Monthly Archives: August 2000
This Book is not an autobiography. It is rather the product of an interaction between imagination, experience, fiction, reminiscence and fantasy. A cocktail mixed in the environment of Unesco – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – and tempered by a sprinkling of light humor.
At my recent farewell party at the Unesco Headquarters, in Paris, the Assistant Director-General had said in his speech, “After thirty years of service, our friend Jacques Dupont is retiring. Lucky man ! He will be free at last. He will rest. He will rediscover the joys of life. He will do exactly what he always dreamt to do. Jacques Dupont will finally be his own master.”
I was in New York on one of my missions to the United Nations to represent Unesco at a meeting. I had been to the UN on several occasions before. In fact, I had established, over the years, a fairly good reputation as a dependable, serious and resourceful international civil servant. But, after what had happened during this last visit, I no longer knew how I stood in the eyes of my colleagues. I was not quite sure whether to laugh or cry.
I remember when I got off the plane I found Heathrow airport crowded. The sky was blue, but everyone had an umbrella. I guess, in England you just do not trust the weather forecast.
The meeting in Morocco had been scheduled to last three days. It was a restricted, semi-formal consultation, at the invitation of the Government of Morocco, to help finalize an important project for international assistance on the theme of: ‘A national strategy for the protection of the rural environment.’
I distinctly remember it was June 1980. I had just turned forty-five and had been promoted Director of a large division. That Monday morning I was peacefully planning my week at my desk, hoping to catch up with the backlog, when my Secretary came into the office, white as a sheet, to tell me that the Assistant Director General wanted to see me immediately about an urgent problem. Five minutes later he told me that I was to leave on a mission to Djakarta that very evening to represent Unesco at the Borobudur Festival.
I opened my eyes. The room was dark. It was not my room. The street lights projected a ghostly silhouette onto the window. As I moved in my bed, the silhouette turned and spoke. I recognized Brigitte’s voice: “Are you alright, Jacques?”
The twelve-hour flight had resulted in a first-rate jet lag. Unfortunately, Melatonine had not yet been marketed and I was desperately struggling to sleep in my tiny room at the Tokyo Hotel. One would assume that at fifty, after twenty years of extensive traveling, my body would have adjusted more easily to these time changes. But not at all! As a matter of fact, it was getting worse as the years went by.
Brigitte had offered to drive me to the airport since she wanted to do some shopping with Françoise at the IKEA department store in Roissy, only a few minutes from the airport.
All the directors had been convened for a meeting with the Director-General in Conference Room N° 2. We were told about the financial situation, the necessary cuts in the on-going budget and the inevitable restrictions that had to be imposed on every program. You could sense nervousness pervading the room. When the Director-General spoke of the necessity to cut down on missions, the temperature of room N°2 rose by several degrees.