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As UN Peacekeeping Dismisses MSF's Congo Critique, OCHA is AWOL

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 – UN Peacekeeping has changed under Herve Ladsous; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo it now says it will “neutralize” particular groups, making it a party to the conflict.

  But it still wants to be associated with humanitarian work as before, now in part to bolster its credibility.

  Last week Médecins Sans Frontières pushed back, then the UN tried to sweep it under the carpet. Where was the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs under Baroness Valerie Amos?

 In the past, defending the independence of aid work was OCHA's job. Now as Ladsous' DPKO undermines it, OCHA is nowhere to be seen.

  At the UN in New York on July 11 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky about it:

Inner City Press: In the DRC, Médecins Sans Frontières has complained that MONUSCO was “imposing armed escorts” on humanitarian workers, and they have raised this as a problem that blurs the line between military and humanitarian. It seems that the MONUSCO spokesman has kind of confirmed it and has actually said that Médecins Sans Frontières shouldn’t complain about this, this is all about protecting civilians. Since it’s kind of a big issue, this independence and impartiality of humanitarian workers, is there, at the Secretariat level, is that the policy of the peacekeeping missions: to impose armed guards on humanitarians that are not requesting it and don’t want it?

Spokesperson: I’d need to check with my colleagues in the Mission there precisely what the story is before I respond on that, Matthew.

  It would seem that OCHA too should be asked; that's also why Inner City Press requested a response “at the Secretariat level,” since both Ladsous and Amos work for Ban, ostensibly at the same level.

  But the UN came back with obfuscation:

Subject: Your question on the DRC
From: UN Spokesperson [at]
Date: Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 11:14 AM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The United Nations has no say in security measures employed by NGOs. UN humanitarian agencies use armed escorts in insecure areas in eastern DRC only as a last resort. The decision to use escorts in specific areas is taken by the UN-wide security management team. The large-scale humanitarian response in eastern DRC faces serious challenges in the efforts to deliver life-saving assistance to people in need due to lack of access caused by the ongoing conflict and poor infrastructure. Some 212 security incidents against humanitarian actors were reported in DRC in 2012, while 181 were registered in 2011.

  That was on Friday; Inner City Press published the response in full and Nesirky read it out at the day's noon briefing.

  Now MSF, unconvinced, has fired back here: in French, on a non-MSF website, but by its DRC country director Bertrand Perrochet: “The United Nations already have this blurring of imposing armed escorts for humanitarian UN agencies to go to certain areas or publicly presenting community interest actions by the armed forces as humanitarian actions. In mid-July, a new brigade of UN intervention will” begin.

  One might ask: where is OCHA's Valerie Amos? AWOL – Absent Without Leave, at least on this issue? Watch this site.


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