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On Haiti Cholera, As New Appeal Zeroes In on UN Liability, ICP Asks, Guterres UNaccountable

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photos

UNITED NATIONS, January 5 – When Haiti's President Moises spoke in the UN General Assembly on the morning of September 21, he called for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to follow through on his statements and provide funding for both tracks of the so-called New Approach to the cholera the UN brought to the island: that is, to pay reparations. Inner City Press, which accompanied and covered the Security Council's trip to Haiti this year, has repeatedly asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric to make the envoy UN envoy on the issue, Josette Sheeran, available for questions. It has not happened. Now in early January 2018, an appeal has been filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which argues that the UN has acknowledged liability. After reporting the appeal, Inner City Press on January 5 asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Question on Haiti.  There's an appeal has been filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals of one of the remaining cases about the UN introducing cholera into Haiti, and their argument is that, in various UN resolutions, the use of the word "liability" has… the UN has acknowledged liability of peacekeeping forces, and so they are saying "liability" means actually paying money, actually having a legal obligation to pay, rather than a voluntary trust fund that may or may not.  So I wanted to know.  Number one, is there a response to that argument?  And number two, can you provide, even as to the voluntary trust fund, can you provide some update on… on how much is in it, and when Ms. [Josette] Sheeran will have a press conference, given that she did visit… it was said initially that she would have one after she visited Haiti, and I believe that she did, and we're now in 2018. Deputy Spokesman:  We're in touch with her office to see when she'd be available to do that.  Regarding the contributions of funds, you can look at the website easily, and that's got the information, but there's nothing new to say about where we stand legally on the position of Haiti.  We've articulated that before. Inner City Press: So António Guterres's position is… is absolutely the same, that there is no binding liability of any kind? Deputy Spokesman:  No, you've heard what the Secretary-General has had to say on this and I will leave it at that.  Have a good afternoon, everyone." Unless you're dead. The brief, in Laventure v. United Nations, says, "Relying primarily on the Government’s arguments, the District Court ruled that, although UN Reports 51/389 and 51/903 expressly assume liability for damages caused by its peacekeeping forces, 'both reports contemplate that claims against the UN would be resolved by non-judicial means, including through UN established standing claims commissions . . . .” SA-8. This is wrong for two
reasons. First, such a conclusion is impossible as a matter of law, since the UN’s internal claims processes do not bind the UN to anything. Second, the reports do not say anything close to what the District Court and the Government say they do."We'll have more on this. On November 2, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Haiti.  I had seen the Secretary-General's piece in the Miami Herald, but I'm assuming you've seen the Guardian piece which reports that… first, just as a question, is it correct, as the Guardian reports, that… that none of the permanent five members of the Security Council have agreed to the $40 million leave-behind of funds from the mission to deal with the cholera that the UN brought to Haiti?  And is it true, as the Guardian reports, that the UN Haiti Cholera [Response] Multi-Partner… Multi-Partner Trust Fund, which gathered $2 million, quote, "now lies almost emptied"?  What's… how much is in there?  How much has been raised and how does this square with what he said? Spokesman:  I think what was clear, and what we've said in terms of funding the initiatives, we encourage and we ask Governments to give whatever balances there were towards the appeal, leftover money from the peacekeeping mission.  As far as I understand it, there was no formal agreement to just move over the remnants of what was left in the mission budget to the new appeal.  You know, since… if you look back to 2010, I think the international community has spent almost $680 million on… to combat the spread of cholera in Haiti.  As we've announced from here, the Secretary-General's new approach is… builds on our recognition to improve our response and obviously, the reflection and the regret, as well as the moral responsibility, on our continued commitment to the elimination of [cholera in] Haiti.  As for the exact number… the exact cash number in the Multi-Partner Trust Fund, we can get you that figure.  We obviously would like to see it funded at a greater rate.  I think part of the Deputy Secretary-General's trip is to obviously… for her to see first-hand what has been going on and to bring attention to the issue. Inner City Press: you've spoken for both previous Secretary-General and this one.  What would you say to an analysis that says, in a way, six years of denial of responsibility results in a situation where the Member States now being asked for money don't feel the urgency they might have felt earlier in the process?  Do you see any connection between that? Spokesman:  I think that's a question to ask Member States.  I think… you know, we've recognized I think what went… we've recognized that things did not go well, to put it mildly, in Haiti, our need to do better.  We're sort of asking for a second chance, I think, to prove our worth.  