UN's Ban Dodges Questions While
His Spokesperson Blocks and Ignores Them
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
July 10 -- Returning from a two
week tour through Asia, including five days in his native South Korea,
Ki-moon on Thursday held a half hour press conference. Again
from his opening
statement and the questions allowed, one would not know of the growing
about his 18-month tenure from throughout the UN system. As simply
examples, member states in the General Assembly were told they would be
consulted before Ban names a new human rights commissioner. Wednesday
spokesperson said that consultation will only take place after Ban
winner. The spokesperson, despite having a list of journalists who'd
to pose questions, did not allow one on this. Nor on the controversy
Ban's pending appointment of Rwanda general Karenzi as the number two
peacekeeper in Darfur, despite Karenzi being indicted in a Spanish
war crimes. A Permanent Five Ambassador
confirms that Rwanda has threatened, if Karenzi is not re-appointed, to
its troops, five of whom were killed this week in El Fasher.
Press is informed that UN Peacekeeping has curtailed a visit to
a key logistics official in the Darfur mission, based on a fear that
International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo announces
indictment requests on July 14, Sudan will order the UN out of Darfur.
in Khartoum tell Inner City Press that the UN has raised its threat
Three; it was two full levels lower in Algiers in December 2007.
week at the Security Council stakeout, the Ambassador of Russia, which
veto any second term by Ban, said the Ban was acting unlawfully in
reconfiguring the UN Mission in Kosovo, ceding powers to the European
EULEX without Council approval. No question was allowed on this topic,
did not bring it up.
from the Security Council stakeout, UN construction crews from
Wolf are tearing up the walls, pretending that clumsily taped-up sheet
offers protection from asbestos and other toxins. Ban has analogized
proposed renovation of the UN with a still not begun clean up drive; in fact, the bush league repairs now being
are seen by many as apt symbols of the last 18 months.
supposedly major reform of the UN was the creation of an Ethics Office.
when asked if he supports his own Ethics Officer's recommendation of 14
back-pay for the violation of the rights of the Security Chief in North
of the UN Development Program, who complained of irregularities in
financial and other transactions with the Kim Jong-Il government and
terminated, Ban said that perhaps his Ethics Officer does not have
left on his two week trip, the UN Staff Union in New York strongly
Ban and his appointees. The Geneva Staff Union dropped out of the
committee that Ban has been pushing. None of those issues were
most recent Town Hall meeting was closed to the press. During the
Inner City Press is informed, a question was asked about why top
the UN never face accountability, but rather are transferred and
not what we mean by accountability, was the answer.
Office controls who can ask questions in the briefing room. Even at at
stakeout, the Office has been known to tell the technicians who hold
microphones -- technicians whom the Secretariat was ready last month to
replaced by scabs -- to not allow the microphone to particular
reporters. It's not if they are trying to
difficult questions to themselves to be answered daily or by email: the
leaves unanswered many questions to which responses are promised.
Ban Ki-moon takes questions at his
birthplace, Spokesperson not seen
a few examples, merely from the six business days so far in July:
On July 1,
the Spokesperson promises answers about Myanmar protests, and said that
supported Benson's recommendation (which Ban disavowed on July 10).
Inner City Press: He recommends
strongly that UNDP pays 14 months back pay to the whistleblower. Does the Secretary-General stand behind that
recommendation? Should UNDP in fact pay
that money, or are they free to rebuff that recommendation?
Spokesperson: We will see what
is going to happen. The Secretary-General
of course is behind Mr.
Benson on his report. There is no doubt
about it. What UNDP will do, we will be
seeing this; how they will implement that report.
Question: UNDP at one point said
Benson doesn’t have
jurisdiction over them.
Spokesperson: As I announced
yesterday, they have a new
Director of the Ethics Office. And they
will be working with Mr. Benson.
Question: So, does he have
jurisdiction? I mean, does this ruling, as
far as they are
Spokesperson: I cannot speak on
behalf of UNDP.
Question: Institutionally, does
this ruling apply?
Spokesperson: Well, we can get
someone from UNDP to discuss
this with you, of course.
Question: What does the
Secretary-General think about
the report? Does he have any comments
Spokesperson: He does not at
this point. He has not received it yet, as
far as I know.
Question: One of the things that
has been trying to do was to have this cohesive approach to these
all of the United Nations. Doesn’t this
pose a predicament in terms of trying to overcome that problem? Is this not an issue that he will weigh on,
and weigh on in a very noticeable way?
