Master Plan Smokes Out Wonder, Adlerstein's Smoke Screen on
Asbestos and Accounting
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 3 -- The lower floors of UN headquarters were
emptied out on Thursday, not by the Capital Master Plan but rather a
fire alarm set off by CMP construction in the second sub-basement.
Even CNN peppered the UN with questions about the fire alarm, because
musician Stevie Wonder was in the building at the time.
and the rest
of the UN press corp is slated to move on December 11 from office on
the third and fourth floor of the main UN building to "swing
space" on the second floor of the library. For most publication,
there will not be floor to ceiling walls, leading to the space being
called the "no whistleblower zone."
broadcasters tell Inner City Press they've been told there "is
no right to return." After the swing space, the media will be
put in the second sub-basement. Perhaps with an Panopticon, added one
wag, repeating the CMP's new nickname: Can't Manage Planning.
campus entirely, and employment in service of the UN, are many
contractors. The cafeteria's head chef John Gabor has been told he is
no longer needed. Other Aramark food workers are circulating a
petition, and wondering out loud about the firing of those in long
time service at the UN (albeit not BY the UN).
Adlerstein fielded and dodged five questions from Inner City Press
earlier in the week, on the UN general contractor Skanska's recent
settlement of an asbestos case that Adlerstein had said had no merit,
and on irregularities in the CMP's accounting practices criticized by
the UN board of auditors.
Adlerstein said the Skanska thought it was good business to settle.
But the UN Staff Union has now voted to hire an air quality tester.
Of the accounting practices, which some have analogized to Enron,
Adlerstein said that the shifting of money to cover "contingencies"
will now cease, as recommended by the Board of Auditors.
asked about the new rugs and office equipment going in on UN upper
floors as they are vacated. Inner City Press has previously
photographed such incongruous move ins on the twenty third and 13th
floors, among others. Adlerstein referred to "touchdown"
space, apparently meaning for high UN officials to rest in before
walking back to Madison Avenue, or to avoid such a trip.
UN mine mannequin heads to swing space, right to
return not shown
asked about the criticism by the UN's Advisory Committee on
Administrative and Budgetary Questions, that it had been decided too
late to keep the Security Council in the building, in Conference Room
4. Adlerstein responded that the Department of Safety and Security
advised this, in light of attacks on the UN.
that the Security Council is more important than the Secretary
General, who is going out to the North Lawn building? Adlerstein
paused and then said that to cluster the Council and S-G and General
Assembly in one place would make it more of a target. But why not
then keep the S-G inside the building?
asked about concerns that the UN is spending $90 million on a
building on the North Lawn that it will simply tear down. Adlerstein
maintained that it would be torn down. We'll see.
* * *
UN, Obama's Disability Policies Questioned, Stevie Wonder on Bowling
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 3 -- Flanked by Stevie Wonder, U.S. Ambassador to
the UN Susan Rice held a press conference on Thursday about
disability rights. Inner City Press asked about criticism of the
policy of the Obama Administration, particularly its Justice
Department, in favor of institutionalization of the disabled rather
than their right to live in the community. Article 19 of the UN
Convention on the topic, Inner City Press pointed out, guarantees the
right to community living.
responded that with the U.S. now moving to ratify the UN Convention,
the Administration is reviewing it to "see how it dovetails with
domestic law and policy [and that] we are in compliance with its
provisions and purpose." Video here, from Minute 22:15.
should begin, at home. The U.S. Supreme Court in its 1999 decision in Tommy
Olmstead v Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson ruled
unnecessarily segregating an individual into an institution when
community support exists is a violation of the American with
Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II.
regulations covering Title II of
the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, and its implementing regulations at 28
C.F.R. § 35.130(d) contain what is called “the integration
mandate,” requiring states to provide community-based services for
persons with disabilities who are otherwise entitled to institutional
document, the current Department of Justice's settlements under the
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) show a failure
by DOJ to work to move people into the community. For more, click here.
UN's Ban, U.S.'s Rice, and Stevie Wonder: community
living not shown
after Ambassador Rice, said that while he "respects
mainstreaming," he went to a state Mission School for the Blind,
where with other blind people he learned what he had to deal with,
and about track and even bowling. He demonstrated and to some degree
promoted his i-Phone, and will appear this Sunday on CNN's program
meanwhile, had appeared this week on shows ranging from "Shep"
on Fox News to Rachel Maddow, who asked why the U.S. is not more
focused on Somalia. Click here
for Inner City Press' story at and on
Thursday's Somalia proceedings in the Security Council.
