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UN Ends Year Refusing to Answer on Africa, Larsen and OIOS, Passes Buck to Others

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 24 -- After the UN General Assembly passed resolution calling on Ban Ki-moon to retain and urgently fill the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, which he has being trying to eliminate, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe to explain the his desire to cut, and to comment on member states' rejection of it. Two days before, Spokesperson Michele Montas had said that her Office would not comment until after the budget resolutions were voted on. Now with that finished, it seemed fair to expect a response on this and other things.

   But it was not to be. Ms. Okabe first tried to blame Inner City Press for missing her opening statement. But all that did was to welcome the resolutions, not to respond to any of the detailed critiques contained in them, ranging from Inga-Britt Ahlenius' Office of Internal Oversight Services to Ban's Lebanon envoy Terje Roed Larsen. Video here, from Minute 10:27.

    Next, Ms. Okabe tried to say that since it was only hours after the resolutions had been finally passed, there was as yet no response. But these critiques were in the drafts for weeks, and were known to the Secretariat. Okabe's answers, particularly when contrasted with Ms. Montas earlier statement of no answers under after the votes, seem calculated to never answer to critiques, not only from NGOs and the press, but now from member states as well.

UN's Ban raises coupe de Champagne with PGA, answers to GA critiques not shown

   Finally, Ms. Okabe tried to pawn the questions off on the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly. But when Inner City Press asked Enrique Yeves and his budget expert colleague to confirm the Secretariat's push to cut the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, and to stated when the passed resolution's call for urgent filling of the position is anticipated to take place, the latter said "I am not comfortable speaking" for the Secretariat. Video here, from Minute 22:20.  Yeves said "that is a proper question" but "it is for the Secretariat to answer."

  But the Secretariat has studiously avoided answering on December 22, had it Spokesperson's Office closed through the final Budget Committee and General Assembly meeting, and had already left on December 24. "There are no more briefings this year," Ms. Okabe said. So perhaps, as on what Robert Fowler was doing in Niger visiting a Canadian-owned gold mine, the UN thinks it will never have to answer. "Sorry to end this year's press conference in this way," Okabe said. Then answer the questions, no?

   Here's hoping -- including for the sake of the UN -- that in 2009 such evasions are less frequent, and less allowed.

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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