15 September 2005
I am sitting in the General Assembly hall, where the UN has conveniently provided wireless internet. The president of Georgia is speaking and no one is listening (sorry Georgia). Many of the politicians on the UN's trademark blue benches are wearing translation headphones, but in the small booths above the GA floor we have loudspeakers. In case you should miss a speech (or aren't paying attention) there are copies of all the speeches available in the press room. These vary from simple two-sided photocopies (most countries) to laminated folders and embossed paper (China, and a few African nations). The president of Nauru has been followed by the president of the Republic of Congo, and now the president of Mongolia is speaking (I'm typing slow). Still, no one is listening (sorry small or poor countries). But the hall is filling up a little, perhaps because Italy, Israel and France are speaking later. Personally, I am waiting for the kingdom of Denmark (small and rich country where I was born). India just took the stage, and the hall has gotten a little quieter. You can watch the whole thing on UN webcast if you think you're missing out. You'd think there was something more productive for world leaders to do when they were finally all gathered in the same place. When everyone says what's expected of them, it really isn't too exciting. And yes, mobile phones do go occasionally off in the audience (bad Chad). It would be much more fun, if they conducted this part of the Summit in quick panel discussions with four-five leaders at a time on subjects of regional or international interest - make the presidents sweat a little. This environment is way too sterile to produce anything useful or informative. Although I guess the symbolic value of it all shouldn't be discounted. PS: The president of Saint Kitts and Nevis is pretty good speaker. Next up: Cambodia.