why this unga matters for lebanon and all of us
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Last Updated : GMT 05:21:58
Arab Today, arab today

Why this UNGA matters for Lebanon (and all of us)

Arab Today, arab today

why this unga matters for lebanon and all of us

Tom Fletcher

Every year, New York hosts the diplomatic equivalent of the World Cup. As with the football, there is usually some unruly behaviour, although with Messrs Chavez, Gadhafi and Ahmadinejad no longer on the pitch, this now looks less likely. Some showboating is guaranteed, as global leaders compete for attention – we once arranged a timely power cut to delay a rival press conference. And there is a certain amount of tedium: the hall’s acoustics and temperature, plus a tendency to reduce crucial issues to diplomatic platitudes, mean that some speeches can be the equivalent of a grinding 0-0 draw. As with football, the most important work is done away from the cameras, in what diplomats call ‘the margins’. There you find a frantic form of diplomatic speed dating: plenaries, bilaterals, brush bys, pull asides, 1-1s. Most are carefully choreographed, but not all. At one UNGA, I organised an ambush of a President who wanted to avoid a difficult meeting with the Prime Minister over Zimbabwe. At another, I had to bundle the PM into a side room to avoid an unwanted encounter with Robert Mugabe. Before key exchanges, diplomatic advisers will haggle over the length and size of the meeting as well as the substance of any press statement. Even translation can a contested area, with some delegations adept at using up meeting time to avoid reaching the issues they want to avoid, or changing their country’s nomenclature to avoid a graveyard speaker slot or uncomfortable placement. The key Lebanon moment is the launch of the International Support Group on 25th September. There is a tendency in Lebanon to see international conspiracy and meddling behind every challenge. This is our opportunity to show that the most important conspiracy is the one to keep Lebanon stable. Whereas our differences on other issues before the UN will be well showcased, the five permanent members of the Security Council will come together with other partners to back Lebanon’s sovereignty and neutrality. We’ll explain the ways in which we are offering practical help. William Hague will attend for the UK, having seen for himself the impact in Lebanon of 120m USD we are using to train the army and reduce the humanitarian burden of the Syria refugee crisis. Registered refugees are at 752,000 and rising, equivalent to every Romanian moving to the UK. Caretaker Prime Minister Mikati has just released the World Bank’s assessment that this has cost 7bn USD, and doubled unemployment. The UK has just launched a new fund for ‘The Lost Generation’, Syrian children whose lives have been ripped apart, and will provide an extra £30m for trauma care and basic education supplies to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. As the second largest (£400m) bilateral donor, we’ll be urging others to do more to help. Also at UNGA, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now UN Envoy on Child Education, is launching a 500m USD ‘Education Without Borders’ project for Lebanon, to help refugees and host communities. Wider diplomatic manoeuvres over Syria, Palestine/Israel, and how the world responds to Iran’s charm offensive under President Rouhani are also of crucial importance to Lebanon’s stability. We must be realistic and hard headed, but there is an opening for audacious and courageous diplomacy. We’ll look closely at actions not words – as the Persian proverb says, ‘just saying candy does not make your mouth sweet’. On Syria, we have all seen what the Assad regime is capable of, and we need to get the parties back to Geneva talks urgently. The countries doing most to sustain a military conflict can show that they are serious when they say that they want to stop it. Also high on the UK agenda for UNGA is William Hague’s initiative on sexual violence. We want to secure a clear commitment by the global community to end use of rape as a weapon of war. This should be incontestable. Behind the protocol and preening, the tedium and tantrums, the hot air and hot rooms, UNGA matters. The UN is far from perfect. But no-one has come up with a better idea for the pursuit of global coexistence. And that’s something not only diplomats should get excited about. Game onEvery year, New York hosts the diplomatic equivalent of the World Cup. As with the football, there is usually some unruly behaviour, although with Messrs Chavez, Gadhafi and Ahmadinejad no longer on the pitch, this now looks less likely. Some showboating is guaranteed, as global leaders compete for attention – we once arranged a timely power cut to delay a rival press conference. And there is a certain amount of tedium: the hall’s acoustics and temperature, plus a tendency to reduce crucial issues to diplomatic platitudes, mean that some speeches can be the equivalent of a grinding 0-0 draw. As with football, the most important work is done away from the cameras, in what diplomats call ‘the margins’. There you find a frantic form of diplomatic speed dating: plenaries, bilaterals, brush bys, pull asides, 1-1s. Most are carefully choreographed, but not all. At one UNGA, I organised an ambush of a President who wanted to avoid a difficult meeting with the Prime Minister over Zimbabwe. At another, I had to bundle the PM into a side room to avoid an unwanted encounter with Robert Mugabe. Before key exchanges, diplomatic advisers will haggle over the length and size of the meeting as well as the substance of any press statement. Even translation can a contested area, with some delegations adept at using up meeting time to avoid reaching the issues they want to avoid, or changing their country’s nomenclature to avoid a graveyard speaker slot or uncomfortable placement. The key Lebanon moment is the launch of the International Support Group on 25th September. There is a tendency in Lebanon to see international conspiracy and meddling behind every challenge. This is our opportunity to show that the most important conspiracy is the one to keep Lebanon stable. Whereas our differences on other issues before the UN will be well showcased, the five permanent members of the Security Council will come together with other partners to back Lebanon’s sovereignty and neutrality. We’ll explain the ways in which we are offering practical help. William Hague will attend for the UK, having seen for himself the impact in Lebanon of 120m USD we are using to train the army and reduce the humanitarian burden of the Syria refugee crisis. Registered refugees are at 752,000 and rising, equivalent to every Romanian moving to the UK. Caretaker Prime Minister Mikati has just released the World Bank’s assessment that this has cost 7bn USD, and doubled unemployment. The UK has just launched a new fund for ‘The Lost Generation’, Syrian children whose lives have been ripped apart, and will provide an extra £30m for trauma care and basic education supplies to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. As the second largest (£400m) bilateral donor, we’ll be urging others to do more to help. Also at UNGA, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now UN Envoy on Child Education, is launching a 500m USD ‘Education Without Borders’ project for Lebanon, to help refugees and host communities. Wider diplomatic manoeuvres over Syria, Palestine/Israel, and how the world responds to Iran’s charm offensive under President Rouhani are also of crucial importance to Lebanon’s stability. We must be realistic and hard headed, but there is an opening for audacious and courageous diplomacy. We’ll look closely at actions not words – as the Persian proverb says, ‘just saying candy does not make your mouth sweet’. On Syria, we have all seen what the Assad regime is capable of, and we need to get the parties back to Geneva talks urgently. The countries doing most to sustain a military conflict can show that they are serious when they say that they want to stop it. Also high on the UK agenda for UNGA is William Hague’s initiative on sexual violence. We want to secure a clear commitment by the global community to end use of rape as a weapon of war. This should be incontestable. Behind the protocol and preening, the tedium and tantrums, the hot air and hot rooms, UNGA matters. The UN is far from perfect. But no-one has come up with a better idea for the pursuit of global coexistence. And that’s something not only diplomats should get excited about. Game on The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arab Today.

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why this unga matters for lebanon and all of us why this unga matters for lebanon and all of us

 



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