At UN, Japan Cries of
War While Russia Brags of Victory, Spokesman Won't Answer
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 3 -- Japanese atomic bomb survivors called for peace on
one side on the UN Monday night, with at the other Russia celebrated
its victories in World War Two. Russia offered warm champagne amid
photos of the destruction of Minsky. The Japanese, after survivors'
stories, served sushi and red and white wine.
this a case of
war and peace, of the last war's winners and losers? While at the
first day of the NPT Review Conference the US bragged that it had
turned a corner, ready to disclose how many weapons it has, Russian
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stood amid photos of the Red Army's heroic
moves from 1941 through 1945.
plastic champagne glasses
with a high UN official, Dmitry Titov who headed UN Peacekeeping
during Alain Le Roy's absence last month. Now there is a Number Two,
Atul Khare of India, at least for a year. But Titov's in the mix,
with a P-5 to back him.
presided over a screening of "The Ballad of a Soldier," an
iconic if low budget film about a Russian soldier. Afterwards the
same champagne and cold meat pastries and grapes. If each country has
its caterer, then Russian's needs some work. But as a Russian UN
staffer pointed out to Inner City Press, 70% of the Nazis' casualties
were on the Eastern Front.
events was the Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, who has made a
big point that he speaks Russian as well as Korean -- the latter got
him the job. But does he like the job? Is he doing the job? Monday he
chose to slip the UN noon briefing in in the middle of Ahmadinejad's
speech, so that questions would not be asked. Inner City Press
inquired, and he said ask questions.
of the seven
questions Inner City Press sent, not a single on was answered more than
twelve hours later - not one. This is not the
first time under Nesirky.
UN and wall, stone wall
Here are some of the questions:
Is the UN aware of the
identity of the
group which held four UN police observers hostage in Sudan until last
week? Is the Secretary-General at all concerned about reported links
between the group and the Sudanese Government; that the group is an
"armed proxy" for the Bashir regime?
On April 15, a spokesperson
Secretary-General confirmed that OIOS' draft report on the Alan Doss
Nepotism Scandal was provided to Mr Doss "for his comment before
a report is finalized." What is the status of the report? Describe what
the process is, and where we are in the process. Also,
if the report is ever finalized, will you inform the media?
Your office has said that
the G to P
exam and NCE are not being eliminated. But on what schedule will they
What is the status of the
into Paul Van Essche hiring a colleague or friend of his, John Solem,
who doctored his PHP, Personal History, to delete all references to
Mr. van Essche having been previously his supervisor. As in the case
of Alan Doss, will Mr Van Escche be provided a copy of any draft
investigation report "for his comment"? Also, what is the
status of this investigation?
Speaking of Umoja, it was
seventeen months ago that the UN announced that it "has decided
to award a contract for Enterprise Resource Planning software to a
European software company called SAP." The announcement said
that the contract negotiations would be "wrapped up" by
April 2009. More than a year has lapsed beyond that deadline. So my
first question is, has the UN actually awarded a contract to SAP? Is
the project delayed as a result?
Does the Secretary-General
that it was appropriate for a UN staff member, Tijani El-Sissi Ateem,
to participate in various Darfur-related meetings in his UN capacity
(and at UN expense) which resulted in himself being selected as a
rebel leader in Darfur?
Footnote: at a luncheon by UNESCO on Monday --
Inner City Press is
never sure what the difference really is, between a luncheon and a
just plain lunch -- chicken and couscous were served to celebrate
Freedom of Information. When Q&A time came, Inner City Press
asked about the need for a UN Freedom of Information procedure, and
asked UNESCO for why it accepted $3 million from Equatorial Guinea's
dictator Obiang to name a prize for him. "We'll have an answer
in a few days," was the response. Some freedom of information.
Watch this site.
* * *
Dodges from Afghan Deaths through Moonlighting to MMB, Hacks of
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 19 -- The UN’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, in place
for over four months now, has recently descended into try to silence
questions and to limit their number, while his Office doles out
answers to one media’s questions to another more favored source, if
they answer at all.
question is about the deaths of UN staff in Afghanistan or something
as simple as who invited former UN official Mark Malloch Brown to
speak to the Ban Ki-moon administration's Chief Executives Board,
Nesirky last week acknowledged questions, said he would get answers
-- but give days later, nothing. Here's from the April
City Press: Two questions... In Afghanistan, there are these reports
that Chris Alexander, when he was the Deputy SRSG [Special
Representative of the Secretary-General] in Afghanistan, raised to
Canadian authorities that he thought that the Governor of Kandahar,
Mr. Asadullah Khalid, was involved not only in human rights
violations but was actually responsible for a bombing that killed
five UN personnel. I am wondering if you can…this has now been
reported, based on Canadian documents. Can you say whether, within
the UN system, particularly Mr. Alexander when he was a UN official,
believed that a sitting Governor of Kandahar was responsible for the
death of UN staff?
