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Question of Ban Ki-moon's Role in N. Korea Funding Unanswered for Two Weeks

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- During his eleven weeks as UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called for "the highest standards of ethics and integrity" and, relatedly, for transparency. Mr. Ban released a copy of his UN financial disclosure, as he had done in his previous position as South Korean foreign minister.

            But for two weeks, in response to requests to know how much money the South Korean government transferred to North Korea during the time he was Foreign Minister, no answers have been received. Rather his staff has argued, as recently as Tuesday, that this information is irrelevant and will not be provided. Beyond possible conflict of interest issues, some now wonder if this stonewalling might not be related to the place of aid-to-North-Korea issues in the current elections in South Korea. In either case, so much for transparency and openness to the press.

            Three weeks into his tenure, faced with a reported scandal in the North Korean operations of the UN Development Program, Mr. Ban called for an "urgent audit" of how UN agencies, funds and programs spend money in North Korea and elsewhere. Three days after this announcement, the scope of the audit was narrowed.

            Inner City Press asked for comment on North Korean spending and hiring from, among others, the UN World Health Organization, the UN World Food Program, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund. UNICEF acknowledged making payments in hard currency -- precisely the practice which UNDP's executive committee has now explicitly prohibited -- as did WFP. In response to a direct question of whether the World Health Organization received $10 million from South Korea while Ban Ki-moon was foreign minister, WHO spokeswoman Christine McNab wrote to Inner City Press that, "Yes, last year South Korea committed to providing the equivalent of US 10 million per year as support to DPRK through WHO for health-related humanitarian assistance, for three years."

            Following the journalistic mantra about following the money, on March 5 Inner City Press went to inquire into this with the UN's Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, where a request was made that the question be submitted in writing.  It was:

Subj: Questions re North Korea, UNDP suspension, audit, South Korean aid to DPRK, thanks 

To: Spokesperson

From: Inner City Press

Date: 3/5/2007 10:14:30 AM Eastern Standard Time

  Good morning. This is a question that I came into the OSSG earlier this morning to ask, was advised to direct it to you by email:

--what role if any did Ban Ki-moon play while with the Republic of Korea government in South Korean aid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? If any, did any of this aid involve UN funds, programs or agencies? If any, could any of this aid be within the scope of the urgent audits Mr. Ban called for on Jan. 19, as modified Jan. 22?

Context: following UNDP's (quiet, online only) announcement that it suspended its operations in North Korea on March 1, Inner City Press has heard from sources information that gives rise to the above question, as well as to other questions posed directly to UNDP and to the Board of Auditors. (Including what impact the suspension of operations will have on the audit, on which we understand the 90 clock is already ticking). I'd wanted to just orally ask the above questions in your office, now do so by email. Please let me know as soon as there are responses.

            The spokesperson referred the question to Soung-ah Choi, who joined the UN along with Ban Ki-moon and is often seen accompanying him through the halls of Headquarters, or at his side when he takes questions from reporters, for example from Inner City Press about Darfur after the February Security Council luncheon.

            Ms. Choi did not answer the question, but rather directed Inner City Press to call an Ambassador Oh (Joon) at the South Korean mission to the UN. Inner City Press called Ambassador Oh's line, three times. The first time his secretary said he would call back shortly.  After Inner City Press left a voice mail with the question it wanted answered, another call was made, and then another.

            Ten days passed without any answer from Ambassador Oh. Inner City Press asked another South Korean mission staffer, who said that the appropriate Ambassador was not Mr. Oh, but rather an individual who would not be back to New York for some week.  Thereupon, Inner City Press asked the question at the UN noon briefing on March 9 (video here). From the transcript:

Inner City Press: Earlier this week, I tried to ask your office for a number of when Mr. Ban was the Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister for South Korea, how much aid came through that department, through the UN agencies, to North Korea, I was referred to the South Korean Mission and I have received no answer from them. So, I'm...

Spokesperson: That is a question that should be addressed to the South Korean Government.

Question: ...As a journalistic matter, it seems like if heís ordering the audit and some of the things that will be found in the audit, not to say that there's anything wrong with it, will be in fact, funding that he signed off on... it seems to me like a legitimate question. Or maybe your office can help get an answer.  What I was told from the South Korean Mission is that the Ambassador who works on that is now back in Korea and we donít know when heís coming back.

