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Gucci's Use of UN "Worries" Ban Ki-moon, May Not Attend Madonna Event Now, Staffer Says

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 4 -- Less than forty-eight hours before the Gucci-sponsored event on the UN's North Lawn, held in the name of UNICEF and of Madonna's organization Raising Malawi, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, told Inner City Press that "I don't know how such things happen... Gucci went a little too far." Inner City Press had asked him the same question earlier asked of Under Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena: what about Gucci's press release saying that the UN event would "celebrate" the opening of a Gucci flagship store on Fifth Avenue? Mr. Nambiar shook his head, saying that Ban Ki-moon had been "planning to go, but now... he is getting himself a little worried about it." He said, "how you build it up is most important, there always a danger," this last presumably referring to over-commercialization. "Ultimately we'll have to see with UNICEF," he said, "the way they built it up."

            To his credit, Mr. Nambiar cut through the haze thrown up earlier in the day by UNICEF and the Spokesperson's Office, that it was not UNICEF which had to answer, but rather the US Fund for UNICEF. Nambiar did not mention this outside organization once. And inside the still under-construction tent, the logos of Gucci and UNICEF are interspersed, not US Fund for UNICEF. This use of logo is also irregular, and has given rise to questions about whose logo should be removed, particularly if Ms. Veneman still intends to attend the event. Security sources told Inner City Press on Monday night that the proponents intend to bring their own guards, calling them event planners.

Vijay Nambiar at left, Ban Ki-moon at left, ex-Greek Amb., no Gucci in sight

            "I would have thought they would have been more careful," Nambair said on Monday night. While referring to Gucci, it applies equally to UNICEF. Sources tell Inner City Press that UNICEF director Ann Veneman was pitched on the idea and approved it without consulting with others from UNICEF or the wider UN. This is contrary to UNICEF's previously claims to Inner City Press that there is no "back-channel" to Ann Veneman. In fact, Ms. Veneman through a spokesperson has defiantly proclaimed, now despite the doubts expressed by Under Secretaries-General Alicia Barcena and Vijay Nambiar, that she will attend. We'll see.

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These reports are 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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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