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UN Bike Racks & Ban's Pedaling Postponed, Drone Deal Undisclosed by Ladsous

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- It was a slow Wednesday at the UN, the last day of July, when a microphone and sound system were set up by the entrance doors and a mostly blond crowd began to assemble. Event video here.

  Inner City Press was looking for news -- Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson had refused to say if the Geneva Conventions cover the UN's new Intervention Brigade in Eastern Congo, nor which company got the contract for drones signed by UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous (video here) -- and so went to check it out.

  The event was to cut the ribbon on a bike rack, but not just any bike rack. The Netherlands' Permanent Representative Herman Schaper is leaving his post, and the staff of his Mission organized this donation and ceremony, without his knowledge, as a form of going away present.

  But would Ban Ki-moon attend? At 3 pm he and his senior adviser Kim Won-soo arrived in front of the UN in the black Hyundai Equus the South Korean mission gave him last December. But they went into the building. Inner City Press was asked: will Mr. Ban come back?

  If you build it, he will come. An orange bicycle, one of many identical bikes owned by the Dutch mission, was set up on the bike rack. Soon Ban's chief of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold the post, walked by. Inner City Press asked, "Who got the drones contract?" Video here.

  Ladsous slowed and looked back. He did not answer, continuing on into the building. How can the UN sign contracts and spend public money and not say who is being paid?

  Some joked that this ceremony, with the sound sytem and security, cost most than the single eight-bike rack being displayed. But there will be 80 racks -- 640 bikes, as Ambassador Schaper calculated, for the three thousand people working in the building.

At 3:30, Schaper and his entourage went into the lobby. And there like clockwork came Ban Ki-moon, with his larger entourage including a staffer with two pairs of scissors in a basket. Ban gave a speech, citing how he presided over another bike ceremony last May. (Inner City Press was there, and rode the few blocks north to Ambassador Schaper's building overlooking the East River.)

  Ambassador Schaper lauded the CitiBike program (Inner City Press' review is here) and noted that in the Netherlands and Denmark, biking is not a sign of being pure but of being wise, healthwise and for the environment.

  They cut the ribbon and then the moment came: would Ban Ki-moon ride one of the bikes that had been brought for this purpose? He gamely tried, with the orange bike leaning against the model bike rack. (A co-founder of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked, "Where's the helmet?" But this is international territory; such a complaint is "not receivable," as the UN said of cholera in Haiti. Meanwhile there are threats for merely hanging a Free UN Coalition for Access sign on the founders' door, here.)

  The orange Dutch mission bike was the kind one could step over, between the seat and handlebars. But trying to raise a leg over the seat is something else.

  Come now, SG, Ban Ki-moon was told. You don't need to do that.

  And he did not.

  Some from the Dutch mission expressed disappointment. But the UN has far greater tasks to attend to -- for example like deciding to disclose which units of the Congolese Army it supports, if the Geneva Conventions apply to its Intervention Brigade, and whether to disclose who it's now paying for drones or if not, why not. Then there could be bike rides, and long ones. Watch this site.


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