France is Asked about Evictions in Calais and Chad, UN Cuts Off
Questions, Jumps for Kouchner
Reports of War Crimes, IMF Gives More Funds to Sri Lankan Government
and Spins on Human Rights
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 18 -- The International Monetary Fund's seemingly
dismissive attitude toward human rights, including labor rights and
protections against ethnic cleansing and even torture, has been on
display this month. Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn defended
the IMF's disbursement of funds to the government of Sri Lanka,
without any conditions or safeguards, after detailed reports of
presumptive war crimes.
Press asked IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson if, in light of Mr.
Strauss Kahn's logic, the IMF ever considers human rights in
disbursing funds or not, she laughed and called the question's
"premise... a bit misleading." Video here
from Minute 9:07.
City Press: Does the Managing Director’s November the 5th statement
‘regardless of one’s opinion of the human rights situation’
mean that the IMF never considers human rights?”
ATKINSON: That’s another question where the premise is a bit
misleading. The point that the Managing Director was making in his
response to a letter from Human Rights Watch was—and as you know,
the text of that letter talks quite directly about the Managing
Director’s own feelings about the importance of human rights. And
the point of that quote was that he was saying whatever you think
about what rights and wrongs of what’s happening in Sri Lanka now,
what is true is that an economic collapse would make lives worse for
everybody. And, of course, usually the most vulnerable are most hurt
by any economic collapse. So it was in that context he was explaining
the reasoning behind the Fund’s economic support for Sri Lanka.
Thank you all very much and have a good Thanksgiving.
fact, even the
Europe Commission in considering extending or suspending its GSP Plus
favorable tariff treatment to Sri Lanka, has taken into account
consideration of human rights and war crimes. By contrast, the IMF
has argued against any duty to consider human rights. Even Strauss
Kahn's letter refers only to "humanitarian" issues, and
uses this as an argument in favor of releasing more funds.
City Press has asked IMF spokespeople what safeguards if any would be
attached to the loan. (Despite Inner City Press' demonstrated
interest since then, the IMF did not tell it about its conference calls
on disbursements to Sri Lanka, neither in July nor this month).
IMF's Strauss Kahn -- funds flow "regardless... of
16, the IMF's Caroline
Atkinson said that the views of the international community will be
taken into account. Four days later her boss
Mr. Strauss Kahn issued a press release
with no mention of safeguards. Now a letter, and a laugh. We will
continue to follow this issue.
* * *
Report Buries Its Icesave Conditionality, Enforcer's Duplicity?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, November 3 -- While the IMF has acknowledged that its second
round of disbursements to crisis-hit Iceland was delayed for months
by the country's failure to placate those in the Netherlands and UK
who did business with IceSave, the IMF's just released report on
Iceland buries the issue on page 30 of the 98 page report. The IMF
terms and conditions of Nordic loans, amounting to $2.5 billion, have
been finalized. Their disbursement has been linked to resolution of
the Icesave dispute with the U.K. and Netherlands over deposit
insurance liabilities. After protracted discussions, the three
governments have reached an agreement on this"
agreement was reached, on October 18, the IMF then went forward with
a letter of intent and memorandum of understanding for the second
tranche of financing. But, as with the IMF's moves in Latvia for
Swedish banks, some see the Fund operating as an enforcement or
collections agent for creditors who even less would like to show
Iceland / Icesave protest, but is the heartfelt sign true?
the IMF does
not like to admit or reveal its degree of control over the countries
it lends to, the de facto conditions for loans, such as paying off on
IceSave, are often not explicit in what purport to be full agreements
containing all express and implied terms.
fact, the IMF
has claimed that it "no longer" engages in conditionality.
But the Iceland report has an entire chart about conditionalities.
It's just that the most important one was left unsaid. Is this
diplomacy or duplicity?
report continues, about other loan requests including from Russia:
loan from the Faroe Islands ($50 million) has already disbursed, and
a loan from Poland has been agreed ($200 million), and will disburse
alongside the next 3 program reviews. A $500 million loan originally
committed by Russia is no longer expected, but the $250 million in
over-financing in the original program, an expected
macro-stabilization loan from the EU ($150 million), and use of an
existing repo facility with the BIS ($700 million, of which $214
million is outstanding) will more than offset this."
