Buck Passed on Somali Child Soldiers and Cheonan, UNESCO Bars Press
June 30 -- Mexico's
month atop the UN Security Council ended
Wednesday with a whimper not a bang. There was a debate in the
morning on Afghanistan, with few mentions of McCrystal. Apparently no
Council member even raised the matter of murdered UN staff member
Louis Maxwell while in Kabul.
the UNDOF mandate was extended. But it was only for six months, not
twelve, due to a failure to consult. Still outgoing Council president
Claude Heller put a brave face on it, saying that six months was
afternoon, Japan media swarmed around the stakeout, hungry
for any action on the sunken Cheonan ship. But all that happened was
the hand over from Mexico to Nigeria. Some worried about a North
Korean surprise for the US July 4 holiday.
asked Heller one last question:
Press: I wanna ask a non Cheonan question. This issue that came
up that the UN supported the TFG of Somalia using child soldiers.
Where does it go from here? I know that it didn’t seem to come up
on [inaudible]. In your role as chair of the CAAC, when will that be
This issue is in the agenda of the Working Group on Children
and Armed Conflict, and it should be considered in the next two
months. I don’t have the date, but it’s in the agenda. We have to
consider this and make recommendations on the cases, of course
depending on the information that we get. But its in the agenda of
the Working Group. Well, thank you very much.
UNDOF 1970s, plus ca change
through the UN garage to the
farewell party for Marie Okabe of the spokesperson's office. Some
reporters had been lined up to ask planted questions, where Marie is
going (the UN in DC) and who will fill her shoes (no one can, Martin
Nesirky answered; the recruitment process is unclear.)
reporters were invited. Down the hall in the UN's press room, most
journalists were excluded from the staged TV debate of UNFPA and
UNESCO. Inner City Press, which was on record as wanting an answer on
UNESCO's dalliance with Equatorial Guinea, was barred from entering
the room. UNESCO, then, barring journalists.
Footnote: to update
a previous Inner City Press UN footnote, while the journalists have
proposed including bloggers in the UN accreditation guidelines, it now
emerges that the UN is opposed. This is ironic, given the Department of
Public Information's involvement in "blogging," to the highest levels.
Watch this site.
* * *
Month Marked by Margaritas and a S.Korean Ship, From
Flotilla to Tortillas
30 -- It began with the flotilla
and ended with
tortillas. It was June's Mexican presidency of the UN Security
Council, celebrated Tuesday night by Ambassadors and diplomats and
Asha Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary General. She chatted with
July's president, Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, and told Inner City Press that
moves are afoot to reconsider the UN's sudden closing of its after
school program. Then she was gone.
ceviche, the talk was diplomatic. Why was there no action on the
the South Korean ship? Why can UN Missions not share
information on the Lord's
Resistance Army? This last, admittedly, was
a bee in the bonnet of Inner City Press.
it was a matter
that Claude Heller, the month's president, took more seriously than
others, perhaps due to his role on Children and Armed Conflict. He
and Mexico have six more months on the Council. Will the LRA be
committing more or fewer massacres by the changing of the guard?
Marco Morales greeted all and sundry. Reporters without
exception praised his detailed updates replete with World Cup jokes.
Soon to complete a PhD, he will return to Mexico.
counterpart Verena Nowotny, her country cursed by the alphabet to have
Presidency, seemed to agree that the two should pass their knowledge
to incoming spokespersons. Who will be the next five Council members?
Germany, it was
said, will be among them, and may not be open to advice from the
beyond the Permanent Five members of the Council, some countries
feeling they are close or should have permanent status don't take the
damn the torpedoes -- pardon the Cheonan
reference -- approach of an
Austria or Mexico, which know they only have two years and so try to
raise their issues. Japan has long had this semi-permanent status.
Now Germany approaches, and Brazil it moving that way.
reception, the Permanent Representatives of four of the Permanent
Five made an appearance. China's Li Baodong spoke with Rugunda of
Uganda. Gerard Araud appeared, glad handing Heller. The UK's Lyall
Grant spoke of his time in Pakistan.
Russia, Inner City Press was told, appeared and left early. “They're
running from the spy case,” one margaritaed wag opined. The Russian
Mission's spokesman Ruslan left suddenly mid month, between a wag and
margarita, making Tolstoy invitations. He will be missed.
Permanent Five, as the wags say is so often the case, was Susan Rice
of the US.
Heller and Marco Morales: dynamic duo with nearly
In her stead
was Alex Wolff, soon to leave the Mission.
Inner City Press asked him, when will he shift over to become US
Ambassador to Chile? As soon as the Senate confirms me. Also there
was Brooke Anderson, right to the end of the reception. Unlike Wolff
on the night of the flotilla -- again with Rice not there -- she has
had to do a stakeout, taking questions on the record. That day must
was the Office of the Spokesman. Ever since the Council moved
to its new basement home, the Spokesman has been barred from
attending consultations. It was said that he is trying; he has said
he needs to hear from the Council on its reason. Tuesday night with
guacamole was a chance to heal this rift.
Spokesperson Marie Okabe is saying farewell to New York,
heading south to DC for a similar deputy post at the UN office there.
Wednesday this transition will be marked from 4 to 6 pm. While to
some readers of Tolstoy afternoon celebrations may be as good as any,
this time it overlaps with Council meetings and a staged TV debate
including the heads of UNESCO and of UNFPA. Insiders say the latter
has tried to plant friendly questions. We'll see: watch this site.
