Could the election of five new U.N. Security Council members help the Palestinians?

The U.N. General Assembly will elect five new members to two-year terms on the Security Council in a vote on October 21 that could have implications for the Palestinian bid to become a full member of the United Nations.

For the Palestinians to get that, they need nine yes votes on the 15-nation council—and no veto from any of the permanent five members—to move on to a vote in the 193-member assembly where they’re guaranteed to prevail. The U.S. will veto the council measure but getting nine Security Council votes in support would represent an important moral victory for the Palestinians.

The membership bid was submitted on September 23 and is currently under review by a council committee. It’s widely accepted that a vote will not take place while other developments are ongoing in the region, namely the Quartet’s proposal to get direct talks underway on October 23 in Jordan, so the vote could be delayed until next year.

As it stands, six of the current council members support the Palestinian bid—permanent members China and Russia—and non-permanent members Brazil, India, Lebanon and South Africa, while three are considered swing votes—Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria.

Of the nine above countries, five will end their terms on the council at the end of the year—Bosnia, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria.

Togo will replace one of the African countries per an established agreement while Mauritania and Morocco will battle it out for the North African (or Arab) seat—both of these countries support the membership bid, assuring the Palestinians of one more yes vote. The situation is unclear with Togo. They have recognized the State of Palestine but, as with Gabon and Nigeria, will probably play a wait-and-see approach.

Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan are vying for Lebanon’s seat, both would vote for the Palestinians so no change there.

Guatemala, running on a clean slate, will replace Brazil on the council. The Central American country has not recognized Palestine and is an ally of the U.S., and is thus likely to abstain in any vote—one vote lost.

There’s some real competition for the Eastern European seat with Hungary, Slovenia and Azerbaijan battling it out to replace Bosnia. One of the two EU countries—Hungary or Slovenia—is likely to win out, and would presumably join the four other EU council members in abstaining.

So one gain and one loss for the Palestinians if the vote extends to the New Year. Plus ca’ change…

(Here’s a list of current Security Council members.)

George Soros Sympathizes With Anti-Wall Street Protesters

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros on Monday said he sympathizes with the anti-Wall Street protesters because of the way the government handled the bank bailouts.

Soros, speaking at the U.N. where he was announcing a $47 million gift to development projects in Africa, was asked for his view of the protesters who have entered Day 15 of their Occupy Wall Street campaign.

“Actually I can understand their sentiments, frankly, because there are a lot of people, for instance, running small businesses that saw their credit card charges being raised from 8 percent to 28 percent,” he said. “They were relying on that credit to run their businesses—a lot of them actually were put out of business.”

“At the same time, the decision not to inject capital into the banks, but to effectively relieve them of their bad assets and then allow them to earn their way out of a hole, gave the banks bumber profits and that allowed them to pay bumper bonuses,” Soros added.

The decision not to inject capital into the banks also caused a credit crunch depriving small business owners of credit lines and loans to pay salaries and expand their businesses. And while there’s been an uptick in lending recently, according to the FDIC’s latest report, there’s actually been a decrease in loans to small businesses, according to the report.

There are some 140,000 small business owners in New York City, according to Crain’s New York Business, almost half of them foreign born.

NYPD Blue Helmets

Shortly after his election as United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon was visited by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who upbraided the U.N. chief about the “860 fire code violations” at the world body’s Midtown East headquarters, telling him “that any other building in New York would have been shut down long ago.”

Ban assured the mayor, who was accompanied by then fire commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, that the upcoming $1.9 billion renovation of the sixty year old building would bring it up to code, an April 2007 diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks reveals. 

But it was New York’s City’s police department rather than its fire department that was on Ban’s mind.

Secretary-General Ban complimented Mayor Bloomberg on the scope and size of the NYPD, making particular note that many of the officers speak languages other than English. Ban raised the idea of soliciting the NYPD to participate in UN peacekeeping mission.

It made sense from the U.N.’s point of view. There’s probably no other police force in the world as diverse as the NYPD. Twenty percent of the force are foreign born and 64 different languages are spoken among its officers, from Amharic to Yorub, according to the department’s website.

The proposal received a lukewarm response from the mayor though.

Bloomberg replied that the idea was unique and that he would need to discuss the matter with his police commissioner and other experts in his administration.

The idea doesn’t appear to have gained any traction. There were about 200 U.S. police serving with U.N peacekeeping operations in 2007, mostly in Kosovo, and there are currently some 75 U.S. police deployed with U.N. missions, the majority in Haiti.

Meanwhile, work on renovating the U.N.’s headquarters, and fixing those 860 fire code violations, is ongoing.

Timekeeping

When he was president of the UN Security Council in February 2009 Japan’s then ambassador to the United Nations, Yukio Takasu, told reporters that he’d bought a Seiko clock for each of his 14 fellow envoys on the council so they’d arrive on time for meetings. A few weeks later, Iran’s mission would charge him with tardiness and refuse to accept a letter from a sanctions committee. Takasu, who was chair of the Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee, told his U.S. counterpart, Susan Rice, that he decided on hand delivery of the letter “as he believed that a face-to-face meeting would send a positive signal of engagement,” a recently released cable from WikiLeaks reveals.

But the delivery didn’t go as planned:

The Japanese had successfully scheduled a meeting at Deputy Perm Rep level to hand over the letter, but when the Japanese Perm Rep arrived the Iranians complained that he was “three minutes late” and said that the Iranian Deputy Perm Rep had suddenly been called away to other business. A lower-level Iranian official said that because he had no instructions to accept the letter by hand, he could not receive it.  The Japanese subsequently faxed the letter to the Iranian mission.

Takasu also tried to arrange a meeting with Syria’s envoy, Bashar Ja’afari, who “responded angrily” when told of the letter requesting information on an alleged arms shipment from Tehran to Damascus. The cable, dated March 10, 2009, goes on to say that

he would only receive the letter if sent by “official route,” as opposed to being hand delivered.  The Japanese mission later faxed the letter to the Syrian mission and sent via courier a signed copy of the original.

Ja’afari can expect more heated encounters with the council in the weeks ahead.

UN Rights Chief Says Bahrain News Agency Distorted Her Words

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
7 June 2011

BAHRAIN

The High Commissioner would like to make clear that a meeting she had last Friday with Bahrain’s Minister of Social Development and acting health minister, Dr Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi and three other Bahrain government officials, has been grossly misrepresented in a report by the Bahrain News Agency. The BNA article was subsequently picked up by a number of newspapers in the region, including the Khaleej Times and the Gulf Daily News, and even by some Sri Lankan government officials and media for their own purposes.

The Bahrain News Agency, which was not present at the meeting, stated that the High Commissioner had “recognized misinformation” about the Kingdom of Bahrain, and quoted her as saying “Certain information which we received about the developments in Bahrain are untrue.”

The High Commissioner would like to stress that she made no such statement, and is disturbed by this blatant distortion of her words. She will formally request the Government officials who attended the meeting to issue a correction.

The discussions at the meeting with the Bahraini Government delegation focused mainly on the proposed OHCHR mission to Bahrain, as well as a number of other issues relating to the recent protests, including the need for transparent independent investigations into the human rights violations that have taken place there. The mission has been accepted in principle by the Bahraini government but no dates have yet been set.

For more information or interviews, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org ) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org )

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