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On Sri Lanka, UN Panel's Problems, of Blackmail as Guatemala Cites R2P, NAM Games of Iran, Venezuela to Head G-77?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 -- Sri Lanka and the Non Aligned Movement letter it requested to oppose UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's advisory panel on accountability were inquired into at the UN throughout the day on July 16, at the UN noon briefing, in front of the Security Council and later upstairs at a celebration of Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday.

The draft NAM letter, which Inner City Press first obtained and exclusively published, has now been stalled by a protest or demarche from Guatemala, which does not agree NAM should block inquiries into human rights violations.

  The word “Responsibility to Protect” was repeatedly heard. Most but not all NAM members opposed R2P. But NAM decisions require consensus.

 To try to sweep the invocation of R2P under the rug, Sri Lanka and many NAM nations are ascribing the delay to contradictions with the Organization of the Islamic Conference about the inquiries into the attack on the flotilla to Gaza. But R2P is in NAM's mix.

As an aside on NAM: that Iran will follow Egypt as the head of the group, reported yesterday by Inner City Press, may not be an entirely sure thing. A coalition of monarchies, ironically, from the Gulf States and a certain Maghreb non African Union member, are raising some objections.

At the time when Iran wants to lead NAM, Venezuela wants to lead the Group of 77. That would certainly lead to journalist fireworks, and there are those small countries which like to hide behind the bombast of the Venezuelas and Irans of the world. But others think it would ill serve their issues.

Inner City Press' exclusive July 15 report on the staffing of Ban's advisory panel - fully eight staff, led by Jessica Neuwirth, an official whose most recent now ended job as NY representative of Navi Pillay was at the D-2 level - gave rise to concerns not only about those focused on anti-corruption and anti-nepotism at the UN (count Inner City Press among them) but, perhaps cynically but predictably, among the Rajapaksas' supporters.

These supporters go beyond the Inner City Press reporting and allege a very close relationship between Navi Pillay and Ms. Neuwirth, beyond the links at Equality Now. One expects these arguments to be advanced, though perhaps only privately to Ban Ki-moon. This is how the Rajapaksas play politics, for example now whispering about Children and Armed Conflict envoy Patrick Cammaert's supposed use of "massage services" during his prenuptial visit to Sri Lanka.

Another argument they advance: that panel chairman Marzuki Darusman, at the end of his previous service on the Sri Lankan government's own “international” panel, bickered with Sri Lanka in order to collect his fees.

  Whatever the merits, expect this too to be raised to Ban. In fact, Inner City Press is told that this WAS raised to Ban, but that “he didn't care.”

  This is reminiscent of Ban not paying attention that the pairing of Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain as co-chairs of an MDG group would blow up and undermine the work.

Here, we expect Sri Lanka to try to blackmail Ban Ki-moon, saying they are willing to accept nepotism, corruption, conflict of interest “and worse” in the Panel, as long as it leads nowhere in terms of accountability.

UN's Ban hands to Pakistan of NAM, Darusman at right, fee fight not shown

  That would be pure UN: what seemed a belated attempt to do the right thing, becoming a venue for corruption, blackmail and stasis. We may hope not, but this is the UN. Watch this site.

From Friday's UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Mr. Buhne, I just wanted to understand, it seemed that earlier in the week it was said that he was at the end of his tenure. Did he say something while here to change it, and return or…?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: No, no. If you remember what we said in the statement issued last week — in the context of the disturbances and the inability of UN staff to go about their work, we put out a statement saying that he had been recalled. Since then, he has been here over the past week and since then, as you know, we have received a number of assurances from the Sri Lankan side that would allow us to continue to go about our work without any further hindrance. At the same time, you just heard what I read about the message that Mr. Buhne will convey back to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press: Sure, but I guess, what I don’t understand is what was the thinking earlier in the week — if it was so dangerous, then why would you only recall one individual? That would seem to be about a threat to the staff as a whole. I just wondered if something changed. Was his tenure coming to the end, as was said, and now has been revived or extended in some way?

Associate Spokesperson: I think what I just read right now speaks for itself. I can read it again for you, but the basic point I just said was…

Inner City Press: How does that compare to what was said earlier in the week? That was what I was asking.

Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, I understand. But if you notice what we said is — when I said that he will return to Colombo, the next thing is: “It is important to continue UN efforts to assist the people of Sri Lanka, particularly with regard to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the North.” So that task will continue, but at the same time, as I pointed out, Mr. Buhne will convey the Secretary-General’s strong expectations for better treatment of the UN family in Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press: And on the panel, there is an article out on Sri Lanka, saying that one of the outcomes of Mr. Buhne’s consultations with the Secretary-General was to further restrict the scope of the work of the group of Panel of Experts that they will now explicitly not consider information that comes in from either witnesses or anything like that. And I just also wanted to ask about the staffing. Can you confirm, as two Member States have now told me, that the head of the staffing will be Jessica Neuwirth, a D-2, and there will be seven other staff?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any details to provide for you right now on the staffing. Yes, they will have a small secretariat here that will assist them in their tasks, but I don’t have any confirmation of any names to give to you right now. But certainly, no, there was no limitation of the scope of [the Panel’s] work as a result of this.

Inner City Press: One of the Member States say, they said even Goldstone, maybe you can, I don’t know what the level of staffing was, but they said it was extraordinary that a D-2 level staff member would be assigned to run this panel, particularly given its relatively limited scope.

Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, I am not commenting on the level of staffing of the panel.

Watch this site.

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On Sri Lanka, NAM Will Wait, "Pillay's" Neuwirth to Head Panel Staff of 8, Qatar Pitched Iran to Head NAM

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- We'll “take our time” on the Sri Lanka letter, the current head of the Non Aligned Movement told Inner City Press on Thursday night, to see if they can “make up to Secretary General” Ban Ki-moon.

  He added that “a lot of comments” against the letter were received from NAM members, on “the relation to the flotilla” and other issues.

  Meanwhile the Council representative of a Permanent Five member, also on Thursday evening, told Inner City Press that Sri Lanka is “out of control... they went too far.”

  This representative confirmed to Inner City Press the identity of the chief of staff of the UN's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka: Jessica Neuwirth, a long time UN human rights official and founder of Equality Now, friend of Navi Pillay.

  Some in Sri Lanka government circles say the appointment of Neuwirth, at a high level, smacks of patronage or nepotism, as does staffing the panel with eight people. “Goldstone didn't get that,” one noted. “The Sudan panel didn't get that.”

With a staff of eight, the Panel should at least opine of the credibility of the Rajapaksa Administration's “Lessons Learnt” panel. The Rapjapansans are afraid, they say, of this “becoming like Cambodia,” with a UN affiliated tribunal, or even Sierra Leone. We'll see.

Neuwirth, 2d from left, with Mrs. Ban, Mayanja, Equality Now

  Also on the NAM, the next chair after Egypt will be Iran, it was confirmed to Inner City Press on Thursday night. Previous candidate Qatar turned around and NOMINATED Iran -- “for what purpose, we don't know,” one NAM insider said. Get ready for fireworks.

  Inner City Press was told that while Qatar is unlikely to get the UN Women headquarters, even for $100 million, they could “appoint a lady.” There are 10 “official candidates,” including the “Rwandan minister,” the insider said, "and Rachel Mayanja."

   On whether DSG Asha Rose Migiro will shift over to UN Women, “it's up to her,” the insider said, finding it significant that Migiro is handing UN Women on an interim basis.

Migiro's rumored successor as DSG was at the Egyptian reception, but begged off for family matters. French family matters? Watch this site.

 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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