Stranger in New York

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot

I have landed to New York City on August 4th at 12.55, coming from London and bringing in my suitcase many dear memories from the seven and a half years spent as Ambassador of Romania to the United Kingdom. A distinguished member of the House of Lords who gave me a magnificent album, “The Queen and the USA”, said that: “the best place to leave for New York is London”.

On the road from the JFK Airport to the 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, where the Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations is located, I was thinking of Mark Twain 1889’s humoristic novel “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, because similarly to Hank Morgan, Twain’s fictional character who found himself moved from Connecticut to a completely different world in England, New York is to me a new experience, too. I have been before to New York, but only to attend the UN General Assembly session. I remember how fascinated I was first time by the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations Headquarters, the Brooklyn Bridge and the iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building (its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State) or the Art Deco style Chrysler Tower, which make New York so unique.

I anticipated that coming to live for a couple of years to the largest American city, which is the host of the United Nations and the cultural and financial capital of the world, will be a fabulous experience, but I expected to feel, at least at the beginning, like a “stranger in the night”.

As Hank Morgan rightly remarked: “How empty is theory in the presence of fact”, I had no time to think too much of Frank Sinatra’s song because in New York events run at a very high speed. While trying to accommodate with the time zone (NY is five hours behind London and seven hours behind Bucharest), between several meetings with UN officials and courtesy calls to colleague ambassadors (the UN has 193 Member States…) I succeeded to open a bank account in dollars, otherwise using my card in euros would have ruined me soon. From the airport border police, to the bank staff and the UN personnel, all people I met are professional and willing to help. Not to mention the warm welcoming I received on Twitter from the diplomatic community here.

The most exciting moment took place on August 13th when I presented my credentials to the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, by which the President and the Government of Romania appointed me as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the UN. The discussion I had with the Secretary General was a stimulating one. He is energetic and determined to accomplish what he set out to do, he believes in the power of relationships and, above all, he pays attention to the human dimension.

I told him how proud I am to serve my country as ambassador to the UN in a time when the international community faces an extraordinary array of global challenges which makes the UN the centerpiece of multilateral cooperation. I added that Romania has a long and outstanding tradition in multilateral diplomacy, with the highest professional standards set up by the famous Romanian diplomat Nicolae Titulescu who was twice elected President of the League of Nations, in 1930 and 1931, and that over the last 60 years the relationship with the UN was a constant priority for my country.

In September, New York will host more than 160 Heads of State or Government who will adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda. There can be no security without development, and there can be no sustained development without security. Because challenges are linked, solutions must be, too. In his remarks to the United Nations on September 23rd, 2009, President Barack Obama called for “a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. His words are more actual than ever.

Living in a time of engagement in this giant and volcanic metropolis which breathes dynamism with millions of lungs, you cannon feel stranger in New York, because New York inspires. I believe it is a great time to be Ambassador to the United Nations.

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