Spokesperson: Iím sure the South Korean Government has a spokesperson that you could probably address those questions to.

            Subsequently, Soung-ah Choi summoned Inner City Press into her office. She said that when Ban Ki-moon commented on Inner City Press' article, she had not told him that Inner City Press misidentified Ambassador Oh as involved in South Korea - North Korea relations, when she had referred to relations with international organizations. She objected to Inner City Press' use of the phrase "spin machine." She asked Inner City Press if a tape of the initial conversation in her office could be produced, "because I have one," she said, indicating a Windows Media file on her desktop computer. Mr. Ban: Setting an example?

   Inner City Press committed to Ms. Choi change the description of Ambassador Oh -- who had and has still not responded -- but asked how and by whom the question would be answered.

            Soung-ah Choi now referred Inner City Press to a person she called her "old boss" in public relations at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), providing a telephone number in Seoul. 

            On March 19, Inner City Press called the number in Seoul and was told that the person referred to was in Beijing for the Six Party Talks. Inner City Press asked for the individual's e-mail address, to submit the question in writing, and was told yslee81 [at] mofat.go.kr. (A South Korea mission staffer has since stated that this is Lee Yoen-su). Copying Ms. Choi and the Spokesperson, Inner City Press wrote:

Subj: Fwd: Questions re North Korea, UNDP suspension, audit, South Korean aid to DPRK, thanks  

To: yslee81 [at] mofat.go.kr

CC: UN Spokespersons

From:  Inner City Press

Date: 3/19/2007 5:04:22 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hello -- These are press questions from media at the United Nations in New York, referred to you by Soung-ah Choi of the Office of the Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon (OSSG).

--How much money was transferred from the Republic of Korea to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea while Ban Ki-moon was Foreign Minister? How much of this was transferred through UN agencies, funds or programs? Which ones?

--What role if any did Ban Ki-moon play while with the Republic of Korea government in South Korean aid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? If any, did any of this aid involve UN funds, programs or agencies? If any, could any of this aid be within the scope of the urgent audits Mr. Ban called for on Jan. 19, as modified Jan. 22?

   I asked the second of these two sets of question two weeks ago to the OSSG (see below) and got referred to the Republic of Korea's mission to the UN, to Ambassador Oh (Joon), with whom I left three messages without reply now two weeks later.

  On Friday, Soung-ah, whom I am cc-ing, told me I should have called the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, and gave me your number. I called it Sunday-Monday and was told you are in Beijing, and was given this e-mail address (Soung-ah, please e-confirm that the address now sent to is the correct one, thanks).

  While I understand you are busy in Beijing, please confirm receipt of this e-mail and provide a response as quickly as possible (on deadline), by referring this to another appropriate person there if necessary.

            While sent before dawn on Monday in New York, there was no response until noon on Tuesday, when Soung-ah Choi sent an email during the UN's noon briefing, "mathew, please come see me."

            Immediately following the noon briefing -- at which Inner City Press asked about the UN and climate change, for Ban Ki-moon's position on the Human Rights Council's special rapporteurs, and whether the UN would be responding to the African Union's request for help in Somalia, video of briefing here -- Inner City Press went up to Soung-ah Choi's office, thinking that now at last the questions would be answered.

            Ms. Choi began by saying that Inner City Press' question were not clear, particularly the formulation "How much money was transferred from the Republic of Korea to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea while Ban Ki-moon was Foreign Minister? How much of this was transferred through UN agencies, funds or programs? Which ones?"

            Referring to South Korea as "we," Ms. Choi said that are "at least twenty different kinds of money to be transferred to North Korea" and that "it has nothing to do with Ban Ki-moon."  She argued that "Ban Ki-moon did not do anything as Ban Ki-moon." She said that no one keeps track of money in the way Inner City Press has requested, and that "no one stays longer than a year," though Mr. Ban "stayed a very long time" as Foreign Minister.

            While stating that the English version of the South Korean Ministry of Unification "sucks" -- click here to verify -- Ms. Choi repeated asked if Inner City Press was using it, trying to self-answer the questions.

  Yes, but it is less than useful. Why don't you send me the link --

            But that means you have not used the site, Ms. Choi said triumphantly.  She again chided Inner City Press' question for not specifying which kind of aid was referred to. 

