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At UN, Pakistan Expert Loses for ACABQ, of Politics & Budget Shifts Unquestioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 -- When four Asian countries faced off for three seats on the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions on November 5 in the UN's Fifth Committee, some called the conclusion foregone on political and not budgetary or technical questions. Among China, India, Japan and Pakistan, the fourth one seemed preordained to lose.

China's power speaks for itself -- at the UN it sometimes doesn't even need to speak. Japan is the second largest contributor, and India a rising power as annointed by no less than Barack Obama.

  Pakistan has drone strikes in its tribal areas, a former strongman beating the drum against its current leadership, the International Monetary Fund beating at the door.

  Still, Pakistan's representative on ACABQ Imtiaz Hussain had long served in the Fifth (Budget) Committee, and done his homework during his time on ACABQ. By contrast, some of the other three individuals standing for the post had only recently joined the budget committee.

On the day of the Fifth Committee vote, sources say that the absence of Pakistan's highest ranked diplomats sealed the deal, at least making it easy for even some of Pakistan's allies to vote the other way.

  The final result was closer than might have been expected. Namgya C. Khampa of India received 164 votes; Akira Sugiyama of Japan received 147 votes and Zhang Wanhai of China received 130 votes, edging out Pakistan's Hussain who got 114 votes. The result is set to be rubber stamped in the full General Assembly on November 19.

Some bemoan that elections for the UN's technical posts are politicized. Some note that ACABQ has, as simply one example, not taken action on evidence that one of the Special Political Missions it reviews, the Good Offices on Myanmar which was approved and funded by the General Assembly, has had its staff time shifted to other uses within the Department of Political Affairs' Asia division under Tamrat Samuel.

UN's Ban & ACABQ's McLurg, Myanmar Office shift and politics not shown

  On an administrative and budgetary question such as this, which of the three elected Asian country representatives has an interest in acting? Watch this site.

Footnote: Japan's former Permanent Representative and UN budget expert Yukio Takasu, whom Inner City Press recently exclusively reported in English is in line for a UN job, is the subject of some commentary. The job would be Special Advisor on Human Security, a concept pushed by Japan but not fully vetted or approved by the General Assembly. Watch this site.

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On IMF Quota Changes, Spin War Emerges, IMF Role in Debt of Sudan Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- After the International Monetary Fund's board agreed on November 5 to move six percent of powers to developing countries, the IMF says that “most commentary was positive.”

  But when Inner City Press asked UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Jomo Kwame Sundaram about it on November 16, he said that two thirds of the six percent comes from “other developing countries,” and that the quota system should be further reformed. Video here, from Minute 21:30.

  At the IMF's biweekly briefing on November 18, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson about this criticism. She said she wasn't aware of it (since “most commentary was positive”) and argued that 80% came from “advanced economies” and the rest from “a small number of oil producing” countries which she said are technically classified as developing.

  Ms. Atkinson then said that of the 187 members, 110 countries saw their quotas increase, 102 of them emerging and dynamic countries -- another euphemism for developing?

  These two very different views of the changes turn on how one defines developing. While the UN often mis-classifies these, to rely entirely on the IMF to assess the seriousness of IMF reforms also seems unwise.

  Inner City Press also submitted two country specific question, the first of which on Sudan Ms. Atkinson read out and acknowledged, promising a later answer:

On Sudan, both Hillary Clinton and the UK's William Hague on Nov 16 said they are in talks about reducing the national debt as an incentive for the Southern Sudan secession referendum scheduled for January 9. Is the IMF involved in any such talks? Can the IMF play any role in reducing Sudan's debt?

UK's Hague and US Clinton, on Sudan debt talks, IMF not shown

On Democratic Republic of Congo, what is the IMF's reaction to the shortfall in Paris Club debt reduction (“82.4 percent reduction of Congo's debt stock, short of the 90 percent target”) and to the pace of reforms in the DRC?

Watch this site.

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With Pakistan Blocked by IMF from Debt Relief, EU Stalls GPS+, Ripert Dodges Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 19 -- As at the UN countries jostled to give speeches about past contributions to Pakistan, Inner City Press asked UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell about the IMF's requirement that Pakistan not seek any relief of its $500 million a year in debt payments in exchange for a $450 million loan.

Mitchell responded that Pakistan's debt service is “only 3% of its gross national income.” He said he was sure negotiations would continue on the debt.

But a letter submitted to the IMF on September 10 by State Bank Governor Shahid Hafiz Kardar and Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh committed, at the IMF's demand

To make sure Pakistan’s international trade and financial relations continue to function normally, we will not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions nor introduce any trade restrictions or enter into any bilateral payment agreements that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.”

Inner City Press asked Pakistan's foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi about this, and he replied that his country's finance minister is speaking with the World Bank, the IMF and Asia Development Bank and he is “sure he will take it [debt relief] up with them at the appropriate time.”

But he and the country appear precluded from taking it up, by the IMF's own demands.

Inner City Press also asked Mitchell about whether the EU will grant Pakistan GSP Plus trade benefits. Mitchell made much of his Prime Minister Cameron pushing for this, but the EU has yet to move on it, reportedly due to protectionist opposition by France, Italy, Poland and Portugal (which is seeking a UN Security Council seat). It was impossible to ask the EU, as Catherine Ashton unceremoniously canceled her scheduled stakeout.

To the side of Minister Lectureship’s stakeout, against his will, stood UN envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert. He had refused to speak to the Press outside the General Assembly's pledging session on Pakistan, and this time had to be summoned after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left without taking questions, due to the need to swear in Michelle Bachelet at the head of UN Women.

Inner City Press asked Ripert, by name, to explain his and the UN's failure to push for humanitarian access to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas including Waziristan. Ripert tried to get OCHA's Valerie Amos to answer in his stead, but Inner City Press said Ms. Amos had already taken the question last week. (Ms. Amos later on Monday introduced and praised her previous UK colleague Andrew Mitchell in a way some correspondents found noteworthy, “like Le Roy and the French,” one said.)

Ripert came to the microphone and offered nothing but praise for the government, then referred to “security issues,” saying it is “quite normal that the UN has to discuss with the government” issues of access.

Qureshi with Ripert in a previously life, IMF and Ripert's dodges not shown

Just like UNAMID has not had access in Darfur to parts of Jebel Marra since February, the UN and NGOs have been denied access to Wazirstan. And what has the UN and Ripert done?

Footnote: Ripert has been avoiding the Press for days. On September 17, greeted by Inner City Press, he scowled and walked away, smoking a long white cigarette. Later he was seen chatting euphorically on his cell phone in the UN's Vienna Cafe. On Sunday evening he was on CNN International saying that the floods have impacted an area “as large as Italy.” Some in the Pakistani press corps have stories of Ripert in the Alps -- others say Geneva -- but everywhere but Pakistan. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

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.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece 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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