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UNGA Adopts $5.4B Budget With Public Balcony Empty, Media Booths Locked

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- When the UN General Assembly approved a $5.4 billion two-year budget on the evening on December 23, there were a lot of late nights in the basement's Conference Rooms 5, 6, 7 and 8 were behind it. Inner City Press periodically covered that basement action, on Twitter and Periscope - but for the final approval, the Press was absent or shut out.

   Inner City Press went to cover the approval session but found the door to media booths locked, and no one to open them. Through a circuitous route, Inner City Press arrived at the public balcony - which was entirely empty. A supervisor from UN Security - which this week told Inner City Press to be quiet as it spoke about corruption by former President of the GA John Ashe -- said he would not open the media booths.

 So Inner City Press observed from the otherwise empty balcony. Some Periscope video here. (The new Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, will be pursuing this.)

  There was some drama: Cuba called a point of order that left new PGA Mogens Lykketoft flummoxed, conferring with Catherine Pollard. Turkey, El Salvador and others took the floor to say they are not party to the Law of the Sea Treaty. Iran criticized the politicization of this year's Syria human rights resolution.

   Ironically, Canada and EU and US spoke at length about transparency, even as the public balcony was empty and the media booths locked. Worse, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “openness benefits everyone,” though he has presided over the closing, and refused Inner City Press questions on Burundi, then on any topic including the UN corruption scandals at his end of the year press conference. He left Wednesday without taking questions. Periscope video here.

  By contrast, India's outgoing Ambassador Asoke Mukerji congratulated his Nepali counterpart on a job well done; others congratuled South Africa as chair of the Group of 77. There was a lot of hard work done in the Committee and it should be praised. In 2016, however, the UN must do better. Watch this site.


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