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UK's Month Had Q&A, Tiffs With Syria, Zim & Libya, Power Moves, River

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 28 -- The UK's month as President of the UN Security Council President has more question-and-answer stakeouts than is the norm, also more emergency meetings -- and, uniquely, a presentation of Hamlet in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

  Their end of presidency reception, overlooking the FDR Drive and East River on August 28, featured discussion of Ukraine, Syria and US President Barack Obama's tan suit earlier in the day, and diplomats' tension for the upcoming General Assembly ministerial week.

  Hours before, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in the Council chamber that while the UK's month had many things “not correct,” they had worked hard. The latter was indisputable.

  When Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant couldn't summarize a consultation or read out a Press Statement at the stakeout, his deputy Peter Wilson did. They took questions, they sent out transcripts of what was asked and answered.

The UK considers itself a leader on Darfur, but as its month atop the Council ends it is still not clear if cover-ups by the UNAMID mission won't continue. The issue wasn't sufficiently addressed, it seems, in the mandate renewal resolution the UK shepherded through.

  There were a few kerfufels in the chamber: not only Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari being cut off while speaking, of which the UK might be proud, but a speeding along of Zimbabwe and a failure to seat Libya's Ibrahim Dabbashi at the Council table before voting on the Council's Libya resolution, for both of which the UK apologized.

  What role did the UK and its envoy Jonathan Powell play in the switch in UN envoy from Tarek Mitri to Bernardino Leon? Inner City Press would still like to know. But spokesperson Iona Thomas provided comment on issues ranging from freedom of the press in Somalia to #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria.

  The UK ran a hybrid Council trip to Europe, South Sudan and Somalia; from Inner City Press' and the Free UN Coalition for Access' perspective, there could have been more follow up on the troubling crackdown on reporters in South Sudan, including most recently even a staffer of UNMISS public affairs.

  To the UK's credit, it followed Rwanda's lead and made its wrap-up session public. In it, interestingly, Argentina spoke about the sanctions due process ombudsperson, and Jordan called for less grandstanding or “showcasing” on Council meetings. (Lyall Grant laughed and indicated it would be hard to prevent that.)

  The UK has long made Myanmar, or Burma, one of its main foreign policy issues. But as the UN gives in and stops even using the word “Rohingya,” will the UK push back? Perhaps that's not their issue with Burma. But why not?

  Given the UK's also colonial relationship with Sierra Leone, some had hoped it would get the Security Council engaged on ebola (on which Inner City Press got an answer from the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, retyped by Reuters.)

  Overall, compared to some others, though, the UK presidency was more even handed, and certainly allow for more questions, and provided more read-outs. There is still at least one day left: August 29, with Yemen and Kosovo. We'll have more on this.


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