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UN's Ban Avoids Press, Invites Press, No Comment on Chad or Suriname Drugs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23, vaguely updated below -- What is the role of the press in the troubles besetting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon? While one of his top advisers is quoted this week in The Guardian as blaming the press for not reporting what Ban does and says, Ban himself has invited UN correspondents for a “summer drink” Friday at 6 pm.

  It is for Ban Ki-moon's views that Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky on Friday about the ascension to power in Suriname of Desi Bouterse, a former coup leader who was sentenced to 11 years in jail for cocaine trafficking.

  Nesirky, after correcting the pronunciation of Bouterse's name, said Ban has no comment, “this is an internal matter for Suriname.” Video here, from Minute 15:23.

  Drug trafficking, by definition, is not only an internal matter. With the UN Security Council deeming the entry into government positions well below president of drug traffickers in Guinea Bissau and Afghanistan to be threats to international peace and security, Ban's answer as to Suriname seems strange.

  Early on Friday, accompanied by his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and advisory Nicholas Haysom, Ban popped in and out of the Security Council without speaking to the press. A UN staff member told Inner City Press that an “impromptu” stakeout interview on UN Television had been envisioned, but did not take place.

Similarly, Ban had no comment on whether Chad, a member of the International Criminal Court, should arrest the visiting Omar al Bashir, indicted by the ICC for genocide and war crimes. It is hard to report leadership when these are the answers. In fact, according to Sudan's outgoing Ambassador to the UN, his farewell call with Ban was cordial and involved Ban calling him “memorable,” on Friday afternoon two and a half hours before the still un-canceled reception for the press.

The invitation went out before the leak of the End of Assignment Report by Inga Britt Ahlenius, first to Turtle Bay then, presumably by a Mission or regional grouping, to IPS, which to its credit put the full report online, here. But, to the surprise of some, the reception was not canceled.

It will, perhaps, be controlled. At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky when Mr. Ban will take questions, in his own name and on the record. Nesirky replied, “at some point he will meet with you formally, not in a social setting, and in that setting he will answer questions.”

This seemed to imply that the topic of the moment will be verboten at Ban's July 23 summer drinks. It will, then, be the elephant in the room.

UN's Ban raises glass in past, press and memo not shown

   On Thursday, a senior UN official answered Inner City Press' question about a lack of accomplishments on Myanmar by saying that bureaucratic action is like the mating of elephants: it takes place at a high level, with a lot of noise, and the results are not clear until later. Watch this site.

Necessarily vague update of 7:31 p.m.(all of the above published at 5:43) -- for completeness' sake we must report that, upon arrival to the North Lawn building's third floor, Inner City Press was approached and told it is “all off the record” and not to somehow “hijack” the event. Hijack? Actually, good jokes were told, by very senior UN official(s). Salmon in pastry was served. A long time journalist -- unnamed because requested off the record -- was celebrated, in what was dubbed a Cane Throwing Ceremony. The Press was reportedly well behaved. But the Pressure will continue. Watch this site.

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Ban Ki-moon's UN Called Secret on Corruption, Silent on Torture from Sri Lanka to Sudan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- The widening gap between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's rhetoric and what his administration actually thinks and does was on display on July 22. Ban preaches about transparency and accountability, but he was represented Thursday by a person who opaquely demanded to be identified as a “senior UN official” - that is, without accountability.

Ban's “senior UN official,” when asked by Inner City Press why under Ban moves toward a UN Freedom of Information Act were curtailed, replied, “ask the member states, let them legislate, then we'll do it.” He paused. “If the member states insist, our way of decision making would have to be modified” for “this kind of perfect transparency.”

But back on May 3, Ban intoned that “I welcome the global trend towards new laws which recognize the universal right to publicly held information. Unfortunately, these new laws do not always translate into action. Requests for official information are often refused, or delayed, sometimes for years... Too often, this happens because of a culture of secrecy and a lack of accountability” Ya don't say.

Inner City Press asked Ban's senior UN official to explain what if anything he has done about the military dictatorship and impending scam election in Myanmar, a country where Ban's administration allowed and covered by the theft of over 20% of UN aid funds by the Than Shwe regime using foreign exchange requirement the UN never complained about until exposed by this publication.

The official declined to give any specifics, but said

If you are leading on several fronts, you are not leading on any. Things take time; some things take time. Effort for us is a great thing. The kind of effort you make on particular issues is important. There is a definition of bureaucratic action: it is like elephants mating. There’s a lot of noise, and it take years to see the result.”