Spokesperson: Mr. Benson speaks
on behalf of the Secretariat,
so you know…
Question: I understand.
But in terms of Organization-wide…
Spokesperson: As you know, he
has been working on this for
quite a while, and the fact that right now they are making changes in
structure of the different agencies on the ethics issue is part of that
concerted effort to have one system and one standard.
Question: Another question
related to UNDP. I understand that the
Executive Board of UNDP
has received a request, or at least a proposal, to again relaunch the
in North Korea. Does this mean that some
of the issues that were raised at the time, and the very reason why the
pulled out, in terms of staff, hiring, payments and some of the other
which UNDP was operating in contradiction to its own rules… have these
been resolved? Have the North Koreans
now agreed to UNDP’s conditions…?
Spokesperson: I cannot answer
for UNDP. I suggest that we have someone
from UNDP come
and talk to you about the issue. I
cannot answer for them. I do know that
the issue of returning to the DPRK has to be approved by the Board, of
Question: And in terms of Ban
weighing in on the issue
of Tony Shkurtaj and its wider ramification for whistleblowers and
coherence, when might we get some sort of…?
Spokesperson: At this point, in
terms of Mr. Shkurtaj
himself, the report, as I said, of Mr. Benson stands as the position of
Question: There are some reports
saying that the former
Australian Foreign Minister has accepted the position of Special Envoy
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Cyprus.
Can you confirm that or…?
Spokesperson: No, I don’t have
an announcement at this
point. Not yet.
Question: One of the articles
saying that Mr. Downer
said he has the job also reports that it is a part-time post and that
be working part-time for a corporate advisory firm.
I understand you have no announcement on it,
but do these envoys… what procedures does the Secretariat have to
there is no conflict of interest between their outside jobs and their
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have
a specific answer for
you. It is of course discussed with
every single person who is named as a Special Envoy.
In this specific case, I cannot comment,
because in this specific case, we don’t have an appointment yet.
Question: There is also a report
that Burmese nationals
in Japan had a kind of protest or an event outside the UN office in
yesterday, during which they tried to or did deliver a letter to Mr.
the lack of progress from their point of view since his visit to
Myanmar. Has he received the letter, and
what is his
response…? Does he feel that Myanmar has
been taking enough steps since he visited, or is he concerned and
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know
if he is
dissatisfied. I think he has been urging
for more steps. But largely, he has
noted the progress made in delivering aid to the people who needed it
most. In terms of the letter itself, I
can check with the delegation there whether a letter was delivered to
Question: Thank you.
Last week, there was supposed to be a press
conference by Jan Egeland on
his visit to the Sahel and climate change.
It was cancelled at the last minute.
Is it still going to take place?
Why was it cancelled?
Spokesperson: Because he
was travelling. That is why.
He was travelling.
Inner City Press asked
Question: About the programme of
work for this month
for the Security Council, there is some discussion of a briefing on
the political issues. I guess the issue
came up of whether USG Gambari; is he now on leave to deal with the
issues? Or is he on standby?
Is he currently working with the UN or on
Spokesperson: I will try to find
out for you. I know that he was dealing
with the situation
in the Niger Delta but I will ask whether he is going to be the one
the situation in Myanmar.
Question: That would be great. Also, is it possible to know if the
Secretary-General spoke with Prime Minister (Kevin) Rudd of Australia? He said that that they had a conversation...
Spokesperson: He did, yes.
Question: On the topic of Mr.
Downer or what topic?
Spokesperson: I don’t know.
I can get a readout for you. [Never provided].
Question: Okay, great.
And then inside the building there was apparently an
incident on Friday
in which the CMP contractor hit a pipe (inaudible).
There was some gas release and the printing
plant didn’t print the Journal for Monday.
What is the outcome of that? I
was told that there is a landfill leaking gas under the UN.
Spokesperson: That was the
Question: What’s going to be
done about that? And why didn’t we know
Spokesperson: We were fully
informed of that. The situation was under
complete control by
Monday morning. This is why we didn’t
say anything new to you. You said it
quite rightly; it was methane gas coming out of the landfill. This whole riverfront, as you know, was made
Question: If it came up then,
why isn’t it going to
keep coming up? Is it continuing to come
up? How do you...?
Spokesperson: There was no
danger for anyone. That is why the
incident was not
mentioned. But we had a full briefing on
Question: (inaudible) some
people who have read
it...it’s not been capped. It’s
continuing to come up but does not cause a danger in some way?