* * *
Darfur, Gambari To Be "Vigilant," U.S. Belatedly Says,
No Comment on Blackmail or Myanmar
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 2 -- Two days after Inner City Press exclusively
reported it, on Wednesday morning a Security Council member
that a letter nominating Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria as the UN's and
African Union's Special Representative to Darfur has gone to Council
asked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, for the
second time, about Mr.
Garbari for Darfur, given that the U.S. criticized his predecessor
Rodolphe Adada for being too soft on Khartoum. Ambassador Rice said
Gambari should play an "active and vigilant role... to halt
attacks on civilians." Video here,
from Minute 11:41.
his time as
UN envoy on Myanmar, Gambari was criticized by human rights groups
for being too close to the military government of Than Shwe.
Gambari's response, privately and then publicly, was that if the
"Western powers" didn't give him benefits to offer to
Myanmar, he could accomplish little because the country has natural
gas and oil which China and India want.
also has oil which China wants and is obtaining. So what benefits,
what "carrots instead of sticks," will the U.S. through
Ambassador Rice allow Gambari to offer?
the UN's noon
briefing, the day after Inner City Press had asked acting
Spokesperson Marie Okabe about Gambari, she read a statement about
asked her to respond to the statements, including by an African
Ambassador who withheld his name from consideration for the post,
that Nigeria "blackmailed" Ban Ki-moon by threatening to
pull its troops from Darfur if a Nigerian didn't get the post.
to respond, saying it is now with the Security Council. Inner City
Press asked U.S. Ambassador Rice about the Nigerians threat to pull
out of Darfur. Video here,
from Minute 13:23.
comment on that," Ambassador Rice said as she
walked away from the stakeout microphone. Why not? Some say Nigeria was
miffed at the Obama administration for visiting Ghana rather than
Lagos. We'll see.
Susan Rice as President, Darfur process and
Myanmar successor not shown
Rice also declined to provide the U.S. position on what should be
done with with the UN good office post on Myanmar that Gambari has
"I'll let the
UN address that question as to what
his relationship with MYanmar will continue to be, if any," she
said. Inner City Press was told by an involved Ambassador that the UK
-- and the U.S.? -- wanted Gambari out of that post for being too
soft on Than Shwe. Is Darfur less important? Has it become just a
the U.S. Mission's transcript, video here
from Minute 7:27 -
City Press: On Darfur? I wanted to ask you, it’s known that…
Hold on, can we continue on Afghanistan?
from Minute 11:41 --
City Press: I want to ask you on Darfur, it’s… it’s thought or
known that the US had concerns about Rodolphe Adada when he was SRSG
of the UN for UNAMID. Now that Mr. Gambari’s been nominated in a
letter sent to the Council does the US, you know… do they… do you
feel that his approach will be different than that of Adada what do
think he should do as SRSG and relatedly what’s going to happen
with Myanmar for the UN? Is he going to cover both?
Rice: I’ll let the UN address that question as to what his
relationship to Myanmar will continue to be, if any. We have
significant appreciation and respect for Ambassador Gambari and we
look forward to working with him as he takes over the role of SRSG
for Darfur. We think it’s vitally important that UNAMID come up to
full strength; that the impediments to its movement and access are
immediately eliminated; and that the SRSG play a very active and
vigilant role in ensuring that both sides adhere to their obligations
to halt attacks on civilians, to adhere, we hope, to a lasting
cessation of hostilities. There is great work to be done as we
discussed the other day in the Council on the political front, but
there’s a vital need to ensure that UNAMID, whose mandate it is to
protect civilians, is fully able to accomplish that and that’s what
we will look to Ambassador Gambari as SRSG to accomplish.
question about Nigeria's reported blackmail to get the post for
Gambari is not included in the U.S. Mission's transcript.
* * *
Post to Gambari Confirmed, US's Kurt Campbell and UK's Burma Shave
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 1 -- That the UN is
giving its top Darfur post to
Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari was an open secret Tuesday night at the
although so far only Inner City Press has reported it, repeatedly,
four times in the last 36 hours. A top UN peacekeeping official told
Inner City Press that Nigeria made a strong play for the post, citing
its high number of peacekeepers in Darfur.
