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UN Peacekeeping Budget $7.3B, UN Withholds Docs, ICP's Told of $7.1B African Troika Deal

By Matthew Russell Lee, UNSC photo here

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- While US Ambassador Nikki Haley was taking questions on the topic down in Washington, a UN budget committee expert on June 28 approached Inner City Press with news. The UN Peacekeeping budget is being cut by $600 million. More than five hours after Inner City Press published the news, Haley confirmed it, see below. So on June 29, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric for comment - but got none. And on June 30, even after the UN General Assembly voted, the budget documents on $7.3 billion were not available. Photo here. Nothing was heard from holdover spokesman Dujarric even as his office prepared to stop even taking questions for five day. But an African Permanent Representative described to Inner City Press how they, an African Troika, had wanted $7.4 billion and "the US then wanted only $7.1 billion and after a meeting with the African Troika the $7.3 billion was agreed." The African diplomat took issues with a claim he'd seen online that it was all about the European Union; surprise was also expressed at the slow pace of reform, and lack of opening up, under new SG Guterres. From the UN's June 29 transcript: Inner City Press: on the peacekeeping budget and the reduction from 7.9 to $7.3 billion, what are the next steps for DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]? Do you have any comment generally on it?

Spokesman:  Well, I… first of all, my understanding is that the budget will not be officially approved until this afternoon, voted on this afternoon.  So we will react more officially at that point.  Obviously, it is the right and responsibility of the legislative bodies of this Organization to set the budget.  Once we see what actually has been voted on, we will take the appropriate measures to follow up and ensure that our mandates are fulfilled with the resources that are given to us.

Inner City Press:  Can we get DPKO to come and do some kind of briefing on this?

Spokesman:  I said I will… We will have some sort of reaction afterwards.

  The Budget committee voted that afternoon, but still nothing from Dujarric, who threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room and UN, and restricts it still. Haley on June 28 said: "We have an obligation to the American people to show value in the use of their taxpayer dollars. Just five months into our time here, we’ve already been able to cut over half a billion dollars from the UN peacekeeping budget and we’re only getting started." The DR Congo mission MONUSCO is next. What of the smaller but calling out for cuts UN Department of Public Information, which has used its resources to engage in censorship of the investigative Press, including on June 28 requiring a minder for Inner City Press to cover a General Assembly meeting? What about WIPO and its retaliation? Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman; watch this site. Back on May 15 with the mandate of the UN mission in Abyei set to expire, the US as penholder proposed cutting a part of the mission that has not been functions, the support of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM). But Ethiopia, the lone troop contributor to the mission, and others pushed back. On the evening on May 15 a revised draft was approved - Inner City Press put it online here - which extended the mandate, while setting condition(s), something of a six-month deadline. But that could, of course, change. See here. Back on May 12 while the Council met behind closed door, Inner City Press the lone media at the stakeout - also the only one evicted and still restricted by the UN - broadcast, here. Afterward a Sudanese diplomat emerged and told Inner City Press of a possible compromised; he waved off the UNTV boom mic, a new entrant through an opaque process. Finally Uruguay's Elbio Rosselli, president of the Council, emerged and said negotiations continued. Inner City Press asked him if instead of cuts there might be "benchmarks;" there seemed to be recognition. Video here.  Then at the May 12 noon briefing Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you, the Council had been set today to vote on UNISFA (United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei) and now it’s… the negotiation seems like there is a disagreement with the Secretary-General's report on support provided by the mission to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.  So, some people are saying that it's a totally non-func… it doesn't work.  No work is being done.  And so that the 500 troops are essentially a waste.  I wanted to know, other than just say it should continue to be paid for, can you articulate from this podium or sometime during this what is the rationale for continuing, without changes, the support?

Spokesman:  I think the mission provides critical work in an area that has been a flashpoint of conflict in the past.  Obviously, the mission, as every other peacekeeping mission, operates under the mandate of the Security Council.  And we’ll obviously wait to see what Security Council members have to say and what the resolution looks like and will implement the resolution, as directed by the Security Council.

