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In Brisbane, Obama Opposes Meddling Only If for Separatists in Democracies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 16 -- When the G20 summit ended and after Australia's Tony Abbott mouthed support for the fight against climate change, Obama took the stage in Brisbane.

  He was asked about Ukraine and said that it is impermissible to finance proxies to break up countries which have mechanisms for democratic elections.

  It is a phrase that needs unpacking.

  Obama did not say countries should not interfere, militarily, in other countries. If a country is not a democracy, apparently, one can intervene, as long as it is not to stoke separatism. Are those the new rules?

 The US "train and equip mission" on Syria came to mind. Those are proxies, but are they allowed under Obama's new rules? On Syria Obama said that eventually there will have to be a political solution including Syria's neighbors like Turkey and Iran, and "Assad's patron," Russia.

  Abbott, like the UK's Cameron after him, spoke for his home audience. And to Obama, the pre-selected questions beginning with Reuters were about Keystone, health care, immigration and executive orders. It's a long way to fly for this.

In Brisbane for the G20, US President Barack Obama announced a $3 billion commitment to the Green climate fund, to applause at the University of Queenland. He did not mention Australia's anti-immigrant policies or Manus Island.

  Obama claimed that the US never puts its principles in the back seat, referring to China -- with no mention of Saudi Arabia or its neighbors Bahrain and Qatar. He praised Myanmar, saying he spoke there about how journalism can be responsible, without mentioned Aung Naing, killed in custody.

  Back in Beijing on November 10, US President Barack Obama is promoting the "Transpacific Partnership," which would among other things export pro-corporate (and pro-censorship) laws like the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

  After telling the media to hurry up and get out of the room, "we have some work to do," a statement emerged on November 10, that

"We, the Leaders of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam, welcome the significant progress in recent months, as reported to us by our Ministers, that sets the stage to bring these landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to conclusion."

   But if the TPP is so good, why would an organization like the Electronic Frontier Foundation be sounding the alarm? And why and how can the UN be promoting and praising this TPP?

 The UN has a joint agency with the World Trade Organization, and on March 6, 2014, at the UN the director of the joint agency the International Trade Centre Arancha Gonzalez, formerly of the WTO, spoke at the UN and praised the pending Trans Pacific Partnership.

Inner City Press when able asked Gonzalez to explain working on the TPP as a UN project, given the range of groups opposed to the TPP, including for example the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Click here.

  As the Free UN Coalition for Access is pursuing, TPP would essentially globalize the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which can be used for censorship -- not only has used by Reuters UN bureau chief to ban from Google's Search an anti-Press complaint he filed with the UN, but more recently to take-down videos of protests. Click here.

  Gonzalez gave a lengthy answer, that trade deals are up to member state, but added that the ICT works so that rules are consistent and not fragmented.  To some this sounds like "race to the bottom."

  Since the press conference was billed as concerning the Commission on the Status of Women, Inner City Press asked Gonzalez which countries ban women from having bank accounts. Saudi Arabia came to mind, but Gonzalez cited Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. We hope to have more on this issue.

   Back on March 4 another UN agency UN HABITAT unveiled "The City We Need" booklet on Tuesday at the UN, in advance of an event at the nearby Ford Foundation.

  Inner City Press, when able, asked about the corporate sponsors listed in the booklet, including GDF Suez (protested for example about a hydro-electric dam in Brazil), Siemens (Western Sahara) and Veolia, a French firm recently contracted on Syria chemical weapons which does business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

After thanking the panel including HABITAT's Joan Clos on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press asked: how were these corporate sponsored vetted?

  The answer, from Nick Yu of the World Urban Campaign, was as is so often the case at the UN that the private sector is important, is a stakeholder. Yes, but what about these particular companies? What is the process? And what is their involvement, beyond paying to be listed in promotional materials?

A goal of the campaign seems to be to try to get a holistic "Cities" Sustainable Development Goal. Inner City Press has reported on a similar move, involving Palau, to get an Oceans SDG. The list is growing.

A panelist who was also a New Yorker, Eugenie Birch, answered Inner City Press question about the last and the current New York City mayors. Bill de Blasio, Birch said, is a corrective on issues of affordable housing and free kindergarten (what about pre-K?). Michael Bloomberg, whose meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to be summarized by the UN as Inner City Press has requested, will be at the Ford Foundation. Watch this site.


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