Click above to see UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer interviewed on CTV’s “Canada AM” over the UN’s $23 million ceiling art for its new Human Rights Council chamber, and quoted by FOX News “Special Report with Brit Hume”. Transcripts below. Al Jazeera video clip coming soon.
Fox News Transcript, Brit Hume, host of “The Grapevine,” November 19, 2008:
… Both the United Nations and the Spanish government are coming under fire for a work of art at the U.N.’s Switzerland offices.
The 16,000 square-foot ceiling mural adorns the ceiling of the new Human Rights Council chamber. It took Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo two years and $23 million to complete. It was unveiled Tuesday during a ceremony attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While Spanish taxpayers picked up most of the tab, around 633,000 came from funds normally used to help alleviate poverty and boost health care in poor countries. Spain’s Opposition Party blasted the Spanish government and Executive Director of U.N. Watch Hillel Neuersays they “took money from starving children in Africa — and spent it on colorful stalactites.”
The U.N. also bumped talks aimed at easing tensions between Georgia and Russia from Tuesday to Wednesday to make way for the ceremony…
CTV Television, CANADA AM 7:43:55 ET, November 20, 2008 Thursday
“UN Human Rights Council accused of wasteful spending on art”
ANCHOR: SEAMUS O’REGAN
GUEST: HILLEL NEUER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UN WATCH
O’REGAN: It’s a spectacular and controversial new work of art. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has unveiled its new mural on the ceiling. It’s a 16,000-square-foot piece featuring hundreds of colourful, dangling icicles. The controversy comes from the price tag. The work cost $23 million, a good portion of which came from the Spanish government.
And for more on what’s at issue here, we’re joined on the line from Geneva by the executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much for joining us. First of all, what’s your reaction to this?
NEUER: Well, Seamus, I’ve just been to see the chamber right now. And you talked about icicles. Frankly, I prefer the beautiful icicles that we see in Montreal and Toronto around this time of year, rather than ones that I just saw with a price tag of $23 million. Look, as a regular speaker at the Human Rights Council, I can confirm that we needed a better chamber.
The old one needed repairs. But $23 million, from money that was supposed to go into the Spanish foreign aid budget to starving children in Africa, is just an extravagance that in these difficult financial times for families around the world makes the United Nations seem frivolous. And it just sends absolutely the wrong message.
O’REGAN: Mr. Neuer, the Spanish government says, they said, look, you know, this money may have been in the foreign aid budget but it was separate from any poverty-alleviation budget. But, I mean, you know, no question, $23 million by any stretch of the imagination is quite a lot, I mean, for a work of art.
NEUER: Well, look, there are two separate issues here. One is what the Spanish taxpayer wants to pay for. And in Spain today the opposition parties and the leading newspapers are sharply critical of the government’s decision. And that’s really for the Spanish taxpayers.
But it’s up to the United Nations to decide what kinds of purchases it allows. And this kind of a thing is really symbolic of what’s happened with the Human Rights Council which, unfortunately, has become a lot of colourful rhetoric but little real action for the victims who need it most.
O’REGAN: Yeah, and a big controversy in Spain at the moment.
Mr. Neuer, thank you very much. We may check in with you later on this. Thank you.
NEUER: My pleasure.