Bolton's Wake, Silence and Speech at the UN, Congo and Kony, Let the Games Begin
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June
9 -- What is the U.N.'s role, what is it's jurisdiction? U.S. Ambassador John
Bolton on Friday said, "The member states tell the Secretariat what to do, not
the other way around." Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the
U.N. has 17,000 peacekeeping troops, prisoners in Beni, North Kivu are rioting
to protest conditions and their lock-out without charges or trial. Less than a
week after 192 prisoners broke out of jail in Bukavu, in Beni ten escaped and
three were shot, including one prisoner who hadn't even tried to escape. In a
post-shooting written statement, the
UN stated that
it will "remind the authorities once again of their
responsibilities concerning prison conditions and the security of the
population." So the UN does sometimes speak to, or at least remind, member
states of their responsibilities.
But when does the UN speak,
and when does it stay silent? Friday at the noon briefing at UN Headquarters,
Inner City Press asked the spokesman to take a position, primarily directed at
South Sudan, on whether Lord's Resistance Army officials including not only
Joseph Kony but also Vincent Otti, who have both been
indicted for war crimes
and crimes against humanity in Northern Uganda by the
International Criminal Court,
should be arrested. On Thursday, the new staffer in the Spokesman's office,
previously speaking for the ICC, stated at five p.m. that he'd been unable to
confirm reports that Otti is in South Sudan. The effort was appreciated and
acknowledged. Friday after the briefing and Inner City Press'
he appeared to say that it is not the UN's problem. (In fairness, Inner City
Press later in the day sought clarification, see below.) In the briefing as
before, the spokesman had inveighed generally against impunity.
But what about this particular individual, Otti, as
a test: will the UN "remind the authorities" in South Sudan that they have a
responsibility, in light of the ICC indictment?
Cup fans in Congo
So far, for two days the UN has
declined to answer the question. So too when asked about a
detailed report in the New Vision
newspaper, carried on the UN's own MONUC website,
that the Lord's Resistance Army is entrenched in Garanga National Park in the
DRC. Inner City Press raised this article at the noon briefing, and afterwards
showed the new staffer that article, as well as a more recent article, "Sudan VP
Meets Kony Rebels in Juba," in which the Ugandan state minister for foreign
affairs Henry Okello Oryem is quoted that "We are consulting the International
Criminal Court because they have issued arrest warrants, implying the government
of southern Sudan is under obligation to arrest the rebels on sight. This issue
has to be sorted out."
Inner City Press asked again: why isn't the
Secretary General or wider UN providing guidance at this point? (In fairness,
the Secretary General spoke out at the time of the ICC indictments, and since
then generally about not tolerating impunity.) The reasons offered for not
speaking at this time include that the International Criminal Court is not a UN
body, that the UN and ICC have a partnership agreement; that Sudan is not a
party to the ICC (the spokesman for the ICC Christian Palme will be asked to
confirm this); and that the reported talks between the LRA, South Sudan and
prospectively Uganda have no UN involvement. Inner City Press said, and says
here, that there are some who question if the UN would be so restrained if
Mladic for example were spotted negotiation in Pristina or Montenegro, and who
question if the proffered differences are much more than hair-splitting. So far
not many seem to care or question, was the interim response. What is the
standard for speaking? It becomes increasingly hard to tell.
In Kampala, Uganda's president
Yoweri Museveni said,
"the DRC government and the UN are not serious" about acting on the Lord's
Resistance Army. Often in reference to Un inaction it is said, "the UN and what
army?" But in this case, the UN actually has an army, near the refuge of the
long-denounced Lord's Resistance Army, reportedly down to fewer the 500 members.
While 17,000 troops may be spread out, the rhetorical question about "what army"
can, in this case, be answered. MONUC in the field will speak to government
officials about their human rights duties, in jails and elsewhere. Why at UN
headquarters has speech become so selective?
