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UNseen Fireworks, U.S. Holds Out for Minor Change to ECOSOC Text on Climate Change

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 4 -- On America's independence day, when fireworks in the sky over the UN headquarters in New York will find mostly empty offices for the first time in years, we must make this diagnosis: the UN, with the possible exception of its Security Council, blathers on without accomplishing much, while the U.S. grandstands and isolates itself.

  How else to explain the surreal scene on July 3, when the closing session of the "High Level Segment" of the Economic and Social Council dragged past five then six then seven o'clock, with the U.S. threatening to "block consensus" on a bland ministerial statement? The President of ECOSOC Leo Merores joined the diplomats and staff and few reporters drinking in the Delegates' Lounge next to the ECOSOC chamber.  Sitting with him was ECOSOC staffer Nikhil Seth who, ever polite, had told Inner City Press to pay particular attention to the nation-specific portion of the Segment, acknowledging that the more global presentations are of less interest and value.

   Inner City Press having been told that "they are negotiating in the Trusteeship Council chamber, this could go all night," ambled through the ECOSOC to the Trusteeship chamber. Security officers shrugged apologetically. "What in God's name are they talking about?" one asked. There was dark talk about biofuels.  But ultimately the only change adopted was to move a mere segment of sentence, referring to the Kyoto protocol and therefore to climate change, from the body of the text to a footnote. That's it -- that's what the U.S. was holding out for.  High Level Segment, indeed.

ECOSOC session and President, footnoted sentence and Delegates Lounge not shown

   Sam Adam's Summer Ale stopped flowing so freely from the tap of the Delegates Lounge. After the UN bar's last call, the diplomats reassembled in the ECOSOC chamber.  The U.S. representative, after Bolivia and before Cuba spoke, begrudgingly "joined consensus." The President of ECOSOC, back in from the bar, bragged that unlike previous years, under his watch this High Level Segment was adopting its Ministerial Statement the day the Segment ended and not after.  When Inner City Press asked Leo Merores directly about this, at the actual end of the session, he said he was referring only to the previous two years. "It's a new ECOSOC," Inner City Press nevertheless was told. Here's hoping.

Footnotes: There's been a traditional of UN staff bringing guests to the riverside Headquarters to watch the Macy's fireworks on the Fourth of July. The UN has allowed unnamed VIPs to cavort directly under the 38 story tower on the so-called South Lawn, the scene in February of a still not entirely solved tragedy. But unceremoniously a few days before the holiday, the UN sent an email that the building would be closed this year, due to construction and the Capital Master Plan. The building is open during the week, although hardhats from Skanska are mucking around with asbestos in the halls. But there seems little reason to block fireworks-viewing this year. There's been grumbling, but still there will be fireworks.

  On the still not entirely solved tragedy, there's been dissatisfaction with how it was handled. Due to the scorched-earth response to previous reporting, we'll be circumspect for now. But watch this site.

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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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