     All of it, then, broken down by type.

    "You want us to do your work for you. You can go beg the South Korean government if you want," Soung-ah Choi said, then laughed.

            Inner City Press stated that now that two weeks had passed, this process would be reported. On the way out, Inner City Press stopped to make the Spokesperson aware of the difficulties, and then set about composing this interim story. An argument raised is that Mr. Ban is now Secretary-General, and does not want any focus to be on what he did before assuming the post. But this is the nature of politics and of journalist, to have to address possible conflicts of interest due to past activities, holdings and posts.

            Sources since contacted by Inner City Press note that the critique of the Roh administration, under which Mr. Ban served, being advanced by the opposition GNP party includes that too much money was given to North Korea, for too little. They note that in the Kaesong Industrial Park, the same issues as in the "urgent audit" exist, of seconded employees chosen by the Kim Jong Il government, and payment in hard currency directly to that government. Without exception, they advise that the simple question of how much South Korean money was transferred to North Korea while Ban Ki-moon was foreign minister should be answered.

   As a matter of transparency, does Mr. Ban agree? Developing.

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At the UN, Auditors Say They Can't Speak, IAEA Won't Say How It Pays in North Korea

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- The mystery around the delayed "urgent audit" that Ban Ki-moon ordered on January 19 continues to grow, fueled by the UN system's lack of transparency. On Tuesday, the spokesman for the UN Development Program, David Morrison, answered three of Inner City Press' question by saying, you have to wait until the audit is finished, you have to ask the auditors, for example why the beginning of the audit was postponed for week, from March 12 to March 19.

            But on Wednesday, the Executive Secretary of the UN Board of Auditors, Swatantra Goolsarran, wrote to Inner City Press that he cannot answer any questions unless authorized by the Board. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson to ensure that Mr. Goolsarran is told that he can and should speak to the press, on matters within his expertise. This was a phrase Ban Ki-moon used in his first press encounter upon become Secretary General, that he would encourage UN officials to speak to the media in matters within their expertise, said otherwise, not as whistleblowers but to answer factual questions.

            Another factual question sent to a UN-affiliated agency -- Inner City Press' March 12 question to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency as to how they will make payments in North Korea -- was went with a resounding "no comment" on Wednesday.

Mr. Ban and Mr. ElBaradei spoke Feb. 23 - but apparently not about currency, the audit or transparency

On Monday, this was sent to IAEA:

Here at UN Headquarters earlier today, UNDP spokesman David Morrison told us reporters that (1) the IAEA had asked UNDP to arrange to make payments for the IAEA in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but that (2) in light of UNDP's March 1 'suspension of operations' in the DPRK, due to inability to stop using seconded staff and paying in hard currency, UNDP told IAEA to find another UN agency to make payments for it in DPRK. [Mr. Morrison encouraged us to ask IAEA how they were paying.]

Can you confirm that IAEA asked UNDP to make payments for it, and then said to find another UN agency;  Can you state which UN agency was selected to make payments, and in what currency; and Does the IAEA visit to DPRK involve handlers and/or seconded staff?

            On Wednesday, the IAEA's Ayhan Evrensel wrote back:

"Dear Matthew, Sorry to get back to you late. We cannot tell anything about the planning at this moment, and I doubt if we will ever get into such logistical arrangements. You should have received my other mail just a minute before this (about the presser ElBaradei will hold in Beijing); I don't have any other information."

            So in interim recap: citing the need for transparency, Ban Ki-moon called for an urgent audit into UN agencies paying in hard currency in North Korea. However, when the audit gets delayed, no one can explain it. UNDP and the UN's Controller refer the press to the Board of Auditors, whose Executive Secretary says he cannot speak to the media. And another UN agency, IAEA, which was going to use UNDP for payments in North Korea -- and which UNDP while urging the media to ask IAEA who it will use, brags it will no longer serve -- now says it won't disclose the "logics" of how or in what currency it will pay in North Korea. But isn't that lack of transparency one of the ways the problem that Ban Ki-moon says he is trying to address began in the first place?

