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As Figueres Gets UNFCCC, S.Africa in Line for OIOS, Pillay Misplayed Simonovic

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- While the selection Christiana Figueres for the UN's top environmental job at the UNFCCC surprised some, not least because she's from Costa Rica, a country of three million people which already has an Assistant Secretary General level post held by Rebecca Grynspan at the UN Development Program, there are wider UN politics at work.

   Inner City Press is told by well-placed UN sources that South Africa, whose tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk was on the final two person UNFCCC short list with Ms. Figueres, was taken out of the running because it is now in line for a higher, Under Secretary General level post at the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to replace the outgoing -- but untransparent -- Inga Britt Ahlenius.

  But, some still wonder, what of India? They too had a minister on the UNFCCC short list. Some point to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's recent naming of Atul Khare to the number two post in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations as similar, if one level below, South Africa's reward at OIOS. But others say Atul Khare was "not really India's candidate," in that they were merely told of the appointment. We'll see.

  Meanwhile in Nairobi, one or two major UN posts are to be filled. The new USG to preside over the UN Office in Nairobi, following Ban's controversial replacement in that function of Ana Tibaijuka by Achim Steiner of Germany, should soon be named. And it appears Ms. Tibaijuka's term at UN HABITAT is expiring.

Christiana Figueres at UN, musical chairs not shown

  Africa, which Ban passed over for the Number Two slot in UNDP despite an understanding the Continent would get that post -- Helen Clark wanted Ms. Grynspan, and for now Helen Clark unlike Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay appears to get whatever she wants from Ban -- should have these two Nairobi posts in the bag. But as they did to place Libya on the Human Rights Council, they need to come up with a consensus candidate.

Footnote: Navi Pillay, Inner City Press has told, has wanted the Brazilian Paulo Sergio Pinheiro as her New York representative. So she stacked the four person short list she gave to Ban with "unappointable" people:

Argentine Juan Mendez, when that country already has a USG in Susana Malcorra of DFS, Swede Karin Landgren, just after Margot Wallstrom of that country was given the rape as a weapon of war post, and Ivan Simonovic, whom the sources say Pillay thought couldn't get the post due to opposition from Croatian and international human rights groups.

  But Team Ban tapped Simonovic (click here for Inner City Press' pre-announcement report.)

* * *

At UN, Gaye and Simonovic Up for Posts, Human Rights Ignored in UN Musical Chairs, Khare and Hilde Johnson

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- Two appointments to two posts that are about to be made, including one in Peacekeeping and another of "Balkan partisan" Ivan Simonovic, demonstrate this UN's lack of commitment to human rights, sources tell Inner City Press.

  Less than two years ago, the post as Military Adviser to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was given to Nigerian Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor. Now, sources tell Inner City Press, Obiakor will be replaced by on again, off again UN Congo force commander Babacar Gaye of Senegal, a Francophone country which like Benin is currently having its troops pulled from the (Francophone) Congo.

  When Inner City Press asked Gaye last August about reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers under his command in the Congo, Gaye's answer left some scratching their heads, video here, from Minute 41:46:

"Yes, we sent a fact-finding mission in the localities in South Kivu and North Kivu where allegedly there was SEA cases. I have the results of this fact-finding mission. This is the document that I received. Unfortunately, or [do] we say fortunately, most of the time the accusations, the allegations, are not precise enough to see something on the ground and that is why we have decided to send as soon as possible a fact-finding mission every time there is this kind of accusation. You know that it is up to OIOS to investigate this kind of things. But this fact-finding mission is the way for us to react as promptly as possible in order at least to send evidence and so on and so forth. In both cases, that probably your question is related to, there was nothing on the ground for being evidence that something took place."

When Inner City Press asked to see the document Gaye was waving in the air while saying the above, Gaye refused to release. Likewise, he denied that there had been any issue of Pakistani and Indian peacekeepers resisting crossing the administrative border between North and South Kivu, which Inner City Press dubbed the Kashmir in the Kivus. But other DPKO staff, since Gaye's public denial, have acknowledged that this happens. Some military adviser.

Babacar Gaye with Alan Doss, self-exoneration duo?

The new human rights post in New York of Assistant Secretary General, for which many names have less than accurately been tossed around, is according to well placed NGOs about to be awarded to Ivan Simonovic of Croatia, currently that country's Justice Minister. As determined, they say, by Ban Ki-moon's senior advisor Kim Won-soo, he's to get the post over, among others, Karin Landgren of Sweden, who heads the U.N. mission in Nepal, on the theory that the UN can't have two senior Swedes, and Swede Margot Wallstrom got the rape of a weapon of war post.