Ambassador told Inner City Press that the cynical explanation is that
the United Kingdom wants someone more strident to be the envoy to
Myanmar, Gambari's current job, and so agreed to move him to Darfur.
But why did the U.S. go along?
approached Gambari himself, for the second time in 12 hours, at
Thailand's national day reception on Tuesday night. "No
comment," Gambari began, laughing. He said he had met in
Washington with the the State Department's Kurt Campbell. As before, he
his strategy of engagement with the Than Shwe military government in
Myanmar is now being adopted by the U.S. -- why not in Darfur? Scott
Gration may be only the beginning.
UN's Ban and Garbari, Western views on Myanmar and
Darfur not shown
official of the
UN's half moribund Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, a post
Gambari used to fill, confirmed that Gambari is going to Darfur. A
person already offered a job in Darfur by Gambari said the Nigeria's
new president likes Gambari. As reported, even UN Peacekeeping
acknowledges that Nigeria used its peacekeeping presence in Darfur to
win the post.
reception, Lynn Pascoe he UN's head of Political Affairs, another job
Gambari previously held, exchanged pleasantries with Gambari and then
left. Then Gambari left. "Darfur here I come," someone
said, still wondering why he took the job. But take it he did -- you
heard it here first. Watch this site.
* * *
Darfur Jobs, UN's Gambari Returns from DC, Link to UNDP Post?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, December 1 -- In the lobby of UN headquarters on Tuesday
morning, the UN's
envoy - designate to Darfur Ibrahim Gambari told
Inner City Press, "I was in Washington yesterday." Over the
weekend, Gambari began asking certain UN staff to work for him in
focused advocacy groups have contacted Inner City Press responding to
reporting and expressing
concern about Mr. Gambari, pointing to his recent "good offices"
role with military government of Myanmar, and previous service of the
Sani Abacha military government in his native Nigeria.
November 30 Washington trip, they now ask, confirm
that these concerns are not shared
by the Obama administration?
official approached Inner City Press on Tuesday and criticized
Gambari's "unprincipled" actions regarding Myanmar. "He
goes to China and Russia and says, 'you have to help me with these
self righteous Westerners,'" the official said. "Then he
goes to the U.S. and says, 'China and Russia don't to do anything.'
Finally he tells Than Shwe, 'I can help you improve your image, I did
it in Nigeria.'"
recounting is not inconsistent with how
Gambari himself has described his role.
something of a
new low for the UN, Acting Spokesperson for the Secretary General
Marie Okabe at Tuesday's noon briefing dodged Inner City Press'
request that she confirm that the Secretariat has already offered the
post to Gambari.
said that a joint letter with the African
Union will go to the Security Council. Video here, from Minute 10:54.
that this procedural explanation answered Inner City Press' question.
But the request for for confirmation that the Secretariat has offered
the post to Gambari. On Monday, three senior UN officials told Inner
City Press this, with one of them adding only that "it's not
General himself, when Inner City Press told him the Gambari to Darfur
story had already been published, asked "how did you know?"
For his acting spokesperson, the next day, to decline to confirm the
offer falls short of the transparency -- even, of the competence --
that has been promised.
UN's Gambari and Myanmar's generals, Khartoum not
Okabe on Tuesday quoted from a Ban Ki-moon speech that he will
shortly appoint a woman as Associate Administrator of the UN
Development Program. Video here,
from Minute 5:35.
African Group, as exclusively
reported by Inner City Press, has protested
to Ban against his projected
appointment of Rebecca Grynspan of Costa Rica to the post,
now the gender of the winner appears to reject the African protest.
asked for confirmation that the appointee is Rebecca Grynspan, and
Ms. Okabe said no name is being announced. But doesn't announcing the
gender imply that the decision is made? "I only know what he
said in his statement," Ms. Okabe said. Isn't a spokesperson
supposed to know, or at least be able to find out, more than that?
the top nomination have cynically, or demographically, become linked.
The Ban Administration will be "humiliating" the African
Group, as one Ambassador put it, by denying them the UNDP post they
believe was promised to them when Helen Clark of New Zealand took the
top spot and Ad Melkert left.