            The Executive Secretary of the UN Board of Auditors wrote:

Subj: Re: Press question on audit, from today's noon briefing: why was audit pushed back a week, etc, thanks 

Date: 3/14/2007 10:19:03 AM Eastern Standard Time

From: Swatantra Goolsarran

To: Inner City Press

Dear Mr. Lee, This is to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail. I am a United Nations staff member rendering administrative and technical support to the UN Board of Auditors.  As such, unless I am authorized by the Board to do so, I would be unable to provide information to the media on any matter connected with the work of the Board.  Such authorization has not been given to me. I trust that you appreciate my position on the matter.

            While appreciating Mr. Goolsarran's position, since it was Ban Ki-moon who called for the audit and for transparency, Mr. Ban's spokesperson has been asked to find a way that someone can answer questions about this delayed "urgent audit."

            Meanwhile, UNDP has not provided the information Mr. Morrison said in the hallway on Monday he would produce, and has not answered any of the emailed questions posed in follow-up to Tuesday's briefing. Ah, transparency...

 From the (garbled) transcript:

Inner City Press: Thanks for yesterday having Mr. Morrison answer questions with you. On a number of points he said we have to wait for the audit or you have to ask the auditors. So I wanted to know two things. One, when the audit is done, is it going to be made public?

Spokesperson: I assume so. I can only ask. Iíll ask the auditors.

Inner City Press:  I guess since Ban Ki-moon called for it. Thatís why Iím asking. But I understand, maybe youíll answer it. Many people have said ask the auditors various things. So I asked this Mr. (inaudible) who Mr. (inaudible) told me to ask. And heís responded today and said heís not authorized to speak to the press. So Iím wondering, since I kind of hit a dead end. So my question would be either whether can Ban Ki-moon authorize someone to speak to the press? Just on simple questions.

Spokesperson: He wonít speak until the report is done, until they are finished with their investigation.

Question: Which is when?

Spokesperson: I donít know. You have a 90 day (inaudible).

Inner City Press: Mr. Morrison said yesterday that it was postponed for a week, but he wouldnít say why it was postponed. Ask the auditors. So I asked the auditors and they say we are not authorized to speak to the press. But itís a simple question. Itís not asking to pre-judge the audit or anything. I think it only helps the UN to say ďhereís why we postponed it for a week.Ē I donít need to get into commentary. I guess I want to ask you who can speak for the auditors?

Spokesperson: I will ask who has the right to speak on their behalf.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

At UNDP, Audit Delayed and Questions Deflected As Other Scandals Brew

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 13 -- The urgent audit of the UN Development Program called for by Ban Ki-moon on January 19 has been postponed for another week. UNDP spokesman David Morrison on Tuesday took questions on camera, and stated that UNDP has expended $47.5 million in North Korea in the past decade, $10.88 million of which was on behalf of other UN agencies, "the vast majority" being for the UN Population Fund. Asked about the $151 million UN Consolidated Appeal for the country issued in 2004, Morrison said he was not aware of the appeal and would get back to reporters with answers about it. Ten hours later, the answers had been provided to this or several other follow-up questions posed by Inner City Press.

            Morrison largely deflected questions by referring to the now-postponed audit, and saying he can't or won't answer until the audit is completed. Video here, from Minute 30:50 to 35:22. Morrison said, "On questions of site access, currency, computers and inventories... we think we should all wait for the results" of the audit that has yet to begin.

            A March 1 memorandum from Mr. Swatantra Goolsarran of the UN Board of Auditors to Kemal Dervis and the heads of UNFPA, UNOPS and UNICEF said that the audit would begin on March 12. Tuesday Inner City Press asked Morrison to explain the new one-week delay. Morrison said to ask the auditors, then added that it is his understanding that they couldn't get all the auditors in place by March 12. The memorandum states that there are only three auditors: team leader Ms. Odette Anthoo of South Africa, Mr. Dioni Abalos of the Philippines and Ms. Martine Latare of France.

   Tellingly, Morrison had less than a week ago been quoted as to his "understanding was that the agency had never had problems with site visits." Tuesday Inner City Press asked about this quote and Morrison claimed he "did not say they never had problem." But any discussion of the lack of access, according to him, must wait until the completion of a still-not-begun audit.

