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UN Ranges from Shanghai Expo to Literacy Lunch, UNESCO's Friendly Face

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 7 -- Even with the UN General Debate concluded, the wine and dine season of the UN is just getting started. Things are always for a cause. Monday night, for example, the UN lobby was taken over by a promotion for the 2010 Expo in Shanghai, China.  China's new Ambassador to the UN was there, along with the highest UN official from China, Under Secretary General Sha Zukang, with an entourage. The seal of the wider UN was delivered by Kiyo Akasaka of the Department of Public Information, who praised the good working relationship between DPI and the Chinese mission.

   One UN staffer in attendance snarked, "This is basically promotion." Well, yes. China is a Permanent Five member of the Security Council. Russia, too, was given space to promote its bid for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. At the Chinese event, the finger food were swept up as by locusts.

  Eighteen hours later, four floors in the Delegates Dining Room, an A List crowd including Ambassadors of Egypt, Finland and Spain -- always ready to party -- the Observer of Palestine and two representatives of UNESCO, dined politely during a speech ranging from literacy to AIDS. The press, lured to the event by the promised later appearance of First Lady Laura Bush, sat in the corner taking notes on the diplomats' table manners.

  When last we met UNESCO, sponsor of the event, they were excluding Tamil Tiger-affiliated groups from their human rights conference in Paris. Before that, in July, a UNESCO-related body agreed to Cambodia's request to list the Preah Vihear temples as a World Heritage site despite Thailand's protests, soon followed by a military stand-off. The lunch appeared to be going more smoothly, as least as of this writing.

Another China exhibit, with USG Sha and Mr. Ban, Laura Bush not shown

The head of UNESCO sent his apologies, he had to attend to the member states on his Executive Board. They are discussing the process for selecting his successor.  Perhaps the interviews will include, how would you have dealt with Preah Vihear, and the Paris conference issues?

  The question for Laura Bush, assuming she accepts one, is whether the UN's Ban Ki-moon should even consider going to Myanmar unless Aung San Suu Kyi is released. Ban was asked the question at a press conference earlier on Tuesday, which will soon be reviewed on this site.

  Laura Bush arrived and began speaking at 1:50 p.m., thanking among others the UN's First Lady Mrs. Ban, long-time U.S. USG Joseph Verner Reed -- who it should be noted is close to Ban's Myanmar envoy Ibrahim Gambari -- and the Permanent Representative of Mongolia, a co-sponsor of the lunch. The country's president recently met with Mongolian expatriates on the second floor of the Millennium Hotel. He was asked, if Mongolia has so many resources, why is it underdeveloped? He was not asked about literacy, or this lunch. Laura Bush praised Mongolia for using radio and CD-ROMs to promoting reading to nomadic herders. Who knew?

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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