Again no new update was given regarding
the seven UN peacekeepers held captive in Ituri. Before he left for Khartoum,
what we'll call a senior UN official told Inner City Press that the UN has seen
the Nepali kidnappers, but that their captor is lucid one day and not so the
next. More was said but for now not reported. As the Spokesman says, things are
In lighter news, the first day of the
2006 World Cup saw dozens of people milling in front of the television in the UN
Headquarters lobby, watching Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in French-language TV
5. Such crowds in the lobby usually connote an act of terrorism, or perhaps a
John Bolton speech. But this time, and for this month, it is sport. On the
second floor, a smaller crowd gathered by the TV set to the side of the Security
Council. What will happen when a match overlaps with a Security Council stakeout
is not yet known. Then again, as of Friday there's no ESPN, ABC or ESPN-2
available on UN TV. At 2:50 p.m., DSG Mark Malloch Brown floated through the
lobby. Let the games begin!
3:25 p.m. postscript -- the light mood can't last
long. An impromptu press conference was called at the stake-out regarding the
alleged targeting of civilians on a beach by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Questions were shouted about the impact on the referendum. Games, not funny, of
an entirely different sort.
7:15 footnote: in the UN's Delegate's Lounge,
prospective spokespersons for Lebanese inquiries hold forth with martinis and
thick cigars, at the bar there's rare talk of Turkmenistan and Ruhnama, and even
those who joist back and forth throughout the week are all at ease. If only
world peace were this easy.
Pro-Poor Talk and a Critique of the World Trade Organization from a WTO Founder:
In UN Lull, Ugandan Fog and Montenegrin Mufti
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June
8 -- The chairman of BP / British Petroleum on Thursday
high cost of remitting money from poor people to their relatives as "a horrific
indictment of the financial system."
Kofi Annan's point-man on migration and founding director general of the World
Trade Organization, also conceded that the poor are ill-served by the WTO's
dissonant treatment of goods and people. Nations accede to the free movement of
goods and increasing services, but restrict those who must travel in search of
work or other improvement.
might make member states be as open to people as goods and services, Mr.
Sutherland responded both that there are economic benefits and that it is
inexorable, given most of the developed world's declining birthrate. Thus
the briefing ended,
but there were ever yet more question some quite concrete. In Russia for
example, with its dwindling population, much of the construction work is done by
migrants from Central Asia. Uzbek immigrants live in sheds, subjected to
shakedowns under threats of deportation. The use of migrant labor may well be
inexorable, but the fair and humane treatment of migrants is not.
Mr. Sutherland & S-G
recent UN migration report's author, Hania Zlotnik, was asked about this outside
the briefing room. She recounted recently watching an old Public Broadcasting
Corporation documentary about Chicago, in which Eastern European immigrants were
exploited but now have even power. She reported that on the substance of
migration, the United States is not being a problem -- only on the issue of the
upcoming forum and its timing. In the wake of Wednesday's John Bolton - Mark
Malloch Brown dust-up, the U.S. position on migration was not mentioned in the
The U.S. was the
elephant in the (briefing) room, as it is on the issue of the funding of the
warlords in Somalia. On that, Ambassador Loj in the morning predicted a Security
Council briefing, which occurred, leading to a more formal presentation from
Francois Lonseny Fall, now slated for June 19. Whether he will take questions is
not yet known. On Thursday, incoming General Assembly president Haya Rashed Al
Khalifa was slated to speak with the press, and then decided not to at the late
minute. Speaking in depth, not in Room 226 but rather in the UN Correspondents
Association, was the Grand Mufti of Bosniak and Albanian Muslims in Montenegro,
Rifat Fejzic, who painted a positive picture of the treatment of the Islamic
community in what's slated to be the 192nd member state. He estimated that there
are 150,000 Muslims in Serbia itself, not including Kosovo.
Balkans observer was surprised at the Grand Mufti's upbeat take, contrasting it
to the Bosnians. He referenced a Balkan proverb, that one who is bitten by a
snake becomes afraid of a lizard. Independence via referendum and not bloodshed
means that lizards can be addressed without fear. The Grand Mufti said that
French officials have approached him, for information on how to bring about a
more hierarchical organization of Muslims in France. How this will work out is
something of a lull at the UN on Thursday. The Secretary General urged reporters
to put the speech story behind them, advice echoed by the forthcoming lame duck
General Assembly president at a four-minute
East Foyer stakeout.
