Thursday, October 20, 2016

New SG Guterres Issues Rapid-Fire Replies to Iran, Japan and Oman, On Benin's Mic

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, October 19 -- When new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres came to take questions outside the General Assembly hall on October 13, he was first asked about Syria and cited his past as head of the UN refugee agency. 
Inner City Press asked, “And Yemeni people?” - referring most recently to the double-tap airstrike on the funeral in Sana'a.
  Guterres took the question, adding in South Sudan as well, and said he will try to be an honest broker. That would be a welcome change, and one that we will closely cover as censorship restrictions are lifted. 
On October 19, Guterres had a first “inter-active” with the General Assembly. This consisted of speeches, at the end merely one minute apiece, followed by Guterres' rapid-fire responses or summaries.
In this final round, Guterres shouted out China for the G-20 and Oman for being “a bridge.” He nodded to Iran's call to fight terrorism, adding that xenophobia and racism must relatedly be fought. 
He cited the Portuguese who were welcomed in exile in Algeria -- Inner City Press thought of a famous documentary clip in which Ornette Coleman's bassist Charlie Haden stood up to the Portuguese military rulers -- and noted that the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has a Portuguese name. 
He said he took notes on Japan's concerns: non-proliferation / North Korea, regional conflicts and Security Council reform.
  In the last row, Benin couldn't be heard until the Holy See came and turned on its microphone. Palestine's Riyad Mansour said, I speak last but when will I be able to say, Free at last, free at last. Guterres said he'd love to see the two state solution implemented during his time as Secretary General. The interpreters were thanked for staying late, and it was over. But we'll have more. Watch this site.
Earlier he cited gender parity and regional balance in appointments to top posts, the integration of the three pillars of the UN -- peace and security, sustainable development and human rights -- and ended with a shout-out to the Colombian Ambassador and peace process. (Inner City Press questioned UN envoy Jean Arnault about Colombia earlier on October 19.)
   Then there were 100 minutes for 56 countries, so (less than) two minutes each. President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson gently banged his gavel when Deputy Ambassador Sison of the host country, USA, went over-time. The UK's Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft brought his in within time, citing Syria but not Yemen, on which UK plays a role. Japan hammered on North Korea and Security Council reform. 
   Slovakia's Permanent Representative, who had a candidate who shot up in the polls only to fall just as fast, spoke of the number of babies born and trees cut down in two minutes, making many delegates look up from their smart phones. Guterres' transition team, beside and behind him, listened and took notes.
On October 14, Guterres announced this team:
"Following his appointment yesterday by the General Assembly of the United Nations as Secretary-General-designate, António Guterres announced the composition of a transition team that will help him prepare for the assumption of his duties on 1 January 2017. Here's some of the absurdities they should fix, on Haiti cholera and media restrictions.
The members of the team are:
Transition Team Chief: Ms. Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea). She previously served as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Director General of International Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea. She is currently Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

Senior Advisor/ Spokesperson: Ms. Melissa Fleming (USA). She has held leading international communications positions at the OSCE, with a focus on human rights, conflict prevention and reconciliation and at the IAEA on nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security. She is currently Head of Communications and Spokesperson for the High Commissioner at UNHCR.

Senior Adviser: Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (Jamaica). She has practiced privately as a lawyer, served as advisor to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States and has deep development experience within UNDP, including as UN Resident Coordinator for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. She’s currently Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director Designate for Asia and the Pacific.

Senior Adviser: Mr. João Madureira (Portugal). He has a distinguished career in his country’s Diplomatic Service. He is currently Minister Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN.

Senior Adviser: Mr. Radhouane Nouicer (Tunisia). He served at UNHCR for over 18 years in the field and as Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau. He was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Tunisian Transitional Government in 2011. He is currently Regional Advisor for the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis.  

The Transition Team will interact with UN officials, Member States and civil society to ensure an informed and smooth transition. "
  On October 14 inside the GA hall, speakers included Chile's Ambassador Christian Barros and the UK's Matthew Rycroft, who spoke of the process by which Guterres was selected (but not, perhaps understandably, about Yemen). US Ambassador Samantha Power joked that she had set aside time around Christmas in case more straw polls were needed. 
   In the days and weeks ahead, Inner City Press will be running its “New UN” series, which today covered the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The need for change at UN Peacekeeping and the Department of Public Information is clear. But how will the UN become anything near to an honest broker? We are hoping for it. Watch this site.