Murky Water Conference in UN, Ban Panned, Suez in the House
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 4 --
Water is life, the UN and its water partner Jay-Z have said. Water too
death. That is the theme of a conference at the UN that began Wednesday
with a reception over the East River. To the sounds of a classical
a woman bragged that she represents Halliburton and Tyco. She asked, Do you
know Doctor Oh?
Harold HyunSuk Oh is the founder of the conference sponsor, the
World Water Organization. Inner City Press asked Dr. Oh, how is WWO
Private donations, he said.
A supporter of WWO explained to Inner City Press
that Dr. Oh was an oil
trader who later went to divinity school and then became an academic.
Press asked Dr. Oh directly, and he confirmed the trajectory, adding
was a fundamentalist pastor even before going into business. Inner City
asked him what he thinks of Ban Ki-moon's Secretary-Generalship so far.
talks a lot, he said, but it does not implement.
With Mr. Ban in Pakistan, his Deputy Asha-Rose
Migiro was supposed to
come to the reception. WWO's Deputy Chairman said that "Miss Mygro,"
as he called her, was also unable to come due to pressing business at
headquarters, but should be delivering remarks the following morning.
schedule, awards were supposed to be given to financial services
representatives of Hope Finance, S.A.. This did not happen. Apparently
not come either. There was an elaborate sound system, but it was hardly
all. The M.C. was Elaine Valdov, who a WWO supporter said was "big in
NGO world at the UN," having headed the DPI-NGO some years ago. A more
recent DPI-NGO honcho is slated to speak on Thursday.
NYIT present check, with Elaine Valdov, SG and DSG not shown
"If you have even one high level UN person
supporting you, you can
get anything there," a WWO supporter said, requesting anonymity. It
brought to mind the booking of
the UN's North Lawn for a fundraising
benefiting, among others, the Kabbalah Center of Los Angeles, booked by
Veneman, the director of UNICEF (which is holding its executive
this week, complete with informal consultation on card and gift sales,
of some controversy).
Inner City Press asked Dr. Oh who his rabbi, so to
speak, is at the UN.
"Someone in DESA," he said, "social and economic affairs."
Dr. Oh is
affiliated with the New York Institute of Technology. "Not just the one
by Columbus Circle," a supporter pointed out. There is a huge campus on
Long Island, and other campus in China and India, he stressed. NYIT
along with WWO sponsored an earlier water conference at the UN in mid
2008, co-sponsored by UNICEF and the UN Development Program and the
World Bank. Another WWO supporter snarked that at an upcoming World
Bank water event, the UN "won't even be invited, since they don't do
Doctor Oh, 2d from right and shortest, World
Energy Forum not shown
Among the speakers this week are the former NYC
environmental commissioner, Joel
Miele, and his acting successor Steven Lawitts. There is also
the private firm Suez, responsible for controversial water
projects from Jakarta to Atlanta, Puerto Rico and Argentina to Manila.
supporter of water privatization, over the wild rice and bow tie pasta
at the reception, tried to convince Inner City Press that opposition to
privatization in Stockton, California -- near Ann Veneman's home town
of Modesto -- was
misguided, including by the General Assembly President's water advisor
Barlow. Even Cochabamba, Bolivia was defended: the locals, the WWO
said, just don't understand.
Inner City Press' further inquiry into the origins
of WWO was led by a
connector who says he introduced Dr. Oh to a water expert, in front of
church. The rest is history, and Dr. Oh confirms that a World Energy
next, already incorporated. Inner City Press is told that moves are
re-open the UN's Millennium Development Goals in order to add a new
one: energy. But
there are other issue-groups lined up.
So what is this conference, of water privatizers,
held inside the UN?
Perhaps the next two days will tell.
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and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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