As UN Budget's Passed, G-77's Champagne Dreams Echoed
by Nicaraguan Priest, "Non-Stop Nothingness" to 8 AM
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
December 24, 4:30 am [to 8 am] -- It was
four in the morning on Christmas Eve when the General Assembly prepared
budget. Delegates emerged from the basement, where for days issues
ranging from development jobs to the rent of the Group of 77 were
capitals were called, cigarettes were smoked. Now like a school
semester it was
almost over. Goodbyes were being said. Secretariat officials, long term
players, surfed sentimentality to the benefit of their own offices, if
wider UN much less world peace.
Delegates' Lounge in the lead-up to the GA meeting, champagne corks
popping. And some things had been accomplished. A shot
across the bow of
unaccountable UN investigator Inga-Britt Ahlenius. A check-in and
the imperious envoy to Lebanon Terje Roed Larsen. For development, 92
posts, albeit spread out in regional commissions all over the world.
at four a.m. was not entirely unearned.
bitter after-taste was the failure to follow through. A year ago, this
demanded answers about the UN's no-bid contract with Lockheed Martin,
$250 million for camps in Darfur that Lockheed never built. There
was no follow
through; Lockheed took the money and ran.
UN's Ban and d'Escoto, budget shenanigans not shown
a.m. the hold-up for the GA meeting was to pick up Miguel d'Escoto
el Presidente, from his residence. He would come to deliver a speech.
was only four minutes, one of his staffers pointed out. There were
and peanuts. The PGA, it was said, was already in the building. And so
it remained until it approached 5:45 in the morning.
Update of 6:05 a.m. -- the usual
press entrances to the GA hall, through the 3rd floor, were unmanned
and locked. A film strip about the Holocaust was playing in a loop.
Back on the 2nd floor, one guard stood on protocol and placed phone
calls about the locked doors. Another guard simply waved Inner City
Press through. Inside the chamber, from the blue colored "VIP" seats on
the left side of the chamber, d'Escoto and his Moldovan master of
ceremonies looked vaguely ridiculous on their raised green marble stage
as if from Star Trek. The voting had begun, paragraph by paragraph --
when a UN Security Officer
demanded that Inner City Press go back up to the third floor. But
upstairs, the doors were still locked. Back downstairs, the Officer
spoke into his walkie talkie, "McClachy! McClachy!" A delegate walked
by and asked why the Press was being harassed. On the screens above the
podium, votes were being recorded. The U.S. was again disassociating
itself. Go upstairs again, the officer said. This time the doors
were open. A request over the dark blue velvet rope for a copy of the
voting sheet was meant with incomprehension. I'm giving these to them,
was the answer. Many nations' seats were unfilled. One one vote --
after all the disruption, hard for now to know which -- the results were
109 for - 13 against - 35 abstaining. It doesn't add
Update of 6:21 a.m. -- Myanmar is
speaking, against "the use of human rights for political purposes,"
bragging about the Constitution passed in the wake of Cyclone Nargis,
with opposition to it illegal. "We will not be bound by it," Myanmar's
representative said. And with that, the reports of the Third Committee
were done, and those of the Fifth Committee began, at 6:23 a.m..
Update of 6:31 am - as a
representative from the Philippines, rapporteur of the Fifth Committee,
reads out the titles of resolutions adopted without a vote, Inner City
Press is approached again, admonished for having accepted the
invitation to enter from the second floor, since the third floor was
locked. Front the seats in the back, the chairs of Bangladesh, the
Bahamas and Azerbaijan are empty, while the representative of Austria,
a country entering the Security Council in January over the defeated
Iceland, is sound asleep throughout the Third Committee votes. Turkey's
seat, too, was empty, while the representatives in Venezuela's and
Zimbabwe's seats were sleeping.*
* - full disclosure: Inner City
Press fell asleep and was photographed while waiting for d'Escoto to
begin the General Assembly session, sometime around 5:30 a.m., and
awoke amid the detritis of a drained case of Baltika, the "Famous Beer
Update of 6:57 a.m. -- D'Escoto
is droning on reading the names of Fifth Committee resolutions, still
not vote on any of them. They are flying through: DPA, Development,
Update of 7:05 a.m. -- the first
request for a vote is from France, on paragraph 3bis of Draft Resolution 4 about
Terje Roed Larsen. Lebanon speaks against France's proposed deletion of
the paragraph, and urges delegates to "press the red button." On so
little sleep, it's good to be direct. And vote it taken, and comes out
in favor of France's pro-Larsen proposal, 50; against, 88, abstentions,
3. "In consequence, France's proposal is not approved," d'Escoto
intones, in Spanish.
Update of 7:13 am -- the US
representative says the paragraph was politicized. Syria begins to
Update of 7:29 am -- after a 15
minute speech by Syria, d'Escoto reminds "with all due respect that we
are taking too much time," then says "I give the microphone to Israel."
But the delegation asking for the mic is Lebanon, sitting behind
Israel. Perhaps since he was accused of not letter Israel speak,
d'Escoto wants to show he'll call on them even if they don't ask for
the floor. One can see the sky is light, through the smoked glass
windows facing north from the UN.
Update of 7:35 a.m. -- d'Escoto
has left the podium, another presiding officer, also speaking Spanish,
takes his place.
Update of 7:38 a.m. -- d'Escoto
is back, hugs his replacement and resumes his seat, you figure it out.
He thanks the president of the Fifth Committee.
Update of 7:44 a.m. -- the budget
items are over, d'Escoto starts a speech, mentioning the "Culture of
Peace," people are standing and leaving. The representative of Yemen is
screaming into his cell phone. "There's no security," a cleaning man
remarks. Talk about a whimper, dream about a bang.
Update of 8:02 a.m. and hopefully
the last -- on the green carpet in front of the General Assembly, the
delegates are pouring out. The President, too: d'Escoto approaches
Inner City Press, his handshake is warm, like the Russian beer in the
Delegates' Lounge. Inner City Press apologizes for some reason for the
delegations that left in the middle of his speech. "The Latins, they
all stayed," a d'Escoto aide says hopefully. Ion the Moldovan, master
of cerimonies, adds, Look who's hear working hard.
A Security Officer, coming
in well-rested from a night of sleep, asks Inner City Press what's been
"Non-stop nothingness," is
the phrase that comes to mind.
"If you don't publish
that, I'll stop telling you things." Consider it done.
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
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about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
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