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For New UNSG Guterres' Team, Women from Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, Witness

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up on Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, December 15 -- When new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres came to take questions outside the General Assembly hall on October 13, he was first asked about Syria and cited his past as head of the UN refugee agency.

Inner City Press asked, “And Yemeni people?” - referring most recently to the double-tap airstrike on the funeral in Sana'a.

  Guterres took the question, adding in South Sudan as well, and said he will try to be an honest broker. That would be a welcome change, and one that we will closely cover as censorship restrictions are lifted. Recent Swiss Radio & TV here, translated.

 On December 12, Inner City Press reported from multiple sources about the lobbying of Guterres for various jobs.

On the chief of staff post: Inner City Press exclusively reported it would be a woman, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, who was Brazil's Permanent Representative to the UN from 2007 to 2013. She always answered Press questions, and would not be expected to put up with the shenanigans Ban Ki-moon has overseen, including the ouster, eviction and restriction of the Press.

This was confirmed on December 15, as well as what Inner City Press first reported on November 11: that Guterres' deputy will be Amina J. Mohammed, until recently part of the UN's sustainable development and climate change teams. Also announced: a policy post for Kyung-Wha Kang, who as a Ban Ki-moon official witnessed Ban's and Cristina Gallach's eviction of Inner City Press' office on April 16, 2016, video here. We'll have more on this.

  On November 21 Stephane Dujarric, who has been spokesman already for Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, said "I only speak for one Secretary General at a time." And two in a row is too much; even more clear, on censorship, waste, corruption / John Ashe audit and other ground, Ban's "Communications" boss Critina Gallach should go, there are many other qualified women.

Inner City Press had also separately been told to "watch Nigeria," noting Amina J. Mohammed, until recently part of the UN's sustainable development and climate change teams.

  Under Secretaries General's contracts expire in March -- some should be let go earlier, even if they insist on getting the three extra months' pay for continued non-work, like Herve Ladsous (see November 10 video here).

  Guterres' commitment to gender parity is laudable, but must not mean that a USG like Cristina Gallach of DPI, who was criticized in the OIOS audit of l'affaire John Ashe and Ng Lap Seng, who was responsible for the Wonder Woman as Ambassador snafu as well as evicting the Press with no due process -- should stay. Not difficult to find una otra, substantially better. Watch this site.

Back on November 3, Guterres met with the UN70 delegation -- Norway, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico and New Zealand-- and they made five recommendations:

“Be your own boss: invest in your relationship with member states but be independent

Be our number one diplomat

Be our chief global activist

Be the advocate for the world’s 65 million displaced people

Be a leader in integrating human rights into all UN activities.”

  Since in the last week Guterres' predecessor Ban Ki-moon angered Kenya (and others) by summarily firing its UNMISS force commander in South Sudan, while leaving in place the long time head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, many wonder what Guterres would have done, or will do.

Ladsous on November 3 said, according to sources, that he expects to stay on "at least" until March. How can that be? And despite the laudable goal of gender parity in Under Secretary General posts, a USG like that of DPI, who appears in a negative light in OIOS audits and act lawlessly and contrary to the raison d'etre of her department must be replaced.

As one well-placed African Group Permanent Representative has twice told Inner City Press, for Guterres "expectations are high."

Beyond the UN Peacekeeping issues explored below, as to ending UN censorship who becomes Spokesperson, and who heads the Department of Public Information, will have an impact. On October 28 the UN told correspondents that Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for Guterres, should now be contacted through a and not email address. Does this mean she'll be UN Spokesperson? Head of DPI?

The Free UN Coalition for Access has asked. One thing should be clear: Cristina Gallach must go. Beyond her no due process eviction of the Press, and the recent Wonder Woman as Ambassador debacle, she is named in the Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of the John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng scandal, as having done no due diligence. There must be accountability, even belatedly.

   (Later on October 28, the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon who not only threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room but who has also for two weeks resisted making publish a speech Ban gave on October 14 to a group, the Council of Korean Americans, which sought $100,000 sponsorships for the event, was glad-handing at an Upper East Side event. A lot of people are dusting off their c.v. or resume.)

  UN Peacekeeping has been controlled by France for 20 years, and many believe that it is and will be time to relinquish it. But when Inner City Press asked, if for example France will shift to DESA or even across First Avenue to UNDP, it was told “don't believe everything you hear.”

