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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK


Rob Watson biography



This Sunday you can put your questions directly to the BBC's United Nations correspondent Rob Watson on the radio and on the web.

Do want to know what goes on behind the scenes in the corridors of power? Are you happy with the share of power and influence on the Security Council? Is the UN a force for peace and stability or a waste of time and money?

Submit your question here

Career details

I joined the BBC in 1983 but didn't start working in News until the beginning of 1989 on the then new World Service Radio flagship current affairs programme Newshour.


[ image:  ]
The summer of 1989 saw the student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square closely followed by the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. I remember thinking at the time, even though we were frantic just trying to keep up with daily developments, that this was probably the most exciting and important year in 20th century history since the end of the Second World War.

I was sent to Bulgaria to report on the internal communist coup that ousted the dictator Todor Zhivkov. It was an assigmment that involved a secret tryst with the dictator's beautiful daughter-in-law and my first introduction to politicians making deals in the cliched smoke-filled rooms.

Switch to domestic reporting

I began a stint as the World Service's Political Correspondent at Westminster after John Major's election victory of 1992. Most pundits believed his victory heralded the destruction of the opposition Labour Party and serene supremacy for the Tories. Totally wrong.

The next few months were truly dramatic with the Tories collapsing over Europe, sex scandals, arms to Iraq and a revolt over coal mine closures. As a political correspondent I experienced all that drama from the inside picking up all the gossip in Parliament's corridors of power and from behind the famous door of Number 10 Downing Street.

Packing bags for the UN

I have to confess that part of the attraction of this posting is living in New York City which I consider to be one of the most exciting cities in the world. The United Nations, however, is an entirely separate world within that city, with the dramas unfolding at the UN largely a mystery to most New Yorkers and the dramas of the city similarly unknown to most diplomats.


[ image: Another vote in the Security Council]
Another vote in the Security Council
I remember leaving the UN's headquarters on New York's East Side after many a late night crisis over Bosnia and sensing that the rest of the city was blissfully unaware of the diplomatic battles going on in its midst. But the best part of life at the UN is the intimacy of the place.

As a journalist you quickly become familiar with all the main players and find your stories through quiet whispers in corridors and coffee bars. During the numerous crises over Iraq, for example, the intensity and closeness of the story seems to fill the whole building.

It's during such moments that I'm reminded of the reasons I joined the BBC - to satisfy my own personal curiosity, to find out what makes the world go round and to ask politicians, diplomats and officials the kinds of questions I think everyone has a right to know the answer to.



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Rob Watson biography