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also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

World Bank Blinded by 'Surging Capital Flows' - Quantity Not Quality Exalted in Bank's New Global Development Finance Report

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the United Nations

NEW YORK, May 30 -- Foreign investment as a shorthand for progress: that is the subtext of a new World Bank report, "2006 Global Development Finance," embargoed until minutes before this report. The report, which should now be available online, uncritically presents what it calls "surging capital flows" as positive. The report denounces "regulatory burdens" and praising any "simplifying... of capital controls." It's a Manichean World (Bank) -- anything that might slow such surges down is bad, any increase is good. But for whom?

            Inner City Press questioned the report's lead author, Mansoor Dailami, and his trendy colleague Hans Timmer at the United Nations on May 25. It was a full five days before anything could be written. One journalist remarked that while a heads-up is nice, a five day embargo conveys an over-development sense of this development report's importance. On May 25 in the basement of UN headquarters, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII) was meeting. Bolivia's new foreign minister had explained his government's nationalization of the natural gas industry, to combat foreign producers rip-off of his country. Inner City Press asked about this, but the World Bank authors' faith in free markets was unshaken. They referred to a need to periodically re-divide the rent -- but foreign investment and ownership of a poor nation's infrastructure was the only way to go, they implied.

            Inner City Press asked about the recent case in which the U.S.-based hedge fund Lone Star is paying $100 million for misdeeds during its buying and selling of Korea Exchange Bank (KEB). Citigroup faces even more serious challenges in Korea to its acquisition of KorAm Bank, including workers' strikes and charges of predatory lending. The World Bankers shrugged and referred to "specific cases," as in, "actually results may different" or "past events do not guarantee future performance." The World Bank web site contains another report, reciting that "Citigroup acquired KorAM Bank. Similarly, acquisitions of Korea Exchange Bank and LG Card, are expected to be major determinants of direct investment inflows for 2006."

  With Paul Wolfowitz slated to visit Seoul on May 30-31, perhaps he'll take the time to see the other side of Citigroup's and Lone Star's moves in South Korea.


   Back at the UN, Inner City Press asked for a response to the PFII's critique of the World Bank's decision, on projects it funds, to consult with but not seek the consent of impacted indigenous communities. The report's authors could not answer, but soon appearing in the Delegates' Lounge was Oscar A. Avalle of the World Bank Office of the Special Representative to the United Nations. "Consultation is very meaningful," he said. But as the PFII meeting closed on May 26, the same dissatisfaction with the World Bank was voiced. Plus ca change...

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On Congo, Cognitive Dissonance at the UN, While UK Calls for Crackdown on LRA's Joseph Kony

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- "The election will be credible," responded France's Permanent Representative to the UN Jean-Marc de La Sabliere to questions Friday on Congo, to which he and nine other Permanent Representatives will travel next month after Sudan.

   Inner City Press had asked about reports of mass displacement in Ituri, and about most observers' skepticism about current president Kabila's claims that an opponent has attempted a coup with foreign mercenaries. Amb. de La Sabliere did not answer about the purported coup attempt, but spoke at length, as the UN's Ross Mountain has, about the number of polling places and the 25 million people who have registered to vote. "I cannot answer as to each village, in Ituri or Kivu," he said, "the DRC forced back by MONUC have done a good job."

            Earlier on Friday at the UN, at a briefing on children's right to HIV and AIDS treatment, the president of World Vision International Dean Hirsch had answered a question from Inner City Press about the lack of AIDS treatment in Congo by stating that "the DRC is the greatest tragedy on earth," comparing it to Darfur.

            The two statements, made three hours apart from the briefing podium in Room 226 of UN Headquarters, lead to cognitive dissonance. Does the continuing level of violence and underdevelopment in the Democratic Republic of Congo make it the world's worst tragedy? Or is everything looking up, at Amb. de La Sabliere and Ross Mountain have it, in light of an election scheduled for July 31, into which the UN is clearly invested? At what point does wanting the election to go well become whitewashing the world's world humanitarian crisis? And how can a Security Council member or mission declare, in advance of their visit as well as of the election, that an election "will be credible"?

"Ituri Explorer" / MONUC

     At the Security Council briefing, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry responded to Inner City Press' question regarding the Lord's Resistance Army that the LRA has "wrecked havoc" leading to (among other things) one and a half displaced people; he reiterated that Kony has been indicted by the ICC and that the indictment should "be implemented" and Kony should "face justice." The spokesman for the Secretary General, who the previous day had said he'd inquire and get a response, provided one late Friday, quoted here in full:

"Northern Uganda continues to experience an enormous humanitarian crisis with 1.7 million Internally Displaced Persons resulting from more than 20-year old conflict. The Lord's Resistance Army activity is one of the most violent and vicious ever seen and it is in everybody's interest to implement the International Criminal Court indictments against its leaders. We are aware of contacts mediated by Sudanese VP Salva Kiir to arrange for a political solution to the LRA. The Ugandan Government insists its amnesty applies to all LRA elements with the exception of its two top leaders Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti. Although recognizing the LRA phenomena has to be addressed from a comprehensive military as well as humanitarian, political, social and economic perspective the overall focus should be on protection of the innocent, respect of human rights and fight against impunity."

