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The UN from Elite to Street, in a Party Season, Skanska Captured, Fetes Lantos

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 15 -- Day to night in the same space in the UN two events took place that show the range of the Organization, from elite to street, from out of touch to all-too in touch. Monday at noon in the Delegates' Dining Room, over blue cheese salad, tender chicken, dessert and coffee, Tom Lantos was celebrated, by titan from Wall Street like William McDonough to Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro. In the crowd were UNICEF head Ann Veneman, former New York Times correspondent, and now International Peace Institute spokesman Warren Hoge.

  Reporters who sought to cover the event were asked, "Are you on the list?" Inner City Press was, as scarfed down salad as Francis Deng spoke about the responsibility to protect, after joked about being taken due to his name as Chinese at an event of the Stanley Foundation.  The high-brow lunch continued even as down in the Security Council, actually working diplomats met behind closed doors about Zimbabwe. After that meeting, only the UK's David Milliband spoke. Even South Africa's Dumisani Kumalo could not be found. The elite were running the UN, and yet little was being accomplished.

  Eight hours later in the same fourth floor space, UN Peacekeeping held its annual holiday party. Bureaucrats covering the various missions shimmied to salsa music. The level of expertise, both in deployment and dancing, was high. This was not the elite, this was the workaday UN. And no one tried to bar anyone else. In a previous year, then-DPKO chief Jean-Marie Guehenno danced on a table in the UN's Ex-Press bar. His successor Alain Leroy did not try to match that. Jane Holl Lute, notorious for her Unifeed-memorialized dancing in Darfur, also did not dominate. This was the UN's rank and file, granted the UN's party space at least for one night.

UN's Ban, between Tom Lantos R.I.P. and Negroponte, Wolff alert in background

  Earlier in the month, the new construction elite of Skanska, the Capital Master Plan contractors, were given the Delegates' Dining Room on a Friday, and turned away other UN staff. "This is a private party," UN staff were told.  Some asked, who are these guys? The new elite, was the answer. This despite Skanska recently being fired and sued in San Mateo, California, click here for that. Skanska and UNA-USA run the place, others just work here. But who is the real UN?

Footnote: among the UN press corps, this is the season of goodbye parties for countries leaving the Security Council after two years on. At Indonesia's party, the ubiquitous Marty glad-handed Russia's Churkin and the UK's Milliband. On December 16, South Africa's Kumalo says farewell, in a briefing and a party. And just before New Years, the Italians offer drinks. We'll be there, and will report, in the spirit of UN-transparency. Watch this space.

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

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.

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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

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