UN Dodges Africa, Funding and Justice Questions,
Ready on Israel, Weak Week
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
November 23 -- The UN last week
dodged questions on topics from the Congo
through Western Sahara and Liberia to
from the funding
of positions to the end of UN
justice, using three
separate spokespeople to do it.
17, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Okabe about
comments by the head of UN military forces in North Kivu in the Congo:
Inner City Press: the military
head of MONUC for North Kivu Bipin Rawat has been quoted that the UN
use white vehicles with “UN” painted on it has led to -- is one of the
that they have been unable to effectively combat with the forces of
Nkunda. He said the camouflage and
concealment are needed. Since he is a
MONUC commander, what is the UNs response to one of its military
saying that he has the wrong equipment and it makes it impossible [to
the UN's mandate] ?
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I
have not seen anything on MONUC on
this. I’d have to look into it for you.
But she and
her office never got back to Inner City Press. The next day, a British
broadcasting company asked the same question and got at least a
As the week progressed, Inner City Press asked the questions of whether
should use camouflage to the Ambassadors of several member states.
wrong when only the member states can answer about the UN Secretariat's
operations. The UN wouldn't even answer
who is funding a new position that Ms. Okabe announced on November 17
Inner City Press: Ms.
Wahlstrom's post, you said it's
voluntarily funded. Who is paying for
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: We'll
have to look into that for you.
end, six days later, there had been no answer. Also on Monday, Ms.
It's been reported that some Roma
children died in Kosovo in camps that the United Nations built there,
poisoning. Do we know anything about
that or to confirm, deny what happened?
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I
am not aware of any reports from the UN
Mission on this subject, but we'll certainly check with them for you.
UN now claims that the lead issues have not been raised since 2005,
second-largest NGO is criticizing
ongoing harm in 2007 and since. But no answer from the
November 18, Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq was questioned by several
about the UN's new
$25 million ceiling in Geneva, a topic which would reappear
UN's Ban under $25 million ceiling, answers not shown
however, Ms. Okabe was asked
Inner City Press: Somalia, then a
couple of other things. On that, there
are some trade organizations, including the International Chamber of
inter-tanker or inter-cargo -- they said that they’ve called; they’ve
Ki-moon to take action on the piracy issue.
Has he received letters, other than from Member
States on this issue,
and has he responded to them?
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I am
Inner City Press: Alright. Also
you said this thing on Gaza -- Tzipi
Livni has said that Israel will now boycott the Durban II Conference in
in Geneva. Is the UN aware of that? Do they have any… Do they see any linkage
between the calls by Ban and the Human Rights Commissioner yesterday
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: The
Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights regrets Israel’s confirmation that they do not intend to
the Durban Review Conference. Given the
critical importance of the issues under discussion at the Conference,
participation is essential. These issues of racism, racial
xenophobia and related intolerance are issues which affect all
millions of individuals around the world, on a daily basis. The outcome
document of the original Durban Conference was agreed to by consensus
and is an
extremely valuable document with important and innovative
tackling racism in all its manifestations. This is the initial response
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Inner City Press: I actually want
to ask, on this, what they call the internal justice system, there is a
-- ACABQ came out with a report fairly critical of the
not having this system ready for January 1.
It was supposed to be ready. One,
what’s the reason for the delay? And
two, what’s the Secretary-General going to do to make sure that some
justice system remains in place (inaudible) on December 31?
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: Well,
it’s obviously a high priority for the
Secretary-General. I will look into the
question that you have, because I don’t have anything further on it now.
of the UN's internal justice system, and Ban missing the deadline, was
a big topic in the UN's budget committee. But Ms. Okabe had been given
guidance or read-out on that, but had been on Tzipi Livni's
announcement. On Thursday,
Spokesperson Michele Montas was
back, and was asked
Inner City Press: Michele, a
question has come up today at the stakeout, which is, what’s the
appointing a new Special Representative or Envoy to Western Sahara? It’s been a number of months.
Who is performing the job, and is it getting
any closer to actually naming one?
What’s the hold-up?
Spokesperson Montas: Well, I am
hoping that we’re getting closer
to that point. From what I gather, there
is enough agreement among the parties for the Secretary-General to
appointment. But I will let you know as
soon as it is confirmed.
