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Empty GA Hall for SDGs Global Goals Debate, Of Lies Agreed To, Lax Correspondents

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- For what many called a historic debate about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals or “Post 2015 Development Agenda” Inner City Press remained in the UN on September 26, eager to report the news. The news, however, turned out to be that the “debate” proceeded with the General Assembly Hall nearly entirely empty.

  After the head of UNHABITAT Joan Clos called an expanse of empty chairs, “Your Excellencies,” Inner City Press ran to cover the meeting. The first metal detector, the source of much delay earlier in the day when trying to ask about the Trans Pacific Partnership, was unmanned, as was the second.

  From a Photo Booth about the GA Hall, Cameroon's Ambassador Tommo Monthe called on one speaker after the next, then a Right of Reply from Armenia. This was followed by one from Azerbaijan, then a second round, all on Nagorno-Karabakh. Inner City Press broadcast it on Periscope, here, and tweeted some photos, here and here. There are more.

  But who will say it, when the Emperor has no clothes? Earlier in the week, the old UN Correspondents Association ousted Inner City Press from covering Pope Francis, claiming that “multimedia” does not mean “photographer.” Then it refused to send its supposed “pool” coverage to all UN resident correspondents, instead sending it only to those who paid it money, then hours later putting hard copies on its glassed-in bulletin board, as if people would stand there and take notes. This is today's UN.

 The head of UNCA, after renting one of his apartments to Palitha Kohona, granted his request as Sir Lanka's ambassador for a UN / UNCA screening of a genocide detail film, "Lies Agreed To." The debate on SDGs, on Saturday at least, fit that bill: Lies Agreed To.

Among the SDGs speeches in the GA Hall earlier on September 26, China's Xi Jinping grabbed headlines with a $2 billion pledge for a South - South development fund.

 This was praised, less than an hour later, by Bolivia's Evo Morales in a press conference elsewhere in the UN; Inner City Press asked Morales about sovereign debt restructuring, which new GA President Mogens Lykketoft on September 25 told Inner City Press will NOT be dealt with in the UN's walls, a position contrary to the views and votes of the Group of 77.

  Raul Castro said the US embargo is holding back Cuba's development; Iran's Hassan Rouhani said the nuclear deal will be good for the environment. Lebanon raised the problem of being classified as a middle income country, which Inner City Press has asked UN officials from Sigrid Kaag to outgoing UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres about (who will take the post from Guterres, and their view and action on this, is the subject of an ongoing Inner City Press series, also involving Lykketoft and his fellow Dane, former Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt.

   Sudan's Foreign Minister conveyed the greeting of Omar al-Bashir, of whom wire(s) reported, probably knowing even at the time it was false, that he would visit New York despite his indictment for genocide by the International Criminal Court. There is a lot of made-up news around the UN, especially now. And we're on the look out for it.

 These Sustainable Development Goals, to which a session of the UN General Assembly is devoted, are being promoted in videos, flags, projections on the UN buildings.

  Inner City Press on September 4 asked film-maker Richard Curtis and Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning about this campaign, and if it will raise the issue of who will PAY for implementation of the goals -- including if the corporate partners of the campaign are in fact paying or avoiding their taxes.

  To Amina Mohammed and DPI's Cristina Gallach, Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked when the UN will have a Freedom of Information Act. Video here.

Earlier on September 3 when the International Monetary Fund resumed its biweekly embargoed media briefings, Inner City Press submitted four questions. Inner City Press asked:

"Who from the IMF is coming to the UN General Assembly (and SDGs, etc) week in late September, and what is their program? What meeting will they participate in? What do they hope to accomplish?"

IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray answered, as fast transcribed by InnerCityPro:

“Matthew, and others, the Managing Director is scheduled to attend the UNGA particularly the SDGs segment in late September. There was a previous meeting in Addis Ababa we participated in at a high level that dealt with the SDGs... The IMF's Executive Board recently endorsed a 50% increase in access to all the funds concessional lending facilities and to maintain a 0% rate for low income countries that struggle with disasters and conflict. The Executive Board of the Fund has endorsed IMF's engagement in sustainable inclusive growth, on which we'll be elaborating in the weeks and months to come.”

  One focus should be financial inclusion, on which we'll have more during UNGA week.

 In the meanwhile, Murray also said Managing Director Christine Lagarde is about to arrive in Ukraine for "opportunistic" meetings with the authorities, and an IMF mission team will go there on September 22.

  On September 3, Inner City Press also submitted questions about Nepal and Grenada, as well as this:

"In Indonesia the Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives Taufik Kurniawan recently said, 'We do not ask for IMF support in crisis;' at the UN in NY on Sept 2, the Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives of Indonesia H. Fadli Zon told Inner City Press much the same thing. What is the IMF's response to these criticisms or resistance to the IMF, from elected representatives of the country where the IMF now plans its 2018 Annual Meetings?"

  We hope to receive answers.

  Back on July 8 when the International Monetary Fund released reviews and papers about the United States, complete with support of the Dodd Frank Act and mentions of anti money laundering protection Inner City Press asked about the proposal to raise the definition of Systemically Important Financial Institution from $50 billion up to $500 billion and if tight AML strictures are to blame for cutting off remittances to Somalia.

  Aditya Narain, IMF mission chief for the Financial Sector Assessment Program and deputy director, Monetary and Capital Markets department, told Inner City Press that the IMF believes such definition should give predictability, but should be based on risk and not necessarily only asset size.

  Narain told Inner City Press, "On the first one, our general belief is that supervisory approaches should be risk based, and therefore the materiality and proportionality of institutions should be taken into account for to develop supervisory frameworks. At the same time, we also recognize that it’s important to have some clear rules, regarding a unit, in this case size of institutions, because not only does it set a baseline of expectations, but it also provides a useful framework for people to anchor their expectations on. So that’s why, in a sense we would agree that it’s important to make these approaches risk based and therefore not dependent on size alone. I should add also, that our only political ideology is financial stability, for the purpose of this exercise.

  But will this be used FOR the Senator Richard Shelby draft bill?

  On remittances, Aditya Narain said it is an important question but one that the IMF is dealing with in other venues; it apparently wasn't raised to the US during this process. Why not?

 Narain told Inner City Press, "On the regulatory question, this is an issue which is being discussed in several forums where the IMF has been participating, and this is an issue not just for the US, although it has been most discussed in the context of the US, but the effects of the AML on remittances and the result, the stringent adherence to standards has led to a concern more globally that might be affecting the flow of remittances to those jurisdictions... where such remittances and the channels through which they flow are more important. We have not discussed this... there is work ongoing in the Fund, including in collaboration with other institutions like the World Bank... and we expect to be able to have more information on this in a few months time."

   In the embargoed media conference call, two questions in a row went to the Financial Times, which opined that the IMF report takes the side of the Democratic Party. The IMF disagreed. The IMF said, in writing, “As the epicenter of the global financial crisis that began in 2008, the United States passed a major law in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act, to reform its financial system. Officials need to complete the rulemaking under the law, while parts of reform agenda face legislative proposals to water them down.”

   Central Banking asked two questions and Reuters one, on federal insurance regulation.  Watch this site.


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