Continuing his broadcast from "inside the belly of the beast," Alan Stock, a radio host out of Las Vegas, sat down with Patrick McCormick, the emergencies communication officer for UNICEF. When pressed about aid efforts in Myanmar, McCormick spun a somewhat more complicated tale than the conventional wisdom.
Will Davis, from the UN Information Center (UNIC -- as Will puts it, the "most painful acronym in the UN system"), just sat down with Alan Stock, a conservative radio host out of KXNT in Las Vegas. Will's job is to serve as a "mini-ambassador" in D.C. and to report back on Washington happenings to headquarters in New York. As such, he is ideally placed to comment on the U.S./UN relationship. Will said:
Relations are good. They've always been fundamentally good. Right now the U.S. has a sense that there are a lot of ways that they can work with the UN to accomplish international goals that are in its interest. They can get things done in that regard if they excercise a bit of diplomatic muscle.Stock retorted with the oft used refrain that "due to Iraq and Afghanistan" many Americans "feel that the U.S. isn't on its side." Will responded:
Don't be mistaken, the UN is already in Iraq and Afghanistan. And don't forget that the Secretary-General recently said that 'Iraq is not a single county's problem. Iraq is the world's problem.'Stock's last question was about the U.S. presidential elections and preferences at the UN. Will deftly stayed neutral:
That question is perfectly designed to get me fired. What we do see is increased willingness on the part of all candidates to work more with partners. They seem to understand that not even the world's superpower can go it alone and that the U.S. is most effective when it works with other countries.
Good morning. The donuts and coffee are already nearly gone and five radio hosts are clamoring over each other; it's the third annual talk radio day at the UN (last year's UND coverage). All day today radio hosts will be setting up shop in the lobby and interviewing high-ranking UN officials, both those who are scheduled to attend and also those they manage to hook as they walk by. We've been here since 5am and will keep up a frantic pace until 6pm. I'll be sending updates. You can tune in by clicking the links on the schedule below.
Radio America and Westwood One
WOL in D.C. and XM Satellite Radio
WVNJ 1160 in New Jersey
KXNT, Las Vegas
ABC Satellite Services
KPOJ in Portland and Air America
Fox News Radio
WCCO in Minneapolis and CBS Radio
Al Sharpton and Alan Colmes just signed off. Gordon Deal from Wall Street Journal Radio is interviewing Jehane Lavandero the Spokeswoman from UNICEF; Jack Rice is talking to Gillian Sorenson, UN Foundation Senior Advisor and National Advocate; Rusty Humphries is taking calls from listeners; Marc Bernier is talking with Michael Harris, publisher of Talkers, and Paige Medley from Student Service Talk Radio is interviewing UN Foundation Communications officer Amy DiElsi in the back. A little earlier in the afternoon, Alan Colmes talked to Steve Kraus, chief of the HIV/AIDS branch of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Colmes was particularly struck by a fact that Kraus mentioned halfway through the interview--180 of the 192 nations in the world fund UNFPA, and the United States is one of the 12 that don't. The U.S. played a key role in the creation of the agency, but, in 2001, support for funding dried up in the U.S. Administration said Kraus, although UNFPA still has many Congressional supporters. Kraus went on to say "if you want to deal with HIV/AIDS you have to talk about sex. Some leaders are uncomfortable talking about it." At the same time, German Perm Rep Thomas Matussek was talking to Al Sharpton about global warming. He also discussed the Security Council's session on climate change in April and the need for all UN agencies to interact on this important issue. Ambassador Matussek later sat down with Colmes, who was interested in Security Council reform. Matussek said that the current setup excludes three-fifths of humankind--Africa, India, and South America. He also went on a riff about global interconnectedness. "In the 21st century, what does sovereignty mean? If [Federal Reserve Chief Ben] Bernanke raises the interest rate, we feel it in Europe." Colmes also had time to sit down with Noeleen Heyzer executive director of UNIFEM, who mentioned the role of her agency in preventing conflict and the importance of gender equality in creating and strengthening democracy. With regard to the U.S., Heyzer said that, while the American government has been supportive of UNIFEM in the past, she'd like to see the U.S. support women's rights in a more obvious way especially by signing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) treaty.
