Friday, September 30, 2005

The Commonwealth at the U.N.

I was thinking to myself today about how to find something to write for this blog and it occurred to me that the Commonwealth probably had something on at the United Nations which is about 2 miles from were I live.

So I called the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the United Nations reasoning that they could put me in touch with who ever represents the Commonwealth at the UN. I spoke to a nice young man who was for some reason unable to help me. He suggested that I, (this is a paraphrase though it is in quotes) “call the embassy of a commonwealth country (pause) which you have obviously done (pause) I mean call another one.” He really was very nice and tried to help, I just couldn’t resist relating the story and I hope this doesn’t cause him any trouble.

Being the intrepid soul that I am, I was not deterred by this spot of confusion. I hopped on a bus and headed down to the United Nations were I figured the person at the information desk could help. It turned out I was right, but first I had to explain to the nice lady that I didn’t want the Commonwealth of Independent States, which I explained used to be the USSR, but rather the Commonwealth of Nations, which I explained used to be the British Empire. After digging around her computer for a while she asked if I meant the Commonwealth Secretariat, which I told her yes was indeed what I wanted.

(The weirdest part of that is that the term Commonwealth Secretariat had confused the nice man at the British Mission)

The information lady then carefully wrote down the address and phone number of the office I wanted. (She also told be where to apply for UN press credentials which I plan to do)

So I headed over to 800 Second Avenue Suit 400A which is not only home to the Commonwealth Secretariat representative to the UN, but is the location of the Joint Office for Commonwealth Permanent Missions to the United Nations. (Evidently some of the smaller commonwealth countries have decided rather intelligently to share office space to keep costs down.) Here I meet Janet G. John who is the front person for the whole operation. She was very nice and gave me a nice stack of brochures most of which dealt with the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality, but also included an interesting brochure on the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, an interesting pamphlet titled “About the Commonwealth Foundation,” and smallest of all a leaflet on the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Program on the Harare Declaration of 1995.

Ms. John also told me that there are Commonwealth Caucus meetings that are open to the public and told me to use the Secretariat Web sit to get information on this. It seems the Caucus tries to promote democracy, good government, and the rule of law. I am hopping to start covering the Caucus meetings regularly as I think it would be interesting for everyone.

I want to thank Ms. John for her help, she was a gem.

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