Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media -e.g. Somalia, Nepal, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia  For further info, click here to contact us         .

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

Costa Rica on Arms and Openness At War With UN's Secrecy Culture, What Is It Good For?  Sachs' Story of the Eye

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 19, updated w/ Sachs & eye-gate -- Two weeks ago in the UN it sounded so promising: Costa Rica would use its month as Security Council president to promote transparency and open meetings, peaking with a high level debate on arms reduction to be chaired by its president.  As that debate begins today, the complaints of other Council members have grown. Several Ambassadors have told Inner City Press they think Costa Rica is "grandstanding" and trying to make them look secretive and even corrupt.

  Ban Ki-moon's Department of Peacekeeping Operations threatened to  boycott an open session about the conflict in the Congo, arguing in essence that rebel general Laurent Nkunda would be monitoring the Webcast for inside information. (Never mind that the UN Mission in the Congo operates from bright white vehicles, visible from two miles away.)

   Inner City Press asked Costa Rican Ambassador Jorge Urbina about this on his way into the Chamber on Wednesday morning. If things are sensitive we can do them in the consultations room, he said. But Nepal?

  Things got so petty that whispers began that to get back at Costa Rica, some members would hold off matching the appearance of President Oscar Rafael de Jesus Arias Sanchez with their own high level representatives. Screw them, one Ambassador said. They want openness? They can sit alone.

  What does this tell us about the state of Security Council reform? All Costa Rica was asking was that Council meeting be presumed to be open. Even at the beginning of the month, Costa Rica agreed that the discussion of Kosovo, a sensitive subject that many think may result in Russia vetoing any second term for Ban, could take place behind closed doors.

Costa Rica's Urbina and Council staff, resentment at openness not shown

   Inner City Press asked Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Jorge Urbina about the postponement of the Kosovo session. It is indefinite and based on Ban Ki-moon's failure to timely file his report on Kosovo, it emerges. Some things are so sensitive that there shall be no meetings at all.

  This applies to arms control in the Security Council all the way back to 1946. Article 26 of the UN Charter said "the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to Members of the UN for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments." It never happened. Now, the General Assembly's First Committee debates arms resolutions that have no binding power.

Update of 11:05 a.m. -- the debate has begun, and from the list of speakers it is clear that Panama's President Martin Torrijos, expected to attend, has not come, but rather vice president Samuel Lewis Navarro. Other than a special envoy of Chile, none of the other 35 countries on the list have more than routine representation. The Permanent Observer of the Holy See -- some call it the Vatican -- Archbishop Celestino Migliore stopped to ask Inner City Press about a Church-related question asked of Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier in the week, click here for that, and watch this site.

Update of 1:15 p.m. -- There has been an eye incident, in which Costa Rican president Oscar Rafael de Jesus Arias Sanchez has gone to the UN clinic on the fifth floor to have his eye checked. Those San Joseans closest to him say he's always better safe than sorry. But it means he hasn't spoken to the Press at the stakeout. And Costa Rica's afternoon event has been cancelled, explicitly because scheduled speaker Jeffrey Sachs cancelled at the last moment. "The next war will be his fault," one wag said. And so it goes at the UN.

Update of 3:40 p.m. -- in the resumed "debate" in the Security Council chamber, there are only two countries present even at the Permanent Representative level: Costa Rica and Panama. Even the President and Vice President of each, respectively, are no longer present. The Secretariat seat is empty.  To be charitable, the Costa Ricans' spin is that all this is better attributable to the "sensitivity" of the disarmament issue, and not to high-school style boycotting of their high level debate...

Update of 3:43 p.m. -- we can report that Haile Menkerios, the UN's envoy on Zimbabwe, came out of the Council chamber. Earlier, Council President Jorge Urbina was overheard talkin about meeting with Menkerios. That's at least partial transparency. We do what we can.

Update of 5:09 p.m. -- Japan's Ambassador Yukio Takasu has just run into the Chamber, asking, "is it over?" Better late than never. Inside, Armenia has criticized not only Azerbaijan, but also Georgia. Outside the Chamber, a Georgian representative shook his head sadly. Costa Rica's Urbina, it's said, will speak when it's all over.

Update of 6:05 p.m. -- when it was all over, and the Presidential Statement was read out, Costa Rican Ambassador Urbina came to the stakeout to take questions. Inner City Press asked what had been accomplished, if the Council is any closer to making a disarmament proposal to the General Assembly under Article 26, and about openness. Ambassador Urbina said the meeting was only a first step, the first step in 60 years. He was asked if "Burma is on the agenda," and answered in kind.

  Inner City Press asked about the Council visit of Haile Menkerios. Ambassador Urbina confirmed he met with Menkerios, then said that a briefing from the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping is expected on Somalia, perhaps with participation by the International Maritime Organization, if other Council members consent. No letter, he said, has been received from the Somali Transitional Federal Government. Later it was confirmed to Inner City Press that, in the absence of "the American" head of DPA Lynn Pascoe, Menkerios will briefing the Council on Zimbabwe as well as Western Sahara on Thursday, under the heading "other matters." Urbina could have said it on camera, when asked. There is still room to travel for openness. But Costa Rica has taken a step.

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -