By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 5 -- In the UN's nearly empty building, 2010 dawned at the Security Council with January's president China serving breakfast and giving photo albums to the other Council members, five of them new this month.
One of the five outgoing countries pointedly asked, at the Council retreat for the new members, what is the function of the ten non-permanent members, other than to legitimize the decisions of the Permanent Five?
Croatia, to pick one example, accomplished nearly nothing during its two year stint. (Perhaps explanatory, its Permanent Representative left in scandal, diverting Mission funds for gambling in Las Vegas.)
Of the incoming members, many are watching Brazil, given its rising power and the outspokenness of President Lula. In late 2009, Brazil wrote a letter to the Council about the safety of its embassy in Honduras, into which the deposed Manuel Zelaya took refuge.
A Council source told Inner City Press on Tuesday morning that this will have to be reviewed, along with other outstanding items from 2009.
Amid the clanking of breakfast dishes, various Council members spun the Press on their topics of interest. A Presidential Statement is in the works about the September massacres in Guinea, a "hot issues, on the hot burner," the PRST's drafter gushed.
On Iran, a well placed Council member said the country's failure to be responsive to the Sanctions Committees letter was helping to build the case for further sanctions. "If there's no regime change before then," quipped another member.
The critical outgoing member has questioned why the Council's Committees are only chaired by non-permanent members. Is it a mark of respect, or of the P-5 trying not to dominate? Or, because the work is large administrative and conducted by lower level bureaucrats, is chairing the committees beneath the P-5 Permanent Representatives?
Of these five, only four were seen on Tuesday. Missing was the U.S.'s Susan Rice. The U.S. has, some say, thus staked out a position above the over Permanent Four. Now in 2010, will the U.S. which says it wants to use the UN be raising the issue of Yemen? Watch this site.
Also on the U.S. Mission, at the UN barely a word has been said about the flame out in scandal and withdrawal of the nomination of former Goldman Sachs executive Jide J. Zeitlin to head the Mission's UN reform efforts. Who's next?
Media footnote: while the Council is usually off-limits to the UN press corps, on Tuesday morning the bureau chief of China's state owned Xinhua came smiling out of the breakfast. With human rights issues like Myanmar, Iran, Sudan and Guinea on the Council's agenda, some wonder how China can be an honest broker. We'l be covering this, and secondarily any honest brokering with the press.