Thursday, May 19, 2016

At UN on Language(s) and Diplomacy, Only 3 Questions, Colonialism Not Among Them

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- When an event on the topic of “Language(s) and Diplomacy” was held at the UN on May 19, with panelists including the head of the Department of Public Information as well as the Permanent Representatives of Bulgaria -- with one and perhaps a second candidates to replace Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General -- and of Mexico, Inner City Press went to ask one or more questions.

   It was announced at the beginning that it would be interactive. But after opening presentations, the moderator had set aside time (“eight more minutes”) to for example ask Bulgaria and Mexico, neither big troop contributing countries, about language and peacekeeping. Then it was announced that the head of DPI Cristina Gallach, of whom many questions should be asked but have not been permitted since October 2015, would be leaving early.

   The moderator said, “We'll take questions from the left;” members of the delegations of Mexico and Guatemala, as it turned out. Then eschewing the center were Inner City Press sat live-streaming with hand up, the question was given to the right, four points from Burkina Faso. And then it was over.

   Questions that might have been asked include whether the focus on having Francophone soldiers in Francophone Africa (read, Francafrique) has an impact on the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation, with the French Serval force in the Central African Republic as a case in point.

  UN Peacekeeping being controlled four time in a row now by France raises the issue, not addressed or allowed to be address in the "Language(s) and Diplomacy" event, of colonialism. We'll have

more on this.

  More positively, why don't UN Peacekeeping missions offer language classes to those they are sent to serve, and why does the UN headquarters offer this to residents of its host city, New York? These are all questions, but today's UN and DPI, at least at this event, are not set up to take these questions. In fct, their reactions to questions are, to put it mildly, quite different.

  The speaker from Burkina Faso recounted being told negotiations would only be in English, and documents not being translated fast enough into all six UN languages. The Guatemala diplomat noted that the Security Council resolution on Colombia recites that country's desire for Spanish speaking observers. Could Sudan get that put in a resolution?

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