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UN Praises Financial Speculators on Food, Zimbabwe's Role in Social Development

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 6 -- Within the UN system there are many views, on issues ranging from the role of financial speculation in raising food prices to the place of Zimbabwe and its Robert Mugabe government in the world community. On May 2, Inner City Press asked the UN's new special rapporteur on the human right to food, Olivier De Schutter, about India's proposal to tax commodities future to discourage speculation. While De Schutter said it was only his first day on the job and he will have to study the matter further, he said that speculation should be regulated and curtailed. Video here, from Minute 22:26.

            On the other hand, the head of the UN's Secretariat for the Commission on Sustainable Development Kathleen Abdalla on May 6 answered a similar question from Inner City Press by extolling the positive elements of the futures market, which she said are "not always brought up. Her co-panelist John Pender of the International Food Policy Research Institute went further, saying that "speculation plays a positive role, speculators are people taking market risk," and opposing regulation of the market. Video here, from Minute 12:58.

   Both the WFP's Josette Sheeran and even the Global Compact chairman have told Inner City Press that financial speculation on food prices is a problem. So what does the UN think about the role of speculation in the food pricing crisis? And why is the Commission on Sustainable Development defending Wall Street?

CSD in May 2007, electing Zimbabwe as chair, where's Ocampo now?

            On the other hand, when Inner City Press asked Ms. Abdalla if there had been any impacts of Zimbabwe's chairmanship of the CSD this year, since the controversy that surrounded its election a year ago, she said no, the issue has not come up, if anything the Zimbabwean chairman has been praised. Video here, from Minute 25:08.

            Inner City Press asked the U.S. Mission to the UN for its view and follow-through. Spokesman Ben Chang reiterated the U.S.'s opposition to Zimbabwe holding the chair, and noted that Ms. Abdalla as a UN staff may not be aware of the communications within the member states represented on the CSD. So which is it?  Watch this site.

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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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