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Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - January 18, 2006

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, for Inner City Press

   UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 18 – If the president of a lesser-known former Yugoslav republic calls for coordinated global action in Sudan, does anybody hear?

  At the United Nations on Jan. 18, Slovenia’s president Janez Drnovsek briefed reporters about the initiative he began two weeks ago by writing letters to the presidents of other, mostly larger countries, highlighting the crisis in Darfur. So far few countries have responded. Just prior to the press conference, the U.S. representative to the UN, John Bolton, told Slovene media he hadn’t heard of Mr. Drnovsek’s plan. When asked by Inner City Press if he still intends to go to Washington to meet with members of Congress, Mr. Drnovsek said no, since “some Senators have not come back from their holidays yet.” Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito might disagree.

  Mr. Drnovsek compared Darfur with Rwanda and, closer to Slovenia, to Bosnia. He stated that in the past three years in Darfur, three million people have been displaced, and 100,000 killed. He proposed, in the short term, opening a refugee camp for up to 10,000. He mentioned China’s business involvements in Sudan, without mentioning the word oil. Without mentioning Iraq, Mr. Drnovsek noted that the U.S. might not be in a position to send soldiers, but should otherwise contribute. “Mr. Bolton,” he said, “has surely heard of Darfur.” But apparent not of the Slovene president’s plan, nor perhaps of the Slovene president himself.

  Several reporters noted the relative importance of what is said, and who does the saying. John Bolton can ignore a Slovene proposal.  Similarly, for readers of Inner City Press’ recent UN reporting, the International Monetary Fund and the IAMB can apparently ignore questions from the smaller, more independent media about the oil metering contract in Iraq with a still unnamed U.S. company that was mentioned at their December 28 press conference. The U.S. company has still not been named, despite a public commitment to do so by early January. Inner City Press will continue to follow this and other UN-related issues.

The Slovene president

  Janez Drnovsek is not the first Slovene president to trod the UN stage in Turtle Bay. Janez Stanovnik, president just after the collapse of Yugoslavia, served for years at the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe, and at UNCTAD. Mr. Stanovnik told the UN Intellectual History Project that “it is completely illogical that the operational decisions be carried out under the principle of one country, one vote,” given the difference in population between countries. Perhaps that is why some can ignore current Slovene president Drnovsek. But as he pointed out, what role is the world’s most populous nation playing in Sudan? The power-players at the UN are all otherwise occupied, with Iraq and now Iran (and, much further down the list, bird flu).  Egypt still has imprisoned several hundred Sudanese refugees, including from Darfur. In these swirling news cycles in which Africa is so often an after-thought, Mr. Drnovsek’s lonely voice is welcome. But will it be enough?


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Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

Watching the Detectives: Oversight of the Development Fund for Iraq Will be Discussed at the UN on December 28, 2005

From the UN Budget, Transit Strike, to the USA Patriot Act, 2005 Ends with Extensions

Some previous highlights and special reports:

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

The United Nations' Year of Microcredit: Questions & No Answers

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