But the Ban
Administration will point,
as a sop to Africa, to the appointment of Gambari to the Darfur job,
a post that was certainly going to go to an African anyway. "Or
they'll wait on Grynspan, to combine it with some other
announcement," a UN official told Inner City Press. Watch this
* * *
Supports UN's Offer of Darfur Post to Gambari Despite NGOs'
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 30 -- On making the new UN envoy to Darfur the
Nigerian Ibrahim Gambari, previously UN envoy to Myanmar, it appears
the fix is in. Even the U.S., said to have wanted a more strident
human rights voice for the post, has reportedly gone along.
Ambassador Susan Rice, asked Monday about Gambari to Darfur, said "we
support the Secretary General."
City Press' exclusive
report earlier on Monday that Gambari had been
offered the post by the UN and African Union, Inner City Press
received confirmation that Gambari has already been requesting
commitments to come serve with him in Dar fur.
Ban Ki-moon, as he greeted Inner City Press, was told that iot had
already published the Gambari to Darfur story. His reaction was,
"How did you know?"
peacekeeping official said that the offer had been made - and Gambari
has already started hiring -- but it "remains to be signed."
Council is required to sign off on the appointment. Because the U.S.,
France and UK had opposed Rodolphe Adada's "soft" line on
Khartoum in a closed door lunch with Ban Ki-moon, many including
U.S.-based NGOs had assumed the U.S. would use its leverage at the UN
to get a a stronger voice, less "aligned with dictators" as
one NGO put it, to head the Darfur mission.
Susan Rice and team at stakeout, Gambari to Darfur
sought to ask questions of Susan Rice at her too rare stakeout session
Monday, but was not given the microphone by her spokesman. Later,
Inner City Press posed to the spokesman four questions in writing,
including a request to comment on Gambari to Darfur. By 7 p.m. no
comment had been received.
asked Susan Rice for her and the U.S. Mission's view of Gambari to
Darfur. "We support the Secretary General," she said. Since
his Office has confirmed the job offer to Gambari, this means that
Ms. Rice and the U.S. support Gambari, despite reservations being
expressed by the Darfur focused NGOs which supported Barrack Obama.
Watch this space.
* * *
"Blackmail" Captures UN's Darfur Post for Gambari, Spurned Candidate
Tells Inner City Press
Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive
NATIONS, November 30 -- The joint UN - African Union envoy post to
Darfur has been the subject of "blackmail by the Nigerians,"
a well placed African Ambassador exclusively told Inner City Press on
Monday morning, explaining the UN's offer of the post to Nigerian
He said that "once the Nigerian threatened to pull their
troops out of Darfur unless they get [Rodolphe] Adada's post,"
he and other candidates withdrew themselves from consideration "to
avoid putting the Secretary General in an awkward position."
threatened to pull its troops if it was not given the force commander
post in UNAMID, vacated by Nigerian Martin Luther Agwai.
said, "the Nigerians have given Ban Ki-moon a list of their
nationals for consideration for the post." He added that while
he understands that Ban will "give in" and name a Nigeria,
it will not be one on the list provided by the country.
months ago on June 19 by Inner City Press, of Ibrahim
Gambari getting the post, the Ambassador nodded and said, "but
it is not yet very open."
Inner City Press got confirmation of the post going to Gambari from a
senior Ban administration adviser on the 38th floor, as well as
individuals who have received confirmation from Mr. Gambari himself. He
was getting shouldered out of his Development Fund for Iraq duties by
Ad Melkert. He was known to be frustrated by Ban's political chief Lynn
Pascoe not letting him work on any African issues. But who will take
over for the UN in Myanmar? Watch this site.
One wonders what the U.S., France and UK,
which criticized Rodolphe Adada's "too soft" stance to Ban Ki-moon,
think of this process to replace Adada.
At a closed door lunch
between the Security Council and Ban, the three Western Permanent
member lambasted Adada's assessment of Darfur. Inner City Press has
been told, by an attendee of the lunch, that rather than say he'd look
into it -- or, as he has with Kai Eide in Afghanistan, that he fully
supports "all" of his SRSGs, Ban said he agreed with the criticism and
would talk to Adada. Then Adada was not renewed.
recently, Ban's outgoing spokesperson has insisted that UN position
like the contested
number two post in the UN Development Program are given out on
merit, not continent much less nationality. The process to replace
Adada, as described by a withdrawn applicant, is at odds with this
UN peacekeepers in Darfur's Zam Zam camp, UN
politics not shown
Security Council's consultations about Darfur on November 30, Inner
City Press asked outgoing Council president Thomas Mayr-Harting of
Austria what the Council made of report that Sudan's Al Bashir
government wants the UN to prepare to pull its peacekeepers out.
