Ahmadinejad’s Swan Song But UNGA Debut For Others


Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pictured above at Monday’s General Assembly high-level meeting on the rule of law, is attending his final UNGA as Iranian president (credit: UN Photo)

Sept 24, 2012 – Much focus at this year’s UNGA will be on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who’s attending his eight and last General Assembly as Iranian president (notwithstanding a future run) but some other presidents will make their debut at this year’s gathering.

Among those are Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, Yemen’s Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Tunisia’s Moncef Marzouki, Libya’s Mohamed Magariaf, Senegal’s Macky Sall and Malawi’s Joyce Banda, who in April became Southern Africa’s first female president and only the second female head of state ever for the African continent.

While U.N. detractors complain about corrupt leaders of cash-strapped countries coming to New York for the UNGA on private jets with large delegations, including family, friends and companions, who will use scarce state coffers on fancy dinners and fine clothes while getting chauffeured around in limousines, Banda’s first few months in office are worth looking at for an alternative view.

In early June, just weeks after coming to power, Banda announced that a $13.5 million jet bought by her predecessor was up for sale and so were 60 limousines used by cabinet ministers.

That same month she said Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir, wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, was not welcome in Malawi for an African Union summit, forcing the regional bloc to move the summit to Addis Ababa. Her predecessor had allowed Bashir visit Malawi in October 2011.

She also announced in her first national address that she wants to decriminalize homosexuality. Two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 for stating they wanted to get married. (The sentence was commuted after international outcry).


Malawian President Joyce Banda (photo: Lindsay Mgbor/DFID)

Banda will address the UNGA on Wednesday afternoon (Sept 26), while Ahmadinejad will take to the podium in the morning session that same day.

– Denis Fitzgerald  

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.