Work-for-food project in N. Korea, UNDP not shown

            Separately, the World Food Program's New York spokeswoman has explained to Inner City Press why WFP was not included in Mr. Goolsarran's March 1 memo, nor in the Board of Auditor's audit:

Subj: Audit 

Date: 3/13/2007 10:10:36 AM Eastern Standard Time

From: Spokeswoman of WFP

 To: Inner City Press

Dear Matthew, here's more on the audit request:

WFP does not fall under the control of the Board of Auditors (historic reasons dating back to our time as part of FAO whose EB requests external audits).  Our external audits can only be requested by our Executive Board. WFP's Executive Board at its first regular session from 19-21 February, took the following decision:

"Noting the Secretary General's proposal, the Executive Board decided to request the WFP external auditor to carry out a special audit of the WFP operations in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea as a matter of priority and report its findings to the Board. The WFP external auditor might wish to consult and coordinate with the UN Board of Auditors which may be undertaking a special audit of United Nations organizations in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, including the United Nations Funds and Programs that fall within its mandate."

Given this decision, it is now up to the WFP external auditor to set up its audit schedule. Hope this helps.

            It does, including by contract to UNDP. When UNDP's Morrison on Tuesday was asked to explain still not having provided information that he on Monday committed to produce, he again referred to waiting to the audit. Given that on Monday he said, we'll get back to you with that, what changed in the past 24 hours? Nothing, Morrison said. And in the hours after Tuesday's noon briefing, the status quo of non-response was maintained. Two separate controversies that Inner City Press asked about -- video here, from Minute 40:30 to 42:39 -- and on which Inner City Press submitted follow-up email reminders including to Kemal Dervis, Ad Melkert and others, were left entirely unaddressed by UNDP. Watch this site.

            After telling Inner City Press on Monday that he had no idea what UN Resident Representative Timo Pakkala is bringing from Pyongyang to New York on March 17, Tuesday Morrison acknowledged having said that Pakkala is bringing electronic records, "the highest priority documents."

            Within UNDP, there is speculation one of the two UN official with intimate knowledge of the program" quoted in the Chicago Tribune's article which called UNDP an "ATM" for Kim Jong Il may be Timo Pakkala, and that the May 2006 warning referred to by the Tribune was a communication from Pakkala to Kemal Dervis. Others ask, what could Pakkala gain by blowing the whistle?  Morrison on Tuesday referred repeatedly to staffers' "recourse" in UNDP, and to "whistle-blower" protections. But the stakes are high.

   UN and UNDP staff who have due to their employment G4 visas to be in the United States, would be required to leave the U.S. within thirty days of termination.  A simple reform that the U.S. Congress could enact, advance earlier by this publication and to be reported on from Washington DC later this week, would be to amend immigration rules to extend any whistleblower's right to remain in the U.S.. Developing.

On N. Korea, Ban Ki-moon Refers Press to UNDP, Which Refuses to Provide Promised Information

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 -- The UN Development Program on Monday flatly denied a Chicago Tribune story that it has paid envelopes of cash in North Korea, and that it has had an difficulty in visiting projects in the country, including those executed by the Kim Jong Il government.

   Speaking to reporters off-camera after the regularly scheduled (and televised) noon briefing, UNDP spokesman David Morrison complained that when he was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, he was not asked about envelopes of cash nor about the 300 (or 298) phantom computers that ended up in the story. In response to questions from correspondents including Inner City Press, Morrison promised to verify and provide at least five pieces of information. Inner City Press twice verbally asked to be provide with the promised information, and committed the request to an email by 2 p.m. Monday. This request is set forth below. Eight hours later, UNDP had not provided any of the information to Inner City Press.

            During the noon briefing, as transcribed by the UN, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: On the North Korea update you gave and on the audits, Iím definitely glad that we'll speak to Mr. Morrison afterwards.  But this is for you, as the Spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon.  Is the UN-administered staff, Timo Pakkala, the Resident Representative leaving; and, if so, who is going to be Ban Ki-moon's Representative in Pyongyang now that he leaves?  And, also on the audit, we've seen a memo from the Board of Auditors to four agencies -- UNDP, UNOPS, UNFPA and UNICEF... Has there been any response to Ban Ki-moon's 28 February letter?  

Spokesperson:  I think you should direct all those questions to UNDP.  We've already answered as much as we could.

Inner City Press: There are three other agencies.  Thatís why I'm directing it to you.  I don't think he can answer for UNFPA or anybody.