          There it is. In other UN news, David Balton, with the long-winded title Chair of the Review Conference on the Agreement for the Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, predicted that Japan will be signing on to the agreement "in a week or two," but that outside the agreement remain large fishing counties such as China, Indonesia, Philippines and South Korea. He indicated his awareness of reports of the rogue trawlers Isabella, Carmen, Rosita, Eva and Juanita being serviced in Germany, Lithuania and Poland; his co-briefer Fernando Curcio responded that the European Commission is acting on this, and promised to provide documents in a week or so. Asked by Inner City Press if any fishing industry participants are members of the UN Global Compact, and if the Global Compact has had or could have any role in rooting out illegal, unreported and unregulated (UII) fishing, Mr. Balton said not to date, but that it might be worth asking the Global Compact.

            Speaking still of global, in the future tense, at Friday's Global Movement for Children briefing, UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman also answered on Congo, stating that she'd been to DRC this year and speaking passionately about the rape of children there. Responding to a question from Inner City Press about the more than 50 member states which have not provided any response to UNAIDS' survey, Ms. Veneman encouraged attendance next Tuesday at a May 30 UNAIDS press conference. Watch this site.

Conflict Cocoa in Cote D'Ivoire But Maybe No Election; In Security Council, Late Night on Timor L'Este; In Kosovo, UN Uses Tear Gas Though the Spin

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- In Cote D'Ivoire, thirty percent of cocoa production leaves the country through informal channels, according to the UN's Abdoulaye Mar Dieye. This constitutes, among other things, tax evasion. Inner City Press inquired at Thursday's briefing into the use of child labor in cocoa production, an issue on which Nestle and ADM have been sued. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye responded by referring to a study that's about to come out.  In a subsequent interview he suggested that cocoa production might need something akin to the Kimberly process on conflict diamonds. (Click here for information on the Kimberly process).

  Abdoulaye Mar Dieye reiterated the recent statements of Gerard Stoudmann that elections by the October 31, 2006, deadline are "still technically feasible," although they would require bending if not breaking some procedural rules; he acknowledged that the deadline might not be met. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye stated that there are 700,000 internally displaced people in Cote D'Ivoire (OCHA's web site put the figure at 500,000.)

Guiglo per UNHCR

       On another displacing issue further east in Africa, with the government in South Sudan offering to mediate between Uganda and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the Secretary-General, now in Bangkok, has a position on whether South Sudan should arrest Kony, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. It was said that a response will be forthcoming.

     What are the odds? A day after the UN's Soren Jessen-Petersen denounced as misinformation reports of attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, in the village of Krushe e Vogel / Mala Krusa stones were thrown at two Serb defense lawyers. he UN Police responded with tear gas. The previous day's press release had

"analyzed 1,408 Kosovo Serb convoys that were escorted by the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) during January to early May this year. It was found that there had been six incidents of stone throwing at these convoys and police had made five arrests in those cases."

  That is, less than four-tenths of one percent of convoys were attacked. So what were the odds of it happening the very next day?  TInner City Press raised the incident at the noon briefing; the questions, both unasked and unanswered, is why the UN attempt to spin in some areas while remaining silent on many others, for example on the "clandestine" violator of the arms embargo in Somalia and the metering of oil in Iraq.

            As the meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues winds down, a briefing was held and these numbers presented: 1200 indigenous representatives attended along with 55 member states. Three of the states, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, openly spoke out against the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, not only against the notion of requiring the consent of indigenous people to projects on their land but also the reference in Article 3 to the right to self-determination.  Inner City Press inquired into Indonesia's position on self-determination for indigenous people, in light of West Papua. The chairwoman responded that Indonesia was not involved in the drafting process in Geneva, nor in this Permanent Forum meeting. Asked about the issues of missionaries, conversions and adoptions, under the rubric of loss of culture, Forum member Wilton Littlechild said the matter is not only in the draft, but also before the Commission on the Rights of the Child.  In a separate interview in the basement outside Conference Room 2, Mr. Littlechild described several class actions in Canada on these issues, alleging cultural genocide. Since the treatment by courts of claims of cultural genocide is an open question, one wonders if the Declaration -- in one its 19 perambulatory paragraphs or 45 articles -- shouldn't address the need in nations' laws for just such a cause of action.

