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As Talk of Next SG Starts, ICP Asks of USG Set-Asides, Ladsous As Nadir

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 24 -- How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization? That was the question on April 24 across the street from the UN at the International Peace Institution in a panel moderated by former Indian Ambassador to the UN, and former Security Council member, Hardeep Singh Puri.

   The post is said to be slated for the Eastern European Group, and the question and answer (or comment) portion was top-heavy with the Permanent Representatives of Croatia and Slovakia (also the chair of the Budget Committee) and the Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia laying out of the positions of the ACT group, echoed by Costa Rica.

   Inner City Press asked what about improving the transparency and place of merit in the selection of Under Secretaries General? Recently UK Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to put Andrew Lansley of National Health Service infany atop the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was defeated as reported in detail by Inner City Press, see credits in the Telegraph and UK Channel 4.

  But, the position has stayed with the UK in the person of Stephen O'Brien (deemed better than the initial candidate by panelist Edward Mortimer).  Should USG positions be “owned” by P3 countries, like France has owned UN Peacekeeping four times in a row (following a horse-trade for Kofi Annan becoming Secretary General) and the US has held Political Affairs twice in a row?

   While Political Affairs USG Jeffrey Feltman came directly from the US State Department with the baggage that may carry, particularly in the Middle East, the most extreme example is Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping, video here, Vine here.

  When asked by Inner City Press about his history and qualification adopted the position of refusing all questions from Inner City Press and having his spokespeople, at least one of whom was present at IPI on April 24, go so far as to grab the UNTV microphone to avoid questions.  Ladsous went so far as to say "I don't answer you Mister" at IPI itself, video here.

  On the overall USG question Jean Krasno of the City College of New York favored “selecting candidates for these positions on merit rather than geographical. We want the highest quality people, serving in an impartial matter.”
Natalie Samarasinghe of the UN Association of the UK said, On the USG issue, we want an SG who has the freedom to make merit based appoints. At the moment as you have seen it is very unevenly applied. We need to condemn it. That pressure is very positive.”

  Mortimer said he was among those who wrote to Ban Ki-moon (selected by the US and China, more than one attendee said, some citing John Bolton's book) about Cameron's first nominee for OCHA. He said that Press oversight is important.  Puri said a good SG would pick good USGs. We'll have more on all this.

Background: When Ban Ki-moon was selected as UN Secretary General in 2006 it was an untransparent process, with secret ballots in the Security Council. 

   On February 7, 2015, both processes were criticized by "The Elders." Appearing at the Munich Munich Security Conference, four Elders including Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan along with Gro Harlem Brundtland, Martti Ahtisaari and Graça Machel unveiled a UN reform plan.

  Beyond Security Council reform, they specifically criticized Secretary General selection process for lack of transparency and choice, and suggested a single seven year term to avoid simply trying to get re-elected.

  To replace Ban, the Elders say "we call on the General Assembly to insist that the Security Council recommend more than one candidate for appointment as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, after a timely, equitable and transparent search for the best qualified candidates, irrespective of gender or regional origin. We suggest that the next Secretary-General be appointed for a single, non-renewable term of seven years, in order to strengthen his or her independence and avoid the perception that he or she is guided by electoral concerns."

 Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, fighting for transparency including a Freedom of Information Act at the UN, agree and believe the Elders should have gone one level down, more timely, and criticized the ownership of Under Secretary General positions by P3 Security Council members like Peacekeeping and France's Herve Ladsous, and the process to replace Valerie Amos as OCHA, here (and above).

  Even further down, the under-performance of Team Ban, including for example UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, has been enabled and concealed by what has become the UN's Censorship Alliance, formally the United Nations Correspondents Association. These forms of decay are not UNrelated.

  On November 14, 2014 this organization in decline formally announced a slate of six officers -- all without any competition at all. It was a pure rubber stamp, "yes," with the only question being turn-out. The top post was handed (back) to Giampaolo Pioli, who engaged in outright censorship while last using the position.

  Pioli, who had rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's ambassador, unilaterally granted Kohona's request to use UNCA to screen inside the UN a government film denying war crimes.

  Then Pioli demanded that reporting of these facts must be removed from the Internet (compilation of audio here) or he would use UNCA to try to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. 

 Voice of America, then on the UNCA Executive Board, wrote a letter to the UN asking that Inner City Press' accreditation be reviewed; a Freedom of Information Act request showed that VOA said it had the support of Agence France Presse and Reuters (which they tried to censor its anti-Press complaint to the UN by claiming it is copyrighted, here.)

  Now in 2015 Pioli has returned. Reuters has on the board its current correspondent as well as its retired UN bureau chief. Agence France Presse, which had been off the UNCA Executive Committee after having used it to complain about Press reporting on Herve Ladsous, wanted to return but did not make it; it was handed a seat on another board announced by UNCA.

 Only News Agency of Nigeria, which ran in 2013, did not run this time: its UN office space was taken away in 2014, ostensibly due to scarcity when UNCA is given a big room that sits empty and locked most of the time, then opens for events that could and should have occurred in the UN's Press Briefing Room, open and on UNTV. This is the UN's Censorship Alliance.

 As to the Secretary General's race, an earlier reform letter's signatories included Avaaz, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Equality Now, FEMNET, Forum-Asia, Global Policy Forum, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Social Watch, Third World Network, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy and the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

The new Free UN Coalition for Access, formed in response to the decline in media access and transparency generally under Ban Ki-moon, heartily agrees with the need to reform and improve the Secretary General selection process.

 Candidates so far including Helen Clark of UNDP, who virtually never takes press questions while in New York, the headquarters of UNDP, amid untransparent layoffs, and Irina Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, an agency which on November 3 led an event about journalists at which not a single question from a journalist was taken. There's also among others, in this SG race we will closely cover, a Latina trio, Kristalina Georgieva, Miroslav Lajcak, Kevin Rudd, Dalia Grybauskaite, Vuk Jeremic, Danilo Turk, Jan Kubis - that is, unlike the UN's Censorship Alliance, at least there is some competition. We'll have more on this.

  Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, is appearing in polls as running for president of his native South Korea in 2017. Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson about it, who said Ban is “currently” focused on his current job. This has been repeated in South Korea, here. The UN is being used; the UN is in further decline; but there are moves afoot to stem the tide of decay. Watch this site.


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