Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

At the UN, Zimbabwe Elected 26-21 to Sustainable Development Chair As EU Rejects Text

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- Long after the rest of the UN closed on Friday night, the Commission on Sustainable Development met in the basement. After days of negotiating, they were unable to adopt any "decision text."

            The European Union and Canada said the text was so weak as to be meaningless. The supporters of the text included the United States, the Group of 77 and China. When German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel said the EU would vote no, on behalf of "the world's poor," half of the audience clapped. When Pakistan on behalf of the G-77 spoke in favor of the text, the other half clapped.

            Later several in the crowd were given time to speak, on behalf of indigenous people, non-governmental organizations and, at the last, a silver-haired man behind a sign that read "Farmers," speaking in Spanish, after the translators had left. Inner City Press asked a long-time participant, Who elected this farmer? "That's a whole story -- at one point the NGO group split in two, and the UN didn't know what to do." We'll have more on this.

            The few press members present for the vote down of the text of CSD-15 were in fact focused on CSD-16, specifically the secret ballot vote that would determine in Zimbabwe would be elected to chair the session. UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry was there, in a tuxedo, missing a diplomatic dinner in order to cast this vote. Only a few seats away was Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, who approached Inner City Press to say, of the EU's, Canada's and U.S.'s opposition to Zimbabwe, "This is not good, it is the right of regional groups to choose whoever they want."

            Inner City Press asked him if it is true that African countries such as Ghana and Congo-Brazzaville have recently cast some votes along with the EU, for example at the Security Council's April 17 debate on climate chance. "That is true on some issues," he replied. "But not this one."

            Archaic ballot boxes, each with two wooden handles, were held out to each of the Commission's 53 members -- or rather 50, as only 50 votes were cast. After a few minutes (too much) to count the 50 ballots, the results were as follows: 26 in favor of Zimbabwe, 21 against and four abstentions.

Here's where it happened: CR4, 26-21

            Outside in the hallway, the U.S.'s representative, Dan Reifsnyder just up from DC, said that the vote damaged the CSD's credibility, that Zimbabwe has "decimated its agriculture" and was only elected because at the UN "in New York, the role of regional groups is very strong." Inner City Press asked him the basis of the U.S. vote for what the EU called the weak text proposed at the end of CSD-15. "We felt it was a fair reflection of what could be agreed to here," he said. That's just the problem, an EU staffer said. Another in the Zimbabwe entourage cried out, "Long live Africa!"

            The just-elected CSD chair, Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment and Tourism "Hon. F.D.C. Nhema (MP)," according to his business card, stopped to speak with the press. After surreal answers about agriculture in Zimbabwe, Inner City Press tried a question about the EU's no-vote on the text of CSD-15. "That is democracy," Nhema said. "Let us not focus on our differences, and we can build a wonderful world." He also referred to tolerance and "transparency." Click here for Inner City Press' companion story about an investigation beginning into the role of the UN Development Program in diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe.

            To the side of the stake-out where the U.S. and Zimbabwe spoke, Emyr Jones Parry said, "I don't want to be filmed tonight," and noted that he had missed the Secretary-General's dinner. He spoke to BBC radio and then left. Given his tuxedo and classy-as-ever demeanor, one wag muttered, "Bond. James Bond."

  In fairness, the UK mission to the UN later emailed out a statement by Lord Triesman, UK Minister for Africa, speaking from London:
"We opposed this nomination and like others voted against Zimbabwe. For a Zimbabwean Minister to Chair the Commission, while his own people suffer the appalling consequences of his government's policies, is wholly inconsistent with the Commission's aims. It damages the credibility of the Commission itself and its ability to deal with issues affecting the livelihoods of millions from the poorest countries."

            In further intrigue, two of the three vice-chairs for CSD-16 elected Friday night are Israel and Iran. Only at the UN...

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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

Search WWW Search

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on --

            Copyright 2007 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] - phone: (718) 716-3540