Spokesperson:  Well, the process is continuing.  I told you that the other day.  It's starting with UNDP.  And it's going to continue for other agencies.

Inner City Press: But why is WFP not on the list, but UNICEF is?  Who do we ask that?  Obviously it's not UNDP.

Spokesperson:  I can find out for you from the Board of Auditors how they are going to proceed and what is going to be the next audit.

Inner City Press: Is Timo Pakkala leaving?  Who is the Resident Rep or Resident Coordinator?  Who is going to represent the UN?

Spokesperson:  This is a question to be answered by UNDP.

            UNDP's David Morrison did not answer who the next UN Resident Representative in North Korea will be. In fact, Mr. Morrison claimed not to know the name of the Deputy Resident Representative being left behind -- that would be Vineet Bhatia -- and, of the country officer whom Mr. Morrison said has been visiting North Korea four times a year, Morrison claimed not to know his last name, only his first: Napoleon (that would be Napoleon Navarro).

David Morrison: once upon a time

            One correspondent asked Morrison if he is in any position to authoritatively deny the Chicago Tribune's report. Morrison said that he is. Inner City Press asked if UNDP administered and handled the $10 million that the World Health Organization had responded that it received from South Korea for North Korea.

  "I don't know about WHO," Morrison answered. "I do know that there is no earmarked South Korean money that has gone to UNDP going back, I believe, ten years. There is no trust fund for North Korea that UNDP has been involved in." We'll see. Even in UNDP's most recently public audit, there is for example a "UNDP / Republic of Korea Trust Fund."  That is only one example.

            Morrison was asked, repeatedly, to provide a total figure of money UNDP has expended in North Korea, on its own behalf and for other UN agencies. He was asked, "Can we get the figure?" He answered, "Sure." Inner City Press asked Kemal Dervis for this figure on February 1, 2007, and never got it. Ad Melkert was asked for the figure in mid-February, and still not. On March 12, UNDP spokesman David Morrison promised the figure, and nine hours later had not provide it, nor any explanation.

            Morrison did say that the DPRK has not responded to UNDP's March 1 letter announcing the suspension of operations, and that UNDP has told the International Atomic Energy Agency to find another UN agency to make its payments in North Korea for now.  Morrison was asked if UNDP has any system to make sure its payments for other agency actually go for the stated purpose. Morrison said he would check and get back. Nine hours later, no answer had been provided. Morrison said he does not know how long UNDP's lease in North Korea runs for.

            While he is quoted in the Chicago Tribune that Timo Pakkala is bringing documents from Pyongyang to New York in electronic form, when Inner City Press on Monday asked him what documents Mr. Pakkala is bring, Morrison said, "I don't know."

            Unrelated to North Korea -- and Inner City Press has many such questions, but it seems pointless to ask them, when even promised information about North Korea is not provided -- Morrison was asked to describe UNDP's programs in Zimbabwe, and if they will be modified in light of last weekend's crackdown on all opposition by Robert Mugabe, and Ban Ki-moon's condemnation of the crackdown. Morrison answered to the first question, about current programs, "I can look into it." As to the second question, to which Inner City Press added the specific question if UNDP will  continue to push for a Mugage-sponsored human rights commission, Morrison said, "I don't know." But we've heard that before...

            Here are questions Inner City Press reiterated in writing to two UNDP spokespeople at 2 p.m. on Monday:

Subject: Re: DPR Korea - follow-up to "scrum," the various items, thanks in advance

From: Inner City Press
To: david.morrison [at] undp.org>, christina.lonigro [at] undp.org
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 14:00:13

Hello --

   Following up after the post-noon briefing hallways scrum, I want to be sure to get the various things you said you'd look into and get back with:

--the overall figure / dollar volume that UNDP expended in / for North Korea, including on behalf of other UN agencies;

--whether in payments of other agencies, there has been anything other than purchase and bill accordingly;

--if UNDP has in place any system to check on the use of funds paid for others, any (by analogy) Know Your Customer system such as banks have;

--information on visits by UNDP headquarters staff to North Korea.

Also, would like to know when the Pyongyang lease expires, how much it costs and how and to whom it is paid. And please do keep informed regarding the new Resident Representative.

  There are other, non-North Korea questions, and even North Korea but non-scrum questions, but not in this email.

