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Australia's SC Month Has 7 Stakeouts, Darfur to December With Afghans, Syria Aid

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 26 -- When Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan began his second and last Presidency of the UN Security Council, he said he it was his plan to hold question and answer media stakeouts after Council closed-door consultation.

  November began with a flurry of such stakeouts: November 4, 12 minutes; two on November 5, of nine and 11 minutes; November 10, a full twenty minutes; and November 12, four minutes.

Then things fell off a bit, with nothing between a three minute “quickie” on November 18 and an appreciated 19 session, ranging from Syria to Darfur, on November 25, the evening of Australia's End of Presidency reception.

Quinlan's total of seven stakeouts, according to the UN Television website, equals that of Argentina, tops South Korea's three, but is dwarfed for example by fellow Commonwealth member United Kingdom's month of 17 stakeouts.

It has been pointed out to the Free UN Coalition for Access that the number of stakeouts it not entirely up to the Presidency, but rather depends on the news of the month.

 While true, each Press Statement offers the chance to read the statement out on camera -- in which medium it is presumably more effective, unlike a Press Statement on Darfur rapes which the UN Spokesperson's office never emailed out -- to take questions.

In terms of substance, several issues seemed to slip past November into December -- the program of work of which, as Inner City Press reported with redactions to protect privacy, the Australian mission mistakenly emailed to other Council members with an ill-conceived comment about the Chadians, president for December, (not) understanding Christmas.

  We all make mistakes, and the Australian mission and Quinlan himself quickly owned up to it, setting them apart from some other Council powers.

  Two Darfur issues, for example, bounced around but are ultimately slipping over into Chad's month: Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report into allegation of cover-up in the UNAMID mission, and UNAMID's related November 9 whitewash of rapes, and community-military relations, in Tabit.

  Quinlan to his credit circulated to all other Council members a petition from Darfur groups on this topic (click here for that), and twice said that on the cover-up report, the question is finding the right briefer(s). We'll see.

  Quinlan presided, not without humor, over the head-banging exercise of repeated votes with the same results on candidates for judgeship at the International Court of Justice; he covered Ebola in public, and Burkina Faso behind closed doors.

  Australia is interested, along with Luxembourg which like Australia leaves the Council on December 31, and Jordan which does not, in getting a new resolution on humanitarian access in Syria. Australia as pen-holder on Afghanistan also wants a resolution on new security arrangements, which we hear might be more problematic than anticipated. But we'll leave such clashes for another day, or article.

  At Australia's End of Presidency reception on November 25, a classical guitarist played, UN officials, journalists and diplomats mingled, including a recently re-appeared correspondent and the diplomat he rented out of his apartments to. This is mentioned, like the Free UN Coalition for Access push for stakeouts, including by reclusive Under Secretaries General, as a matter of press access and against censorship. That too is a fight for another day, or hour. Watch this site.


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