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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Turf War About Rape, Slow on Gender and N. Korea UNDP Audit

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- Speeches about women, peace and security, replete with expression of "deep concern" at rape and sexual violence, were given in UN Security Council all day Tuesday, from 10 a.m. past seven in the evening. A dispute arose over whether the Council should establish a mechanism to monitor nations' implementation of the "deep concerns" in the Council's Resolution 1325. Colombia, for example, opposes this, saying that "this recommendation does not seem appropriate, because it would eventually result in the creation of a fingering out mechanism by the Security Council, concerning thematic issues that belong in the General Assembly."  That is, there is a UN turf war about rape.

            This was the thematic debate chosen by Ghana, which has held the Council presidency in October. Supporters of the Council establishing a monitoring mechanism include Canada and the Netherlands, which concluded, "Let us end the abuse of women everywhere by stopping the Big Silence today." The United States praised the UN's "laudable efforts to enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel assigned to UN peacekeeping operations... We underscore the need for all allegations to be investigated properly and for appropriate follow-up action to be taken." There's only one problem: the UN does not discipline rogue peacekeepers, but only sends them back to their country, which often does not try or punish them.

            A well-placed Council source, asked to cut through the haze of seven hours of speeches, said, "Ask Russia! Ask China!" As of deadline, neither country had put copies of their statements in the UN Media Center. Egypt had, but only in Arabic. Sudan's statement was in English, expressing "caution against unpleasant trends in this Organization aimed at politicizing the issue of women to settle political scores. In this case the victims would only be the women whom we are trying to assist."

             Issues of politicization arose also with regard to the UN's other day-long gab-fest, on Financing for Development. At a press conference describing the Assembly's work on this, Inner City Press asked whether the issues raised by North Korea's continued refusal to allow in UN auditors to verify the use of UN Development Program funds would be debated. A General Assembly speechwriter and development expert argued that UNDP's budget in North Korea was small. But what does it say about transparency when auditors can't get visas? The press conference moderator stepped in to say that North Korea and UNDP were not the topics. Video here.

Council meets on gender, new organization and mechanism not shown

            On the sidelines of the Financing for Development event, activists pushed for the creation of a new woman's organization at the UN, to be funded at a minimum $500 million. Inner City Press asked the GA President's spokesperson about it:

Inner City Press: We had a briefing in here earlier at which there was this discussion of a proposal to have a new women's organization within the UN system.  What did they call it?  The Gender Architecture... where does it stand and what's the position of the President of the GA on this?

Spokesperson:  what I would advise you is to go back through the website, I don't have the URL in my head, but try to navigate into the website of the 61st General Assembly President.  There you will see the various different issues that the 61st session was tackling and a number of them carried over into the sixty-second session.  One of the last documents out from the President, the past-President of the 61st session, is a letter to Member States in which she takes a detailed account of all the things accomplished and the things that have to carry over and there you will see a part on system-wide coherence and there you will see that as regards system-wide coherence there is supposed to be a look during this Assembly session on the gender aspects...

Inner City Press: Does the President of the GA, just try to navigate his views on this, does he have a view, does he think itís a good idea, or does he have no view?

Spokesperson:  On system-wide coherence?

Question:  No, on creating a new organization, a new women's organization at a higher level than the existing ones.

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of the President going detailed into this issue and whether he has a concrete opinion formulated on this particular aspect of system-wide coherence.  As regards the whole process of system-wide coherence, yes heís very much looking into

it and he's going to see which way to go on this...

            Which way to go on coherence? That's the UN...

* * *

Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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