"PLANET UN"

Romuald Sciora collaborates with the United Nations on audiovisual, literary and educational projects. His most recent project is a television series on the UN's history as told by its Secretaries-General, which has been broadcast in more than 20 countries. The series grew into a documentary called "Planet UN" and a book of the same name. Below is an excerpt from Mr Sciora's introduction in the book.

The four of us, which included Staffan de Mistura, were standing on that blue line that separates southern Lebanon from Israel and that is overseen by the United Nations. The distant throbbing of engines from vehicles driven by the Blue Helmets could be heard over the subtle fluttering of the blue UN flag flapping in the wind. It was dusk. In silence we stared out over the horizon formed by this border under surveillance, in the reassuring harmony of the pink and blue pastel shades of evening that illuminated our faces. In a spontaneous gesture, Staffan drew us all even closer together with an embrace. A bit earlier, Jean Lacouture had asked him: 'I have to ask you the question. Are you really accomplishing anything here?' Staffan de Mistura, who has the passionate and fiery characteristics of his Italian father and the pragmatic and peaceful personality of his Swedish mother, in his sing-song accent, had given us a brilliant elucidation of the usefulness of the United Nations presence: removing land mines, planting trees, building hospitals ..., so many essential gestures in anticipation of peace in the region, he had explained, 'so that we just don't stand around waiting for peace instead of working toward peace, because peace, like friendship, is made up of small gestures.' Jean had understood completely. The purpose of the United Nations was to be a sort of "plantation of peace", he had concluded.

The United Nations, a plantation of peace ... the image seemed to me an obvious one. It was at that moment that I was struck with the necessity of going urther; the work that I was in the process of completing was, in essence, but a beginning.

I had already begun to purge from my thoughts the heavy-hearted mood that we all felt on this evening that marked the end of the filming, that emotion that becomes so strong when you are putting the finishing touches on a film in which you believe will shed a necessary light on a situation little-understood: the kind of melancholy that punctuates the end of a never-to-be-repeated adventure.

"Cut!" The camera motors had been switched off, the microphones had stopped recording, the technicians had begun packing up their equipment and those involved in the film were returning to their cars. But I was elsewhere, my thoughts focused on the idea that had just taken root in my mind which I shared with Jean Lacouture. He subscribed to it immediately: the idea of making a major film on the United Nations. It would be an all-encompassing work on the history, the evolution, the challenges and the multiple facets of this Organization that was also so little understood and so criticized, but which nevertheless produces the miracle of performing millions of little gestures all over the world to prepare the ground for a "plantation of peace".