   Now the person who gave that answer or quip is reported as a possible replacement for Herve Ladsous, who has run DPKO into the ground.

Other names floated are Sylvie Bermann -- if France keeps it, a woman USG might be designed to address the sexual abuse issues that expanded and were justified under Ladous - or Jean-Maurice Ripert, without any mention of his issue when he was assigned to Pakistan humanitarian issues and remained on vacation. (In full disclosure, Ripert also confronted Inner City Press on a UN Security Council trip involving Chad and, by accident, Rwanda - but that's another story.)

On October 19, Guterres had a first “inter-active” with the General Assembly. This consisted of speeches, at the end merely one minute apiece, followed by Guterres' rapid-fire responses or summaries.

In this final round, Guterres shouted out China for the G-20 and Oman for being “a bridge.” He nodded to Iran's call to fight terrorism, adding that xenophobia and racism must relatedly be fought.

He cited the Portuguese who were welcomed in exile in Algeria -- Inner City Press thought of a documentary clip in which Ornette Coleman's bassist Charlie Haden stood up to the Portuguese military rulers and control over Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Angola, here -- and noted that the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has a Portuguese name.

He said he took notes on Japan's concerns: non-proliferation / North Korea, regional conflicts and Security Council reform.

  In the last row, Benin couldn't be heard until the Holy See came and turned on its microphone. Palestine's Riyad Mansour said, I speak last but when will I be able to say, Free at last, free at last. Guterres said he'd love to see the two state solution implemented during his time as Secretary General. The interpreters were thanked for staying late, and it was over. But we'll have more. Watch this site.

Earlier he cited gender parity and regional balance in appointments to top posts, the integration of the three pillars of the UN -- peace and security, sustainable development and human rights -- and ended with a shout-out to the Colombian Ambassador and peace process. (Inner City Press questioned UN envoy Jean Arnault about Colombia earlier on October 19.)

   Then there were 100 minutes for 56 countries, so (less than) two minutes each. President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson gently banged his gavel when Deputy Ambassador Sison of the host country, USA, went over-time. The UK's Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft brought his in within time, citing Syria but not Yemen, on which UK plays a role. Japan hammered on North Korea and Security Council reform.

   Slovakia's Permanent Representative, who had a candidate who shot up in the polls only to fall just as fast, spoke of the number of babies born and trees cut down in two minutes, making many delegates look up from their smart phones. Guterres' transition team, beside and behind him, listened and took notes.

On October 14, Guterres announced this team:

"Following his appointment yesterday by the General Assembly of the United Nations as Secretary-General-designate, António Guterres announced the composition of a transition team that will help him prepare for the assumption of his duties on 1 January 2017. Here's some of the absurdities they should fix, on Haiti cholera and media restrictions.
The members of the team are:
Transition Team Chief: Ms. Kyung-wha Kang (Republic of Korea).

Senior Advisor/ Spokesperson: Ms. Melissa Fleming (USA). She has held leading international communications positions at the OSCE, with a focus on human rights, conflict prevention and reconciliation and at the IAEA on nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security. She is currently Head of Communications and Spokesperson for the High Commissioner at UNHCR.

Senior Adviser: Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (Jamaica).

Senior Adviser: Mr. João Madureira (Portugal). He has a distinguished career in his country’s Diplomatic Service. He is currently Minister Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the UN.

Senior Adviser: Mr. Radhouane Nouicer (Tunisia). He served at UNHCR for over 18 years in the field and as Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau. He was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Tunisian Transitional Government in 2011. He is currently Regional Advisor for the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis.  

The Transition Team will interact with UN officials, Member States and civil society to ensure an informed and smooth transition. "

  On October 14 inside the GA hall, speakers included Chile's Ambassador Christian Barros and the UK's Matthew Rycroft, who spoke of the process by which Guterres was selected (but not, perhaps understandably, about Yemen). US Ambassador Samantha Power joked that she had set aside time around Christmas in case more straw polls were needed.

   In the days and weeks ahead, Inner City Press will be running its “New UN” series, which today covered the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The need for change at UN Peacekeeping and the Department of Public Information is clear. But how will the UN become anything near to an honest broker? We are hoping for it. Watch this site.


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