Wednesday, February 25, 2009

At UN, Merkel's Economic Proposal Absent, Dreams of UN Credibility, Sevan

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 13 -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed a UN Economic Security Council while at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. But at the UN on February 11, when Inner City Press asked the president of the UN's Economic and Social Council, Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, about Merkel's proposal, Ms. Lucas said the idea has not been raised to the UN and is "not necessarily a very well defined idea." Video here, from Minute 36:27.

   Inner City Press also asked Ms. Lucas, Luxembourg's Ambassador, how ECOSOC's talk-fest on the global financial crisis lines up and works with the process started by President of the General Assembly Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, headlined by economist Joseph Stiglitz. Ms. Lucas' lengthy response, replete with high-level meetings, interactive dialogues and other UN buzz words, appeared to mean that the two processes are not fully coordinated. Video here, from Minute 31:02. Then on February 13, d'Escoto's spokesman said the processes are coordinated, in ways he'll explain next week.

   A key d'Escoto staffer this week told Inner City Press that the hook d'Escoto has is the "legitimacy" of the General Assembly, or perhaps of the UN. By way of analogy, he told the story of a respected lawyer jurist, whose client balked at the high price tag of his opinion memo. The lawyer flipped to the last page and tore off the signature. There, he said, now I will give it to you for free. The point, the PGA staffer said, is that it is the name that is important, not the content. The G-20 need us, he said.

UN's Ban and Germany's Merkel, with a not-small gulf between, UN Economic Council not seen

  Believers in the UN name, in the primacy of the so-called GA-192 over groups like the G-20, should then be more concerned about that which inevitably makes the UN look bad. This week, for example, the UN's own Administrative Tribunal said the UN must pay the legal fees of Benon Sevan, formerly head of the UN Oil for Food Program for Iraq, who when charged with bribery fled to Cyprus, which refuses to extradite him. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson if Ban had any comments on the case, any regrets about using UN money to pay the fees of an official formerly charged with corruption.  He has no comment, the spokesperson said. Perhaps because it is not on the Security Council's agenda, the excuse given for Ban not calling for a cease fire in Sri Lanka? Click here for that.

  Ms. Lucas was asked about a sentiment bubbling up from the ECOSOC subsidiary Commission on Social Development meeting in the basement, that the bailouts of banks in the developed world should some how be related to financial for development. Jamaica expressed it strongly in the CSD, more recently a "senior UN official" was quoted as saying a push will be made at the upcoming G-20 meeting. We'll see.

Footnote: when asked about the Merkel proposal, Ms. Lucas encouraged Inner City Press to "see that with my German colleague." That same day, the German Mission to the UN was holding a session on financing the UN, which excluded a number of reporters who actively but critically cover the issue. Two days later, Germany's Ambassador made what is becoming a rare appearance at or outside the Security Council, singing the praises of an Abkhazia resolution which the Georgians, right after Germany spoke, described as a slow slide toward loss of territorial integrity. What where is the Merkel proposal? Watch this site.

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