Inner City Press: I wanted to
ask, were you in Geneva with the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson Montas: No, I was
Inner City Press: Okay. I guess,
maybe it’s the last time I’ll ask
this. But the controversy
ceiling that he inaugurated, there was a lot of press coverage. So, I’m just wondering if, now that he has
seen how it was covered, was there some, and the Spanish Government has
that its international cooperation budget was used for this $25 million
in Geneva. Was there any response from
the UN about whether, maybe the project started before the financial
maybe it would have been done differently, but thus far there has been
statement at all despite many questions and many articles.
What’s the thinking about…?
Spokesperson Montas: Well, the
project was under way before any
financial crisis. And as far as I can
understand -- and you should probably ask the question to the
Spain -- they have a budget that treats not only cooperation matters
assistance to a number of countries, but in the same budget, they also
affairs. And it is a decision by the
Spanish Government to use some of that money from that fund to sponsor
of art that is that ceiling.
Inner City Press: Forgive me
(inaudible),… then I promise this is the last one on this.
Does the Secretary-General, is it your sense
that he’d feel, given the financial crisis now, that if a Government
mixed budget like that, that it may be important to deal with the needs
poor or Millennium Development Goals first and $25 million ceilings
Spokesperson Montas: In
the case of a gift from any Government, it
is matter for the Government itself to decide.
Myanmar gave the UN a gift taken directly from the cyclone aid it has
the UN would just take it, and build a domed ceiling with it? On Friday,
Inner City Press: The spokesman
for the CNDP in the Congo has said
that they pulled out of the town of Kinyandoni, but that the FDLR has,
in fact, moved in. That they’d asked
MONUC to, if they were going
to pull back consistent with the ceasefire, that MONUC should patrol
rather than letting these other militias in.
Did the UN move in, or is it aware that the FDLR
rebels have, in fact,
occupied the lands that the CNDP has pulled back from?
Spokesperson Montas: You can get
that information from our
colleagues in DPKO.
Inner City Press: Right.
Spokesperson Montas: It has to
confirm the information.
Inner City Press: I guess the
main thing I’d say is, is MONUC endeavouring, since the UN is
to pull back from Goma, does the UN then take control of those areas so
Spokesperson Montas: That’s what
I am saying. For what is
happening in the field, you’re best to call DPKO and try to find out. They will get for you the exact situation on
the ground in that specific area which I don’t have myself.
Inner City Press: Right,
right. I mean, I guess, could
somebody... it’s like the Congo policy issue.
So, you may say the same to this, but in Liberia,
the press union of
Liberia has said that UNMIL peacekeepers were involved in the seizing
camera from a journalist at the request of the Chief Justice of the
country. So, I guess, although you may
say I ask Liberia, I want to know, does UNMIL, does it have a sort of a
freedom component? Or would you be
surprised that that took place; and if it took place, why it took place?
Spokesperson Montas: Well, let
me check first whether it took
place and what happened exactly. As soon
as I get the circumstances, then I’ll let you know.
[She later confirmed that the UN
Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is aware of the allegations and is
Inner City Press: Okay. I’m just
wondering, there is no place else I
can ask this one, so I’ll ask it here.
It has to do with the internal justice system of the
UN. I notice that this evening the
Secretary-General is going to this, I guess it’s the ending of the
Administrative Tribunal. But there is
nothing to take its place. It’s been
said by ACABQ and others that the new system of justice that was
begin 1 January is not going to begin.
So I think I asked earlier in the week but there are
a lot of countries
that I asked yesterday, what is the plan for 2 January for, you know,
members or whatever, you know, for people to be able to (inaudible)
claims for the
UN to consider?
Spokesperson Montas: For the
time being it’s still being
discussed, as you know, within the Budget Committee, about the money
the whole set up. Why don’t we let this
discussion take its course? And then
we’ll find out, first, whether they will be able to start as planned in
January. And then, of course, I will let
you know what is being put in place in case it’s not ready.
[The Spokesperson later added
that the Secretariat is fully committed to preparing for the new system
start as soon as possible. The
Secretariat is making the necessary preparations to ensure that the
system can remain functional until the new one is ready to be
avoid any vacuum in the justice system, she said.]
will require the approval of the General Assembly and its budget
which may not be forthcoming...
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
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UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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