            There were and are even some "non-scrum" and non-North Korea questions. But none of the above had been answered by 10 p.m. Monday, eight hours after the questions were posed in writing. Developing.

UN Women's Week Ends As Ban Ki-moon Dodges Mercenary Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- At the end of a week on the status of women, Ban Ki-moon spoke Monday morning before a group of Ambassador's wives. "I'll always stand behind you, not in front of you," he said. Then he added from the podium in the UN's Conference Room 1, "But when I have to speak out, I'll always speak in front of you."

  The members of the Ambassadors' wives club, called the Women's International Forum, laughed politely. The response stalled and then stopped as Ban shifted the topic to management reform. He noted again he's made public his financial statement, and said "I hope my senior managers will follow my lead." This is one reform not dependent on any committee. Ban could have conditioned his nominations on disclosures of finance. Instead, Messrs. Holmes and Pascoe are in without disclosing, and Ms. Barcena has said she'd like to disclosure, but only if other do.

            Ban spoke of Somalia and Darfur, a topic on which he received a 14-page letter in Arabic from Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Ban said he may speak with Bashir on Saturday. In the hallway afterwards, accompanied by his spokeswoman Soung-ah Choi, Mr. Ban did not stop to take questions. Nor, as reflected by the noon briefing's transcript, does the South Korean mission answer questions referred to it:

Inner City Press: Earlier this week, I tried to ask your office for a number of when Mr. Ban was the Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister for South Korea, how much aid came through that department, through the UN agencies, to North Korea, I was referred to the South Korean Mission and I have received no answer from them. So, I'm...

Spokesperson: That is a question that should be addressed to the South Korean Government.

Question: I guess I'm saying, the reason I'm asking is not that there's any, just as a journalistic matter, it seems like if he's ordering the audit and some of the things that will be found in the audit, not to say that thereís anything wrong with it, will be in fact, funding that he signed off on... it seems to me like a legitimate question. Or maybe your office can help get an answer.  What I was told from the South Korean Mission is that the Ambassador who works on that is now back in Korea and we don't know when he's coming back. Mr. (inaudible) [Amb. Oh Joon] the one I was referred to...

Spokesperson: I'm sure the South Korean Government has a spokesperson that you could probably address those questions to.

            The spin machine is operating on overdrive: first the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General declined to answer the question, and referred it to a South Korean Ambassador who has refused to respond. Then, when this is raised at the noon briefing, it is not included in the UN's self-serving "Highlights" of the briefing, click here to view. But the questions will not go away.

Mr. Ban, in front of skepticism

            Also dodged was a question about the use of mercenaries in Somalia:

Inner City Press: ...these reports that the US in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia has hired, I donít know if you call them mercenaries, or private military contractors... I heard Mr. Ban earlier today say that he anticipates that becoming a UN force in Somalia. Does the UN have any view, of in these peacekeeping missions, whether it's in this case AU, or later UN, the use of paid, private military firms like (inaudible), in peacekeeping?

Spokesperson: Well, it is an issue that I know has come up in the past. As for the UNís operation in Somalia, as you know, I think we are still at a point where a lot of work will have to go into whether the UN is going to be involved there or not. So, there's a lot more discussion on that to be held. But no, we do not have a direct comment on your question involving the AU.

            Meanwhile, after too few question were asked at a morning press conference marking the end of the two week long Commission on the Status of Women meeting, a second briefing was arranged, in which Carolyn Hannan explained the four pending resolutions, on female genital mutilation (sponsored by South Africa), forced marriage (sponsored by the United States), HIV / AIDS (sponsored by South Africa, to the surprise of some, at least readers of the recent issues of the New Yorker magazine) and on woman in Palestine. Inner City Press asked about this last -- would it, as happens so often at the UN, lead to blocking votes?

            "Yes, that happens every year," Ms. Hannan answered.  Which lead another correspondent to ask, why do you introduce the same resolutions year after year?

            It's a point of principle for some countries," Ms. Hannan said. The correspondent shook his -- yes, his -- head. Inner City Press asked about an idea that has been floated, for the World Bank and IMF to condition financing on the respect of women's rights. Ms. Hannan said that next year's meeting will be on the question of funding, and added that this type of conditionality has long been debated, but is current disfavored, as hurting the people that conditions seek to help. Is this similar to sanctions? Seems like it. We will have more on all this.

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

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