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At UN, Press Ejected from Briefing on UNSC Transparency, For Saudi Diplomats

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 19, more here -- Even when the UN's Security Council Affairs Division is bragging about how transparent the Council has become the meeting is closed, at least to some.

 On November 19, the day after publishing a story containing some member states' questions about SCAD, Inner City Press went to a meeting in UN Conference Room 4. The sign outside said only "UNITAR Training" and did not say that the meeting was closed.

 Inside, a UN Department of Political Affairs staffer was telling a group about how Costa Rica, when it was an elected member of the Security Council, insisted on giving its speeches in open session and was sometimes the only one to do so. The staffer said that Russia hadn't wanted the Arria formula session with Crimea Tatars, and spoke about the showing of the "Cesar" photographs from Syria.

  When Inner City Press sat down at a table with a microphone to try to ask a question, the briefer said, "Are you sure you're supposed to be here?"
  Inner City Press, including on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, responded that the sign outside did not say "Closed," thus that the meeting was open.

  No, came the response, this is a briefing "for Saudi diplomats." By UNITAR?  Nevertheless, Inner City Press left. At the day's noon briefing it asked, based on the below, if SCAD was involved in providing Chad's December Program of Work to Australia.

As we exclusively reported yesterday, with Chad set to take over Presidency of the Security Council on December 1, on November 13 it bristled when this month's President, Australia, circulated a “Program of Work” for December, Chad's month.

Chad's protest, which multiple sources exclusively provided to Inner City Press and which it is publishing here in redacted form, tells the Australian Mission's Political Coordinator Michael Bliss that

Chad is surprised by your email circulating the December POW. The procedure is that the mission assuming the presidency of that month is the one authorized to do so. We think it is a profound lack of responsibility by the Australian Mission. I hope that we will continue to respect ourselves as non permanent members of the Security Council.”

  That is, Chad not only challenged the violation of procedures, but noted that it was one non-permanent member doing it to another.

  The email of Michael Bliss of the Australian Mission angered those who provided it to Inner City Press. In a reference to Bob Geldof's “Do They Even Know It's Christmas,” Bliss wrote that

“in respect to that question asked long ago by Bob Geldof, and friends of some other Africans, the Chadian mission do know that it is Christmas time in the week of 22/12 but, I am told, has resisted SCAD's strenuous attempts to arrange the program so that scheduled work concludes by 19/12.”

  SCAD is the UN Department of Political Affairs' Security Council Affairs Division. On the one hand this seems to be a problem between member states, elected members of the Security Council from different continents, of different religions and different cultures.  Inner City Press reached out to the Australian mission and understands that the joking reference was to wanting a quiet Christmas, and is now to their credit acknowledged as ill-considered.

  But on the other hand, Inner City Press is informed, others up to the level of Permanent Representative wonder who gave Chad's Program of Work to Australia - whose Bliss said it came from "off the back of a truck." Which truck? We'll have more on all this.


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