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March 1, 2011: Libya

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On Libya, Work of UN's Post-Conflict Expert Vandewalle Withheld from Press & States, Though Public Money Used: No FOIA at UN?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- The UN's role in Libya is ostensibly premised on its transparency to the public, and that it accountable to all and not just some of its member states.

  So when UN consultant Dirk Vandewalle was quoted that he prepared a 30 page report, and three page summary for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and as describing these in a lecture at Dartmouth, it seemed fair for Inner City Press to ask about the summary he prepared, with public money, for this public institution.

  But Ban's acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said "Those are not in any way public documents... "I wouldn't comment on the work he did as a consultant... preparing ideas for what the post-conflict situation will be."

  The UN has no freedom of information act, apparently not even to its member states. Haq said "what we would give to Member States are the final documents. All documentss go through a process of editing and approval."

  So is the UN editing down Vandewalle's work? Or as he said in his lecture, was his job to edit other UN documents? And how can the UN not "comment on the work he did as a consultant" with public money?

Vandewalle, reports prepped with public money not shown

  On August 15, Inner City Press asked Haq about another article which "quotes Dirk Vandewalle as a Libya expert at Dartmouth... is Dirk Vandewalle still a consultant to the UN and Ian Martin’s post-Qadhafi team, and if so, was his contract renewed? What’s the status of that?"

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: He is a consultant working with Ian Martin on the transition team, yes.

Inner City Press: Are his views attributable to the UN?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: His views on this particular topic, I believe, if you are referring to this particular article, he did that in his capacity as an expert at Dartmouth University.

  Now with the UN saying it won't share Vandewalle's reports, which he is describing at a private university, with the public, press or even member states, Inner City Press asked if Vandevalle is in any way barred from disseminating his "confidential" work product?

  Earlier, some in the UN question why Ian Martin was named Ban's "post-conflict" expert, when he needed yet another expert. Now, the views of this "post-conflict" team are opaque, even deemed confidential. This is the UN's legitimating function? We'll continue on this. Watch this site.

* * *

On Libya, UN's Martin to Doha As His "Post-Conflict" Post Called Misnomer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- Hour after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was sending to Doha his envoys Al Khatib and Ian Martin, in charge of "post-conflict planning" in Libya, Inner City Press asked Martin when he would go, and asked the Council on Foreign Relations' experts about the UN's performance.

  CFR's Robert Danin told Inner City Press that there's been planning in European capitals "but not at UN headquarters, since the UN has to be driven by a strong force to take action.

  Inner City Press put the same question to Daniel Serwer of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who said that European planning, at least by the UK, was on the "civilian side," not policing or peacekeeping. He took issue with Libya being characterized as "post conflict," calling it a "misnomer" when Libya is not yet even fully "post Gaddafi."

  Ian Martin, to the surprise of some, was still in New York on Monday afternoon. Inner City Press told him what Serwer had said, contesting his "post-conflict" job title. Martin nodded, and was non-committal in response to repeated press requests that he give a briefing or answer questions.

  Others tell Inner City Press that Martin heads Monday night to Doha, and then will see where that will lead. Ban Ki-moon's call Monday morning for a new Security Council mandate won't bear fruit, this people say, for "a week or ten days," after a series of consultations.

Ban & Ian Martin, who's yet to brief the press: "post conflict"?

Footnote: Earlier on Monday, US President Barack Obama said he's told his UN Ambassador Susan Rice to ask Ban to "use next month's General Assembly to support this important transition" in Libya. While the first step would seem to be to re-credential Ibrahim Dabbashi as Libya's UN Ambassador, some cynics later Monday mused that to get the General Debate to focus on Libya rather than the moves for Palestinian statehood scheduled for September 20 might be one of Obama's motives. Watch this site.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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