But Ban has had more than three years, and in the next six months on elections in not only Myanmar but also South Sudan, leadership is sorely lacking. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky this week why the UN has said nothing about reported torture of South Sudan referendum supporters. Nesirky said, it's “not our job to police the police.”

The senior UN official on Thursday, speaking more general of Ban, said that

He has called himself a carpenter, not an architect. The way he handled climate change was to take on the larger role. But on other issues – DRC, Sudan – he’s taken the nuts and bolts role. He has generally had a predisposition to look to practical aspects; he has taken a practical approach. That is part of his training.”

  Apparently, “practical” means staying silent in the face of torture. Ban's training was as South Korea's minister of trade and foreign affairs. In this role, he praised a joint Daewoo and Indian pipeline across Myanmar as a “win - win.”

  Ban also befriended Sri Lankan strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, such that he remained sickeningly silent as Rajapaksa's forces killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009, and imprisoned hundreds of thousands more, using UN funds.

UN's Ban walking into Myanmar: follow through not shown

  Ban visited the prison camps and smiled as Tamil children as gunpoint sang his name. That's not nuts and bolts, one wag said: that's just nuts.

But who will tell him? The senior UN official continued:

He has a wide spectrum of senior managers; not all yes-men as such. In every management team you have ones who prefer the subrosa approach, and ones who prefer the public approach. There is a necessity for the SG to insist on a certain modicum of discipline. That’s not very different than what would happen in any governmental or private sector management team.”

Not all yes-man as such. No, it is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual Organization, so there are also the men and women of Si and Oui and iwa. Ban himself should have, and some say soon will have to, deliver his own defense. Watch this site.

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Defending Ban, UN Official Says No FOIA Needed, Myanmar & Sudan No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- Ban Ki-moon's desire for a second term as UN Secretary General was on display on Thursday, when two separate press conferences were held to rebut the critique of outgoing Under Secretary General for Investigations Inga Britt Ahlenius.

At noon, USG Angela Kane and her human resources Assistant SG Catherine Pollard provided a dense, some say misleading defense of Ban's reaching down to determine Ahlenius' choice of a deputy.

  Ms. Kane says it would be improper, however, for her as USG for Management to answer Inner City Press' request for Team Ban's response to Ahlenius' statement that Ban has failed on such issues as Myanmar and Sudan.
  Inner City Press asked who would take questions on Myanmar and Sudan, and Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said you may have an opportunity shortly.

From 5 to 6 pm that afternoon, a self described “senior UN official,” whom we'll refer to as SUNO or as “he,” while it may have been a woman, took questions off camera from the Press.

When Inner City Press asked for example about Ban, despite the centrality of gender balance to his defense, having named of High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing consisting of 19 people, all men, until one was replaced by Minister Lagarde of France, the Senior UN Official said the criticism by the Presswas “unfair,” since a woman was added to the 19 member Group in the end. A Ban advisor -- to play by the rules, we cannot say whether the same or a different one -- similarly this week blamed the media.

  Inner City Press began by asking for a defense of what Ahlenius and others call Ban's failure on Myanmar and Sudan. The Senior UN Official deflected this by saying that on some issues you move favor and some slow.

  But in South Sudan there is the deadline of a planned referendum. The Official countered that he only wanted to talk about Ms. Ahlenius' critique -- which, of course, included Myanmar and Sudan, as well as Congo and Cyprus, but who's counting?

So Inner City Press asked about the division of powers question at the heart of Ahlenius' critique, that under the rules she should had the independence, as UNDP does, to appoint her own D-2 level officials. The UN Official responded first that in practice, “systematically,” Helen Clark of UNDP checks on such appointments with Ban.

But Clark doesn't have to, and Clark is also not in charge of investigating Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat. The founding documents of OIOS say that it should have the same hiring independence as UNDP.

The Official disagreed, surreally. It can't be the same, he said, “mutatis mutandi... you should know... what applies to [you] does not apply to [another journalist]... you have a beard.” Then the Official turned to take other questions.

UN's Ban and Ahlenius at farewell, per UN, 50 page memo not shown

After the Official bragged about Ban's UN's transparency, Inner City Press asked why the Compacts Ban signs with his officials -- now to their credit including the heads of peacekeeping missions -- are only placed on the UN's intranet, and not for the public, or “we the peoples,” and why the UN under Ban stopped moving toward, or even talking about, a Freedom of Information Act.

On a FOIA, the Senior UN Official replied, “ask the member states, let them legislate, then we'll do it.” He pauses. “If the member states insist, our way of decision making would have to be modified” for “this kind of perfect transparency.” So, no UN FOIA. So much for transparency. Watch this site.

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 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

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

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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