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As UN's Ban Partners with Statoil Despite Oil Sands and Angola, Indigenous and Weaver Hit Brazil on Dams

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- The UN picked Statoil as its poster child to Wednesday launch the report of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. Inner City Press asked Statoil CEO Helge Lund about his company's move to oil sands -- being criticized this week by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues -- to drilling Marcellus shale, criticized for pollution, and financial criticism for projects in Angola, Libya and Nigeria. Video here, from Minute 30:13.

  Mr. Lund's response to these specifics was to claim that Statoil is "transparent, open," then to speak about carbon emissions. But the critique of oil sands is not only about emissions, but the destruction of the land and driving indigenous people off.

  Likewise, the criticism of Statoil in for example Angola was a lack of transparency and openness, working with local firms connected to government officials.

Mr. Ban left his press conference before any questions could be asked. But Inner City Press asked Achim Steiner, recently re-appointed by Mr. Ban to head UNEP, to explain what standards the UN applies and how it selects companies to be on its podium.

  Steiner replied that people are on the Advisory Committee in their personal capacities. But Lars Josefsson the CEO of Vattenfall, a company moving ever more into fossil fuel development, bragged that his membership on the UN Committee reflects on Vattenfall's practices. Inner City Press has raised this to a number of UN officials, including Ban's "global goods" aide Bob Orr, but nothing has been done.

Statoil's Lund, at right, looks down as UN's Ban smiles

  Steiner referred to the UN Global Compact, telling Inner City Press "you are more familiar with it than most." But that has been without the assistance or even consent of Compact leadership. Outside the most recent Compact board meeting in New York, Compact director Georg Kell told Inner City Press "you can't quote anyone here," or even ask them questions.

  Only because Ban's Group of Friends on Myanmar was meeting next door was Inner City Press able to ask if there would be a Compact press availability. No, was the answer. What was that, about openness and transparency?

Later on Wednesday, indigenous people and the actress Signourey Weaver protected outside Brazil's mission to the UN, against the Belo Monte dam. Fox News was there -- incongruous, some said, until they remembered that Lulu is thought to be a left leaning president -- as well as a slew of photographers and paparazzi waiting for Ms. Weaver.

She arrived an hour late, but then spoke with conviction, how after the film Avatar indigenous groups had contacted Avatar director James Cameron. On Saturday Cameron told the Press that in preparing the movie, he had "read books" on indigenous beliefs. Now, he and Ms. Weaver seem to be listening to the indigenous. Oh that this were true of Statoil. Or of the Executive Office of the Secretary General of the UN, at least on oil sands, for that matter.

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Avatar Shown to UN Forum by Cameron, White Messiah Alleged, "We're All Indigenous"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- Avatar was screened by its director James Cameron for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Saturday night in Manhattan. Afterwards Cameron was asked why the hero had to be a white male, in the tradition of Dances with Wolves and before that Little Big Man.

   Cameron replied that he was trying to "wake up Caucasians." He said both that "we are all indigenous" and that he wants "everyone to be a white Messiah." While unclear it was heartfelt. At the end an indigenous legislator from Peru stepped forward to give him her business card. It's 2010 and networking is everything.

  In fact in the film, networking is central. The enormous trees which the U.S. corporate invaders are seeking to fell have "roots which interconnect," Signourey Weaver informs us, making up a network. The invaders are not impressed. Echoing Iraq, pointing at a book about the Na'vi, it is said that "when people are sitting on [stuff] that you want, you make them your enemy."

  In another echo of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and post 9/11/01 war, the military villain vows "we'll fight terror with terror." He has looked at the protagonist's file - "I see you were in Venezuela." One wonders, is Cameron predicting a US assault on Hugo Chavez, before the time frame of the film?

  While the movie was being screened, Cameron did fast one on one interviews with reporters. Inner City Press didn't ask for one, but heard about at least two. The "we are all White Messiahs" line was said both in private and in public: it is a talking point, for better or worse.

 Inner City Press asked the UN how the screening came about and was told

"Matthew - The idea for the screening came about as the Secretariat for the Permanent Forum had heard many positive reactions from indigenous representatives on the film and how it was echoing their own stories. Through personal contacts of the Secretariat and the NGO co-sponsors, they contacted James Cameron re the possibility of a screening and it went from there."

Cameron (per Broddi) at UNPFII screening: White Messiah?

   Since, as Cameron put it, the movie made "$2.7 billion for Rupert Murdoch," clearly he doesn't need the publicity. It seems he consented to the event in order to put to rest the residual criticism of the movie as racist -- although the "White Messiah" critique has been raised mostly by, well, white Messiahs -- and to show that his motives weren't commercial.

  Witness Cameron's support to a protest of a project in Brazil. One wonders what Cameron thinks of President Lula's policies on the indigenous. Or of Evo Morales' recent comment that Western food, genetically engineers, leads to "baldness and homosexuality."

  Cameron disclosed that he opposed the invasion of Iraq -- very courageous, at this point -- and that corporate interests are "plundering if you will." Yes, they will, including the financiers of the studios distributing Avatar. But if enough business cards are passed, perhaps there will be justice. At least, there will be a sequel. Watch this site.

UN footnote -- and the United Nations is increasingly often only a footnote -- one wanted to ask Cameron where he thought the UN would be in the conflict he depicted. But the public Q&A session was too short and smacked of pre-determined. If reality's any guide, the UN would be offering humanitarian assistance on behalf of the invaders, after the invasion.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

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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