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As UN General Debate Ends, Tale of the Tape, Broken Microphones and Promises -- and World Peace?

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 2, updated Oct. 10 --  As the UN General Assembly winds up in General Debate, we're left with stacks of speeches and somewhat random statistics. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held, as of Monday night, an unprecedented 129 bilateral meetings with visiting dignitaries. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, as of Tuesday at noon, had held 50 such meetings. On an informal basis, Inner City Press' questions about the size of two sample delegations were answered. Somalia, a country still in turmoil, sent 11 people; France sent over 60. Could that explain France's decision to exclude all non-French journalists from President Sarkozy's press conference? The longest speech was that of Iran's president, which the GA clocked in at 55 minutes.

    The first walk-out was that of Cuba, during the speech by U.S. President Bush. Copies of his speech were erroneously distributed with the names and cell phone numbers of the speechwriters on them. Also of note, the Mongolian foreign minister's speech was heavy on references to the Millennium Development Goals, as in "Mongolia is intimately monitoring her progress on the path towards achieving the MDGs."

   Some other countries used their speeches to raise complaints that might otherwise be overlooked -- and that still might be overlooked. At the noon briefings during the General Debate, Inner City Press sought and surprisingly received answers on this:

Inner City Press: Last week in the speech by Palau, they said that thereíd been a commitment by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to open eight offices in the Pacific Islands of sort of the UN system, various humanitarian agencies and that those had still not opened.  The speech expressed displeasure at that.  I'm wondering whatís the mechanism to respond to specific things, critiques of the UN?  Is there any follow-up?  Is the UNDP supposed to hear that?  Does the GA President's office follow up?

Spokesperson:  What I can say about that is that the General Assembly President and his Office is listening very attentively to all the speeches of the Member States... and that includes of course very specific comments.  So in that sense, yes, this is noted.  I don't know what kind of follow-up we are supposed to be expecting, but it is definitely noted and the President's Office is aware of all of the things that have been said by Member States...  He's looking at each and every speech, he's following the issue and will, of course, follow-up on those issues.

            We too will follow-up.

General Assembly, broken microphones not shown

   An incongruous issue that arose late on September 28 was the break-down of microphones while Iran and the United Arab Emirates, and Norht Korean and Japan, faced off. Audio insiders tell Inner City Press that some of the amplifiers "got kicked," and through a "Christmas tree" electrical effect, a whole line of microphones went out. The representative of Iran was left wandering around holding his name plate, until someone said, "Mexico works," meaning the microphone. Inner City Press asked about this:

Inner City Press: Did they fix the microphones before the general debate?  Were they turned off at a certain time?  Why did that happen?

Spokesperson:  I don't know why that technical glitch happened, but I think if you watched what happened in the end basically none of the Member States wanting to exercise the right of reply felt terribly annoyed by this incident.  They just worked with Assembly Affairs and with the President to work this out and do it.  Obviously itís not a good thing what happened, but in the end I think it was pretty well solved.  But I donít know what exactly happened and what were the technical problems.

Question:  Can we tie it somehow to the Capital Master Plan (CMP) or is there some need to rehabilitate...?

GA Spokesperson:  Matthew, if you mean can we, does that mean you and me?  You can tie it. I would rather not tie it, because I donít know.  I really don't know what was the reason behind it. 

            But at the next day's noon briefing:

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I did want to mention, because you were asking about the technical glitch with the microphone on Friday evening, it was purely a technical glitch, no political 'messages' there.  So, therefore, when you mentioned yesterday the connection with the Capital Master Plan, yes, you can draw a connection there.

            Connection drawn...

[And some praise removed upon request, October 10.]

* * *

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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