Mayr-Harting said, that did not come up. Again.
Mayr-Harting also said, in his final stakeout as Council President,
that the Council would defer until its extension of the mandate UN
Mission in the Congo the damning conclusions of the Congo Panel of
Experts, including that the Mission, run by Alan Doss, is assisting
and enabling former CNDP units which are now Congolese Army units and
are involved in mining, including of gold.
Susan Rice, in a rare but still overly
controlled stakeout Q &A before Mayr Harting's, spoke of the
DRC sanctions, alluding to Sixty
Minutes' November 29 piece on the topic, as well as Somalia. Inner
City Press has submitted written questions on these and another topic
to the U.S. Mission, which says it will respond when possible. Watch
* * *
Congo's Gold Hits 60 Minutes, UN Is Let Off Hook, Wal-Mart's 10%
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 29 -- The Congo's conflict gold was the
subject of a fifteen minute feature tonight on the American television
program Sixty Minutes. A former rebel said he used collected gold to
buy weapons and ammunition from the Congolese army. A woman said she
was raped by men in Army uniforms.
accepted UN escort and showed a UN camp, but neglected to mention
that the UN now provides logistical support to the Congolese army,
which beyond weapon sales and rape has been documented for the mass
murder of civilians, by the UN's own special rapporteur and experts.
But the UN's
top envoy to the Congo Alan Doss has
told Inner City Press there is not
enough evidence, and has yet to act on Special Rapporteur Philip
Alston's report detailing mass rape by Congo's Army. (Click here for
coverage of Congo trip by Inner City Press.)
least mention this perversion of the UN's peacekeeping mandate, Sixty
Minute showed a UN camp to which 13,000 internally displaced people
fled. Bags of flour and beans and cooking oil were distributed on the
day of filming, for the first time in five months.
Minutes nor the two non governmental organizations which appeared on
screen, HRW and the Enough Project, explained the starvation
just outside a UN camp.
UN's Ban and Doss in Congo, continuing support of
rogue Army units not shown
The point of
the show was that just as conflict diamonds were focused on seven
years ago, conflict gold now cries out for action.
without explanation that the UN tries to stem the flow of conflict
gold. But if the UN is supporting Army units which rape, kill and
sell weapons, and which themselves control mines, how is the UN
trying to stop the flow?
Back in the U.S., Sixty Minutes quotes Tiffany's as identifying the
source of nearly all of its gold -- in Utah -- while Wal-Mart will only
that it will track the source of 10 percent of its gold by next year.
If it were rap music with profanity, Wal-Mart would take action. But
conflict gold from the Congo? Ten percent sourcing, maybe, by next
* * *
Murky on Angola's Oil, Bond and China Deals, Doles Out $1.4 Billion
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 25 -- Days after announcing a $1.4 billion
arrangement with Angola, the International Monetary Fund held a press
conference call to offer explanations. At the end, things were
murkier than before. Inner City Press asked if the IMF had been able
to fully assess the income and distribution of revenue from the state
owned oil company Sonangol.
Leigh, who led the Fund's missions to Angola in August and September,
replied that "in the context of our negotiations, Sonangol
participated fairly well." Inner City Press asked, since
Sonangol has accounts in off shore financial centers and tax havens,
if the IMF had gotten to the bottom of these accounts.
pause, Lamine Leigh proffered another answer, that the government has
"committed to steps in the more general area of resource revenue
transparency." But what about the Sonangol accounts?
Oil in Angola, Sonangol's accounts not shown
asked about the statement
by IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting
Chair Takatoshi Kato that in Angola "measures will be taken to
strengthen further the regulatory and supervisory framework."
