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At UN as Portugal's Month Ends, Of Stakeouts & Humor, a Play for Working Methods

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Portugal is finishing its first of two years on the UN Security Council, and its one and only month with the presidency.

  Tuesday night at the River Club on 52st Street over the East River, Portugal had its end of presidency reception, complete with sweet dessert cakes and, the delegation pointed out, all of the P-5 Permanent Representatives, at least for a time.

  Tuesday's reception came on the eve of the capstone of Portugal's presidency, an open debate on the Council's Working Methods. Portugal had wanted to chair the Working Methods committee, but it was given by the P-5 to Bosnia, which leaves the Council next month.

  To his credit, Portuguese Permanent Representative José Filipe Moraes Cabral held more stakeouts for the press during his month than any recent presidency. He took questions on issues beyond those on which the Council had just met.

  While it understandably fell off a bit while Foreign Minister Paulo Portas was in town, José Filipe Moraes Cabral deputy João Maria Cabral still held some stakeouts, holding back perhaps because the number one diplomat should be the one to deal with press.

  Still Deputy João made some good jokes while presiding, particularly over two rounds of voting between Ugandan and Sierra Leonean candidates for the International Court of Justice: do I really have to read the rules again? Yes, was the answer.

  As Portugal's presidency ended, Inner City Press has suggested a specific Working Methods reform: that like the Secretary General, and even Mayor Bloomberg, the daily schedule of the Security Council presidency be put online.

  This would be important, because increasingly matters of international peace and security like Kenya's entry into Somalia are "regularized," as it were, by meetings between the country's Permanent Representative and the Council president.

 While Inner City Press often learns ad hoc of such meetings, that's far less than the transparency that should apply to the Council, which can authorize air strikes on Libya and sanctions on Eritrea. That was the breaking news Inner City Press gleaned from the evening - click here for that story.

(c) UN Photo
PR Cabral and Portas in Council, first year review shown here

  Without disruption any diplomat's confidence, from the UN Secretariat chief of staff Vijay Nambiar was there, along with Department of Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe, Department of Field Support deupty Tony "Elated" Banbury and staffers on children and armed conflict and other UN issues. There was no DPKO chief Ladsous to be seen; no DSG Migiro, known to be pushing for a second term.

  One correspondent noted with approval there was single malt scotch "unlike the reception for the Day of Solidarity with Palestine, which was dry."

  That event was preceded by rights of reply in the General Assembly, in which Israel accused Kuwait of "also" expelling Palestinians, which Kuwait responded angrily to. When Inner City Press tweeted the exchange, replies came in that Kuwait HAD in fact made the expulsions. But some said it was not for Israel to raise it.

  But even at the event starting the day of solidarity, it was Cabral with his UN insider ways who knew how to pronounce the names of his fellow panelists, for example Palitha Kohona of Sri Landa.

  At the reception, an habitue and proponent of the Human Rights Council admitted that "failure" on Sri Lanka was the HRC's lowest moment to date. "But Ban Ki-moon sent the Panel of Experts' report to Geneva without even a UN stamp on it." And so it goes at the UN.

  Click here for Inner City Press' review of Portugal's first ten months on the Security Council; a review of another "new" member is forthcoming, watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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