John Bolton was in London; his Security Council colleagues were in Sudan, from
that Joseph Kony's deputy Vincent Otti will be participating in talks with South
Sudan and even Uganda. Since Mr. Otti has been indicted by the International
Criminal Court, at noon the
question was raised,
should Mr. Otti be arrested? Near press time the new member of the Spokesman's
Office team courteously disclosed that the Otti report could not be confirmed,
and thus there'd be no comment. The question remains: should South Sudan arrest
Mr. Otti? Time will tell the answer.
Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown:
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June
7 -- The dueling speech and sound-bytes from UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark
Malloch Brown and John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador, consumed the press corps and
debate on Wednesday. At a three-minute stake-out in the morning, Amb. Bolton
declared that "this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official" since 1989.
quote is at minute 2:13). At the noon briefing, after the spokesman said that
the Secretary-General stands behind his Deputy's speech, he was
any graver mistakes by UN officials since 1989 came to mind. A topic just then
being discussed in the depopulated Security Council,
Rwanda, came to mind but was not
The spokesman was also asked, since the speech named names, if there'd be any
comment on the Council of Europe's just-released
report calling "reprehensible" the U.S.
policy of extraordinary
rendition of terrorism suspects to secret camps -- including it seems in Poland
and Romania -- and from there for torture with nary a court. The spokesman said
he hadn't yet seen the report and had not comment. So much for naming names.
in advance, about the Dutch judicial system's conviction earlier in the day of
Oriental Timber Co.'s
Guus Kouwenhove for
violation the UN arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman said that it is up the
member states to bring enforcement actions. On Ambassador Bolton's call for now
lifting the arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman had no comment.
the very Security Council stake-out, Mark Malloch Brown
He selectively took questions from reporters by name, praising the very Fox news
he'd in the speech called a detractor, and dismissing the notions of
polarization, either that he is too closely aligned with the Democratic Party in
the U.S. or that his remarks might make matters worse by enlarging the UN as a
target of Republican rhetoric. When he strode off, there were still hands in the
air and questions to be asked. These include, from the text of his speech, the
identities of the G-77 member "few spoilers... opposed to reform for its own
sake" and his views of the major candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential
election, referred to in the final substantive line of his speech. While he'd
probably "no comment" an inquiry about Senator Bill Frist, for example, one
might wonder why, given the other specifics in his speech.
wonders why what he calls his friendly critique of the U.S. did not include any
reference to such controversies as
extraordinary rendition or, even more unreported, the essentially confirmed
U.S. funding of warlords in Somalia. The references in the speech to human
rights are to the Unites States' vote against the new Human Rights Council and
decision not to run for a seat, and to the Security Council's attempt to expand
its mandate to include human rights. The speech mentions Rush Limbaugh and not
Guantanamo Bay, and one wonders why.
also wonder why Mr. Malloch Brown gave his speech at such a Democratic
Party-identified venue. Why not the Council on Foreign Relations? Or the
American Enterprise Institute, which he mentioned by acronym at the stake-out?
Why not in the UN Headquarters building, described in the speech as "in most
respects the most hazardous workplace in town"?
the previous week Richard Holbrooke said much the same thing, in an impromptu
stake-out after his
on the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Holbrooke said, as taped by this
Corporate Spin on
AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence,
May 31, 2006),
and the unnamed CNN, which never played
"This administration has shown a
schizophrenic attitude towards the UN. We use it when it suits our purposes,
like Iran, and we bypass it in a way that undermines it. It needs to be funded,
and at the same time we need to push for more reforms."
might call this a Cliff Notes version of Malloch Brown's later speech. While all
day reporters were urged to "read the speech," as of 5 p.m. a Google search for
"you will lose the UN" did not find the speech. [5:30 update: on un.org clicking
Dep. Sect-Gen and speeches and latest, one
speech.] In further punditry, the first lesson and question of public
relations is "who are you trying to persuade"? This question was posed to a
right-leaning pundit who was, in fact, called on by Mr. Malloch Brown. "The
people where he gave the speech," was the answer. "It was a job application." If
so, consider the owners of Progressive Insurance in Ohio, Middle America, and
the cashing-out duo of Golden West Financial, selling to Wachovia. But if the
message was directed beyond that room, again the question is, to whom? If
overseas, to omit a substantive critique of U.S. human rights seems strange. And
if it was directed to Middle America, the phrase in the speech, it is not clear
that the speech's venue, its gleeful dissection on Fox News or the subsequent
stake-out are enough.
fruitless stake-out news, while at the noon briefing it was announced that Carla
Del Ponte and her replacement on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,
Hassan B. Jallow, would take questions after their time in the Security Council,
Ms. Del Ponte walked right by the microphone and brushed off those reporters who
Council president Loj did stop and take questions. On Somalia, she said she
anticipates a briefing on Thursday and next week. Asked again to comment on
Denmark's failure to response to the UNAIDS survey, she deferred to a staffer,
who reiterated this written response:
"From: Michael Starbaek Christensen [at]
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 15:42:42 -0400
Subject: Un AIDS survey
"Dear Matthew, I checked with the Danish
delegation to the HIV/AIDS high level event. In Denmark, the Ministry of Health
is in charge of the Danish efforts to prevent and inform about HIV/AIDS. The
efforts are concentrated on the substantive work in this field, and resources
have not been earmarked to produce a report to the UN."
refusing to even respond to a UN project on AIDS, is Denmark a "spoiler," as
phrased in the Malloch Brown speech? On Denmark's (non-) response, UNAIDS has
yet to respond to a request for comment. Selective naming of names, selective
allowing of questions. How it will turn out remains to be seen
Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June
6 -- The dual role and constraints of the UN system are on display in its
Report on International Migration and Development. The report
highlights the global rise in migrants, from 155 million in 1990 to 191 million
in 2005, and in remittances back to their countries of origin, from $102 billion
in 1995 to $232 billion in 2005. Kofi Annan's introduction to the report recites
that "it is for Governments to decide whether more or less migration is
desirable" -- then headlines "benefits at both ends of the voyage."
report does not address the accelerating trend of corporations in developed
countries outsourcing back-office and other skilled work to countries like
India. A call to customer service is increasingly answered in an offshore call
center, as is live on-line help. X-rays can be read and diagnoses delivered by
lower-cost doctors overseas, over the Internet. Now investment banks' stock
analysis comes from overseas, and Reuters business stories about mergers in
California have Indian datelines. The trend may be that while some can ply their
trades over the Internet, telecommuting on steroids, less skilled workers still
need to migrate, by any means necessary.
reason for the Secretary-General's and other UN officials' statement that "it is
for Governments to decide whether more or less migration is desirable" is to be
found in the anti-immigrant political debates in France, Germany and the United
States. The UN does not want to be accused of promoting open migration right at
the time that both Houses of the U.S. Congress, to differing degrees, are trying
to substantially slow and problematize entry into the United States.
report will be taken up by the UN General Assembly
in September. The General
Assembly has already spoken -- without strong-arming Capital-G Governments, of
course -- on the question of remittances, urging countries to bring about more
competition and impose fewer restrictions. The just-released report states that
"Governments can do much to increase
competition in the remittance market and maintain pressure on fee reduction,
including... requiring all money-transfer agents to disclose all charges and
fees before a transaction is made; and disseminating information on costs in a
systemic manner... Governments of both countries of origin and destination can
reduce regulatory constraints hindering the use of banking institutions by
Governments can do these things -- but do they? Following 9/11/01,
the United States made it much more difficult to open a bank account,
particularly for migrants.
the major remitter to one of the poorest countries on earth, Somalia (see
below), had its assets frozen. Officials implied that informal but longstanding
remittance networks like South Asia's hawala system were rife with money
laundering for terrorism.
laundering and it cousin, tax evasion, may play some unexamined explanatory part
the Report's Table 11 of the Top Twenty Countries in terms of receipts of
remittances. The first three are no surprise -- India, China and Mexico -- but
Number Four jumps out: France, with $12.7 billion remitted to it in 2004. This
compares to only $3 billion having been remitted to the United States, a figure
the UN report's table 11 cites to the World Bank. The World Bank table is
in PDF; more detailed remittance data is available
in Excel format. Neither the World Bank report nor the just-released UN report
answer, where is the money of American expatriates going? A question for
question of the day at the Secretary-General's Spokesman's noon press briefing
was Somalia. A statement was read out, from the elusive SRSG Francois Lonseny
Fall in Nairobi, that
"members of the international community
welcome reconciliatory statements from the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs)
and encourage a similar approach from the Union of Islamic Courts and other
parties in Mogadishu."
on the ground are that Islamic Courts drove the warlords out of Mogadishu, and
that the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism warlords
were thrown out of the ever Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa. So to
what "reconciliatory statements" was Amb. Lonseny Fall referring? The spokesman
said he would find and identify them, but nothing was received by the expiration
of the embargo on the UN Report on International Migration and Development at 4
p.m.. [Inner City Press was instructed, by a spokesperson for the General
Assembly president, not to call any countries' missions for responses to the
Report prior to 4 p.m.. Therefore
we link to this response,
to a separate but related UN migration report: "Austria's representative, Hannah
Liko on behalf of the European Union, notes that, 'while the [Report] covered a
number of important issues, it had missed a deeper analysis of the root causes
the noon briefing, the spokesman was asked if there is any update on the plight
of the seven UN peacekeepers taken hostage in Ituri in the Congo. "No," the
spokesman said. We'll keep asking...
Other wires' Migration Report coverage:
post-embargo post-script: With the embargo lifted, Hania Zlotnik was asked how
the International Organization for Migration
relates or not to the report. "They are not part of the UN system," Ms. Zlotnik
said. "We've tried to swallow them but we get indigestion." Responding to
expressions of regret that she, as the report's author, could not (easily) be
quoted, except it was projected and confirmed by one
paper of record (which quoted her that "societies don't ask themselves
enough what they would do without migrants"), Ms. Zlotnik shrugged, "That's how
they do it," and headed down the escalator from the UN's third floor...
UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass,
Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Most of Mogadishu fell over
the weekend to so-called Islamic Court. They declared victory over the also
so-called Anti-Terror Alliance, also known as warlords. From the Transitional
Federal Government in Baidoa, the warlords were expelled. A corner sees to have
been turned and so at UN Headquarters at noon the question was asked: what is
the United Nations' or its Secretary General's view of Islamic Courts' takeover
of the putative capital of all Somalia?
Four hours later, the answer came in
writing, in three sentence here quoted in full:
Secretary-General continues to be concerned about the violence in Mogadishu and
its environs. He appeals to all sides to stop the fighting and enter into
negotiations. He stresses that all parties to the conflict should resolve their
differences and address outstanding issues in accordance with the Transitional
Federal Charter of Somalia."
To some, the statement is both empty and
besides the point. Already Puntland and Somalialand are hardly in the orbit of
Mogadishu, much less Baidoa. Now Mogadishu falls to Islamic Courts. What may be
being cooked up in the Pentagon is anyone's guess.
East Congo / Monuc
Also over the weekend, reports emerged
that the seven Nepali UN peacekeepers taken prisoner in the Congo had been
released. This came from Nepal's permanent representative to the UN, but turned
out to not be true. The perhaps-accurate names of the Nepalis were, unlike the
soldiers, released: Gir
Bahadur Thapa, Prem Bahadur Thapa, Tuk Jung Gurung, Chhatra Bahadur Basnet, Sher
Bahadur Bista, Jhalak Kunwar and Kale Sarki. At the Secretary-General's
noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for
an update. Unfortunately, they are still being held, was the response. There are
rumblings of military action, and of attempts, not by the UN, to pay ransom.
US representatives in Kinshasa
characterize events in East
Congo as a sideshow, that will not impact the election slated for July 30. Some
say: wishful thinking.
status of the Democratic Republic of Congo was raised to Noam Chomsky on Monday,
when he took questions from the UN Correspondents' Association. Inner City Press
noted that neither Congo or DRC is in the index of the professor's new book,
"Failed States." Mr. Chomsky acknowledged that the DRC is "perhaps the worst
ongoing atrocity in the world" and that it is not mentioned in his book --
because, he said, "I can't think of any sensible way to do anything about it."