Offset may be the right
word. Last year, in the midst of Iceland's abortive run for a seat on
the UN Security Council, the country announced it had to seek a $4
billion loan from Russia. It was after that that the IMF loan
commitment was made -- an "offset," some saw it -- and
after talks in Istanbul, on October 15 the already whittled down loan
request to Russia was formally rejected.
Then the deal
with the UK
and Netherlands, and the IMF's releasing. While the IMF calls these
types of moves only technical, others call them power politics. Watch
* * *
Plays Ukraine, Zim and Pakistan As "Technical" Questions,
Pushes Tax Hikes in Serbia
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 22 -- Are the International Monetary Fund's
negotiations with countries about the level of taxes and salaries for
public sector employees, the pricing of electricity and the
privatization of social services political, or merely "economic
and technical"? The questions arose Thursday in connection with
Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, among others, in the IMF's first
press briefing since its annual meeting in Turkey.
Caroline Atkinson fielded questions for half an hour, leaving
unanswered one submitted by Inner City Press about Serbia, where the IMF's
Paul Thompson has been quoted that "if the Serbian
delegation has a concrete pan for decreasing expenses, we will
support it, if not, they
will have to agree with us and think about
increasing taxes." Left unanswered: how is raising taxes merely
respond to Inner City Press' questions about Ukraine, Zimbabwe and
Pakistan. While a full transcript is available online here,
and video here,
in sum the Q & A went as follows:
City Press asked, In Ukraine, the opposition party is critical of the
IMF as funding the campaign of Tymoshenko. What is the IMF's response
to the opposition's criticism? Ms. Atkinson replied that IMF funds go
to the central bank, and that the IMF has a team on the ground in
Kiev for a third review.
not, it seems, saying that money from the IMF is being used by
Tymoshenko for advertisements or to pay poll workers, but rather "MP
and opposition government's finance minister, Mykola Azarov, said
this at a meeting with delegates of an IMF mission, 'We must say that
the program of cooperation with the IMF has turned out to be
ineffective, and nothing is left but to consider the IMF's
as politically motivated, as funding of one of the candidates running
for the presidency.'"
reporter asked a follow up question about Ukraine, wondering if with
the IMF mission on the ground, the upcoming election "is an
issue," Ms. Atkinson said the IMF does not comment while a
mission is in the field, negotiating a program, but that information
-- and one hopes some questions and answers -- will be provided once
the mission is completed
IMF points the way, in budgets... and politics?
City Press asked, "NGOs are critical of the IMF for, they say,
pushing Zimbabwe to privatize its social services system. Has the IMF
pushed for that, and how does it respond to the criticism?" Ms.
Aktinson, while saying she can get back to Inner City Press with more
information, argued that the IMF does not favor or disfavor
particular privatizations, but must be pushing to strengthen the
social service sector to help the poor.
ahead of civil society's consultative meeting with an IMF team under
Article IV of the Fund's Articles of Agreement, NANGO said
are opposed to some IMF polices such as privatization of basic social
services. We know it from the past that some IMF policies have worked
against people in this country. They have affected the social
services sector and their polices are anti-people and negative'...
[NANGO] said some of the IMF instigated polices which had brought
suffering to the people were the Economic Structural Adjustment
Programme (ESAP) and Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social
Transformation (ZIMPREST)." It's a pretty specific critique,
and we'll publish the IMF's response upon receipt.
Inner City Press' questions and article from August 2009, it asked
"in Pakistan, the IMF in August extended for a year the
country's time to eliminate electricity subsidies. Now, while the
says 2 price increases will be implemented, others say this is not
possible politically. What is the IMF's thinking on consumer power
pricing in Pakistan?"
replied that "as I believe you know, the issue of issue of
electric subsidy is typically done by the World Bank and Asian
Development Bank," that IMF gets involved due to the budget."we
will be having another review of the Pakistan program in early
November." We'll be there....
