Greetings Malabar Kerala India World!
The Millennium Summit of the United Nations will be meeting in New York, Sptember 6 – 8, 2000. CalicutNet will be covering this event through interviews, behind-the-scenes observations, in-depth analysis and reports. What role is India playing during this session? How are the South Asia nations serving their national, regional and global interests? Behind the speeches and the lunches, what are the real chances of accomplishing economic and social justice?
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The United Nations neighborhood around Forty Second Street starts to crawl with cops from the NYPD by the first week of every September. This is the year of the Millennium Summit so there are more cops, more protesters, more curious spectators and more press releases than ever. An alphabet soup of delegates from Alabania to Zimbabwe have converged on the General Assembly.
Calicutnettors can get their UN news from various websites including the UN’s official website at www.un.org The entire UN complex area has been cordoned off or barricaded, no vehicles are permitted, so that it is necessary to walk long city blocks across streets and along avenues to get to where the sessions are being held. In conference rooms and imposing high ceilinged chambers. In the hallways, many overlooking the East River knots of people are gathered, national costumes are everywhere in evidence and the cadences of scores of languages and dialects can be heard in passing in crowded elevators and from cell phones and bathrooms.
After days of struggling with press accreditation requirements, journalists from every prominent and obscure news gathering organization have finally been granted (or denied) their coveted pale green Millennium media passes, that must be worn around the neck at all times. This however doesn’t guarantee access to all events because many are closed to the press. Today, when President Clinton addressed the General Assembly, it was necessary to obtain additional press passes. Later in the afternoon Shaikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and that durable revolutionary, Fidel Castro also took turns at the podium. Fidel is still great, everyone applauded generously but he sounds dated, like a textbook from my graduate school days. He’s saying the most important things about inequality and underdevelopment but the rules, the players and the game itself have long since changed. A Ghanaian magazine journalist sitting next to me and listening to Hasina’s speech in Bengali translated into English leaned over and said “She sounds like a strong woman.” We made tentative plans to meet and discuss the possibility of writing some Indo-Ghanaian focused pieces in collaboration.
General Musharraf spoke about the Kashmir issue as if it were the only item preventing him from bringing peace and progress to Pakistan. He mentioned India once in his speech – the rest was veiled allusion. He even spoke about how he was bringing “genuine democracy” to Pakistan. He will hold a press conference tomorrow afternoon. Prime Minister Vajpayee is scheduled to address the General Assembly the following day, on Friday.
The real question, when all the long winded-speeches are done and the delegates have packed their bags and gone home, whether the lives of ordinary people less fortunate than ourselves will be improved. Will there be less hunger? Will there be safe drinking water? Will there be fewer countries on the LDC list? Will these poorest countries receive debt relief so that they can concentrate on providing basic services and benefits for their impoverished, malnourished citizens? Will fewer children die of preventable diseases? Will ethnic strife as terrible as that described by the Rwanda delegate be less frequent?
Across the street from the Delegates’ entrance on 48th and First, there have been steady protests from various groups. Today Bangladesh demonstrators were shouting “Hasina down down” and calling for new elections. The Palestinians were decrying what they saw as a stalemate brought on by Ehud Barak on the question of the division of Jerusalem. Last week before the summit had even begun, and there was a meeting of the world’s parliamentarians, the Free Tibet protesters, many of them women with their striped aprons and long braids were yelling “Tibet for the Tibetans” and “Li Peng Butcher, Li Peng Go home.” In the weeks leading up to the summit, China had pressured the UN into not allowing the Dalai Lama to visit New York to address the World Conference on Religions. The United Nations is certainly adept at the art of the missed ethical moment.
More speeches, more protests, more paper. Perhaps some modest gains for peace and the environment and for ordinary people everywhere. It’s early September and it’s summit time at the United Nations!