* * *
After Failing to Speak Up for Ethnic Uzbeks on Kyrgyz
-- With the UN slavishly supporting
Constitutional referendum from which the Uzbek minority was
disproportionately excluded due to ethnic cleansing, it has chosen to
hide behind Russian. Not the Russian government, which like the US
backed the flawed referendum to defend its Kyrgyz base, but the
twice asked the UN to confirm that the constitution
would outlaw the formation of ethnicity based parties: that is, any
Uzbek party. Only after a third request on June 28 did the UN
respond, with this:
to your exchange with Martin at the Noon Briefing, just wanted to
help point you to the relevant part of what you'd asked about...
The reference you
is under Article 4., point 4.3:
политических партий на религиозной,
этнической основе, преследование
религиозными объединениями политических
in Russian but am sending in case it's of any help to
strange that the UN, sometimes called translation central, could or
would not provide an English version of this single line of Russian,
requested three times in a week. In fact, the UN provided Inner City
Press with a translation of other material it had not requested. But
when Inner City Press sought among its network a translation of what
the UN provided only in Russian, this was the result:
Republic it is forbidden:
parties on the basis of religion or ethnicity, or
on any attempt to, by religious gatherings or parties, achieve
the answer was
and is yes, the UN backed a referendum from which the Uzbek
minority was disproportionately excluded on a constitution which will
now bar the Uzbeks from organizing to defend themselves.
UN's Ban on April 8, ethnic and Constitutional cleansing not shown
City Press also asked:
heard the statement both by Mr. [Miroslav] Jenca and
then reiterated by the Secretary-General this morning about the
referendum in Kyrgyzstan. I was wanting to ask: what is the UN’s
estimate of the turnout of ethnic Uzbeks? There are some reports
that, for example in the border town of Suretash, only a hundred to
4,000 people were able to vote. So, I’m just wondering, what does
the UN statement mean when compared to such low turnout numbers
reported for ethnic Uzbeks?
there are a number of things here. First of all, the
UN is not observing, and the UN is not counting votes or voters.
why are they praising?
finish, first of all, to try to answer your question. First
of all, there is the Central Election Commission. That’s the body
which is compiling the figures. So, the figures on turnout will be
coming from the Central Election Commission. And I checked their
website before I came here; it’s in Kyrgyz and Russian, and there
are very detailed figures by each province or district showing the
turnout and absolute figures in each case. And of course, overall
figures. And that’s the first thing. So I would encourage you to
take a look at that. And the second thing is, perhaps more helpfully
for you in English, as well as Kyrgyz and Russian; the OSCE’s
[Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s] office for
democratic institutions and human rights has put out a fairly
detailed overview in a statement of its preliminary findings and
conclusions. This is, as I said, this is preliminary findings, as
you might expect, given this is less than 24 hours after the vote
itself. But they are quite detailed, and as Mr. Jenca and the
Secretary-General have said, they have taken note, and the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General has taken note of this
preliminary assessment by the OSCE and others where it’s clear that
there were some shortcomings. That’s clear. That’s obvious. But what
they believe is, and this is the assessment that this was
largely transparent. And the turnout; again, it’s for the Central
Election Commission, firstly, to give those figures. The turnout
that seems to be evident, not only from the Central Election
Commission in concrete numbers, but also from the more anecdotal
evidence, if you like, of the international observer, that there were
long-term observers that would tend to suggest that this was a
sizeable turnout. And most importantly, that it was peaceful. There
weren’t any violent incidents.
a quick follow-up. If these were the two bases for
the UN’s praise of the election, does the Central Election
Commission — apparently you’ve read them in Russian — are these
turnout numbers done by ethnicity or simply by geography?
ethnicity. It’s done by geography; by the region. Yeah.
the UN have a particular concern or, I don’t know,
maybe “duty” is the wrong word, to the ethnic Uzbeks who were
being targeted by violence, left the country, many of them had their
ID cards ripped up — is that something, does this statement today
mean that they feel, that the UN feels, that the turnout and the
ability to vote of the ethnic Uzbeks of southern Kyrgyzstan was
sufficient, from the UN’s point of view?
said is that it really does demonstrate the aspiration
of the people of Kyrgyzstan for peace and stability and democracy.
That’s what we’ve said. That’s the first thing. The second
thing is that we’re not suggesting that this is the end of the
story, and that somehow this is perfect. It was not. There is work
to be done, and the United Nations will continue to provide the
technical support that’s required, not least by the Central
Election Commission, so that they can improve further and not least
so that when we get to the parliamentary elections at the end of this
year, they will be in better shape to ensure that it’s as inclusive
last one on this, and thanks a lot. I think I had
asked last week whether you could confirm what a UN official had told
me — which is that the Constitution that was voted on and approved
over the weekend on Sunday outlaws political parties based on
ethnicity. And if so, that’s why I guess I’d be concerned, I’m
wondering if the UN sees any connection between a group being
targeted by violence, probably if the Associated Press can be
believed, having a lower turnout than other groups and, therefore, in
the future being prohibited from organizing around, I guess to
protect their rights on the basis of their minority status. Were you
able to confirm that that is in the Constitution?
But I am sure that my colleagues in DPA [Department
for Political Affairs] can help me with that, and also my colleagues
then they gave
it only in Russian...