In New York City, Hurricane Shutdown Cancels United Nations Meetings

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Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is "The World". Around the globe today one story is commanding headlines.

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Mullins: Hurricane Sandy leading newscasts there in France, Mexico, and Germany in that quick sample. Some fifty million people are in the storm sites from the mid-Atlantic of the US to the Great Lakes and up to Canada. Already we're hearing reports now of widespread power outages and storm surges and forecasters say there are more to come. We're going to start our coverage today of Hurricane Sandy in New York with the BBC's Barbara Plett. She normally covers the United Nations, but today, she's looking at a major international hub that's largely shut down.

Barbara Plett: Certainly, in terms of travel, thousands of flights have already been cancelled. The latest figure I've seen is ten thousand, which is hugely significant for international travel because New York is such a hub. You've had the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, shut down and, of course, they are financial hubs for the world, that's very significant. The United Nations have shut down. Now, there were meeting scheduled there for today which involved two presidents. One, the President of Guatemala was supposed to lead a debate on women, peace, and security, essentially about women and how they can contribute to the prevention of conflict, how it affects them and so on, with quite a few high names supposed to speak at this debate. That's not happening. Then you had another president, Evo Morales of Bolivia, who was also supposed to speak at a press conference on quite a different topic. He was supposed to launch what is called "The 2013 Year of Quinoa", this grain that's grown in South America, it's becoming very popular in America. So both of those two presidents won't get their platforms. Those meetings are off as well. We're having a lot of human rights reporters coming at this time of year to give their assessment of their particular areas, a number of press conferences were scheduled with them. Again, those are off the agenda. The UN may also be closed tomorrow.

Mullins: When that happens, if the UN [??] indeed closed tomorrow for a second day, then what is the type of culmination or the knock-on effect, if there is a major one, of such international business being put on hold even for a short period?

Plett: I think that with the United Nations it would have less of an impact than with things that are really involving day-to-day matters like the financial markets, like the airports and travel and so on. The United Nations deals with issues that are schematic, deals with mandates for peacekeeping operations that extend over a year, so what they can do is they can reschedule things. Now, it may mean that you might not have the same level of guests, the Presidents might go, but their ambassadors will be there, so they can continue with the meetings. They won't give it as much of a profile as before. So I think actually although there's always a lot on the agenda at the UN, it's probably easier to reschedule that without having a major impact on the world than it is to reschedule or deal with the shutdown of something like the New York Stock Exchange.

Mullins: OK. Barbara Plett, thank you.

Plett: You're welcome.

Mullins: That's Barbara Plett in Brooklyn, New York.