UN, Zimbabwe Elected 26-21 to Sustainable Development Chair As EU Rejects Text
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."
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
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
where it happened: CR4, 26-21
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!"
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
for Inner City Press' companion story about an investigation beginning into the
role of the UN Development Program in diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe.
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."
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
further intrigue, two of the three vice-chairs for CSD-16 elected Friday night
are Israel and Iran. Only at the UN...
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