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At UN, Cartoons For Human Rights Exclude Denmark, Ban on Gifts Unless Given to S-G

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 10 -- "Cartoons if they don't make enemies aren't successful," Jerry Robinson, the inventor of Batman's Joker, told Inner City Press Monday at the UN. Mr. Robinson curated the "Sketching Human Rights" show now open in the UN visitor's lobby, which includes work by 65 cartoonists from countries all over the world. Notably, Denmark is not represented. The controversy of the Danish-commissioned cartoons about Islam's prophet Mohammed was indirectly raised before the show's ceremonial ribbon-cutting. The UN's Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, referred to cartoons recently used to promote religious hatred. Inner City Press asked Robinson about the affair of the Danish cartoons. The competition, he said, could have been better thought out. But political cartoons are supposed to be controversial, he added.

            A particular cartoon in the show which a UN staffer directed Inner City Press to involves a sheep on a rope tethered to a post called "Political Freedoms." The rope keeps the sheep from reaching the grazing pasture that surrounds it. The UN staffer, like Inner City Press, interpreted this cartoon, but Russia's Vladimir Mochalov, as a critique of the West's focus on civil and political rights, implying that these leave the poor tied up and hungry. Robinson, on the other hand, said that maybe the cartoon meant that the political freedoms offered by Russia weren't enough to prevent starvation. Meanwhile, UN staffers at Monday's show opening in the visitors' entrance noted the lack of the usual drinks and canapes, and alluded darkly as to how they had been incentivized to come. In the spirit of the holiday, we'll leave it there for now.

Jerry Robinson and his handiwork, Mochalov's not shown

            On a much less comedic front, Inner City Press has learned that the UN's human rights budget is under fire, as part of the overall budget currently stalled in the General Assembly's Fifth Committee.

            Elsewhere at the UN, plentitude and magnanimity are apparently the problem. The UN's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar has put on the UN's intranet a letter to all personnel, reminding them that it is impermissible for them to accept gifts from governments. But, Nambiar adds, if you have to accept a gift, you must turn it over to the Secretary-General. [We note that the S-G' speech at Friday's UNCA ball included a rhyme, "Did you write a blog about me every week? Did Nambiar enquire into who was the leak?"] Clearly, with human rights day two weeks before Christmas, the holiday are upon us. Let the gift giving begin!

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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