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At UN, Beneath the Glitz a Trust Fund for Victims in Uganda and the Congo

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- Complete with Alec Baldwin and a slew of fashion designers, Tuesday night at the UN saw the type of hype event that often debases the Organization. In the name of the children of Uganda, a country where the UN Development Program funded a forcible disarmament program which resulted in burned villages and children chained until exchanged for guns, the UN held a fundraiser, $250 to enter. The honored guest was painter Ross Bleckner, who garnered praise from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

   The UN Office of Drugs and Crime had issued a press release puffing a "group of distinguished leaders in the arts, entertainment and business communities to serve on the Benefit Host Committee for the exhibition opening, including: Graydon Carter, artists Jeff Koons, Chuck Close and Brice Marden, designers Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Rachel Roy, Harry Belafonte, Academy Award winning actors Nicholas Cage, Rachel Weisz and Mira Sorvino; actors Alec Baldwin, Carey Lowell, Candice Bergen and Ashley Judd, Russell Simmons" -- and that was only on the front page.

 There was sushi and fashion photographers, a slew of UN high officials drinking in the scene. But the cause, as it turned out, seemed to be a pure one: the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), which works in Uganda and the Congo, and is trying to get into Sudan.

   Inner City Press interviewed TFV director Andre Laperriere, who described soliciting the art work from former child soldiers, and paying villagers in seeds to rebuild roads to their communities. He took great pains to distinguish the TFV from the International Criminal Court, headed by Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was also in New York on Tuesday, chatting with US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff.  Moreno Ocampo has become a controversial figure, leading the ICC to be fine for retaliation against a whistleblower and living only for the press.

UNODC's Costa with Sorvino, TFV and ICC's Ocampo not shown

  Laperriere, on the other hand, seemed focused on the victims, on raising money to help better their lives. He said Germany's a major funder, and two corporations - then the head of UNODC, Antonio Mario Costa, swept him away, with talk of an after-party dinner, and of tomorrow's press conference. Watch this site.

Footnote: on the sidelines of the night of hype, the Permanent Representative of Security Council member Uganda told Inner City Press of Sri Lanka that for his country "there would be no problem to discuss it in the Council... There is urgency to do something about it."

  This is counter to the common wisdom at the UN, that those Council members opposing addressing Sri Lanka include not only China, Russia, Viet Nam and Libya, but also Burkina Faso and Uganda, and Turkey and Japan (the latter two, it is predicted, would abstain). Now, Uganda has said it would have not problem having Sri Lanka on the Security Council's agenda. So why are those countries which supposedly care waiting? Again, watch this site.

 On Thursday May 7, Inner City Press asked Associate UUN Spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about this invitation that’s been made to the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka. First I wanted to ask if on Monday when he met with the Ambassador of Japan, whether he was briefed on a visit by Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi to Sri Lanka and was urged by Japan that he should take this visit. And I also wanted to know whether he would be in New York 11 May for the Middle East debate, and 15 May to meet with the Chinese diplomats, that in fact this is one reason that he is considering not going, as I have been told by senior Secretariat staff.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, we don’t announce the trips of the Secretary-General until they are close to occurring. And in that regard, I don’t have anything to announce about a trip to Sri Lanka at this stage. At the same time, as Michèle told you yesterday, and is still true for today, if the Secretary-General believes that visiting Sri Lanka can have an impact in terms of saving lives there, he will certainly try to go. So he is considering that. But part of what he is studying is what the impact of a potential trip would be.

Inner City Press: But if he had that belief, that would be without regard to attending the 11 May Middle East thing or the 15 May meeting with the Chinese diplomats? I am told that’s a major factor in his planning.

Associate Spokesperson: Scheduling is a separate issue. What we’re talking about is the decision of whether or not to go. And certainly if he can make a difference and can save civilian lives, which is what his priority has been on this case, then he will go. At present, we don’t have anything to announce at all in this regard, though.

Question: Just one last one on that. I wanted to know, can you at least confirm that he met with Ambassador Takasu on Monday in his office inside the Security Council? Can you give a read-out of that meeting and say why it wasn’t on his public schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: I can confirm that he met with the Permanent Representative of Japan. He did that, yes. It was in his office in the Security Council. We don’t provide readouts of meetings with ambassadors.

Question: And why wasn’t it on the schedule?

Associate Spokesperson: It came up all of a sudden when he had a bit of free time in between other appointments on a fairly hectic day.

  While Ban Ki-moon is working on his issues as a trip to Manama, Bahrain, after a news-less trip to Malta, the killing of civilians accelerates in Sri Lanka. On Friday May 8, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:

Inner City Press: On the invitation by the Government of Sri Lanka to the Secretary-General to visit, is there any progress in thinking? In the alternative, is the Secretary-General, is he considering invoking Article 99 or responsibility to protect or making some other move of some type on the situation in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been saying from this podium this week on Sri Lanka, including what the Secretary-General himself has said earlier this week.

   What Ban said did not involve calling for a cease-fire, did not respond to the invitation to visit Sri Lanka, or the accelerating rate of civilians death over the weekend, during which no statement issued about Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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.

* * *

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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