Daily Archives: September 23, 2009

Gideon Rachman

Approaching the UN today, I came across pro and anti-Gaddafi demonstrators. The “pros” were American members of the Nation of Islam, in their trademark suits and bow ties, who seemed to regard Gaddafi as “the leader of Africa”. The opposition was provided by real Libyans, protesting about human-rights abuses.

As it happens the UN General Assembly is currently being chaired by a Libyan diplomat, Ali Treki. He had insisted that all heads of state speak for no longer than 15 minutes. But he did not apply this to Gaddafi, who he introduced in neutral style as “king of kings and leader of the revolution.” The Libyan leader rambled on for some 96 minutes, reading off scraps of paper, and throwing the UN schedule into chaos.

Now clearly Gaddafi is going to get bad reviews in the morning papers here in the US. But I have to say that some of what he had to say made perfect sense. It is entirely true that the structure of the UN Security Council is anomalous and outdated (although it was perhaps a bit harsh to call it “the terror council”). Gaddafi’s analysis of why it is so hard to reform the council was also bang on the money – each time you suggest one country, you trigger a demand from the next one in the queue. (So if you suggest Germany, Italy jumps up and down.) And his proposed solution – a Security Council of regional organisations such as the EU, Asean, the African Union – sounded like an elegant way out. Gaddafi was even quite witty. I liked his comparison of the UN General Assembly to Speakers Corner in London; you can speak as much as you like, it is just that you will be ignored.