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In Doha, UN's Ban Praises Turner While Zoellick Is Absent, UNDP Elusive

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 28 -- Kicking off a meeting in Doha which both the World Bank and IMF chiefs have decided to skip, the UN's Ban Ki-moon said that while Ted Turner has lost ten of his two billion dollars in assets to the vicissitudes of the stock market, he has still given $1 billion to "the UN Fund," as Ban called the Turner-launched UN Foundation. Ban asked, why can't countries be that way? One answer is that countries that have electorates cannot just decide off-the-cuff like Ted Turner. It is one of the jobs of the UN and its Secretary-General to convince global electorates to be more giving. Whether this one is up to the task remains to be seen.

   At Ban's press conference in Doha, his spokesperson Michele Montas told assembled journalists that only three questions would be allowed. The first not surprisingly given the venue was in Arabic, but there was a problem with translation. And so television coverage turned away.

  Traveling with some fanfare to the Doha meeting is Zimbabwe's embattled Robert Mugabe. While sanctions against his government continue to tighten, he managed to capture financing from the UN system, by until two weeks ago requiring that aid funds be converted at rates set by his Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe - click here for Inner City Press' exclusive story of November 27, since picked up in Zimbabwe press.

   There is also the question of how development aid is spent. Earlier this month, faced with a controversy of the use of Spain's international cooperation budget to build a $25 million ceiling at the UN in Geneva, Ban did not mention the issue while speaking under the dome; his spokespeople dodged the issue four days in a row. In a time of dwindling aid budgets, the UN should be willing to speak, and even clean up its own house, on these issues.

Qatar's Emir, UN's Ban and plant, Mugabe funding and Zoellick not shown

   On the eve of these much-hyped Doha talks on financing and development,  Ban's office issued a statement to demonstrate his seriousness. But, some wondered, why couldn't he have even gotten World Bank president Robert Zoellick to attend? On November 26 at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas if Zoellick's non-attendance was not in fact a snub. She answered by reading out loud an obviously prepared statement:

Inner City Press:  reported the failure of the head of, particularly the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to go to the Doha talks has been described as a snub of Ban Ki-moon.  Does he view it that way, has he spoke to Mr. Zoellick about it, does he view it as a good sign that the head of, neither the IMF either will go to the Doha talks?  What's his response to that?

Spokesperson Montas:  Well he spoke to both of them and he’s encouraged by the fact that there is a 25 strong delegation, 25-member strong delegation of the World Bank going over there, and from what I gather, the Bank delegation will be lead by Chinese national Justin Lin, who is Senior Vice President and Senior Economist of the World Bank, and he will represent Mr. Zoellick.  The SG did discuss the participation of Mr. Zoellick when he met him at the G-20 meeting in Washington, but there were enforcing circumstances requiring Mr. Zoellick to stay right there in Washington, so we certainly welcome the World Bank’s critical participation in the Doha conference.

As you know developing nations have a very high expectations for the World Bank, particularly at this time of crisis, and we must all work together, the UN, the World Bank, IMF, the community of nations and … what is important in that meeting in Doha is that the voice of developing countries be heard.  There are number of side events that have been organized, one by the World Bank, one by the Financing, the Innovative Financing for Developing Mechanism, so what is important is that we get results in Doha.  And the participation of the World Bank is crucial.  It is very important.

  So why didn't Zoellick go?

Footnote: the UN Development Program also got in on the action, with UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis vying for face-time on Al Jazeera English. Back in New York on November 26, UNDP lured reporters with the promise of economist Joseph Stiglitz. Then they disclosed that Stiglitz would not come, but rather a trio of Latin American finance minister. Inner City Press nevertheless went to the briefing, in a small room on the 22nd story of UNDP's tower.

  The chief and deputy chief of UNDP's Latin America division spoke, in Spanish, as did the First Lady of Guatemala and the finance ministers of Honduras, Ecuador and Costa Rica. The latter bragged about his country's trade talks with China, without mentioning any connection to the nation's switch from Taiwan to mainland China. There was no mention at the briefing of what UNDP actually does in Latin American countries, which includes accepting government funds in order to hire people in the same countries, to get around hiring and even anti-corruption and nepotism rules. Road to Doha indeed...

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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