He mentioned strengthening the "weak" UN force, and stopping other countries'
interventions. Afterwards, one of Prof. Chomsky's more combative interlocutors
opined that if the U.S. is not the major negative actor, a situation is not of
much interest to the professor. In his answer, Chomsky put it differently,
saying "we should focus on our own responsibilities" and on "our own society."
The UN Correspondents' Association, however, includes journalists from all over
the world. A philosophy that as one of its seven main points urges that the UN
be lead-actor on world crises should have something to say about wars like the
Congo's. And the West is not without responsibility: DRC resource extractors
include U.S.-based Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation, Adastra Mineral f/k/a
American Mineral Fields, Ivanhoe Nickel & Platinum and Canada's Kinross Gold
Corporation, among others.
To Inner City Press' other question, on
the regulation of corporation, Prof. Chomsky replied that corporations are
"private tyrannies" that have come to dominate most stakes. "It is not a law of
nature," he said, "that corporation must serve only their shareholders... What
There was much back-and-forth about the
Middle East, and a prediction by Chomsky that China is ascendant, and that India
will have to choose. (.wmv file being processed; available.) Asked at the end
about the Uighurs in western China, Prof. Chomsky said it could be followed up
by email. We'll see.
Congo, Peacekeepers Turned Hostages: Interview with Jean-Marie Guehenno by Inner
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, May
30 -- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one UN peacekeeper is dead, three
wounded and seven taken hostage by the forces of Peter Karim, known for hauling
the DRC's resources east into Uganda. At UN Headquarters on Tuesday, Inner City
Press interviewed Jean-Marie Guehenno, Under-secretary general for peacekeeping
for WAV file). Earlier,
Inner City Press asked
Secretary General Kofi Annan what is being done to secure the peacekeepers'
release, and how the DRC election, slated for the end of July, can take place in
these circumstances. The
Secretary General replied
that Karim has been implored to release the peacekeepers, and will not have
impunity. He added that the UN is doing the best that it can for the election,
the first in 40 years in Congo.
later at Kofi Annan's spokesman's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about
reports that Karim is demanding $20,000 per peacekeeper. We do not pay ransom
for our personnel, the
and there will be no impunity. Asked about MONUC's own report that it is
government soldiers who are responsible for most of the rapes in the Congo, the
spokesman referred to training, and repeated that there is and will be no
impunity. That was the word of the day. To inquire further, Inner City Press
asked at the noon briefing if Jean-Marie Guehenno would take questions after he
briefed the council. "We've asked," was the answer.
p.m., Inner City Press asked Jean-Marie Guehenno as he rushed into the Security
Council if he would answer questions at the stakeout after he briefed the
Council. Mr. Guehenno replied that he was not going in to brief, but rather to
find an Ambassador. It was past three p.m. when the briefing began. Kofi Annan
and Mr. Guehenno went in, and at 4:08, the Secretary General came out, waving.
At nearly five o'clock Mr. Guehenno emerged, with a half-dozen staffers in his
entourage. For eight minutes Mr. Guehenno answered Inner City Press' questions,
all on the Democratic Republic of Congo.
about the status of the seven kidnapped peacekeepers, Mr. Guehenno said the
militia leader involved would be held personally accountable if the Blue Helmets
are not released. Asked if this militia leader is, in fact, Peter Karim, Mr.
Guehenno replied, that is the assumption. He described an ambush in Ituri in
which one peacekeeper was killed, three injured and seven surrounded and
captured. A helicopter that arrived thereafter could not free them, due to the
clarify a recent quote that there are not that many deaths in Congo, Mr.
Guehenno distinguished between "direct" deaths, by shooting or machete, and more
indirect impacts of war, including the breakdown of the state and health system.
the elections, slated for the end of July, are on track, Mr. Guehenno replied
"as much as can be," and described logistical and political obstacles. Mr.
Guehenno asked rhetorically, Will it be a Westminster democracy? No, he
answered. He said that what gives him hope, when he goes "beyond Kinshasa," as
the ten Permanent Representatives visiting DRC in the second week of June
apparently will not, is excitement about voting, and the mobilizing of voices
"who have no voice."