The IMF's Senior Advisor on Africa Sean Nolan replied that the IMF
analyzed the effect of the exchange rate on borrowers and "on
government has gotten billions in pre-export oil loans from, for
example, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank. The
latter has made similar loans in Turkmenistan, assailed by
transparency and human rights advocates. How much of the IMF's new
arrangement benefits these banks?
questioner after Inner City Press, cutting off follow up, was from
Standard Bank. Other than Inner City Press, the only other media
questioner was from Reuters.
ended, Inner City Press was able to ask about Angola's reported $4
billion bond sale planned for December. Sean Nolan said that the
IMF's "understanding" with Angola does involve a
"fundraising effort," but that the timing was not agreed
to, the IMF does not "micromanage" to that extent. Nolan added
that there is an agreement on an "overall limit."
billion dollars?" Inner City Press asked.
the precise limit will be "clear in the documents," which
have yet to be released. Why play hide the ball?
praised the country for "appointing reputable financial and legal
advisers for the transaction" -- JPMorgan Chase will be the manager.
that the actual size of the bond sale will depend on how much
"concessionary lending" Angola gets from "countries
with a strong record of financial support to Angola."
asked if the size of China's loans to Angola -- China gets 16% of its
foreign oil from Angola -- were known by the IMF or considered.
figured in our discussions," the IMF's Nolan responded. Why not? Watch
* * *
Report Buries Its Icesave Conditionality, Enforcer's Duplicity?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 3 -- While the IMF has acknowledged that its second
round of disbursements to crisis-hit Iceland was delayed for months
by the country's failure to placate those in the Netherlands and UK
who did business with IceSave, the IMF's just released report on
Iceland buries the issue on page 30 of the 98 page report. The IMF
terms and conditions of Nordic loans, amounting to $2.5 billion, have
been finalized. Their disbursement has been linked to resolution of
the Icesave dispute with the U.K. and Netherlands over deposit
insurance liabilities. After protracted discussions, the three
governments have reached an agreement on this"
agreement was reached, on October 18, the IMF then went forward with
a letter of intent and memorandum of understanding for the second
tranche of financing. But, as with the IMF's moves in Latvia for
Swedish banks, some see the Fund operating as an enforcement or
collections agent for creditors who even less would like to show
Iceland / Icesave protest, but is the heartfelt sign true?
the IMF does
not like to admit or reveal its degree of control over the countries
it lends to, the de facto conditions for loans, such as paying off on
IceSave, are often not explicit in what purport to be full agreements
containing all express and implied terms.
fact, the IMF
has claimed that it "no longer" engages in conditionality.
But the Iceland report has an entire chart about conditionalities.
It's just that the most important one was left unsaid. Is this
diplomacy or duplicity?
report continues, about other loan requests including from Russia:
loan from the Faroe Islands ($50 million) has already disbursed, and
a loan from Poland has been agreed ($200 million), and will disburse
alongside the next 3 program reviews. A $500 million loan originally
committed by Russia is no longer expected, but the $250 million in
over-financing in the original program, an expected
macro-stabilization loan from the EU ($150 million), and use of an
existing repo facility with the BIS ($700 million, of which $214
million is outstanding) will more than offset this."
Offset may be the right
word. Last year, in the midst of Iceland's abortive run for a seat on
the UN Security Council, the country announced it had to seek a $4
billion loan from Russia. It was after that that the IMF loan
commitment was made -- an "offset," some saw it -- and
after talks in Istanbul, on October 15 the already whittled down loan
request to Russia was formally rejected.
Then the deal
with the UK
and Netherlands, and the IMF's releasing. While the IMF calls these
types of moves only technical, others call them power politics. Watch
* * *
Plays Ukraine, Zim and Pakistan As "Technical" Questions,
Pushes Tax Hikes in Serbia
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 22 -- Are the International Monetary Fund's
negotiations with countries about the level of taxes and salaries for
public sector employees, the pricing of electricity and the
privatization of social services political, or merely "economic
and technical"? The questions arose Thursday in connection with
Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, among others, in the IMF's first
press briefing since its annual meeting in Turkey.
Caroline Atkinson fielded questions for half an hour, leaving
unanswered one submitted by Inner City Press about Serbia, where the IMF's
Paul Thompson has been quoted that "if the Serbian
delegation has a concrete pan for decreasing expenses, we will
support it, if not, they
will have to agree with us and think about
increasing taxes." Left unanswered: how is raising taxes merely
respond to Inner City Press' questions about Ukraine, Zimbabwe and
Pakistan. While a full transcript is available online here,
and video here,
in sum the Q & A went as follows:
City Press asked, In Ukraine, the opposition party is critical of the
IMF as funding the campaign of Tymoshenko. What is the IMF's response
to the opposition's criticism? Ms. Atkinson replied that IMF funds go
to the central bank, and that the IMF has a team on the ground in
Kiev for a third review.
