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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At the UN, $5000 for Dinner and a Movie, Trade, Finger Foods and Fingerprints Taken

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- At Friday's UN noon briefing, spokesperson Michele Montas announced that a film will be screened next Wednesday in the Trusteeship Council, a film called Trade, starring Kevin Kline. Invitations of a sort had already however gone out, asking people to pay $250 per ticket, or $5000 for a ten for ten. Inner  City Press asked, how can $5000 be charged at the UN, and who would get the money? The following e-mail response quickly appeared:

Subj: Your question on "Traffic"
To: matthew.lee [at]
Date: 9/14/2007 1:11:49 PM Eastern Standard Time

You had asked about a fund-raising event that will take place on 19 September concerning the film "Traffic". That film intends to highlight the problems of human trafficking, one of the key concerns of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

UNODC, Roadside Attractions and Equality Now will host the world premiere of Traffic on 19 September, and will hold a benefit dinner after that premiere.

Proceeds from the benefit will be used to support the work of UNODC and Equality Now. Also, five percent of the first-week gross box office for Traffic will be donated to UNODC and to the groups Equality Now, the Not for Sale Campaign and the International Justice Mission. We expect that Antonio Maria Costa and Kevin Kline, one of the actors in the film, will talk about this as the guests at next Wednesday's noon briefing.

            But will admission be charged to that briefing?  In terms of UNODC's need for funds, Inner City Press exclusively reported in March 2007 on an Office of Internal Oversight Services report on UNODC:

"UNODC decided to close the Regional Office for the Caribbean affecting 29 countries based solely on its funding situation.  In this particular case, OIOS noted with concern that while the funding situation was precarious prior to 2004,  not enough efforts have been made to redress the situation.  OIOS believes that any re-profiling decisions should be based on the regional needs, wider consultation  and analysis of the strategic and programmatic variables  necessary to achieve UNODC goals in order to avoid gaps in support to Member States requests."

            So while little was said at headquarters of UNODC's finances, 29 countries were impacted by this shut-down. The OIOS report continued:

"UNODC's RB share of the total budget  decreased from 15% in 2002-2003 to 13% in 2004-2005 to its current level.  This was mostly due to increased extrabudgetary earmarked contributions. OIOS attempted to obtain clarity on the amount and complexity of the new mandates given to UNODC and some resource estimates to cover the needs for those mandated activities including core functions which are claimed to be implemented with XB resources. However, UNODC did not have such information and analysis available and it was unclear what core functions or additional mandates did not have enough resources.  OIOS noted that additional initiatives started at UNODC's discretion were not always supported by additional funding."

     Will $5000 per table solve this? Are UNODC's finances any more transparent now than OIOS found them to be? Maybe Kevin Kline will say. Movie at 11...

This week's Bahrain exhibit in the UN's South Lobby

     It's been a strange week at UN headquarters. In the lobby there's been an extremely elaborate exhibition, praising Bahrain for its treatment of poor people. The outgoing president of the General Assembly Haya Rashed Al Khalifa is, yes, from Bahrain. The incoming president has been around, and will hold a press conference next week as the General Assembly session begins. The hours of the Delegates' Lounge bar are being extended, to nine p.m. and 11 on Fridays, and five new wines added, for less than seven dollars a glass. Free finger foods!

            Speaking of fingers, Inner City Press has learned that those who work for UN TV, and for Petrocelli Electricians and the elevator maintenance people are all now being subjected to biometric -- fingerprints -- in order to sign in on the time clock when they arrive for work. All of these are "contractors," with brown colored letters on their ID cards. But can it be long before biometrics become the rule for other UN workers? We'll see.

* * *

Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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