As diplomats congregate for the United Nations General Assembly, delegations from some of the poorest countries in the world are spending extravagantly in New York City while their homelands struggle, NBC 4 New York’s I-Team has discovered.
“The lavish spending is just endemic of autocratic politics as a whole,” said Alastair Smith, a politics professor from New York University and co-author of “The Diplomat’s Handbook.”
He believes the U.N.’s Manhattan address has become a distraction from the intended work of the General Assembly.
“They are here for the shopping, the food the wine, the dining. If it was in a less attractive place, I’m sure fewer people would want to come as hangers-on,” said Smith.
On Monday, I-Team cameras found several visitors with the U.N. delegation from Swaziland walking out of high-end retailer Bergdorf Goodman. The women had Bergdorf Goodman shopping bags, though they said the items inside were just gifts.
According to U.N. data, nearly 70 percent of Swazi people survive on less than $2 a day. The nation has one of the highest AIDS rates: 18 percent of the population is HIV positive.
Despite those struggles back home, numerous members of the Swaziland U.N. entourage are staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the I-Team has learned, where suites go for between $8,000 and $18,000 a night.
Also staying at the Mandarin Oriental were members of the delegation from Togo. According to one U.N. report, 2.4 million Togolese citizens live on less than $1.25 a day.