“You will thank me for not having to travel for 20 hours to this place.”

So everyone knows by now that Colonel Qaddafi had a train wreck of speech before the General Assembly (“everyone” includes, disturbingly enough, Stormfront — a google search earlier on ‘Qaddafi’s speech’ had them in the top ten returns!), but while reading about Qaddafi’s ramblings, I learned some other nifty facts about UN Assembly procedure I thought I’d share here:

1) By tradition dating to the 4th GA, Brazil is always the first country to speak. The second speaker is the host country. After that, it’s first come first serve, with a 15 minute time limit.

2) Despite the 15 minute limit, Qaddafi Ranty McRantypants went off for an hour and a half. Then again, who would shut him up? Under UN procedure, speakers are supposed to be cut off by the President of the General Assembly. “Though originally largely a ceremonial position, the president of the General Assembly does have considerable say during the annual session, ruling on matters of procedure, time limitations for speakers, and making decisions on extending, curtailing or adjourning debates.” So who’s the current president? Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, a Libyan Diplomat. Maybe that’s why Qaddafi chose now to make his first speech before the GA in his 40 years as the leader of Libya.

(Then again– Obama went on for 38 minutes. So Qaddafi’s hardly alone in going overtime.)

3) Heads of state trump heads of government, at least in UN speech order. (Princes lose to both.) Although PM Gordon Brown did go ahead of President Jintao, this year, so it’s not strictly followed.

4) Much like failed plans for introducing prayer into U.S. public schools, under Rule 62 of the GA Rules of Procedure, at the beginning of plenary General Assembly meetings, “the President shall invite the representatives to observe one minute of silence dedicated to prayer or meditation.”

5) There are five regional groupings of UN members: Asian Group, African Group, GRULAC (Latin America + Caribbean), Eastern European Group, and WEOG (the Western states). Q: Which two member nations of the UN do not belong to any regional group? A: Kiribati and the United States.

The best quote of all, however, comes from a New York Times article. On whether or not Qaddafi’s diatribe was all that unusual, compared to past General Assembly meetings:

“I don’t think anybody has ever done a real study of General Assembly speeches because nobody listens to them,” said Stephen Schlesinger, a historian of the body.

-Susan