Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dubai to UN: can we interest you in some islands in the shape of the world?

Dubai today invited the United Nations to relocate to the Emirate from New York. I think there are a lot of things to reccomend such a move. Firstly the climate is better than New York, at least it is during the diplomatic season. There is plenty of avaliable real estate both residential and commercial as well as a lot of empty hotel rooms and conference space. They're not wrong that there really are world class international airline connections to Dubai it is a pretty central location for a larger number of the member countries, centrally located near the center of the Euraisan/Afrian landmass.

There are a few issues though, and I'm not going to mention the regional ones such as being within missile range of certain nations upon which it may impose sanctions. Large sections of the UN Websites have been blocked including sections of the UNHCR and Human Rights groups. The screen you would get would say that these sites had been blocked because they conflicted with the moral and cultural values of the UAE but I think it might have more to do with certain critical comments made. These sites may have become unblocked since I left the Emirates but I don't know. Regardless it might be hard for those sections to do their work without access to the internet.

Another issue that will arise is SALIC, the speeding monitoring devices in Dubai. UN diplomats are used to ignoring fines and petty debts to their hosts here in New York City. Anybody who bounces a check to SALIC though may well see the inside of a jail cell in Dubai.

The most interesting part of this story though is how I found it. One of my favorite Bloomberg functions is NI ODD . This is Bloomberg's "news of the weird," their collection of ridiclous stories gathered from around the web. The number two story today is about a group of unsuccessful and apparently unlucky dieters who had the floor buckle beneath them at a weight watchers clinic. The number one story was Dubai Invites UN to move from New York. This should serve as a wake up call to the people who run Dubai about where their credibility is in the world now. Three years ago that story might have made the TOP function with some soul searching by Western analysts about the rise of emerging markets. Now its in the comedy section with other stories about people from whom the floor has fallen out.


Anonymous said...

There are a few minor aspects

1. Damas brothers are not original Emiratis, they are Syrians and because Dubai gave them citizenship, they are more loyal to the big chief than the locals themselves. Whatever scheme was cooked, one thing is certain that the brothers Abdullah will sign on the dotted line and big chief will take care of them. Small Investors can of course go and smoke the Shisha

b.The message is "this website is not compatible with the moral & cultural values of .......", a bit of moralizing will be excellent for the UN. Those pesky jokers are always trying to rake up irrelevant issues like living conditions for workers, women rights, religious freedom etc.

c. UN guys also need to experience first hand the transparent billing of DEWA and the glorious parking mechanisms (if you get one that is)

Anonymous said...

As you can see in this news, the blocking of website is all done because the users demand it.

I am sure the UN employees are missing this glorious facility in New York and once they land up will also be filing regular requests to ban 'discrepant' websites

Ken said...

That's an interesting article anonymous. Though it does say that people can request that sites be blocked it does not say that all the blockage is a result of this. Indeed, it mentions a commercial company that has been retained constantly update a list of certain categories of sites. This would be necessary for blocking pornographic sites as there are probably far more than could ever be submitted by Saudis. Presumably the government also maintains a list of blocked sites and this is likely why so many Saudis complain that many sites which do not conflict with Saudi values are also blocked.

I think a case could be made that blocking porn and intoxicant websites is culturally motivated. However, blocking UN Agencies I think is a little more difficult to justify. It seems to me that you are a Saudi. I don't think Saudi Arabia censors the UN and it may well be that the UAE has stopped.

Anonymous, I've altered my article to have the correct block message. I apologize for the error.

Ken said...

Also anonymous as far as I know the only restriction on religious freedom is that it is illegal to prostelytize. Other than that I think non-Muslims are free to worship as they choose. My only personal experience of it was attending regular mass at St. Marys which seemed to be a thriving parish.

Anonymous said...

"I know the only restriction on religious freedom is that it is illegal to proselytize."

How about adding a pinch of blasphemy law and flavor it with a tinge of "Burden of proof is on the accused"

and you have a nice fuzzy drink

Ken said...

Anonymous, the letter you post is to the King of Saudi Arabia. You are quite right that religious freedom is nonexistent within the KSA. Non-Muslim religious services are illegal altogether there. This particular blog post however is about Dubai a separate political entity with significantly more religious tolerance then the KSA.

Lulu said...

Ken, SALIK is a toll gate by the way, not the speed camera system.