Azerbaijan International

Winter 2001 (9.4)
Page 12

Reader's Forum
Life: Infinitesimally Short - Why Are we Killing Each other
by Paolo Lembo

Related Articles:
(1) Lest We Forget: The UN in Iraq - Sergio Vierira de Mello - Paolo Lembo
(2) Diplomatic Interview with Paolo Lembo - Interview by Betty Blair
(3) Letter from Kosovo - Paolo Lembo
(4) Memories 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].

It's January 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 is you.

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 Azerbaijan.

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 that!"

All the very best for a wonderful new year of passion and light.

Paolo Lembo

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 (Autumn 2001, AI 9.3).

Azerbaijan International (9.4) Winter 2001.
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