not, it seems, saying that money from the IMF is being used by
Tymoshenko for advertisements or to pay poll workers, but rather "MP
and opposition government's finance minister, Mykola Azarov, said
this at a meeting with delegates of an IMF mission, 'We must say that
the program of cooperation with the IMF has turned out to be
ineffective, and nothing is left but to consider the IMF's
as politically motivated, as funding of one of the candidates running
for the presidency.'"
reporter asked a follow up question about Ukraine, wondering if with
the IMF mission on the ground, the upcoming election "is an
issue," Ms. Atkinson said the IMF does not comment while a
mission is in the field, negotiating a program, but that information
-- and one hopes some questions and answers -- will be provided once
the mission is completed
IMF points the way, in budgets... and politics?
City Press asked, "NGOs are critical of the IMF for, they say,
pushing Zimbabwe to privatize its social services system. Has the IMF
pushed for that, and how does it respond to the criticism?" Ms.
Aktinson, while saying she can get back to Inner City Press with more
information, argued that the IMF does not favor or disfavor
particular privatizations, but must be pushing to strengthen the
social service sector to help the poor.
ahead of civil society's consultative meeting with an IMF team under
Article IV of the Fund's Articles of Agreement, NANGO said
are opposed to some IMF polices such as privatization of basic social
services. We know it from the past that some IMF policies have worked
against people in this country. They have affected the social
services sector and their polices are anti-people and negative'...
[NANGO] said some of the IMF instigated polices which had brought
suffering to the people were the Economic Structural Adjustment
Programme (ESAP) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social
Transformation (ZIMPREST)." It's a pretty specific critique,
and we'll publish the IMF's response upon receipt.
Inner City Press' questions and article from August 2009, it asked
"in Pakistan, the IMF in August extended for a year the
country's time to eliminate electricity subsidies. Now, while the
says 2 price increases will be implemented, others say this is not
possible politically. What is the IMF's thinking on consumer power
pricing in Pakistan?"
replied that "as I believe you know, the issue of issue of
electric subsidy is typically done by the World Bank and Asian
Development Bank," that IMF gets involved due to the budget."we
will be having another review of the Pakistan program in early
November." We'll be there....
* * *
Food Speculation, UN's Expert Says Nothing's Being Done, S. Korean Land
Grabs from Madagascar to Sudan, Brazil on Ethanol
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 21 -- After many speeches at the UN about the need
to crack down on financial speculation in food, nothing has been
done, the UN's expert on the right to food told Inner City Press on
Olivier de Schutter, a Belgian law professor just back
from a visit to Brazil about, among other things, the loss of land
for food to ethanol, replied that "nothing is moving at the
inter-governmental level." This despite a statement by the G-20
in April favoring the regulation of hedge funds which present
systemic risk. The argument is that commodities index funds which
speculate in food present systemic risk to net food importing
countries. But nothing has been done.
about the monopolization of the seed industry, and made a slew of
recommendations for governments. The three top monopolizers --
Monsanto, Dupont and the Swiss-based Syngenta -- are all members of
the UN Global Compact, and claim to comply with human rights. De
Schutter pointed out the antitrust law is directed as national and
not global or subnational markets. It is all very heady but one
wonders what effect it has.
one of de Schutter's claims to impact. He spoke glowingly of
President Lula, saying that Brazil has said that only 19% of land can
be used for sugar cane for ethanol, and has committed to monitor
labor rights. But what about, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia?
De Schutter, action on food speculation not shown
Schutter's briefing, Inner City Press asked his staffer for an update
on the proposed land grab in Madagascar by South Korea based Daewoo,
which was reputed after the coup in that country. De Schutter had
been scheduled to visit, but it was put off by the coup. The same
thing happened in Honduras. So perhaps De Schutter does have an
effect after all, mused one wag.
immediately after De Schutter's briefing, the UN's Haile Menkerios
was scheduled to speak to the Press about Madagascar. While the UN
usually compartmentalizes its work such that a rapporteur looks at
land grabs, while the Secretariat remains on "political affairs"
narrowly defined, this land grab played a role in the change of
government. Now it's said the South Korean deal is being pursued from
India, while South Korea appears to have moved on to 690,000 hectares
in Sudan. Watch this site.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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