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The UN, What's It Good For, Syria, Mali, Haiti & Myanmar, Briefing Notes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- What is the purpose of the UN's daily noon briefing? To posit an answer we'll review that of today, July 11.

  It's used to make announcements by the UN, for example that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, will attend the military parade featuring armies of France's African former colonies in Paris on July 14. Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky made this scheduling announcement at the top of the briefing.

  It's used for advocacy, for example to ask pointedly if Ban's chemical weapons prober Ake Sellstrom will, in Syria, insist on unfettered access. The same questioner on July 10 tried to get Nesirky to say that the same “chain of custody” issues existed as to Russia's recent submission as the earlier ones of France and the UK. It's like having France or the UK in the briefing room.

  It's used to repeatedly ask the same question, something Inner City Press sometimes must do after Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations delays 12 days in giving a promised answer but was done by another on July 11, about a letter concerning an independent tribunal, by a questioner, the UNCA 2013 president Pamela Falk of CBS, who called Martin Nesirky “Eduardo,” his bearded deputy. Video of the July 11 briefing, here, from Minute 10:15.

It's used for humor: see above and video continuation, from Minute 12:28.

  It's used to follow up, for example on the statements the day before of the Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Djibouti about Ban's and Vijay Nambiar's comments that Myanmar's president is not fully informed of the abuses against the Rohingya.

   When Inner City Press asked this, Nesirky read Ban's statement to the Group of Friends on Myanmar - a body that Saudi Arabia also criticized - but declined to characterize what was said in the Saudi and Djiboutian meeting.

  It's used to ask questions about more exclusive or controlled briefings, for example Ladsous' session with a “group of reporters” about his trip to Mali, at which another unnamed senior UN official was quoted that Chad is allowed in the Mali peacekeeping mission because it does not have child soldiers there. That's not what the UN's children and armed conflict expert Leila Zerrougui said the test would be. But will it be clarified?

  It's used to press for access, such as on July 10 about the lack of any space for the press or public in the new interim General Assembly Hall, which the Free UN Coalition for Access raised to the Department of Public Information back on June 10.

  Is it possible that no member of the public can be able to access this September's UN General Debate?

It's used for apologies, such as on July 11 when the mis-labeling of India's trade minister Anand Sharma as his Cabinet colleague Kamal Nath by DPI was acknowledged.

  While this harmed photographers such as one from India to whom the UN refuses to grant a so-called White P entrance pass, to some the formality of the apology stood in contrast to the terse dismissal of claims the UN introduced cholera to Haiti.

Will Inner City Press' question about Ladsous' MONUSCO mission imposing armed escorts on humanitarians be answered? About whether the Nepalese troops said headed for Syria (the Golan, it seems) will be tested for cholera, after what happened in Haiti. The UN has “nothing more to say” about that. But we'll keep asking. Watch this site.


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