The founding and building-up of UNU/IIST became one of the highlights of my professional career. My years at IBM Vienna, the years of DDC, and now those years at Macau.
I am quite proud of my rôle: I sincerely believe that, under my leadership, we made UNU/IIST a resounding success: As a great research and training centre for young people from developing and emerging countries and of the United Nations University system, and as a computing science and software engineering research and post-graduate and post-doctoral training centre.
I refer to ``vignette'' Item kjellberg1987.
The visit first announced in January 1987 while I was visiting Tokyo for quite other reasons, cf. the above-mentioned ``vignette'', took place in the first days of March 1987. I flew Copenhagen-Hong Kong -- Saturday to Sunday -- and made my way, for the first of, what later turned out to be, many times, across Hong Kong to the Shun Tak Centre and from there with a Jet Foil to Macau. This time, courtesy the Macau Government, I was taken from HKG Airport to STC and from the old Macau Jetfoil centre to the Macau Mandarin Hotel by Intl. Travel (of Macau). The meeting was chaired by the wonderfully crazy lady: Prof. Ines Wesley-Tanaskovic, a former UNU Council Chairwoman. Members of the exploratory meeting came from Portugal, India (Dr. Ramani), Burma/IMF (Tun Thin, Washington, D.C.), Japan, China, etc. We were ill-prepared, and as I.W.-T. was not in a position to come up with a decisive proposal, I worked one out, one night, not being able to sleep, due to jet-lag, and presented it Wednesday morning. It was generally liked, and we all went back, me to lecture, Thu. at 8 am. Well home I typed my intervention on my Apple Macintosh and sent it to the group. It later turned out to be quite used.
I myself did not believe in the proposal, which was formulated on the basis of a group consensus.
In 1989, two years later, I was in Rio de Janeiro and met Prof. Carlos Lucena. He was on his way via London to Macau. There was now a Feasibility Study of which he was a member. He did not know of my previous rôle. I had Annie Rasmussen fax him, at Tom Maibaum, Imperial College, in London, a copy of my march 5, 1987 ``proposal''.
But in March 1991 Madame Ines Wesley-Tanaskovic sent me a fax, with the call for Director advertisement from the British weekly The Economist, asking whether I would apply. I replied: In my position I do not apply. I was later in April, called up from Tokyo: Vice-Rector Roland Fuchs, and he asked whether I was `game'. So I consented: He could pick up my CV from two floors down: At the Unisys Nihon HQ which was then in the same building, Toho Seimei (Insurance Co.), in Shibuya. Of 241 applicants they chose the one who had not formally submitted one.
I flew out, to Tokyo, for an interview in early May. And I accepted their offer. It was then I was first exposed to Heitor Gurgulino de Souza's chattering and blabbering. Oh yes, the Portuguese would pass the agreements, signed in March that year (1991) soon, and I could begin, say no later than November that year.
Anyway, I was officially designated. Later in May that year (1991) I again flew out to the Far East: to a UNU Council Meeting in Macau, at Univ. of Macau, and met the Macau Government for the first time ! On the same trip I visited Tokyo and Peking.
Well, it all dragged out. I told DTH around this time, and took my leave of absence without pay initially as from December 1981, later, as things dragged on-and-on, as from February 1, 1992. Anne Haxthausen, then at CRI Intl., was nominated to give my Spring 1992 lectures.
Our son, Nikolaj, who was then still studying at DTH, as usual came, late May 1991, to me to discuss his choice of courses to be taken at DTH and at DIKU (Copenhagen Univ.) for the Fall '91 and Spring '92 semesters. His eyes became dark: Well, for Spring '91 he wasn't going to take my lectures, he said. Well, You won't be able to: Kari and I are going to Macau ! Etc. And Anne H. will give my lectures. OK, fine: He certainly would then take the course as he was not going to break an emerging tradition: I had taught Anne, and so had my sister Elisabeth. She was taught by our father. And so on ! Therefore Nikolaj would follow her lectures !
In October (1981) I was again in Tokyo: For the last conference of the Fifth Generation Computer Project, 5GCP. I was an invited keynote speaker.
In November I went, on Rector's orders to a meaningless meeting on Gran Canaria: Rainy weather. Here I again met Madame I.W.-T., and, for the first time, Charles Cooper, Director of UNU/INTECH, Maastricht.
In December 1991 I again went to Tokyo, for the winter UNU Council meeting. I flew via New York (visiting UNU's NY office (UNU/ONA) and UNDP), Washington D.C. (WDC, visiting The World Bank, hosted by Tun Thin) and New Orleans where I was attending an ACM SIGSOFT conference on Safety Critical Systems Software. From New York I flew with a UNU/ONA staffer on the LaGuardia National Airport shuttle to WDC. In WDC we went home, privately to Tun Thin. It was after this first encounter with WB officials that I coined the term: ``The Beltway Bandits''. Many WB staff had spouses working 11 months a year, a maximum, as very well paid consultants, usually around US$,200,000 a year.
