Where are UN diplomats hiding during the politically sensitive poll? Global issues


  • By Thalif Deen (New York)
  • Inter Press service
  • (Excerpts from a book just published, No Comment – Don’t Quote Me on It, a collection of political anecdotes that reflect more than 40 years of reporting from the UN *)

But the 76-year-old organization and its affiliated bodies – including the 193-member General Assembly and the 15-member Security Council – make their decisions mostly via open voting and little secret ballot.

But the seriousness of the long-term mandate of the United Nations was tempered by moments of laughter that shook the greenhouse on the banks of the East River – with laughter.

The United Nations is a rich source for the anecdotes – whether real or fabricated – in which the General Assembly (UNGA), the UN’s highest policymaking body, takes center stage, along with the Security Council (UNSC) as a political actor.

When UN ambassadors and delegates meet in the cavernous General Assembly Hall at the time of voting, they have one of three options: either vote for, against, or abstain.

However, the fourth, most interesting option: to be struck by an urgent urge to rush to the toilet. The frantic attempt to leave your seat vacant – and thus be considered “absent” – occurs when the issue is politically sensitive.

When delegates are unable to vote with their conscience – they don’t want to anger most Western donors or are taken by surprise without specific instructions from their capitals – they flee their seats.

At a luncheon for reporters at his country house adjacent to Park Avenue in Manhattan, (“This was owned by Gucci, now owned by Fulci”), Ambassador Francesco Paolo Fulce, an Italian envoy with a keen sense of humor, described the fourth option as a “toilet worker” in a vote United nations.

He joked that the only way to solve the problem was to install portable toilets in the back of the General Assembly Hall so that delegates could still cast their votes while contemplating their toilet seats. But for obvious reasons, no one was taking it.

Unfortunately, voting habits were not recorded at the United Nations when the world body celebrated the “International Year of Sanitation” in 2008, highlighting the fact that nearly 2.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to toilets or basic sanitation.

Not surprisingly, UN delegates were excluded from this collective number of heads because the Secretariat did not run out of toilets. But the joke continued.

In most cases, various regional groups and coalitions – including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Group of 77, Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union (AU) and Western European and Other Countries (WEOG) – take decisions behind closed doors before Vote.

But while a “herd mentality” persists in most UN votes, there are rare occasions for an unscheduled vote that surprise delegates.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement, founded in Belgrade in 1961, was one of the largest and most powerful political alliances in the United Nations led by countries such as Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Zambia, Cuba and Sri Lanka.

As a general rule, all 116 states rarely vote in unison on General Assembly resolutions.

A Sri Lankan ambassador once recounted a letter sent from his Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo – addressed mainly to newly arrived delegates that read: “If you encounter a surprise unscheduled vote, and you don’t have any instructions from the Foreign Office, look to the right to see how you will vote “Yugoslavia and look to the left to see how India is voting. If both ambassadors are seen taking off their seats, just follow them to the toilet.”

But the Non-Aligned Movement was a center of political power in the 1970s and 1980s. However, when Sri Lankan President JR Jayewardene (JRJ) inherited the presidency in February 1978, he was skeptical of the Non-Aligned Movement which was known to be politically independent, with no strong ties to any of the world’s two great powers at the time, namely the United States and the Union The Soviet, who participated in a long-standing and bitter cold war.

In an interview with an American news reporter, JRJ downplayed the political myth about “non-alignment” when he misrepresented that there are only two “non-aligned countries” in the world: the United States and the Soviet Union. He said all other countries are politically allied with either the United States or the Soviets.

The quote was apparently unofficial and not for attribution, but the reporter couldn’t resist the temptation to run with him.

In September 1979, when the JRJ handed over the Presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement to Cuba at a summit meeting in Havana, the Western world and the mainstream media never accepted the fact that a strong pro-Soviet ally like Havana could be a “nonaligned”. country.

As a result, throughout Cuba’s presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (1979-1983), The New York Times did not hesitate, perhaps as part of its editorial policy, to describe the Non-Aligned Movement as “the so-called Non-Aligned Movement” in every piece of paper published. The designation “so-called” was only dropped when India assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1983.

When “non-alignment” was a political buzzword and the Non-Aligned Movement was in full swing, a UN diplomat once recounted the economic progress in Yugoslavia that produced the Yugo, a small hatchback that arrived in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

According to a report in the New York Times, Yuju was said to be the first car from a communist country to hit the US market. It was equipped with front-wheel drive and a 55-horsepower engine, and it sold for a base price of around $ 3,990, one of the cheapest on the market.

But when dozens of cars still broke down on the streets of New York, Yugo was dubbed “an unbiased car of an impartial state.” There may be a political shift planted by the US auto industry.

The only thing missing is the shock absorber sticker that should have read: “The fallen parts of this vehicle are made of the finest Yugoslav steel” (a parody of a quote once attributed to a driver in his broken British-made car).

The book is available on Amazon. The following link:


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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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