I think the Secretary-General laid out a pretty detailed plan in terms of a two-track approach, and our long-term commitment to the people of Haiti, and to bring some solace to those communities that were the hardest hit, and as, just as important, I think, on the first track to ensure that Haiti has the health system, the sanitation system to ensure that this… that an outbreak like we've seen in the past cannot occur again. " After the briefing, Dujarric's office provided a link that seems to show that yes, the fund is down to $250,000. On October 5, Inner City Press asked again. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: has to do with Haiti.  I notice that the Deputy Secretary-General is meeting today with Josette Sheeran, who we've been asking to have some Q&A about the cholera issue and also then with Paul Farmer.  So, is the Deputy Secretary-General the point person on the response to the UN and cholera in Haiti?  And, also, is it possible, given that Ms. Sheeran is in the building, that she can at…  at… do a stakeout at some time? [cross talk] Spokesman:  "I think we'll have… we will try to have Ms. Sheeran talk to you maybe after she's able to do her first visit to Haiti.  Thank you." Back on September 21, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the General Assembly, the President of Haiti, Mr. [Jovenel] Moise, said in his speech… devoted a quite a bit of it to the UN following through on what the Secretary-General announced about the new approach, and he named specifically the two tracks and said the money should begin to come. I wanted to know, can you give any update on money that actually has been devoted thus far?  And, number two, has Josette Sheeran been operating during this General Assembly week to try to… Spokesman:  Yes, very much so.  I mean, she’s been having… I know she’s been having meetings.  She, I think, will participate in the meeting of the Secretary-General with the Haitian leader.  I don’t think I have an updated figure for you on the money.  What is clear is that the money… we’re continually trying to raise money, but already the country team has spent quite a lot of… and deployed quite a lot of resources on the issue, even before this new approach has been announced. Inner City Press: Could she do some sort of a press availability? Spokesman:  I think she’ll probably do some sort of a press availability in the weeks ahead. We'll have more on this - and on this: back on September 19, French President Emmanuel Macron's UN press conference was set for 1 pm, the same time as the heads of state luncheon the Press was covering. But it must have started late, because when Inner City Press after coverage ran in, Macron was still holding forth, without a word on Africa. He began to take questions, from AFP and ultimately a French media which criticized him for speaking with CNN. Still not a word on Africa, on which France jealously "holds the pen" in the Security Council. Inner City Press shouted out, once and then twice, "Burundi?"  But nothing, rien. Inner City Press has asked the UN repeatedly about Cameroon and France's Paul Biya, and Togo and Gabon. But Macron was presenting himself as a player on Syria and Iraq, even North Korea. Rocket Boy, one might say. And then it was over. The day before, when Italy's Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano took media questions at the UN on September 18, they were all in Italian except for a final chosen question about Donald Trump. Inner City Press insisted and asked, in English, if Italy funds militia in Libya to detain migrants and refugees. Alfano's answer was in Italian, but a handler from the Italian Mission offered a translation: that Italy has denied it. So what due diligence does Italy do, over the funds it gives to the UN-propped up government in Libya? We'll have more on this. Alamy photos here. When US President Donald Trump gave his UN reform speech on September 18, he noted that UN staff have doubled since 2000, but we haven't seen the results. He could have said more: what HAS been seen includes inaction on mass killings in Sri Lanka and Yemen, Myanmar and Cameroon. Not mentioned in Secretary General Antonio Guterres' speech, nor in his answers the two times Inner City Press has asked him, is the UN bribery guilty verdicts in the case of Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe. The UN was shown, only this summer, to be for sale. And nothing has changed. As UN General Assembly week started up on Sunday, the US announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at 9 pm, at Russia's Mission to the UN. Inner City Press after asking Cote d'Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara a question about Myanmar - without answer - biked up to that Mission on 67th Street. There in the half light were dozens of reporters and photographers, waiting for Tillerson to leave. In the street were US body guards with machine guns. Tillerson emerged and said nothing, driving away. Video here. Most of the Western wire service correspondents, one a photographer who'd been at the UN photo op with Ouattara but not the stakeout with Ivorian media, turned and left. Then the spokesman for Lavrov, and before him for now deceased Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, emerged and briefed in Russia. Inner City Press was informed second hard that she said the topics had been Syria, Ukraine and Minsk implementation, and “North Africa.” Later the US State Department said, “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met this evening in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The two recommitted to deconflicting military operations in Syria, reducing the violence, and creating the conditions for the Geneva process to move forward, pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.” So what about North Africa? Peacekeepers in Ukraine? Watch this site.


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