* * *
Food Speculation, UN's Expert Says Nothing's Being Done, S. Korean Land
Grabs from Madagascar to Sudan, Brazil on Ethanol
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 21 -- After many speeches at the UN about the need
to crack down on financial speculation in food, nothing has been
done, the UN's expert on the right to food told Inner City Press on
Olivier de Schutter, a Belgian law professor just back
from a visit to Brazil about, among other things, the loss of land
for food to ethanol, replied that "nothing is moving at the
inter-governmental level." This despite a statement by the G-20
in April favoring the regulation of hedge funds which present
systemic risk. The argument is that commodities index funds which
speculate in food present systemic risk to net food importing
countries. But nothing has been done.
about the monopolization of the seed industry, and made a slew of
recommendations for governments. The three top monopolizers --
Monsanto, Dupont and the Swiss-based Syngenta -- are all members of
the UN Global Compact, and claim to comply with human rights. De
Schutter pointed out the antitrust law is directed as national and
not global or subnational markets. It is all very heady but one
wonders what effect it has.
one of de Schutter's claims to impact. He spoke glowingly of
President Lula, saying that Brazil has said that only 19% of land can
be used for sugar cane for ethanol, and has committed to monitor
labor rights. But what about, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia?
De Schutter, action on food speculation not shown
Schutter's briefing, Inner City Press asked his staffer for an update
on the proposed land grab in Madagascar by South Korea based Daewoo,
which was reputed after the coup in that country. De Schutter had
been scheduled to visit, but it was put off by the coup. The same
thing happened in Honduras. So perhaps De Schutter does have an
effect after all, mused one wag.
immediately after De Schutter's briefing, the UN's Haile Menkerios
was scheduled to speak to the Press about Madagascar. While the UN
usually compartmentalizes its work such that a rapporteur looks at
land grabs, while the Secretariat remains on "political affairs"
narrowly defined, this land grab played a role in the change of
government. Now it's said the South Korean deal is being pursued from
India, while South Korea appears to have moved on to 690,000 hectares
in Sudan. Watch this site.
* * *
Indigenous Expert Stymied in Russia, Does Not Engage in Myanmar, Will
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 19 -- Russia blocked the UN's expert on the rights
of indigenous people from visiting the site slated
for the Evenki dam
in Krasnoyarsk Territory, it emerged at the UN on Monday.
Press asked James Anaya, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people, if he
had in fact been allowed to visit the site. The Russian
quoted Igor Kurtushin, deputy head of the territorial
administration’s department for external relations that "it
would not be easy to visit the Evenki sites due to peculiar weather
asked if Anaya had visit the contested
site, from which indigenous people would be evicted. No, he said,
in the agenda we were able to negotiate. Video here,
this, in fact,
due to the weather, Inner City Press followed up. "The weather
was good was I was there," Anaya answered, describing two
flights in Krasnoyarsk and an outdoor meal of reindeer parts. Video here,
from Minute 36:29.
contrasted to Panama, where the government allowed Anaya to visit the
site of a proposed dam. When Inner City Press asked about Ecuador and
conflicts there, Anaya said he is going in December, invited by the
seems too accommodating of governments. When Inner City Press asked
about Canada's refusal to sign on to the Declaration of the Rights of
Indigenous People, Anaya said Canada is moving in the right
direction, that he doesn't criticize countries if there is the
"possibility" of movement.
Inner City Press asked about the position of Botswana that nearly all
people there are indigenous, Anaya responded that he hadn't seen a
need to contest this position during his recent visit there. Given
that the position almost derailed the Declaration, it seems strange
to some to be so accommodative of it now.
Reindeer, UN's Anaya and Russia permit to visit not shown
it is to and
within the UN system that Anaya is most accommodative. Inner City
Press asked about the UN's REDD program, which was protested earlier
this month. Anaya said that the UN agencies want to address
indigenous issues. When Inner City Press asked about indigenous
people in Myanmar, Anaya responded that since there is another
rapporteur on Myanmar, he does not engage in Myanmar. Video here,
from Minute 49:22.
deference is not required: for example, the UN's expert on children
and armed conflict engages with Myanmar, rather than deferring.
Particularly given the issues that have arisen about the UN's special
rapporteur on Myanmar, for Anaya to say he'll do nothing in or about
the country ill-served indigenous people. Watch this site.
* * *
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 19 -- In his first media availability at the UN, new
French Ambassador Gerard Araud marked the International Day for the
Eradication of Poverty with a press conference on October 19.
City Press asked Ambassador Araud about his country's eviction of
immigrants from a camp near Calais last month, about the drowning of
residents of the Comoros trying to get to the French island of
Mayotte, and about mass
evictions in the capital of Chad, where the Idriss Deby government
receives substantial French support. Video here,
from Minute 25:32.
said immigration is an issues throughout the developed world, quickly
equating the drowning of those seeking to get to Mayotte with deaths
of African in the Mediterranean.
