Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07 7/19/07 6/29/07 6/14/7 6/1/7

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

At UN, Lessons Not Learned in Chad Kidnapping Case, Refugee Agency on Nepal But Not India

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 --  What did the UN learn from having been found to have assisted Zoe's Ark, the French NGO accused of kidnapping children in Chad and trying to "traffic" them to Europe? The UN's refugee agency, briefing reporters on Tuesday primarily about Iraq, said it has learned to be more careful, to check for example if groups have more than one name (and more than one mission). Inner City Press asked Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of UNHCR what had been learned, after having put the same question to UNICEF as well. Officials of both agencies have publicly acknowledged having provided assistance to Zoe's Ark. Ms. Feller began with the statement that UNHCR did "not have any contact with Zoe's Ark," but rather with another medical NGO, "Rescue Children, or Children's Rescue... for us a reputable organization." She said UNHCR "never made an association" between the two groups until "it came out into the open."

Under arrest in Chad, lessons not shown

            UNICEF, on the other hand, has chided its staffer who assisted Zoe's Ark, saying that she erred in not checking a database of organizations registered with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. In a statement provided to Inner City Press in response to its questions, UNICEF stated that

"the French Government has indicated that Children Rescue was the name under which Arche de Zoe was operating in Chad. UNICEF procedures were not followed in the provision of this material. Senior staff in Chad were not informed and no formal or informal agreement existed between Children Rescue (or Arche de Zoe) and UNICEF."

            From Ms. Feller's response, one assume that UNHCR had an agreement with Children Rescue. It would have been good to nail this and future safeguards down, but the way the press conference was organized did not allow for follow-up questions, even on answers that left questions entirely unanswered. Inner City Press asked about reports of India's protest of what it calls UNHCR's and OCHA's false visa applications in order to meet Nepali rebels inside India. (UNMIN's Ian Martin has said it wasn't him, but rather UNHCR and OCHA). Ms. Feller answered about another situation in Nepal, that of Bhutanese refugees. She said that her understanding of the allegations in that case is that the leadership in the refugee camps are in touch with rebels.  "Our relationship is with the Bhutanese refugees," she said, echoing the Children Rescue - Zoe's Ark distinction. Video here, from Minute 53.

            UNHCR's work is much needed, and as Ms. Feller said, often under-funded. She mentioned Yemen, one of the countries to which Somali refugees flee. But from Mogadishu alone in the past two weeks, 170,000 people have fled. UNHCR's Ron Redmond has said that "soldiers" have stopped aid trucks and demanded $300 for passage. But it is important for the UN and UNHCR to specify: whose soldiers? Ethiopian? Or of the UN-supported Transitional Federal Government? To be continued.

* * *

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

  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.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Search WWW Search

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

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540