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After Hurrican, UNSC Moves Out of Chamber for Somalia Vote, Public So Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- Among the collateral damage, or effects, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York was the closure of the UN and its Security Council.

  But with the legal mandate of its Somalia mission expiring at the end of the month, the Council had to meet in person, even to adopt a seven-day rollover of the mission.

   With the basement Chamber the Council has been using waterlogged, the meeting was moved to the UN's Temporary North Lawn Building.

   Outside on 47th Street there were downed trees. Inside, two guards tried to block Inner City Press from covering the meeting. Some had even reported that it could not be covered. But since votes must happen in meeting that are not only in-person but also public, reason won out.

  From the back row of Conference Room 4, where only last week Israel and Syria traded insults, the room was barely one quarter full. Along with delegations from the Security Council's 15 members, diplomats from incoming Council members Rwanda and South Korea were present. They attend as a form of training until they fully join in January.

  October's Council president Gert Rosenthal began with words for the City of New York, then regretting that the October 29 debate on Women, Peace and Security had to be canceled. France had promoted the arrival of its minister, but for what?

  Rosenthal said that a short text to roll-over the Somalia mandate was ready, but that France had asked for time to check and read -- or translate? -- it, "to see if they can accompany us." No one Council member seemed to have such language concerns.

  The director of UN Women, Under Secretary General Bachelet, moved up to the podium for the read-out of the Presidential Statement on Women, Peace and Security, S/PRST/2012/23. But she did not give a speech.

  Finally the seven day Somalia extension was voted on, 15-0. The building would fall silent again. Watch this site.

Footnote: Again, a supposed improvement to UN Television webcast has made it so it is not viewable, at least on Android phones (unlike, for example, the UK House of Commons). And this freeze-out was before Sandy. Will it be fixed?

Update: while the UN has sent to email the plans out, there will be meetings at the UN on Thursday. There are, Inner City Press is told by multiple sources, "problems" with the UN Library building where the press corps has their cubicles and, where applicable, studios. But access must be pushed for: it's ostensibly a public institution, and these are public meetings. Watch this site.

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