wind - Memories of the Birth of a Nation
- Azerbaijan"]. What can I say after seeing it in print?
That article was an explosion of sentiments, memories, flashbacks
- a fireworks of emotion that, above all, made me better understand,
perhaps for the first time, the value of that period in my life,
and the privilege of having been part of that unique moment in
the history of Azerbaijan.
You would be surprised how many people at the UN (New York) and
at the World Bank (Washington, D.C.) have read that issue. People
have been kidding me about Baku's "Sharon Stone".
In the history of Azerbaijan in those early years, I believe
that there were foreigners who played a much more important role
than I did. But it may be that few of them felt such a passionate
affiliation for the Azeri people. Given the amount of troubles
that I experienced there, I sometimes wonder where all of that
great passion came from!!! Well, emotions, emotions! What would
life be like if it were shaped only by logic?!
I believe Azerbaijan International's issue "Ten Years After"
[AI 9.3] shows readers how far Azerbaijanis have come since independence
- something that few people realize. The magazine gives readers
a sense of history's evolution in its various stages and continuity.
That early era has come to an end, and we are now in a different
stage where different dynamics are at work in post - independent
I'll be spending a few more days' vacation with my family in
Rome and then it's off to Algeria once again. What a beautiful
country - enormously diverse, from the Sahara Desert to the French-style
cities of the Mediterranean coast. The country is in a very difficult
political situation with a brand of ferocious terrorism that
nobody can quite fathom.
As we enter the New Year, I ponder about the future of life on
this small bizarre and suffering planet. Last night at midnight,
we all went out in the park where New Year's Eve was being celebrated.
I looked up at the stars, and in the midst of all the bursts
of fireworks and the popping of champagne corks, I thought to
myself: "Will there ever come a time when people - all the
people on earth - at some midnight on a New Year's Eve will gaze
up at the stars and realize: For the very short time that we
are gifted here on earth to live out our infinitesimally short
lives - that it's not worth it. It's just not worth it at all
- to do anything else, except love one another. Just love, simply
All the very best for a wonderful new year of passion and light.
Editor: Paolo Lembo was interrupted
from his assignment with the UN in Afghanistan in 1992 to go
to Azerbaijan and set up the UN office there (1992-1997). Since
then, he has worked in numerous troubled spots with the UNDP
[United Nations Development Program] in Tajikistan (1997-1999),
Kosovo (1999-2001) and now Algeria. His recent article, a rare
glimpse of Azerbaijan's independence in the early 1990s: "Another
Wind, Memories of the Birth of a Nation - Azerbaijan," may be read
at AZER.com (Autumn 2001, AI 9.3).
(9.4) Winter 2001.
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