After WDC i flew via Atlanta, Georgia with change of flight, to New Orleans.
Very late, almost midnight arrival. Stayed at the Fairmont Hotel. Had never heard about it. But that was just because it had changed name: Formerly the Hotel Roosevelt it hosted the Sazerac Bar. Here, in late September 1964, I had my first Sazerac Cocktail and also their New Orleans Gin Fizz.
Via a pre-week-end stop, two nights in the SF Bay Area, visiting Cai and Alice, onto Tokyo, Japan Airlines.
I attended the Danish Christmas service at the Danish Embassy in Tokyo -- where I first met the reverend Hans Vestergaard Jensen. Again I visited Peking and flew home on SAS. Charlotte was there, studying at Beijing Normal Univ. We had, with her Chinese girl friends, a great dinner at the Fang Shan Imperial restaurant in BeiHai park.
The SAS flight, an early Dec. 21 morning took some time to get from the gate. It was a very light snow, hardly covering the ground. But the air traffic control staff were all giddy: Throwing snow balls on the apron ! After almost an hours waiting time inside the cabin, the captain could finally announce departure as we slowly moved away from the gate. Slowly down the taxiway. And, at the last turn, onto the runway, the captain ``revved'' up, and the plane starting sliding. We ended up with the front wheel some 3 feet into the ground just off the runway.
Two hours and a half later we were at the Airport (``close'') Lido Holiday Inn hotel -- the bus ride on the now frozen and old airport highway had taken more than one and a half hour for the five or so km.! But some of us, the business class passenger, had to leave almost immediately to catch a Thai flight to Bangkok. From there, after some four hours of transit, we took the midnight SAS flight to Copenhagen.
My photo, taken from the runway as we were entering a bus to go back to the main terminal, of an FLS Smith employee, in a fur coat, pointing to the nose wheel, was in Berlingske Tidende the next but following day.
In the Spring of 1992 I basically wrote many policy documents, contacted many UN and other organisations. Went to Portugal. All fruitless. I also went to UNIDO, in Vienna, first of several fruitless visits. I conceived of the text and the illustrations of what was first printed two years later: The UNU/IIST Brochure. By many thought of as a great document. Yes, I still like it ! More than two years after my leaving UNU/IIST it is still being reprinted !
This became the only unbearable aspect of my stay in Macau !
My colleagues and I were throughout all those years, and my former colleagues are still suffering greatly, till this day, April 6, 1999, when this is written.
It is simply not fathomable how incompetent and indolent the Portuguese Macau administration was and seemingly still was till the very end (December 19, 1999).
In late April 1997 I had to collect, with Margaret Stuart, the UNU/IIST Chief Financial Officer and Administrator, my administrative right-hand, all the letters written to and received from the Macau Government. Perhaps we wrote some 150 letters. In return we might have gotten less than a dozen ! We had hundreds of meetings. And nothing happened. We were, of course, utmost polite. So were all. The Macau Government, in our view, flaunted all signed agreements and laws. Did not release the funds to us at agreed dates, but up to two years later. Did not give us inviolable and sovereign office quarters for almost a year ! Arrested our fellows, UN Fellows ! And never as much as expressed being sorry !
We, the UNU/IIST, could have done so much for Macau: For its struggling ``University'', for the use of informatics in novel ways in many branches of government and in the public utilities, etc. We had great projects with the Chinese Railway Ministry on a railway running map despatch system, with the Ministry of Finance of Vietnam on a ministry-wide system that took care of taxation, budgeting and treasury functions at government, state, province, city and district level, with the Philippine Advanced Science & Technology Institute (ASTI) on a novel radio telecommunications system, etc., but Macau couldn't get their act together. They often complained, tacitly, but when directly, but of course, ever so diplomatically soft and correctly, ``confronted'' they never even as much as replied ! I could go on, and on, and ...
A long story could be told on the hundreds of slights. They have continued till this day I am told by Zhou Chaochen and Margaret Stuart. The complete ineptness of the Portuguese administrators and politicians. How sad when the Portuguese are such a fine people; when their 450 years at Macau has generally been a fine ``colonial'' period, if such can be said about any form of ``colonialism''!
But life inside UNU/IIST was so rewarding, the fellows and staff so engulfed in research and post-doctoral training; and life among our expatriate friends, incl. also Portuguese and Macanese, who themselves shuttered at the thought of the petty corruption and ineptness of their ``masters'', that life was so wonderful that we could easily survive and ``forget'' about the slights etc.