"Ituri Explorer" / MONUC
about the calls in Kasai for a boycott of the election, Mr. Guehenno replied
that the leader of the UDPS had been given many opportunities to participate,
but unfortunately has chosen not to. Asked about President Kabila's allegation
that the three dozen foreign bodyguards, including three from Orlando,
Florida-based AQMI Strategy and others from South Africa's Omega Risk Solutions,
were attempting a coup, Mr. Guehenno said he only knows the news he reads. One
wonders if others in a position to impact Congo even read the news. Click
to hear Inner City Press'
interview with the UN's Jean-Marie
Guehenno, recorded on a $20 MP3
player and edited on open source audio software, with an voiceover introduction
recorded in an echo chamber on the UN Headquarters' third floor. Watch -- and
listen for -- this site.
the UN, Too-Rosy Light on Myanmar, More Clarification on Timor L'Este
Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.
UNITED NATIONS, May
24 -- Myanmar was illuminated, briefly, by rosy light at the UN Headquarters on
Wednesday. Following his visit to Myanmar including its new capital Pyinmana,
the UN's Ibrahim Gambari told journalists that Aung San Suu Kyi, who he called
A.S.S.K., is in good health, that the military regime is working well with the
UN's anti-drug office and, generally, that things are looking up. Inner City
Mr. Gambari if he raised to the regime the issues of press freedom, and of the
Karen and stateless people, and about reports that Myanmar is defaulting on
payments to the state-owned Ukraine arms supplier UkrspetsExport and on
construction of its new capital in the jungle. Mr. Gambari said his visit was
not about the defaults (or, by implication, about arms sales), but he was
willing to describe his one hour visit to the new capital, stating that although
most ministries have moved there, it is still fairly empty. Mr. Gambari made an
analogy to when his country, Nigeria, moved its capital. But the Myanmar
regime's move seems not about rural economic development, but rather about
staying in power.
from Myanmar (c) UNHCR
Mr. Gambari was repeatedly asked about his and Kofi Annan's involvement in
seeking an endgame for the Mugabe era in Zimbabwe. While the spokesman turned
questions away, Mr. Gambari appeared to respond that he's involved, then backed
away. We talk to a lot of people, was essentially the answer. Ah, diplomacy.
diplomatic was the UNAIDS director's spin on more than fifty countries' failure
to respond to UN surveys on AIDS. At a briefing on Wednesday he characterized
such an inquiry as pessimistic. While tomorrow can always be a better day, for
the UN to excuse failure to provide basic information seems counterintuitive.
the noon briefing, the UN's reaction to disturbances in Timor L'Este which has
now invited back in foreign forces from four countries, in light of the critique
that the UN left too quickly, the Secretary General's spokesman subsequently had
and off-line. It was the U.S. and Australia which wanted to pull out when they
did. He also stated, in the briefing, that the UN would not look kindly on the
reported coup attempt by foreign mercenaries in the Democratic Republic of
Congo. Well, unlike on Somalia and even Montenegro, it is a response. On
as Monday, the spokesman declined to comment substantively on the weekend's vote
in Montenegro, despite Russia and now Serbia conceding the result.
observer noted that perhaps the UN made little of Montenegrin's vote for
independence because the victory and credit for the peaceful transition, so far,
is for the European Union and even Serbia. Another noted that Timor L'Este is
considered one of the UN's coups, so to speak, so perhaps the UN is reticent to
highlight the temporary unraveling of things there. But what explains the lack
of information from Somalia, in particular from the UN's envoy Francois Lonseny
Fall? Most recently his office still has no comment on the UN-backed
transitional government inviting in peacekeeper -- from which it seems fair to
infer that the UN was not involved in this development. He still has no comment
on the attempted sale by the breakaway region of Puntland of mineral rights to
the Australian company Range Resources Ltd. In fact, the UN system insists on
characterizing those who flee into Puntland as "internally displaced persons"
and not full fledged refugees. (Click
for the wider humanitarian issues.) It was however observed: if you're going to
play politics and put more energy into always siding on a one-state solution for
Somalia, you should at least fully play the game and both be involved in seeking
peace(keepers) and in speaking out against a breakaway region's sale of
resources to a first world corporation, in what others in the UN have called a
vulnerable conflict zone. If the UN doesn't speak on these matters, who will?
