Council's Change of Guard, Press Access Doubted, Japan We
Hardly Knew Ye
December 28 -- Three of the five Ambassadors leaving the
Security Council, and one of the five coming on, did press
conferences at the UN this month. Some wonder if this portends even
less transparency by the Security Council and its elected
Austria, Mexico and Uganda briefed the dwindling ranks of UN
correspondents in December. Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria focused on
his chairmanship of the Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions committee,
making much of small increases in due process.
asked him about another committee he chaired, on Sudan sanctions, and
the report on Chinese bullets in Darfur. Mayr-Harting forthrightly
replied that he forwarded the report to December's Council president,
the United States, and it was up to the US to release the report.
inquiry with a US Ambassador led to a promise of a response from the
US Mission's spokesman, which has yet to come.
Mexico briefed on the morning of December 23. His sanctions work
involved Somalia; he is known to have waited for days in the
Frankfurt airport after the Icelandic volcano's explosion, waiting to
fly to Eritrea. He never spoke publicly at the time of the outcome,
saying he had to first brief the Council.
news purposes, this
timing doesn't work.
asked Heller if he thought the Security Council's few informal
meetings about the bloody fighting in Sri Lanka in 2009 had any
effect. Like Mayr-Harting, Heller claimed that the basement sessions
may have saved some lives. Could more than 40,000 people have been
Mexico's role has been clearer in the recent press statement
on Cote d'Ivoire, referencing an earlier Mexican drafted statement
about the safety of UN personnel.
of Uganda, later on December 23, took questions from two
correspondents on wider African issues, saying the UN should do more
against the Lord's Resistance Army and should finally hold the
promised referendum in Western Sahara.
the Cote d'Ivoire's
Laurent Gbabgo should be given a “comfortable” way to leave that
asked if comfortable meant immunity, even impunity. Rugunda shook his
head, and asked to substitute the word “safe” for comfortable.
The unstated backdrop was Nigeria's decision to hand over Charles
Taylor to the Sierra Leone Tribunal in the Hague.
grenade attack on a Kampala bound bus in Kenya, Inner City Press
asked if Rugunda would be seeking some Council action. He said an
investigation of the blast continued, but it was hard for him to
believe that hand grenades are normal baggage for such a trip.
question, Inner City Press asked about President Museveni's brother's
involvement in Saracen, a company working murkily as a private
military contractor in Mogadishu and in Puntland. Rugunda, in defense
of his President, said that the brother is a retired general and of
course such people must find something to do.
programs have “nothing to do with AMISOM,” the UN supported
African Union force in which Ugandan soldiers are the majority.
something of an
encore swansong, Austria's Mayr-Harting appeared at an ill attended
stakeout on a relatively obscure but not unimportant point: the
International Criminal Tribunals' residual mechanisms, which some
call “Fall Back for Mladic.” At least Mayr-Harting spoke.
Turkey's Apakan and the relatively new Japanese Ambassador Tsuneo
Nishida? Apakan is a pleasant man who patiently speaks to journalists
outside the meetings of the North Korea sanctions committee he's
chaired. But he predicts what the press will asks and dodges the
questions in advance. While he scarcely explained his country's vote
on Iran sanction, on Cyprus he was more forthcoming.
heard from, at least in English, after Ambassador Yukio Takasu left,
now to return for an ill defined UN position on Human Security.
Nishida, we hardly knew ye. Even with Japan leaving the Council, a
return to the briefings at the Mission for non-Japanese reporters,
previously held by then Deputy Permanent Representative Takahiro
Shinyo, is recommended.
Scrum of Council members, press access not shown
members, India's Ambassador did a sit down on the record lunch for
much of the UN press corps. Afterward he complained of being
misquoted, got one correction, and asked Inner City Press whether it
is worth it to do it again in the future.
answer is, yes.
of the Permanent Five members' Ambassadors do regular briefings for
at least some of the press corps. The half is the US; the French, as
Inner City Press not without controversy reported, explicitly
excluded all reporters from Lebanon, at least for a time. China and
Russia should speak more is the consensus position, at least to
gave an interview about his country's Council plans, but
only in Germany. South Africa has an able team at the UN but has yet
to speak. (Their last public statement was to explain in the General
Assembly voting for protection of homosexuals language that they had
voted against in the Third Committee.)
conducted a notable but at least for this year unsuccessful fight to
try to chair the Council's Working Methods committee, has yet to
speak publicly to correspondents, although the door of Jose Filipe de
Moraes Cabral seems open. Of Colombia little is known, although
President Santos did attend the recent ICC State Parties conference
in New York.
remaining five, Bosnia,
will preside over the Security Council in
January, with what at least at first looks like a light agenda, other
than Sudan. We'll be there -- watch this site.
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