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On Fijian Peacekeepers, Australia Not Answered by Ban, Despite New Iraq Situation

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- Australia and New Zealand have this month asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop using peacekeepers from Fiji, in light of the further suspension of democracy in that country. Inner City Press has twice asked Ban's spokespeople for their response, only to be told that use of Fijian troops will continue on a "case by case basis."

   Tuesday evening at a reception in the UN's lobby, Inner City Press asked Australia's Permanent Representative to the UN Robert Hill if the Secretariat has responded to his country's call. "They haven't given any more response than they gave to you," Ambassador Hill replied, "that they do it on a case by case basis." He went on to say that in Iraq in the past, there "weren't too many options," but that now has probably changed.

   "If there are others prepared to serve," Hill said, "with Fiji under the current regime, we think it better they didn't" continue on any UN peacekeeping mission.

Robert Hill, 2d from left, with peacekeepers, 4/21/09, (c) MLee

   Following Monday's closed door briefing of the Security Council about Fiji by the UN's political chief Lynn Pascoe, and Pascoe canceling his formal and promised media availability at the stakeout, Inner City Press called after him in the hall, what the thinking is on continued use of Fijian peacekeepers. Pascoe called it "complicated," noting that there are also Fijians serving in UN Police, and as security in Iraq. We debate it all the time, he said. Perhaps Ambassador Hill's analysis that the new situation in Iraq will allow Ban to finally fulfill what Kofi Annan said will become part of that debate.

   A native Fijian human rights professional recently interviewed by Inner City Press said, on condition of anonymity due to crackdowns on groups in Fiji, that most rights advocates in Fiji wish that Ban lived up to what Annan had said, and stopped using Fijian soldiers. "They learned bad habits while serving on those missions," said the source. While Hill diplomatically disagreed, Inner City Press has heard similar analysis of soldiers from Pakistan, India, Morocco and even Sri Lanka, all of which have had "peacekeepers" repatriated from UN missions for sexual abuse. Immunity breeds contempt, appears to be the theme.

   Hill spoke at an event celebrating Australian peacekeepers' service from East Timor to the Solomon Islands and elsewhere. A jazz band, complete with female trumpeter, played jazz as quiches and sushi were passed around. Ambassadors mixed with UN Procurement officers -- there is a conference these days for European Union companies to get more contracts -- and a range of UN staff. The vibes was positive, but the Fiji and dictatorship questions unanswered.

   Again we note that New Zealand's then-prime minister Helen Clark as reported by Inner City Press in 2007 said, "We've made it very clear to the UN that we do not believe they should be using Fijian troops." Now Ms. Clark is coming in as UN Development Program Administrator, described as the third most powerful position in the UN system. What will she do on this? It will be among her first tests. Watch this site.

  Click here for a new YouTube 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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