Nesirky: Not here and now. I would need to find out, but thank you
for bringing it to my attention....
City Press: The CEB [Chief Executive Board] meeting, were you there?
For part of it.
City Press: The second day, I wanted to know, I have heard that
Mark Malloch Brown, former Deputy Secretary-General, was present. If
it is the case, in what capacity and what is his affiliation with the
UN system at present?
My understanding is that the CEB, which as you know brings together
the heads of the agencies, funds and programmes and key individuals
from the Secretariat Headquarters, on that second day there was a
decision -- not taken on that day but in advance -- that it would be
useful to have an outside view of the way that the UN works. I am
not privy to what exactly was said, but there was a conscious
decision to have an outside speaker to brief the CEB members. I do
not have any further details and I was not in the room. We can find
City Press: Including who invited him and on what topic.
As I say, it was a conscious decision not for this to be simply
inward looking, but to have some outside input into it. The details
of who made the invitation and so on we can find out very easily.
would have been
easy to find out -- but the information as not been provided as of
April 19. Nor has any response been made on the first Afghanistan
question. On a second Afghanistan question, about UN staff death by
friendly fire or execution, despite repeated questions by Inner City
on a information from a UN whistleblower in Kabul,
Nesirky's Office gave its response to another media.
extends throughout Nesirky's team. Taking the week before as a
sample, we find a slew of questions left unanswered, culminating in
answers give to some but withheld from the media which asked. Whether
this is retaliation or more ineptitude was asked, but not answered.
City Press asked Mr. Nesirky deputy Marie Okabe
City Press: there is a report by the think tank at the University of
Toronto, reported on BBC, about alleged hacking from within China of
both the Dalai Lama and his supporters. And also, it says that a UN
computer system, I believe ESCAP [Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific] but maybe another one, was compromised by these
China-based hackers. Are you aware of the report? Can you confirm,
or will you look into and confirm, that a UN system was compromised
in this way?
Spokesperson Okabe: I am aware of the press reports, but I have not
heard anything from our agencies confirming what you have just said.
Do you think they are going to? It seems like this is widely enough
circulated that it… Do you think they will actually come out and
say "this happened to us" or "this did not happen to
us" or will they just grin and bear it?
UN has yet to answer about the reading of its e-mail by China-based
hackers. On April 8, Nesirky's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq held
the noon briefing while having told the Press that head UN
Peacekeeper Alain Leroy would be speaking at the Security Council
stakeout elsewhere in the UN basement. When Inner City Press sent Haq
questions in writing, he ended up replying
all I got from Myriam [of ECA], that one sentence I sent you. Please
ask her for more. Matthew, I've already answered quite a lot of
questions and realise you can easily respond with many more. You must
appreciate it's easier to ask them then to obtain the right answers.
I will leave you to do the work on your latest ones with the relevant
parties; UNDP for questions on Kim Bolduc and the boat."
the UN’s "Love
Boat" in Haiti was rented by the World
Food Program, not UNDP. This buck-passing came before Haq
bypassed Inner City Press the next week, handing an answer to a
question Inner City Press had asked to another media.
UN's Ban and OSSG's Nesirky: questions taken,
answers not shown
Haq ended up
rebuffing questions posed in writing, Inner City Press made sure to
attend his noon
briefing on April 9 and asked
City Press: Sure, Farhan. I wanted to get a description of which
offices of the UN -- DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or
DPA [Department of Political Affairs] -- were involved in this "road
map [towards] peace" for Darfur, the uniting of rebel groups
under a single umbrella that took place in Doha and was ultimately
signed by an, until 8 March, UN staff member. So, you referred me to
ECA [Economic Commission for Africa] and I have gotten some answers
from this, but what I want to know is: was there UN involvement in
the process? I am aware of that, and so I want to know… it is not
ECA; they say they had no engagement in it. So was it the Department
of Peacekeeping Operations or the Department of Political Affairs or
some other UN unit that was involved in seeking to unify the Darfur
rebel groups under the leadership of Mr. Al-Tijani Al-Sissi?
Spokesperson: I will have to check and see which part of the system
deals with that topic.
City Press: Well, I guess I want to know, and you have referred me
to ECA, I have gotten their answers and now I am just asking you. Given
that they say that Mr.
Al-Tijani Al-Sissi was paid by the UN
system from 2005 through 8 March 2010, and during that time made
public statements about his desire to unify Darfur rebel groups and
to become the leader, what does the UN Secretariat have to say
this use of staff time, violation of staff rules, and, in fact,
involvement in the political process of Darfur by a UN staff member?
