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On Haiti at UN, Dominican Dodging on Immigration, UNICEF on Staffing, IFAD to Forgive?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 22 -- The UN in New York was full of Haiti news on Friday, some of it misleading, other "off the record." At the day's noon briefing, by video hook up from Haiti Carlos Morales Troncoso, Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, bragged to the Press about his government's help to Haiti.

   Inner City Press asked about the blocking of sick Haitians, including infants, at the Dominican border. I haven't seen that report, Morales Troncoso replied. Video here, from Minute 25:57.

   Later on Friday there was a briefing by UNICEF about Haiti, but it remained unclear what information could be used by the press. UNICEF spokesman Chris De Bono introduced an official who could not, it seemed, be named.

   Inner City Press asked de Bono on the record why UNICEF had not been able to lead the water and sanitation cluster after the earthquake.

  De Bono replied that UNICEF had only ten international staff in country on the day of the earthquake, but was able to take over the WASH cluster by "day two."

  Inner City Press asked how many staff UNICEF has there now. De Bono said he didn't know, to email him for the answer. Inner City Press did, but as of 10 p.m., with a fundraiser on network television benefiting UNICEF among others, no response had been provided on how many staff UNICEF has in Haiti.

Rubble of UN's Christopher Hotel - was it MOSS compliant?

   Appearing with Ban Ki-moon on January 21, Bill Clinton was asked to which charities people should give. Only those with big presences in Haiti, Bill Clinton replied. So it would seem UNICEF should be able to say how many staff it had and has in Haiti. Inner City Press has also asked UNICEF about its operations in Sri Lanka and Somalia.

   Finally, a day after Inner City Press asked a question about the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development and its outstanding loans to Haiti, would the loans be forgiven? On January 22, spokesman Martin Nesirky said

"you asked a question, Matthew, yesterday, about the debt repayments by Haiti. The Secretary-General, of course, welcomes any efforts to ease financial burdens placed on Haitians. As for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, it says it has supported, and is supporting, rural and agricultural development in Haiti through seven loans, for a total amount of $90 million on highly concessional terms. Six of these loans are now completed and closed. And they’re covered by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries relief initiative, and consequently, the debt repayments are covered by debt relief. There is one loan not covered by that initiative, and repayments for this loan will not start before 2018. The Fund is now reviewing its approach towards these repayments with a view to call on its Member States to assist in directly supporting Haiti with further relief."

We'll see.  Inner City Press also asked, but Mr. Nesirky did not answer, about the material assistance the UN provides to bereaved families of international and national staff members:

Inner City Press: Can you either state now, or at the next briefing or in between, what material assistance is being provided to the families of those UN staff, both international and national, who perished in Haiti? And whether the benefits are the same, the material assistance? How, you know, between these two groups. And just what the number…? I’ve heard that [it’s] Schedule D of the benefits package, but I’d like to know what it is.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I’m sure you would. And I’m sure that more than you, the family members would like to know. And that is being worked on very intensively, and it’s something that occupies the mind of many people, not least the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: But isn’t there a standard, I mean, isn’t there a UN policy? What I’m asking for is the policy, not actually what, what… You see what I mean?

Spokesperson: Yes, I do understand. This has to do with insurance and other matters, and that’s being looked into very closely by the right people in Field Support, in the Department of Management, Department of Human Resources Management.

Inner City Press: Sure. When a decision is made, you’ll…?

Spokesperson: The question of payments of whatever kind to family members or those who were injured is really a matter for them, between the United Nations and them. The principle that you refer to, of course, is something that we would want to make public.

Inner City Press: Isn’t it a public…? I mean, it’s a public organization.

Spokesperson: That’s what I’m saying. The principle is very clear. It’s a matter of public interest, you’re absolutely right. And on the principle, we will make it clear what’s going on. But, the details are something for the family members.

Watch this site.

* * *

For IMF, Canceling Haiti's Debt is Medium Term Goal, Outcome Uncertain, UN's IFAD, Venezuela and Taiwan Are Creditors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- While the IMF's Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn rushed out a statement that the "IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt," on Thursday morning his spokesperson Caroline Atkinson called this a "medium range" goal.

She emphasized that Strauss-Kahn cannot predict how the IMF board will vote, when it meets next week. She mentioned the outstanding bilateral loan to Haiti of Venezuela, but not Taiwan's reported $92 million loan. Taiwan is of particular interest in light of mainland China's dispatch to Haiti of a 125 member "riot squad" fomed police unit, a senior delegation there on the day of the earthquake, and a search and rescue team the day after.

  Among Haiti's creditors is the UN system's International Fund for Agricultural Development. Even as the UN has done into "Haiti only" mode for the past nine days, there's been no talk of canceling the UN's own loans to Haiti.

  Strauss-Kahn's "Marshall Plan" comments have been portrayed by some progressives -- or "anti-poverty" activists, as one reporter at the IMF's January 21 briefing phrased it -- as a victory for online activism. But Strauss-Kahn's grand statement may mean less than first appeared.

  Inner City Press submitted several questions to the IMF during its January 21 briefing, held in a new broadcast center, about Haiti as well as Romania, Iceland and Serbia. While Ms. Aktinson read out and at least purported to respond to Inner City Press' Romania question, this Haiti question was ignored:

The M-D has said "IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt." What exactly is the IMF doing, with the IADB, IFAD, Venezuela and Taiwan? When does the IMF anticipate canceling its $265 million in loans? Do any of the past conditions apply to the first $165 million?

  The IMF has in the past provided same day written responses to questions submitted but not answered at its bi-weekly briefing. That should be done today. Watch this site.

Haitian ministry

Two other unanswered questions are, "Please state the relation between the Icesave referendum and the IMF's consideration of Iceland."

"In Serbia, National Bank of Serbia governor Radovan Jelasic has said that restrictions on raises are in connection with the IMF. True?"

Note that on the IMF's outstanding $165 million loan to Haiti, reportedly the conditions included restrictions on public sector pay raises, and lifting the price of electricity.

 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.

* * *

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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