Inner City Press:  Right.  The question is not about the mission as a whole, it's specifically about this JBVMM (Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism).  Is it the Secretary-General's position that this thing is actually functional, that there is something to be supported?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General's position has been articulated through his reports to the Council and briefings.  As it's under very close discussion by Council members now, I'm not going to add to what I've already said.

  That's not much of a defense of this spending, or failure. But will the showdown be avoided and the money continue flowing unchanged? Watch this site. After the UN Security Council had closed door consultations on Guinea Bissau and Lebanon on May 11, the office of UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric announced that Council president Elbio Rosselli would speak at the UNTV stakeout. But other than Inner City Press, which Dujarric evicted and still restricts, no other media came. Still Rosselli to his credit agreed to do Q&A. Inner City Press asked him if the withdrawal from Guinea Bissau of ECOMIS was discussed - it was - and for how long Jeffrey Feltman will fill in on Resolution 1559 on Lebanon (it's unclear). Then Inner City Press asked Rosselli of something he'd said two days before, that there might be more than a Press Statement on North Korea's most recent missile launch. Rosselli replied that work continues, then he left. Still, he took questions and responded to them - better than many in the UN Secretariat. On May 9 after members of the UN Security Council met with Kofi Annan and fellow Elders Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mary Robinson on May 9, Inner City Press asked the Council's President for May Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay if Myanmar, on which Annan and The Elders have worked, came up. No, he said, the focus had been on impasses in the Council on Syria, South Sudan, the conflicts springing from climate change. The latter topic he said had been raised by Annan and Robinson, in the closed door meeting at the International Peace Institute across from the UN (Uruguay's mission arranged for an elevator foyer stakeout, which was appreciated.) Earlier on May 9 Inner City Press asked Gro Harlem Brundtland and Lakhdar Brahimi about the Rohingya and whether Aung San Suu Kyi was or is on the path to becoming an Elder. Gro Harlem Brundtland said Suu Kyi was a form of Elder while imprisoned, but cannot be while involved in politics. And after she retires? If the Rohingya are still treated this way? Brahimi cited Annon's report forthcoming in October.We'll see. Back on May 1 when he took on the Presidency of the UN Security Council for the month, Ambassador Rosselli on May 1 took questions from the media about the month's Program of Work. Inner City Press asked him about new envoys for Burundi (Michel Kafando) and Western Sahara (Horst Kohler, apparently Inner City Press' 227th question on Western Sahara according to Morocco's count), and about the May 30 meeting on Yemen. Video here. Rosselli said the envoys are up to the Secretary General and spoke about Morocco's ouster, now reversed, of the MINURSO mission. On Yemen he said the meeting is at the end of the month because it is hard to move these around, it's like Tetris. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access Inner City Press asked Rosselli after the month's eight closed door consultations to hold on-camera stakeouts on UNTV. We note that Frente Polisario's April 28 stakeout, unlike that of Morocco's Omar Hilale, is still as of this writing on May 1 not on the UNTV website. We'll have more on this.

  Back at the beginning of March, then-incoming UNSC President Matthew Rycroft of the UK answered Inner City Press on Burundi by referring to France as the penholder. On Yemen -- on which the UK holds the pen -- he said sometimes there is a benefit to a closed door discussion. Fine: but what's the problem with an open briefing, then closed consultations? The Free UN Coalition for Access will continue to pursue this.

  On Yemen Inner City Press also asked if the UK's findings as it looks into more than 250 incidents of the Saudi led coalition will be shared with the Security Council. It remains unclear.

 At the end, Inner City Press asked Rycroft if Nick Kay is still a candidate to be UN Envoy to Libya. Rycroft said the UK supports current envoy Martin Kobler but if he is to be changed, it should be fast, there is momentum.

  Rycroft said that civil society will be invited to participate in the month's wrap up session, a first. Boris Johnson will chair the March 23 meeting on South Sudan, and something on Somalia later that day. We'll have more on this.


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