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At UN, Guterres at 1st Meeting on Palestine UNclear If Settlement Report in Writing, Hallway

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 - When Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour came to the UN Security Council stakeout after a meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he said it was a good meeting but that it remains unclear if Guterres' report on Israeli settlements on March 24 will be in writing or merely oral. On the choreographed withdrawal of the ESCWA report on the topic, a question was not answered, but Mansour said he was going to meet the Security Council president but the press could wait for a read-out in an hour. Periscope video here. Some media were blocked from following Mansour down the second floor hallway and complained; for more than a year, following trying to cover the UN Ng Lap Seng bribery scandal in the UN Press Briefing Room, Inner City Press has been banned from that second floor hall, following or not.

  Guterres, whose spokesman Stephane Dujarric played up his laying down the law to UN regional commission director Rima Khalaj, will on March 22 hold another meeting at 5 pm with the bureau of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. If the recent past is any guide, Guterres will not issue any read-out. When Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on March 21 to confirm the meetings, he refused. So much for transparency. The UN's longtime Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press at noon on March 17 that it would no longer find online the report "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid:  Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue no.1 | ESCWA (2017)." This remained false, even as of 9 pm that day. While the Internet link sent out by the UN's Department of Public Information on March 16 for the report  no longer led there, nine hours after Dujarric's briefing, Inner City Press still found the report on ESCWA's website. In the briefing, Inner City Press asked Dujarric to confirm that before the controversy about the report, Khalaf like all other Regional Economic Commissioner heads except Alicia Barcena was set to leave by March 31. UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: Earlier, there had been a job notice published for all of the heads of the regional commissions, except Ms. [Alicia] Bárcena in Latin America.  So, I wanted to know, what's the status of that?  Has… has… what would have been Rima Khalaf's final day…?

Spokesman:  31 March.

Inner City Press:Okay.  Number two, I notice it's no longer on the website.  Does this mean that, in fact, the applications are closed?  What's the process?  Do you think you'll have a new head of ESCWA before 31 March?

Spokesman:  I don't know if we'll have one before 31 March.  There's a Deputy Executive Director who is currently in charge.

Inner City Press: Are the issues being discussed here, do you think they'll be a part of the selection process or just process?

Spokesman:  Do I what?

Inner City Press: Do you think the issues that the… the substance of the report, the issues reflected in the substance of the report, are they going to be part of the selection process or just a pledge of allegiance to…?

Spokesman:  It's not about a pledge of allegiance.  It's about people working in an organization.  It's about people following a process of coordination and consultation.  That's what it is.  It is not, don't… you know, frame… I mean…  It's not about a pledge of allegiance.  The job interview will be a competency-based interview, and we will get a great candidate.

Inner City Press:  So two things.  On this report, was it shown to DPA [Department of Political Affairs]?

Spokesman:  No, it was not.  It was not… no one at Headquarters was consulted or coordinated.

Inner City Press:  And does Headquarters have a veto right over reports of the regional commissions?  If it had been shown, what would happen…?

Spokesman:  It's not about veto.  It's about coordination and consultation. 

   Then this: "Ambassador Nikki Haley on the Resignation of UN Under-Secretary-General Rima Khalaf: 'When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the Secretary-General’s decision to distance his good office from it.'” We'll have more on this.

  When the UN Security Council debated "Trafficking in persons in conflict situations, forced labor, slavery and other similar practices" on March 15, US Ambassador Nikki Haley cited people forced to make bricks in Peru, to fix fishing nets in Ghana, on fishing boats off Thailand and as domestic workers in the Persian Gulf. Inner City Press previously asked the UN about the flow of such workers, underage, from Burundi - still without answer. This should change. Haley also cited a proposal by US Senator Bob Corker, including to raise private funds to combat trafficking. Corker has called for reforms at the UN, few of which are yet to be implemented. This too should change.

  On US inauguration day on January 20 at the US Mission to the UN the photos of Obama, Biden, Kerry and Samantha Power came down. As of February 17 they have not been replaced.
  But as elsewhere an "Alt USUN" Twitter account continues in a parallel online universe the views of Power, recently calling out Nikki Haley for only attending three of 13 UN Security Council meetings, on Ukraine, ISIS and Israel - Palestine.

  Fair enough. But how many meetings did Samantha Power attend? And after the Israel - Palestine meeting Nikki Haley took questions at the Security Council stakeout, not pre-screened by Power's spokesman Kurtis Cooper.

  Now the account is opposing any US budget cuts to the UN, and retweeting critiques of Rex Tillerson hand picking media to accompany his trip to Asia. Did they say anything when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took no press, or when Antonio Guterres handpicked Al Jazeera to accompany him to Somalia?

  In fact, Isobel Coleman who did nothing when the DC-based whistleblower protection group Government Accountability Project wrote to her about the UN's eviction of the investigative Press, here, still as of February 17 lists herself as the US representative on UN reform. Is it true?

   In the UN itself, Obama and Hillary Clinton nominee Jeffrey Feltman has gotten his UN contract extended. Inner City Press first reported, from multiple sources, that Feltman sought this so that his UN pension would hit the five year vesting dateline. The UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric called Inner City Press' question, and by implication Inner City Press, "despicable." Or is that, deplorable?

  Meanwhile Voice of America, which was shown under the US Freedom of Information Act to have asked the UN to throw out the investigative Press, has now asked about Jared Kushner (video via here) and asked the UK about Nikki Haley's inexperience. Like we said, an alternative universe.

  Other former State Department officials like Bathsheba Crocker wring their hands about changes in foreign policy. But what did they do, when the UN killed 10,000 plus people in Haiti with cholera? They had their time to try to improve the UN, and largely failed. It's time to #MoveOn.


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