Question: They mistakenly
believed that there was a
danger on Friday?
Spokesperson: Yes, because they
thought it was gas. It was not natural gas. It was, you know, maybe a leak.
They contacted both the New York City Fire
Department and ConEdison thinking that it was a gas leak in the
was not the case. What happened was that
they detected an odour, and the smell in the area of the UN printing
them to close the area until they found out what it was.
Question: Is the smell still
there or not?
Spokesperson: No, the
smell is no longer there.
No. All I can say is
interviews are continuing for the post.
Question: Yesterday, the US
Envoy for Sudan, Richard
Williamson, was here and he said… He had
some criticism for the Government of Sudan, but also for the UN itself
of the slowness of the deployment of UNAMID.
I wanted to know if there is any response. He said he met with Ms. [Susana] Malcorra;
that there was some meeting of friends of UNAMID. Do
you have a readout on that? What’s the UN
response? Because he just didn’t criticise
Sudan. He wasn’t really specific, but he
the UN is not moving fast enough to deploy.
Spokesperson: Well, I’m sure
that within the Security
Council he can express these reservations and it will be discussed at
of the Security Council.
I’m not sure he met with the Council.
Anyway, I think he met with Malcorra.
And also, I wanted to ask you one thing.
I have heard that, on this matter of General Karenzi
number two in UNAMID, that some are saying that the Secretariat has
Rwanda, asking them to propose an alternative candidate.
Is that the case, and, if so, did the Secretariat
confer with the African Union before starting such a letter?
Spokesperson: I don’t
think I can confirm this letter. I can
only say that we take this issue, of
course, seriously and we are continuing our consultations with all
the Rwandan authorities, and we’ll have more to say in the near future. I don’t have anything else to say.
Press asked the Spokesperson to confirm or deny that the equipment for
Ethiopian and Egypian peacekeepers in Darfur is still held up in Port
The Spokesperson said she would get an answer, but never did. Now the peacekeeping mission is on Level
Three alert, and apparently thinks it may be thrown out of the country. Darfur was listed by Ban as one of his top
priorities, as was UN reform. From July
Question: It is reported that
the Indian peacekeepers
that the OIOS referred to the Indian Government for discipline have, in
not been disciplined and only been given warnings.
Does the UN think that is enough and what is
the UN going to do about that?
Spokesperson: I would address
that question to DPKO. As far as I know,
as you know, every time we
have a disciplinary action, it's taken by the country where the
Question: I think last time that
she was here, Jane
Holl Lute said we are very encouraged by what the Governments are doing
discipline the people we refer to them.
So this is a kind of a high-profile case involving
trading of gold for
guns with rebels. Is there anything the
UN can do to make sure the peacekeepers get more than a warning?
Spokesperson: Except that we
keep on talking to Member
States about that, the countries contributing troops, there is not much
do beyond that, beyond putting pressure.
Question: Except maybe in terms
of accepting peacekeepers
from the same country in other missions, or something?
Spokesperson: Well, I can assure
you that the same
peacekeepers will not be accepted in future missions.
That I can assure you of.
Question: Also, the Washington
Post reported over the weekend
that all of the equipment for two new battalions in Darfur is still in
Sudan and has not been delivered to Darfur.
Is that the case?
Spokesperson: I will have
to check on that.
No answers were
Question: Yesterday at the
stakeout, Russian Ambassador
Churkin said the Secretary-General had overstepped his bounds in the
reconfiguration in Kosovo, and he specifically took issue with this
the EULEX force would not be reporting either to UNMIK or to the UN in
York. Is there any response to what
Churkin said and does the UN feel EULEX should report to it?
Spokesperson: The positions were
clear from the start. This is the
position, of course, of the
Russian Ambassador and he expressed his opinion and that’s all I can
But to whom
does Ban think that EULEX should report?
cases, answers are later provided.
Inner City Press: Michele, people
are saying that the Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly
Conference Management, Mr. Mengesha, either has resigned or will be
post. Are you aware of that?
Spokesperson: No, I'm not, but I
can ask whether this is
[The Spokesperson later confirmed
that Yohannes Mengesha intends to leave the United Nations in September. According to Mr. Mengesha, it is a personal
Press is informed that Mr. Mengesha put his name in for a number of the
Secretary General slots that opened, but got none, and was so disgusted
actually got them that he is leaving. Voting with his feet like others.
Watch this site.
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