Is West Undermining Summit on Financial Crisis?

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, June 17, 2009

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 (IPS) – When a Western diplomat was asked whether his country would be represented by a head of state at next week’s U.N. summit meeting on the global financial crisis, his response was tinged with sarcasm and contempt.

We will send only our note takers,” he was quoted as saying.

In diplomatic jargon, “note takers” are equivalent to glorified stenographers who religiously take down everything said at a meeting but have no authority to intervene or take decisions.

The decision to hold a U.N. summit on the global economic crisis was taken by all 192 member states – by consensus – at an international conference on financing for development held in the Qatari capital of Doha last November.

The participants at next week’s summit were expected to be “at the highest political levels”, meaning heads of state and government.

But Western nations have apparently backed out of the decision which they themselves took in Doha.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Asian diplomat told IPS: “The Western states are trying to undermine the meeting by sending low-level representatives.”

“The reason is obvious,” he explained. “The West feels the General Assembly is not the appropriate forum to discuss the global financial crisis.”

“They think the crisis belongs to the World Bank, and more importantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added.

Asked if there were any Western heads of state or heads of government scheduled to participate in the summit, Enrique Yeves, spokesman for the president of the General Assembly, told IPS: “None from the West.”

But there are around 30 heads of state and government (out of 192), mostly from developing nations, who have confirmed attendance, he added.

“We (will) have a strong presence of Latin America and the Caribbean – especially from the Caribbean, we have several heads of state and government coming,” Yeves said. “We’ll (also) have a good attendance, I’ve been told, from Africa and Asia.”

“And then, as they have already been said in public, the developed countries, especially the Europeans and the United States and some others, have indicated they might not be represented at the level of heads of state, but certainly at the level of ministers or whoever is the chief of delegation,” Yeves added.

The summit meeting of the General Assembly, due to take place Jun. 24-26, was originally scheduled for Jun. 1-3.

But delegates wanted more time to negotiate the draft outcome document that will be adopted at the meeting.

The negotiating process on the document has been painfully slow and is expected to continue till the eve of the summit next week.

After consultations with the various regional groups, the president of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the organiser of the three-day summit, decided to postpone the meeting from the original date to next week.

Meanwhile, there have been several stories in the mainstream media, quoting Western diplomats as saying they are very unhappy with the left-wing agenda of D’Escoto, a former foreign minister in the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Asked about this, Yeves told reporters Monday: “But let me – because I have been quoted in some of these articles, as well – tell you what I find strange in the last two or three articles that we have seen, is that we keep hearing these anonymous sources quoting diplomats of the developed countries basically saying that the meeting is not a good idea.”

“It’s going to be a failure or that they don’t think it is going to accomplish anything or whatever,” Yeves said. “I would like to make two comments on this particular issue. The first one, it is very difficult to discuss anonymous sources because, you know, we don’t know who said what, and in what context.”

“However, the president (of the General Assembly) speaks for himself – or I speak for myself – on the record all the time, and our record is very clear.”

“And the second part that I wanted to say is on substance,” because the criticisms are strange, because the summit, and the entire process leading to the summit, have been approved by consensus by all 192 member states,” he said.

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