The violence being committed against women and children in places like Nigeria and Sudan is cataclysmic and probably beyond the benevolent intervention of kindly hearts in New York City, but don’t tell that to Muna Rihani al-Nasser. She adheres to the proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
The other day, Muna gathered a few of her friends at the United Nations—quite a few, they filled the Delegates Dining Room—to light some candles. She hosted a luncheon for an organization she chairs, U.N. Women for Peace Association, and they raised about $300,000 for the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. The following day, they staged a demonstration on First Avenue in front of the Secretariat. A large group sang and marched.
To attract check-writers to a fundraiser, a charity needs glittering honorees—you know the drill—and because Muna is so well-liked and respected, she got an A-List lineup. Everyone was thrilled to see that songstress Dionne Warwick schlepped in from Jersey for both events. Despite the tragedies of her cousin Whitney Houston (who had called her on the morning of her death) and then Bobbi Kristina, Dionne radiates an aura of poise and purity that is palpable. And when Miss Warwick belted out a hymn in the street with a gospel choir, it surely must have reached the ears of Boko Haram.
Also being honored was HRH Princess Camilla of Bourbon—Two Sicilies, Duchess of Castro. This Italian-born lady spent her teenage years in NY, at Marymount High School and NYU, then married Prince Carlo in 1998. They are involved in a range of humanitarian activities, from Alzheimer’s to HIV to wildlife. I spoke with the prince, who manages that delicate feat of balancing the gravitas of a hereditary royal (his title is 600 years old) while also being low-key and approachable. (I sensed the same openness when meeting the Prince of Wales). He said they live in Rome, Paris and Monaco, and both work in her family’s business, which owns proprietary software for aircraft landings and takeoffs.
Eugenio López Alonso, the vivacious orange juice heir whose new Museo Jumex for contemporary art in Mexico City is a real success, also accepted an award. The popular Eugenio has been feted lately by several philanthropies, and that’s terrific because he always buys a table and sometimes two. He was with Tex-Mex social figure Jana Jaffe, who is an old friend of Muna’s and probably made the connection. When Senor Lopez was introduced and someone at my table whispered how rich he is, someone else muttered, “Uh oh, Trump’s gonna make him pay for the wall.”
Other lunching luminaries included Kim Won-Soo, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who is said to be a real power in the diplomatic corridors; elegant philanthropist Barbara Winston, an expert on national security; Fox News anchor “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, working the room like the pol she is; Mary Flores, the youthful Ambassador from Honduras, who is deeply involved in issues of narcotics and sexual trafficking; the immortal Gloria Starr Kins, whose societyanddiplomaticreview.com is the first and last word on U.N. affairs; Middle East construction heiress Sana Sabbagh; public relations prestidigitator Jon Marder; and Muna’s adoring and adorable husband, Nasir al-Nasser, formerly ambassador from Qatar and President of the General Assembly at the U.N.