He said that
of the camp was because immigration should be restricted to that
which is legal, so that Europeans don't "become violent."
He said it was fair to be critical, he has seen such criticism of
U.S. policies as well, but these countries are democracies.
"answering about Chad is the easiest," and then proceeded
to say that his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the moment he got
the post, took in the lead is setting up peacekeeping mission in
Eastern Chad, first through the European Union and then the UN.
question was cut off by the UN's moderator, Rachel Mayanja. She said,
"before we proceed... I am surprised none of you want to take
advantage" of the boy on the panel, from Dominica, to "expose
his journey." Video here,
from Minute 31:55. But she had begun
by saying that the youth would be accompanied by a chaperrone from
ChildFund Caribbean, who was not on the podium.
compliant correspondent dutifully asked the boy about photography --
ChildFund saved him from being a criminal, he equally dutifully said
-- Inner City Press asked Ambassador Araud about the evictions done
by French ally Idriss Deby, did he have any answer? He shook his head
no. And the press conference was over. Video here,
from Minute 34:49.
the French journalists opined that Ms. Mayanja may have been trying
to protect or please France, a Permanent Five member of the Security
Council, by shifting from questions about France's record to what she
wanted journalists to ask and write about. This has become more
prevalent at the UN.
France's Gerard Araud at the UN on Monday,
Chad eviction answers not shown
note that Ms.
Mayanja's cutting off of questions cannot necessarily be ascribed to
Araud. The UN may offer protection where none is even requested. If
Ms. Mayanja wanted to play up the boy's story, why have him appear at
the French Ambassador's first press conference?
told Inner City Press that Bernard Kouchner called Ban Ki-moon
recently and told him the UN should launch an investigation of the
recent killing of some 150 protesters in Guinea Conakry. Ban did just
that; when Inner City Press asked, his spokesman said that it was at
the request of ECOWAS. But why didn't the UN launch any inquiry into
the tens of thousands of civilians killed in Sri Lanka earlier this
as the UN on
Monday sought to limit questions to the right kind of poverty, it
will only investigate the killings of the right victims: it all
depends on who the perpetrator is, and who provides protection.
also on the Chad evictions, Inner City Press asked this question last
week to Habitat's New York representative, and for an update on what
if anything Habitat did to follow up on supposed commitments by
Angola not to continue evictions. Video here.
A response was promised, but has
not been received. What was that again, about eradicating poverty?
* * *
UN, Iran's Mottaki Says Protesters Are Dealt With, Nuclear Sites All
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 1 -- In Iran "there are some people, a limited
number of people, who look for trouble and want to create unreal,"
Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the Press on
Thursday. "It is very clear how they should be dealt with."
from Minute 31:55.
session at the UN in New York, nearly all of which dealt with nuclear
issues, Inner City Press asked Mottaki about a story of
torture, rape and exile, which Inner City Press heard from Ebrahim
Sharifi by cell phone on September 21. Sharifi states that he
the non violent street protests then was picked up, blindfolded and
held for a week.
asked Mottaki if he acknowledged the veracity of any such charges, if
people can file complaints in Iran and what he thinks of the call for
a UN General Assembly special envoy to Iran on human rights issues.
from Minute 25:43, Mottaki's
reponse here from Minute
five minute answer became with calling the June elections "the
most glorious presidential elections in the history of the Islamic
Republic of Iran." Mottaki claimed the skeptics, once they
received an explanation, were convinced. This left a few trouble
makers -- "it is very clear how they should be dealt with."
UN's Ban, Ahmadinejad, Motakki and Zarif, pre election violence
Iran has vibrant NGOs, which rather than complain in Geneva to the
Human Rights Council come to the UN in New York to participate in
workshops about the rights on women.
program, Mottaki said that other than Qom, there are no other sites
not reported to the IAEA. The press conference ended with a report
for a newspaper in Israel calling for the floor, without receiving
it. He was told by the UN's spokesperson that the UN is an
"inter-governmental body... we cannot do anything about what
member states do." Apparently not.
before traveling to DC, wiled away the evening of September 29 at
Indonesia's Independence Day celebration in the UN Delegates' Dining
Room. There were satays, rice and noodles. One attending, chewing,
snarked that at such receptions, the quality of the food is in inverse
proportion to the amount of democracy in the hosting nation.
Inner City Press has previously written about, and
kebab diplomacy, click here for that. Seven thousand years of
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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