Spokesperson: Certainly, if any staff member for ECA is involved in
inappropriate activities, it is for the Economic Commission for
Africa to look into that. As you know, there are rules and
regulations that prohibit certain types of political activity for
staff of the United Nations.
City Press: Is it entirely an ECA matter, or are the UN staff rules
consistent throughout the system and policed by OLA [Office of Legal
Affairs] and others?
Spokesperson: There are staff rules and regulations throughout the
system. Obviously, each different entity is responsible for
monitoring and examining the actions of their own staff to make sure
that they are appropriate and conform with the appropriate rules.
City Press: But just to tie this one up, this is the reason I am
asking -- when you look into which UN units, DPKO or DPA, were
involved in the process of unifying the groups, can you ask how they
were not aware that the person who emerged and who spoke and wanted
to become the leader of these united groups was, in fact, a UN staff
member? I just see it as sort of a fragmented response. It seems
like the UN has a paid staff member that did it. To refer all the
questions to ECA just seems like a way to let DPKO, DPA or the
Secretariat off the hook.
Spokesperson: The questions having to do with his employment in ECA
have to be referred to ECA. That is simply logical.
City Press: How about the question of how DPKO or DPA could be
working with somebody and not know they were a UN staff member when
everyone else knew?
Spokesperson: Well, let’s not speculate about what they were or
were not doing.
City Press: But can I get an answer on that, not from ECA?
Spokesperson: Do not speculate. But first, let's get the details
about what precisely did happen on that.
information has still not been provided, nor has any action been
taken on violation of the rules. With Nesirky back on stage, Inner
City Press on April
City Press: the question is as follows: very simply, it now appears
clear that an individual employed by UN ECA [Economic Commission for
Africa], Al-Tijani Al-Sissi Ateem, was paid by the UN until 8 March
2010. It also appears clear that he made public statements in
September 2009 saying, “I want to lead the Darfur rebellion.” He
spoke with Mr. [Djibril] Bassolé -- this is a newly emerging
who, in my understanding, was aware that this individual was a UN
staff member. What is going to be done? I mean, I was referred by
Farhan [Haq] to ECA, but it seems like the UN system as a whole… If
these facts are correct, the rules were openly broken in terms of
political activity of a UN staff member in a high-profile political
situation of Darfur. Therefore, what is going to happen?
Nesirky: Well, a couple of things. Strange as it may seem, even
when I was not here, I was aware of what is going on and I know that
you had extensive exchanges with Farhan and others about how to get
information on this particular question and that is in the works. You
have been in touch with them and you can continue to be in touch
with them at ECA, which is based Addis [Ababa], as you know.
City Press: The reason I am asking is that ECA has said, on the
record, that they were unaware of this individual’s political
activities, which frankly I find hard to believe because there were
public statements in Addis reported in the press in Addis that he
wanted to lead a Darfur rebel group.
Well Matthew, I am not going to second-guess what my colleagues on
the ground have said. I am not going to second-guess them. The only
thing I will add is what you have already heard the Secretary-General
say, which is a general statement of principle about the
inadmissibility of political activity as a UN official. Now, please,
I would suggest that you continue with your line of inquiry with ECA,
City Press: What if they just say they are unaware of things that
That presumably means that they are unaware, Matthew.
City Press: If it lines up
as a straight violation of the rules -- I
am sorry, I will not go on and on -- I am just wondering who enforces
these staff rules to not be involved in political activity while
employed by the staff?
The United Nations enforces the rules, Matthew. The United Nations
City Press: Which unit?
You have heard
what the Secretary-General said. The rules are there
City Press: Right, but who is going to enforce them? What is going
to happen in this case? If the facts are not true, fine. If they
are, what happens?
This could go on forever, and as I have said, please do go back to
the ECA. That is the correct conduit.
the ECA has stopped providing answers. So on April
13, Inner City
City Press: Purely factually, does the Joint Mediator [for Darfur],
Djibril Bassolé… is he paid by the UN and who speaks for him?
Does he have a separate spokesperson or are you, in a sense, his
spokesperson? Or is DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] his
spokesperson? To whom would I direct questions to Mr. Bassolé in
his UN capacity.
Let me find out.
six days later,
Nesirky has not provided this basic information. There followed, in
the next three days, a series of non-answers about the death of UN
staffer Louis Maxwell in Afghanistan, after which when Nesirky’s
office finally had an answer, they gave it to another media, not
Inner City Press which had been
asking for days.
Inner City Press
objected, Nesirky tried to shut questioning down by invoking the
staff death. One long time reporter called this power play
"disgusting." And, three days later, no explanation or
response has been forthcoming. And so it goes at the UN.