Holmes' Humanitarian Tenure Ends With Sudan Silence, Sri Lanka
Questions of Good Cop, Bad Cop, Off Record Jokes
August 19 -- What is the role of the UN's emergency relief
and humanitarian coordinator? The question is raises as the UK's Sir
John Holmes ends his 3 1/2 years in the position.
Initially the UK
put him forward to head the UN Department of Political Affairs. When
this was impossible, he was given the humanitarian job. But what is
the relation between diplomatic politics and the humanitarian
example is the UN's silence from at least August 2 to August
the Sudanese government blockaded the Kalma Camp in Darfur and
starved its tens of thousands of residents.
UN's envoy to Darfur,
Ibrahim Gambari, has said he was trying to negotiate with Sudanese
authorities. But where until August 13 was ERC John Holmes?
when the Myanmar
regime of Than Shwe was, according to UN whistleblowing staff, stealing
up to 25% of post Cyclone Nargis aid through enforced foreign currency
transactions, why didn't Holmes
speak up until it was exposed by
not raised, much less addressed, at a heartfelt farewell reception
held for Holmes on August 18. There, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
chief of staff Vijay Nambiar praised Holmes' diplomacy, using Ban's
golf analogy of Holmes driving straight and accomplishing his goals
in as few strokes as possible.
humanitarian coordinator supposed to be quiet? In a view that has
been expressed to Inner City Press by a number of non governmental
organizations, the UN system needs both good cops and bad cops, the
latter rattling the subject in the dock, the other offering
conciliation in exchange for changed behavior.
some -- in the Ban Ki-moon administration, nearly all -- UN officials
try gentle suasion with dictators and strongmen and cynically
hardhearted developed country leaders, the job of the Emergency
Relief Coordinator is to be the bad cop, to speak truth to
about access and aid.
including at Wednesday night's well organized event during which
Holmes was given a box of three golf balls seemingly emblazoned with
the UN logo, is that the NGOs should advocate loudly, and the ERC
somehow mediate between the NGOs and governments.
like Sudan and Sri Lanka,
to simply name two, the NGOs are
intimidated against speaking out. Otherwise they will be thrown out.
In these settings, the NGOs expect the ERC to be out in front, saying
the things that they cannot say. And many feel that Holmes did not do
is not to
deny Holmes' skill as a political analyst, or many miles he flew to
such places as Niger, Chad and Yemen. As Wednesday night's event
began, an OCHA staffer approached Inner City Press, seemingly with
information about Sudan and other hotspots.
purpose of the
approach soon became clear: that the content of Holmes' upcoming
speech be treated off the record, because it would “contain jokes.”
This is a shame, as the jokes with the exception of one that led to
groans among the audience, particularly the females, showed a side of
Holmes not often seen by the public. But Inner City Press respects
such unilateral and indirect requests, even as Holmes sets up his exit
or legacy interviews with media thought to be uncritical of his
John Holmes engages Press on way to Sri Lanka: good
cop, bad cop not shown
Holmes seemed to assume from such media off the record or sympathetic
treatment without even asking for either. During a flight to Sri
Lanka in May 2009, Ban Ki-moon told the Press that Holmes would come
to the back of the plane and give a briefing about the upcoming visit
to the IDP (internment) camps in Vavuniya.
and spoke to a half dozen reporters, who took notes and used verbatim
parts of what he said. Inner City Press asked about doubts of the
UN's impartiality expressed by members of the Tamil ethnic group.
Holmes said he got such e-mails and deleted them.
newsworthy, and Inner City Press included Holmes comments in a piece
written hours later in a hotel in Colombo. The next morning, other
members of the press corps conveyed Holmes unhappiness and anger.
Inner City Press rushed upstairs and modified
the article, particularly since
with no Internet access in the Vavuniya camps, it would not be
Holmes was angry. Despite what he
said at the
time, to his credit -- and due to the structure of UN press
-- communications did continue in what remained of his ERC tenure.
remains: if a disfavored ethnic group cannot expect to get a hearing
at the UN from the Emergency Relief Coordinator, from whom can they
expect it? It is, as many pointed out on Wednesday night, a thankless
and grueling job.
summer, the Permanent Representative
of a Permanent Five member of the Security Council complained on
Holmes behalf about what was called the pay, even the need to call
one's own taxi.
is a tough job,
but literally hundreds of well qualified advocates would like to have
it. To listening to the shrill complaints of disfavored groups
without turning away may be exhausting, but it is the job.
truth to power might feel mechanical, especially to a long time
diplomat. But it is the job. How will incoming Baroness Valerie Amis
do? Watch this site.
Footnote: as Holmes
takes up his new post at Ditchley in the English countryside, Vijay
Nambiar joked that it should allow the UN to be invited more to speak
there. One can imagine Holmes writing about his time as ERC; he is
known as a stylistic stickler, echewing split infinitives and such
buzzwords as "ongoing."
But in any
such publications, one would hope to see this good cop / bad cops
model, and specific situations like Sri Lanka and Sudan candidly
addressed. We wish Holmes well, and we'll be watching.