In Brussels --
Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens
Matthew Russell Lee, in Brussels
BRUSSELS, April 28 --
Ears ringing with the talk of waste within the UN system, an Inner City Press
reporter yesterday visited the consolidated, scaled back and renamed UN Regional
Information Center (UNRIC) in Brussels, to see how an early attempt at
cost-saving is working out.
narrow, car-filled Rue de la Loi, just passed the European Commission, the UNRIC
is tucked in on the 7th and 8th floors of a stately building in the Residence
Palace compound. Outside are construction zones, the city literally torn-up to
build office space for the ten new EU members. Inside UNRIC it is spacious, with
hardwood floors and uncaptioned photos of each Secretary-General. The UNRIC's
deputy director is an engaging Dane who is among other things the answer to the
UN system Jeopardy question: who was the spokesman for the president of the
General Assembly when the World Trade Towers were demolished by hijacked plane?
Who is... Jan Fischer. Mr. Fischer also served the UN in Iraq in 1993, along
with a stint in Australia. He knows the System, and the context of the
cost-cutting he's witnessed at the UNRIC.
travel budget the more than half-dozen country desk officers based in Brussels
is $16,000 for six months. This has resulted in fewer trips to the countries
covered by each desk officer, and even to them staying with family and friend on
such trips. There's a striking correlation between surname and country covered:
Carlos Jimenez for Spain, Fabio Graziosi for Italy, Dimitrios Fatouros for
Greece and so forth. The desk officers were once "national information
officers," which required this consonance. Now that they've had to move to
Brussels, they've been "professionalized," in the parlance of the UN civil
service. Still some stay with friends and family on their UN trips back home.
Brussels some 15,000 journalists cover the doings of the European Union and to
some degree NATO. It is hard, Jan Fischer says, for UN news to break through.
They hold press conferences, and briefings by visiting UN envoys, from conflict
diamonds to the rights of the child. Across from the well-guarded United States
embassy, there's a storefront for UNICEF, with its tell-tale blue sign. The UN's
refugee agency, it appears from a list, has a dozen Brussels employees, seeking
EU funding for their far-flung operations. UNRIC tries to get their stories
told. Mr. Fischer says he'd rather say too much than too little; he suggests
that the media not abandoned UN staffers who go off script and speak their
minds. It's a plan that makes much sense, and one that we will follow. This
series of occasional visits with continue from Inner City Press, consonant with
the cost-cuts as they come.
Footnote: in a
third-floor room in the European Parliament on April 27, Green party delegate
Heide Ruhle listened while nodding to consumer advocates despairing of non-bank
input into the pending Consumer Credit Directive. When asked, with an
administrative colleague, about merger review in the Euro zone, the Green
response was that review by particular nations is outmoded. Will Brussels'
review consider predatory lending? That remains unclear.
Other Inner City Press
reports are archived on
AIDS Ends at the
UN? Side Deals on Patents, Side Notes on Japanese Corporations,
Salvadoran and Violence in Burundi
On AIDS at the
UN, Who Speaks and Who Remains Unseen
Corporate Spin on
AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence
(May 31, 2006)
Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's
Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the
The Silence of
the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank
Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins
Child Labor and
Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu
Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security
Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens
at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from
Turkmenbashi's Single Book
Ripped Off Worse
in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in
Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds
Burundi: Chaos at
Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated
by Forty Until 4 AM
In Liberia, From
Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which
China's Asked About
Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the
Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come
Through the UN's
One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations,
Even Nuclear Areva
Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks
Mine Your Own
Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the
Human Rights Are
Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still
Iraq's Oil to be
Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear
At the UN, Dues
Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions
Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala
Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if
Iraq's Oil is Being Metered
Cash Crop: In
Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in
The Shorted and
Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't
Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance
Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship
In the Sudanese
Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says
Empty Words on
Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia
What is the Sound
of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War
Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of
Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia
Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives
Who Pays for the
Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN
Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference
Other Inner City Press
reports are archived on
For reporting about banks, predatory
lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click
here for Inner
weekly CRA Report.
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on the United
Nations, where Inner City Press
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