UNHRC faces charge of misusing foreign aid on 23-mn dollar art ceiling

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Washington, Nov 19 : The UN Human Rights Council, frequently accused of coddling some of the world's most repressive governments, has been allegedly of paying in part with foreign aid funds for a 23 million dollar mural.

In a ceremony attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo told the press that his 16,000-square-foot ceiling artwork reminded him of "an image of the world dripping toward the sky" - but it reminded critics of money slipping out of relief coffers.

"In Spain there's a controversy because they took money out of the foreign aid budget, took money from starving children in Africa, and spent it on colourful stalactites," FOX News quoted Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, as saying.

Spanish taxpayers paid for most of the sprawling sculpture, which has been compared to the Sistine Chapel, but around 633,000 dollar came from Spain's budget for overseas development aid.

Spain's conservative opposition party blasted the government for diverting money from projects to alleviate poverty in poorer countries, though the government insisted the funding for Barcelo's work was kept separate.

Ban himself praised the piece and thanked Barcelo for putting his "unique talents to work in the service of the world."

The artwork will soar above the Human Rights Council's chambers at UN's European headquarters in Geneva, which may soon undergo a 1 billion dollar renovation, but only after a 1.9 billion dollar facelift of the UN's New York offices is completed.

Meanwhile, international humanitarian groups pleaded with the human rights panel to take time out from their party to address the worsening human rights "catastrophe" in the Congo, where the government is fighting a deadly battle with several rebel groups.

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