Thursday, September 23, 2010

On MDGs, UN's Ban Won't Comment on Debt, Tax Havens or Zapatero Dodging Kagame

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- With the Millennium Development Goals having been discussed at the UN for three days, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to respond to a critique that the MDGs look only at the symptom and not causes of poverty. UN transcript here and below.

Over $500 billion is owned by poor countries in foreign debt. Over $124 billion a year flow through offshore tax havens. Inner City Press asked Ban about both of these.

Ban said “those issues which you raised have been the subjects which have been discussed in the international community. I think it's not appropriate for me to discuss those matters here at this time.” If not now, during the MDG Summit, when?

Earlier on Wednesday, when it suddenly became clear that questions would be taken at the meeting of Ban's MDG Advocacy Group, Inner City Press ran from the UN correspondents' area over the library, through the garage and a metal detector check, through the General Assembly lobby and media room, only to be stopped by security. Armed with a floor pass, Inner City Press proceeded, reaching the ECOSOC chamber ten minutes before the Q&A session ended.

But Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky shook his head, running his finger across his throat, it's over. Nevertheless he called on Jeffrey Sachs to issue a duplicative answer to a question.

When Inner City Press wanted to asking, as well as about debt and money laundering, was the sudden departure of co-chair Zapatero of Spain. In the first Advocacy Group meeting in Madrid, Zapatero refused to meet with his co-chair Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is being sued in Spain for war crimes.

This time, Zapatero left to return to business in Madrid. Nesirky did not allow the question during the Advocacy Group's media availability. At noon in the briefing room, he told Inner City Press to asked the Spanish Mission about Zapatero's departure.

But can Ban's and the UN's MDG Advocacy Group function with two co-chair who won't meet? Watch this space.

UN's Ban and Zapatero, Kagame & answers on debt & tax havens not shown

Footnote: Inner City Press asked Michelle Bachelet about the Advocacy Group, in which she served until being named head of UN Women. Bachelet dodged on the Zapatero Kagame relationship, as well as on Inner City Press' question if she would finally bring zero tolerance to sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers. Watch this site.

From the UN's transcription of September 22:

Inner City Press: On the MDGs, there's a criticism made by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. [Olivier] de Schutter, where he says that the MDGs may be just treating the symptoms. He points to things like off-shore tax havens, and the ability of leaders to take money out of their countries, and he points to debt relief, the debt service by poor countries adding up to about $500 billions. So he says that there is danger of focussing on charity as opposed to structural things that hurt poor countries. I wanted to have your response to that, also, one thing I noticed this morning is that, of your two co-chairs, Mr. Zapatero left. I know that in Madrid, the two didn't meet because of sort of war crimes and other issues. Have those issues been resolved and could the two men work together to promote MDG Advocacy Group?

SG Ban: There should be no mix-up between development and politics. Prime Minister Zapatero explained to me two days ago that because of his very urgent domestic issues, he had to go back. That I understood. Because, every leader, they may have certain domestic issues on which they have to put priority. The MDG Advocacy Group meeting today was, I think, a great success. You have seen such a strong commitment among, not only MDG advocates, champions, but all other leaders participating in that. And for other matters, I think all those issues which you raised have been the subjects which have been discussed in the international community. I think it's not appropriate for me to discuss those matters here at this time.

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