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By UN Silence on Jebel Marra and IOM Expulsions, US Susan
Rice Darfur Focus
13 -- With the UN belatedly speaking out about Sudan's
blockade of Kalma Camp for all of this month, and of Jebel
Marra since February, some have concluded that silence from the UN
and also the US emboldened Sudanese authorities to starve perceived
opponent directly under the nose of a $1 billion peacekeeping
only did the UN
remain silent -- it even reportedly tried to stifle the voices of
those being starved. At the August
noon briefing at the UN in New
York, Inner City Press asked
Regarding Sudan, following yesterday’s statement that
Ibrahim Gambari [the Joint African Union-United Nations Special
Representative for Darfur] did not threaten internally displaced
persons (IDPs), another report has surfaced there. The quote had him
saying that the IDP spokesman, Yagoub Fouri, says that Mr. Gambari
refused a letter the IDPs had written and wanted it delivered to
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
also quotes a Sudanese newspaper,
Al-Sahafa, saying that Gambari said it’s really only a matter of
time until the six are turned over if conditions are met. Those are
two separate issues. I’m pretty sure Mr. Fouri did say this, about
the letter, but can you state whether Mr. Gambari was aware of a
letter that the IDPs in Kalma camp wanted it delivered to the
Secretary-General and whether any such letter was delivered to the
I’m not aware of that particular part of your
question...the specific point that you mentioned about the letter,
I’d have to find out — I don’t have anything on that.[The
Spokesperson later said that no such letter has been yet received by
13, after the media and nearly all others had left the UN in New
York, outgoing humanitarian coordinator John Holmes issued a press
release belatedly bemoaning the blockade of Kalma, exclusion from
Jebel Marra since February and that “two International Organization
for Migration (IOM) staff were also expelled on 17 July 2010.”
do we call
this belated? Back in July -- on July 16th, in fact -- Inner City
Press asked about these IOM expulsions, and the UN had nothing to
day. From the
July 16 transcript:
In Sudan, there are these reports that the Government
made persona non grata, are throwing out, two representatives of the
International Organization for Migration. Does the UN have concerns
about the expulsion of these humanitarian workers?
Haq: We don’t have any comment about the
treatment of this. We are aware of the reports, and we’ll check up
on what was behind this decision and what the facts are on that. But
we don’t have anything to say on that just yet.
said by the UN until August 13, nearly a month later. What message
did that send to Omar al Bashir and other Sudanese authorities?
US called for an emergency Security Council meeting on the
violence in Kalma Camp in early August, it never followed up with any
meeting once Sudan blockaded the camp. Now comes news that the US
Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration wants to become Ambassador to
Kenya, and thus might lose his Sudan portfolio.
says that Hillary Clinton agreed to Gration's plan to prioritize the
South Sudan referendum over Darfur. While claiming that Ambassador to
the UN Susan Rice disagreed, she herself denied any disagreement when
asked by Inner City Press, and she has not called, or had her deputy
ambassadors call, for any Council meeting since Kalma was blockaded.
UNAMID drives in circles, Susan Rice not shown
either the US nor UN is doing much as the prospects for the
referendum on independence in South Sudan continue to worsen. On August
12, Inner City Press asked the UN about South Sudan, still
without any answers:
In South Sudan, the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement] has said two things. They’ve said that there is a total
standoff in choosing the leader of the Referendum Commission, and if
this isn’t… they’ve basically said the UN should be involved. They’ve
also said that this movement of tribes into the Abyei
region is akin to ethnic cleansing. They’ve said, the spokesman
for the SPLM has said, “We are asking the UN to get involved”,
presumably on both of those issues. So, I’d asked you yesterday
about very fact-specific things on South Sudan, but what is UNMIS
[United Nations Mission in Sudan], are they aware of this request,
that they become involved in the Commission to make sure that there’s
not a deadlock, and what about the deaths of 23 people?
the deaths, I do have some guidance, which I will be
able to provide you shortly. I don’t have it right now. I do know
that I have some guidance for you. That’s the first thing. [He
later added that UNMIS has informed his Office that, according to the
SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army), on 8 August, a vehicle
carrying their soldiers and some civilians was ambushed by armed
gunmen in Koch County, Unity State. As a result, 23 of them were
reportedly killed and some others wounded. UNMIS has been in touch
with the South Sudan authorities and wounded soldiers in order to
ascertain the fact and circumstances surrounding the incident. UNMIS
is assisting the South Sudanese authorities in further investigating
the incident. Overall, it should be stressed that UNMIS has been
engaging the Government of Southern Sudan in order to address
disputes by peaceful means.]
question that you’ve raised, I will find out. On the
question of the deaths that you mentioned yesterday and the
helicopter, I do have something. I don’t have it here. [He added
later, regarding the helicopter incident, that, as this is a
complaint regarding a violation of the ceasefire agreement, UNMIS has
initiated an investigation by the Ceasefire Joint Military
were added after the August 12 briefing, on August 13 even
when asked against about South Sudan and the referendum, Nesirky had
nothing to say. Watch this site.
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