In Ban's UN, Pomp and Secrecy on Congo, Asia and
Quartet, Closed Meeting
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
November 10 -- With UN Peacekeepers
under fire in the Congo, and tensions between Myanmar and Bangladesh,
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited last month, the UN's member
states got a
briefing on Monday afternoon. The Press was told it could not enter the
meeting. Inner City Press asked, why not? The spokesman for General
President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said, "you know the rules, the
countries decide among themselves if a meeting is open or closed."
from Minute 39:45.
But how and
where did "the countries" decide to bar the press from this
particular meeting, on topics of public concern such as the UN's
the war raging in the Congo? President d'Escoto wrote to member states
November 6, inviting them to the November 10 briefing. The letter did
mention that the meeting would be closed.
spokesperson, joined by Ban Ki-moon's, tried to claim there was no
will brief the press on Tuesday, as will d'Escoto, on the so-called
Peace event. What about the UN's reflexive Culture of Secrecy? Who will
disclose what questions were asked of Ban by the member states,
those not on the Security Council? Inner
City Press asked if a summary would be provided. D'Escoto's spokesman
it would. We'll see.
UN's Ban and d'Escoto: a meeting of the minds on closed meetings?
outside the Economic and Social Council chamber in the run-up to the
Inner City Press asked South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo why the
was closed. "Is it closed?" he answered, with surprise. Rwanda's
Ambassador strode in purposefully. The Administrator of the UN
Program, Kemal Dervis, arrived with pomp and an entourage, its purpose
arrived at 3:05 with a spokesman and his senior advisor Kim Won-soo.
of staff Vijay Nambiar arrived jogging five minutes later. Just after
security officer with a sniffing dog arrived. "The room is already
filled," he was told, whereupon he walked away.
Update of 3:47
p.m. -- a Western diplomat leaving
the meeting tells Inner City Press, "it's closed because it's sooo
boring." An African diplomat specifies, they are at cross purposes,
"Sudan is talking about Sudan." And the topic of Sudan was not even
listed on the agenda...
Update of 3:57
p.m. -- with ten minutes to go, the
sign outside the Eco-Soc Chamber was turned off. An Eastern European
adds that Ban expressed excitement about the Nov. 15 meeting in
the G-20, saying it was the first time that a UN Secretary General has
invited to such a meeting. Even if
the invitation came late, as an
Update of 4:06
p.m. -- meeting still ongoing, one
departing Ambassador remarked, "I almost fell asleep, there's no air in
Update of 4:30
p.m. -- with the meeting room doors
still closed, now the Press is told it cannot enter the Delegates'
door. "I'm sorry," a guard says, "I've just gotten a call that
the press cannot go in."
Update of 4:32
p.m. -- there appears to be at least
one exception to the "bar the press" rule, for
whom a French functionary comes out to Security to vouch.
Who ordered these new rules?
Update of 4:45
p.m. -- barred from the Delegates'
Lounge, Inner City Press made a few calls, no one wanted to say who had
the blockage. Finally at 4:41, Inner City Press was let inside -- just
meeting ended. Has a precedent of exclusion been set?
An Eastern European Ambassador says Congo and
Rwanda got into it. "Il a fait un betisse," the Congolese Ambassador
Update of 4:49
p.m. -- the Congolese Ambassador
continues, you know that yesterday [Rwandan president] Kagame's chief
protocol got stopped...[The reference is to Rose
Update of 5:09
p.m. -- following up on what was
said earlier in the day at the UN's noon briefing, a request has been
for a quick summary of what was said, in particular what questions
states asked of Ban or of each other, and for who told UN Security not
the Press into the Delegates' Lounge during the meeting. When response
the answers will appear on this site.
Update of 6:15
p.m. -- Mr. D'Escoto's spokesman has
provided the following:
"it was a closed meeting, as
it was written very clearly in today´s journal (and as I
mentioned myself at
today´s noon briefing). As you know the rules, closed meetings
are open only to
delegations. Nobody else can have access.
"The Secretary-General briefed today the member
countries on his
last trip (Nairobi meeting on Congo and Asia trip) and his upcoming
Washington. Several countries asked questions and made comments. This
topic of tomorrow's press conference and you can ask about it tomorrow,
the Secretary-General and to the President of the General Assembly."
appreciated, the first part does not answer about the Delegates'
it next to the meeting room. As to the second part, one hopes that Mr.
press conference allows for these issues. Mr.
d'Escoto's press conference is ostensibly
about the Culture of Peace -- though from the above, the Culture of
will also be on the agenda, and be addressed by Mr. d'Escoto. We'll see.
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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