UK Ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Perry, a distinguished senior diplomat, just sat down with Alan and Kerri, and people noticed. There was a blog (UN Dispatch) covering a TV station (CNN) and a radio station (UN Radio) that were in turn covering a live radio show. Alan immediately pressed Ambassador Perry on Iran. Ambassador Perry suggested that progress was slow, but that it is a difficult situation and "that there is no other option but global pressure." He continued, "We have a carefully thought out strategy. We will maintain that strategy, and, if Iran doesn't respond within the next couple weeks, we might respond with more sanctions." Alan then asked him about Darfur,asking why the UN isn't involved. He responded by saying that the UN is involved in the Sudan, maintaining the north-south peace agreement and a huge humanitarian mission that has saved countless lives. "With all due respect, people are dying," Alan said. Ambassador Perry again stressed that the UN had done quite a bit, "ending a 35-year civil war." "The Sudan is much better today than it was 10 years ago," Ambassador Perry said. He continued, "Don't underestimate how difficult the situation is. If we had a wand we would have waved it a long time ago. We cannot invade Sudan." Alan then turned to Syria's being elected the UN Disarmament Commission's rapporteur. Ambassador Perry answered that "in a democratic organization this will happen. It was the wish of the majority and we have to accept it." Ambassador Perry then followed the same theme that Ambassador Normandin had earlier, saying, "The advantage of the UN is that it's global. Everyone belongs to it," and we can exert pressure on any other nation through it. He also said that the rapporteur won't single-handedly controlling the work of the Commission. The U.S. and the UK are committed to steering its mission. The Ambassador finished by saying that the "UN does good. The UN does not harm. It doesn't do enough good, but it's absolutely indispensable. Al Sharpton just walked in. Alan Colmes should be here soon.
Continuing UN Talk Radio Day coverage... Lionel from Air America and Marc Benier have now started broadcasting. Former Ambassador and UNA-USA President William Luers; Kevin Kennedy, Principal Officer of DPKO's Africa Division; Francis Mead, from UN TV; and Victor Ortega from UNAIDS have run the gauntlet of interviews. CNN's Richard Roth just came in to shoot footage for a possible feature and immediately got into a conversation with Alan and Kerri; Roth videoed and Alan and Kerri broadcast live. Alan suggested that the U.S. should pull out of the UN and that the UN headquarters should be moved to France, which prodded the UN correspondent to ask why. Alan responded by saying that he doesn't want any U.S. troops serving in blue helmets under foreign leadership. Roth then mentioned that no U.S. troops currently serve as UN peacekeepers. Alan then also said that he had issues with the UN's efforts on disarmament. "I want [the U.S.] to be the superpower who has more guns than everyone else," he said. Roth changed the subject, asking whether Alan and Kerri came here with an open mind and whether they learned anything. "We're having a blast. We're trying to educate the people here." Kerri then interjected that her opinion differed from Alan's. "My opinion is that the UN does some good, trying to create a foundation for peace," Kerri said.
In case you weren't up at 5am and missed it, UN Dispatch has been covering UN Talk Radio Day today (see posts here and here). We've just seen a barrage of guests come in and out of the room (including OCHA Spokesman Stephanie Bunker, Australian Ambassador Robert Hill, and Azza Karam, Culture Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund). Canadian Ambassador Henri-Paul Normandin just finished speaking with Alan and Kerri. Near the end, Kerri brought up the situation in Zimbabwe and asked about the UN's involvement. Ambassador Normandin said that the UN had been involved in Zimbabwe for a while, providing humanitarian assistance and saving lives. In addition, he said that the United Nations also provides a platform for dialogue and that "by bringing people together, we can exert influence on them." Whereas, if we, instead, had an international organization formed from a select group of allies, we wouldn't have that opportunity. The seemingly pop-culture-savvy Ambassador also mentioned the movie Blood Diamond and the fact that former Liberian warlord (who fueled the conflict in Seirra Leone) will soon face trial for war crimes at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Continuing UN Talk Radio Day coverage... As Alan and Kerri are setting up in the corner, Greenfield has got Susan Myers, Executive Director of the UN Foundation's New York office, on the hook, and Joe Madison is talking to Dennis King, Senior Technical Advisor on Polio Eradication at UNICEF, which has, in partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, reduced the occurrence of polio worldwide by 99 percent. In fact, only four polio endemic countries remain -- Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and India. Considering that the Initiative has the tools to completely eradicate polio (like the UN did with smallpox in 1977), Madison wanted to know what needs to be done now. King responded that it "needs to be an issue that [local authorities] want to solve." He continued to say that the virus has been isolated to "very discrete geological and cultural pockets" with "high illiteracy rates" and a populace that is "suspicious of outside initiatives." Some have suggested that this is fueled by the anti-Western sentiments of some radical imams. The four remaining endemic countries have tough-to-reach pockets of Muslim populations.