Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Ever been to a UN meeting? They are a microcosm of a system gone wrong; a system which is representing us all … every day.

Yes, the United Nations; founded in 1945, with a mission to (and bear in mind that I am seriously paraphrasing here in order to support my rather distorted, and not necessarily accurate opinions), “…work together as a collective of nations, in order to strive for and achieve equality of nationhood for all the citizens of the world”. Or something like that, anyway.

Well I can tell you right here, that 60-odd years down the track, there’s still a lot of work to be done, not just in the world … I’m not even going there … but in terms of equality within the UN … hell, even the pissy meetings that Donkey gets to attend are shamefully inequitable.

Take today for example, the room was full of representatives from about 15 different UN agencies, and approximately 25 other organizations made up of non-government organizations (NGOs) and the press, and believe me, there’s a serious pecking order to these events. For starters, the latter two groups are distinguished from the UN bods because to work in the UN, it seems you have to wear an Armani suit to work every day. So right from the starter’s gun, every UN representative in the place is looking sharper than Sweeny’s razor and smells like the ground floor of a flashy department store.

By contrast, all the journos in attendance are haggard, chain-smoking, hard drinking types whose eyes (perhaps an effect of reporting from too many armed conflicts) don’t seem to be able to remain still for more than a quarter of a second. These men and women party every night like there’s no tomorrow, ‘cause for some of them that’s probably true … but bearing in mind that they turn up to these meetings each “tomorrow” morning, they rarely seem to have much to contribute; they are generally as unwashed and unironed as their clothes.

The NGO people are pretty freaky, too. Most obvious are the Frenchies. They are always blokes – so much for Liberty, Fraternity, Equality … you will hardly ever see a French woman at one of these meetings - it’s a damn shame, too, ‘cause while we’ve all heard that French birds are pretty hot … the evidence on show around here suggests that French men certainly are not! They are almost always unshaven, and their facial stubble is only slightly shorter than their unkempt crew cuts, giving their heads the ludicrous appearance of a rotting kiwifruit the size of a football. Their faces are long and haggard from incessant chain smoking (tautology?), and their sunken eye sockets have the uncanny resemblance of a recovering crack addict. To a man, they cannot iron a shirt to save themselves, and the only words we non-French speakers can understand from them (which we hear every couple of minutes) are, “But, it is not the way we do it in France!”.

The other NGO males in attendance (ie, the non Frenchies) look like a bunch of University students who stay up all night smoking pot and playing Xbox, and, after over-sleeping, rush through three different Starbucks on their way to the meeting – very wide-eyed and jittery. The girls (again, not French) are all hippy love-children, wearing fisherman pants and cheesecloth shirts, with dirty, matted hair.

The only exceptions to this stock of hard-core NGO workers are the Christians. Think colourful overalls with bright patches on the knees. Think, fresh, unblemished skin and pearly smiles. Think group hugs, back rubs and a tendency to pull out a guitar for a bit of Kumbayah during the breaks.

Clearly, the journalists and NGO people are quite distinctive compared with their well-dressed and groomed UN hosts, so it’s no wonder they remain oppressed and bitter about their lowly place in the International Humanitarian and Development pecking order. But even within the UN system, despite decades of “beating down the walls of inequality” (paraphrasing again), the pecking order between agencies is just as strong and deeply rooted.

Take the WHO reps, for instance. These are invariably stuffy, old, South Asian doctors with bushy moustaches and shiny pates (in stark contrast with their crimson, hennaed back and sides). Their huge, protruding bellies, which rest on the groaning desks before them, are only slightly larger than their arrogance, which is exercised every five minutes by talking over the top of whoever’s speaking (unless it’s one of the token men - yes, always a man - who regularly seem to be visiting from Geneva, in which case they will fawn and kowtow like a favoured head-boy before the principal, and will not speak unless spoken to).

The token guy from Geneva is usually French or Swiss, fat and sporting a Super Mario moustache. He is often wearing an ill-fitting brown suit, and always seems to fall asleep with his mic on. It is truly a special sight, I can assure you, to watch the bulging temple arteries of these UN officials as they try to get through a one hour meeting while Fat Fritz snores and slobbers all over his desk at 300 decibels! These are people whose intolerance for insolence or incompetence (real or perceived) would normally provoke a sharp, verbal, public dressing-down, and their anger and disdain is almost palpable, but what else can they do but strain to keep a lid on their boiling resentment? He’s from Geneva, after all!

Then there’s the UNDP and UNESCO people … these seem to be the agencies that allow women into the mix … and they have to be real, hard-arsed bitches to bust through that thick, bullet-proof glass ceiling. They often hail from African countries, and with the exception of their amazing, beaded hair dos, they wear straight-up-and-down, black or navy suits with E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S shoulder pads. It’s possible that these women would have some useful things to say, but because this is the UN, I guess we’ll never know.

And it goes … the UNAIDS people have nicotine-stained beards; the FAO mob are uber-trendy Italians; UNHCR seem to be long, thin and drawn and UNIFEM are all lesbians (not really … I just thought I’d say that ‘cause I was running out of descriptions and I thought it might get some noses out of joint).

And the entire show is run by a debonair, European gentleman who is all polite smiles and condescension, who looks like he’d be pretty keen to wind the whole fiasco up and retire to his office with The Guardian under his arm and a nice, thick-bottomed tumbler of single malt in his fleshy hand. He is ably assisted by the most stylish, young Englishman since the stem cell people mastered the Colin Firth and Hugh Grant graft. His snide, offhand dismissal of just about everyone suggests he grew up at a place called Longbourn*, and was the thirty-eighth generation in his line to lead the First VIII at Eton. I guess he’d have to be … no one that young reaches those heady heights in the UN without a decent boost from a substantial, royal lineage.

And that’s how it is … at every meeting. Everyone has a place. Everyone is mutually polite on the outside while they seethe with loathing beneath the surface; frustrated that although they hate everyone from every other agency, they’d gladly denounce their colleagues for a leg-up the ladder to join them. And these are the people, appointed by our own elected statesmen and women, to represent our nations’ interests in working together in harmony to promote equality amongst all the nations of the world.

Would I wanna be a part of that? You betcha! Get out of my way, you French, female, journalist scum!

* One for the girls there - just trying to make up for that UNIFEM comment before.

It's the Christian NGO workers that you really gotta watch out for. Pic:


Bwca said...

Donkeyblogger - you're a star

peace and love and thanks for that

Ann O'Dyne said...

Dear Readers,
ThisDonkey goes to UN meetings ...
so YOU don't have to.