The human rights NGOs tell Inner City Press they are concerned that Simonovic was named his country's ambassador to the UN by then prime minister Franjo Tudman, of whom Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said

"It is true that Mr. Tudjman was not charged because he is dead, but alive, he would be here on the accused bench. General Bobetko, that he was alive, he would be accused of the bench. It should be borne in mind when talking about a joint criminal enterprise."

The human rights NGOs also point to what they called the disproportionate prosecution of ethnic Serbs in Croatia while Simonovic has been Justice Minister. While Simonovic, they say, argues that his post is not directly responsible for particular prosecutions, the groups are surprised that the UN is moving in this direction. But should they be?

Footnotes: There are other UN system retreads seeking new posts. When Haile Menkerios was named SRSG of the UN Mission in Sudan, he beat out two competitors viewed as "non African" -- India's Atul Khare, previously of the UN Mission in Timor Leste and Hilde Johnson, a top UNICEF official who points to her childhood in Africa as a demographic qualification.

 In what many view as a hat tip to rising power India, Khare is being named to the number two Peacekeeping post vacated when Edmond Mulet was made permanent in Haiti. So what will Hilde Johnson get? She was schmoozing at Japan's End of Presidency reception on April 30. Watch this site.

* * *

Of UN Council, Rice on Sudan and Congo, S. Africa Running for Seat, UN Musical Chairs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- Promoting its candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2011-12, South Africa threw a reception at the UN Monday night. The news, however, came from current Council members. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was there, meeting and greeting including with the Press. One of her answers, about the Council's Congo trip, she said was off the record. Other answers will be reported, diplomatically of course.

  Since on the day Sudan's Omar al Bashir declared electoral victory the UN had said nothing at its noon briefing, rebuffing a shouted question from Inner City Press on Sudan and from another journalist about the Balkans, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice if she thought the UN was being too quiet.

  Amb. Rice replied, as she would on Northern Congo, that she had spent the day immersed in something else, presumably Iran. These proposed sanctions, it seems clear, are the US Mission's and Administration's focus. But what about the outbreak of fighting between the SPLM and northerners, either tribes or Bashir's army?

  The focus, Amb. Rice said, the "big enchilada," is really on the referendum on South Sudan being independent. But if the process of these election was not credible, why and how would that one be?

  Still on Sudan, when Inner City Press told Ambassador Rice about reports of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meeting earlier in the day with Omar al Bashir, she smiled thinly. On the other hand, Sudan's Ambassador told Inner City Press he had called Gambari directly, and Gambari had gushed about the meeting, He said that in the pending UNMIS resolution, there is an attempt to give UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios a role up in Darfur.

  A Moroccan political coordinator, on the other hand, said the mixing of UNMIS and UNAMID would give Gambari a role in the South, "even if it breaks away." We'll see.

  Turning to the Congo, Inner City Press asked about the UN's strange failure to commit to investigating the alleged 11 civilian deaths caused in the re-taking of the airport in Northern Congo. When told that the alleged perpetrators are the Congolese Army, with which the UN works, Ambassador Rice said "good question." Inner City Press told her she is more likely to get an answer. "Thank you," she said.

US's Susan Rice, Gambari and "big enchilada" not shown

  There was chit chat, too. A reporter recounted that St. Lucia's Ambassador said Ms. Rice is part Caribbean. Ambassador Rice nodded. "All you need to know about me," she said, is I am half Jamaican and was conceived in Nigeria. She laughed. "My grand mother's maiden name was Daley [or Daly], as in Irish."

  Some reporters suggested she speak more with the press, contrasting her approach to that of the French. She shrugged. I can't do it every week, she said, adding that Americans are "not peacocks."

Menkerios, as it happens, will speak to the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon and then, it is promised, with the Press. An African Ambassador, requesting anonymity, told Inner City Press on Monday night that Menkerios' old position with the Department of Political Affairs will be filled by current Cyprus representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun. Then who would take Cyprus -- Atul Khare? Watch this site.

Footnote: as requested by the South African mission, Inner City Press would be remiss not to note that, with the African Union's endorsesment, South Africa is virtually assured of re-gaining a Council seat in 2011-12. When Inner City Press quipped that this fast return made the country the "Japan of Africa," a South African representative reminded that before what's now called the Dumisani Kumalo term, South Africa had not been represented. So welcome back -- the fix is in.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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