I wrote all those many, many letters. I may even have a complete set at my office, here in Denmark. I am not going to try say other than what is abundantly clear from all those letters.
But the Macau Government was not the only Lusophone disaster. Also the Rector, Heitor Gurgulino de Souza (HGdS), was a disaster. How he could become a rector, and how he could be extended for a second five year period is a testimony to the basic ``corruptive'' nature of the UN.
Many are the stories of his ``running the show''.
But life is too short for detailing the negatives.
But I will probably later put in, here, some of the more funnier sides !
Most of what I wish to reminisce is covered elsewhere.
Also: the UNU/IIST yearly reports, publicly available, cover most of what I wish to say.
I wrote all those five reports + dozens others, all available over the Internet. I even have a complete set of all reports in my office, here in Denmark. I am not going to try say other than what is abundantly clear from all those reports: UNU/IIST with its wonderful staff was a clear success, from day one.
I was given the chance to suggest three nominees, and I chose Ivan Havel, Gilles Kahn and Kesav Nori. Undoubtedly they represented the strongest, and a mighty independent force of computer & computing scientists and software technologists. Portugal, Macau and China each nominated a board member, the Portuguese and the Macau ones being quite inept. The Chinese was just excellent: Prof. Ji FuSheng of the (former) State Science and Technology Commission for China (now the Ministry of Science and Technology). Rector then put in Maurice Tchuente, a very good computer scientist, and an extremely charming and loyal person, from Cameroun, educated in France, and a lady from Colombia -- we never saw her -- followed by another lady, from Rector's own country, Brasil. She missed two of three board meetings !
Anyway: It was a delight to have a board: To be accountable, to have to write an extensive yearly report, to justify my strategy and the tactics. The Portuguese board member was ``a pain the ass'', and often was ill-prepared, even though he was the first chairman of the board. He knew little, if anything about the conditions of science and of technology.
The Macau board member came from the University, usually the rector or vice-rector. Usually no good.
To have a board, to pass my reports and plans with them, made it so much easier to run UNU/IIST: You knew you had them fully behind you -- whatever the rector tried !
The UNU Council was basically an ineffective instrument in the overseeing of UNU. The Rector in my period was scheming and maneuvering and managed to get it basically his way. A few council members were trying their polite best.
Five (in fact almost six) years close to or within UN has certainly made me an even greater sceptic of that institution. Too many incompetent people are cosying themselves around the world. At the UNU Council meetings, at UNESCO, UNIDO and UNDP headquarters in Paris, Vienna and New York. At regional and country offices around the world. Most, if not all of these people wouldn't be able to make a career in the civil service of the countries they came from. I have met many Danes around the UN world: At Paris, Vienna, Peking, Jakarta, Hanoi, etc., etc. Not worth their salt.
The whole idea is miscarried. Instead of practical goals, and UNU/IIST only pursued, and achieved all, practical goals: training, transfer of own-developed software, the UN pursues lofty ideals, far from real peoples world. UN has to ``go through'' local governments. Since UNU/IIST was funded exclusively by the three donor countries: Portugal, Macau and China, we did not have to go through any government. My budget did not have to pass the UN General Assembly, only the much less detailed overall UNU budget, and then only in kind.
I never signed the UN Executive pages on the Human Rights. Only too late did someone at the UN HQ in New York discover this. And inquired. And we -- mutually -- decided to drag out the discussion and any decision. I believe that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is a serious mistake. Let's you believe that UN is like a God, a religion: That UN can achieve what man cannot.
Being skeptic about UN, as expressed above, also before ``joining'' it, why did I indeed accept the offer ?
If, to explain a mistake one gives more than one excuse, then all are wrong, it is said. Well, first, my choosing the UN, was not a mistake. Secondly, when one chooses, from a position of strength, to embark, as I did, on the UNU/IIST endeavour, several reasons can be given.
It was not designed to be an economic boon. But that it turned out to be somewhat of a financial liability I had not known. The UN does not pay enough for a Royally appointed professor to benefit economically from even a Directorship. We, as would most other such potential Directorship candidates from western countries, would have to keep our house. Letting it did not cover the full expenses. So, in the end, we probably ``lost'' some US$30,000, at least, from this ``assignment''.
Well, of course, we did not exactly live spartanically. But then a UN Director is expected to live representationally adequate, if not ``posh''. The Macau Portuguese, however, failed in delivering on a promise to get the Director a decent apartment at low rent.
And, of course, we bought a lot of ceramics and china-ware, paintings, books (more than 350 !), furniture, carpets, etc., things which now adorn our house. And we travelled a lot together.
Anyway: It was a great experience, a happy five years, something to look back at with great pride.
Dines Bjorner 2010-06-01