            Finally, on Timor L'Este, events in Dili were murkily described at the Security Council stake-out at 5:40 p.m. by the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno. "Often we leave too early," he said. Inner City Press asked if events in Timor L'Este might cause a rethinking of fast UN pullouts from such locations at Burundi.  "Generally," Mr. Guehenno answered, "one should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish." He added that before leaving, one should make sure that the majority and the minority get along in a democratic fashion.  Yes, one should...

  The Security Council was to re-convene at 10 p.m.. Knowledgeable correspondents ascribed this to the need for the Chinese delegation to get word from Beijing; drained correspondents awaited the recently-dancing Chinese press attache, past deadline.

In the lull at the Security Council stakeout, informed / uniformed sources opined that next month World Cup soccer games will be broadcast in the lounge outside the Security Council, but not outside ("If it was still Mr. Lavrov [as Russian envoy to the UN] and it was up to him, it would be on TV in the Council too," one said).

At 9:56 p.m., a spokesman for China passing through the stakeout explained they had to call their Ministry, and didn't want to wake people up. "Now it's 10 a.m. in Beijing, we've gotten our instructions, it should all go quickly now."  -Filed 9:58 p.m. Eastern

At 10:10 p.m., a passing spokesman disclosed that, with the word "warmly" dropped, it is being passed. -Filed 10:11 p.m.

All this for six minutes (in Real).

At 10:23 p.m., Japan's envoy expressed hope that the UN will not have to reconstitute a peacekeeping force, but stated that when Ian Martin reports back, this too may be considered. There was much joking about returning to dinner, with references to Chinese takeout, and Japanese tea. Some looked for stronger fare. -Final filing 10:25 p.m. Eastern

A sample earlier report, from Brussels --

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, in Brussels

BRUSSELS, April 28 -- Ears ringing with the talk of waste within the UN system, an Inner City Press reporter yesterday visited the consolidated, scaled back and renamed UN Regional Information Center (UNRIC) in Brussels, to see how an early attempt at cost-saving is working out.

            On narrow, car-filled Rue de la Loi, just passed the European Commission, the UNRIC is tucked in on the 7th and 8th floors of a stately building in the Residence Palace compound. Outside are construction zones, the city literally torn-up to build office space for the ten new EU members. Inside UNRIC it is spacious, with hardwood floors and uncaptioned photos of each Secretary-General. The UNRIC's deputy director is an engaging Dane who is among other things the answer to the UN system Jeopardy question: who was the spokesman for the president of the General Assembly when the World Trade Towers were demolished by hijacked plane? Who is... Jan Fischer. Mr. Fischer also served the UN in Iraq in 1993, along with a stint in Australia. He knows the System, and the context of the cost-cutting he's witnessed at the UNRIC.

            The travel budget the more than half-dozen country desk officers based in Brussels is $16,000 for six months. This has resulted in fewer trips to the countries covered by each desk officer, and even to them staying with family and friend on such trips. There's a striking correlation between surname and country covered: Carlos Jimenez for Spain, Fabio Graziosi for Italy, Dimitrios Fatouros for Greece and so forth. The desk officers were once "national information officers," which required this consonance. Now that they've had to move to Brussels, they've been "professionalized," in the parlance of the UN civil service. Still some stay with friends and family on their UN trips back home.

            In Brussels some 15,000 journalists cover the doings of the European Union and to some degree NATO. It is hard, Jan Fischer says, for UN news to break through. They hold press conferences, and briefings by visiting UN envoys, from conflict diamonds to the rights of the child. Across from the well-guarded United States embassy, there's a storefront for UNICEF, with its tell-tale blue sign. The UN's refugee agency, it appears from a list, has a dozen Brussels employees, seeking EU funding for their far-flung operations. UNRIC tries to get their stories told. Mr. Fischer says he'd rather say too much than too little; he suggests that the media not abandoned UN staffers who go off script and speak their minds. It's a plan that makes much sense, and one that we will follow. This series of occasional visits with continue from Inner City Press, consonant with the cost-cuts as they come.

Footnote: in a third-floor room in the European Parliament on April 27, Green party delegate Heide Ruhle listened while nodding to consumer advocates despairing of non-bank input into the pending Consumer Credit Directive. When asked, with an administrative colleague, about merger review in the Euro zone, the Green response was that review by particular nations is outmoded. Will Brussels' review consider predatory lending? That remains unclear.

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

Kinshasa Election Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's Belly-Dancing

Working with Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the UN

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

In Liberia, From Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which China's Asked About

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

At the UN, Dues Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In Congolese Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

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