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In November, UK Held 11 UNSC Stakeouts, Less than MLG's 14 But Higher-Tech

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- When the UK and its UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft took over the presidency of the UN Security Council at the beginning of November, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked that question and answer stakeouts be held after closed-door consultations meetings. Rycroft said he would, and lived up to it.

  In November, Rycroft did eight question and answer stakeouts as well as two sit-down press conferences; his Deputy Peter Wilson did another three stakeouts for a total of 11.

 If one adds in the stakeouts of Philip Hammond (ostensibly on Somalia but with Somalia Press questions not taken) and Justine Greening (mostly Syria and refugees and not development), it comes to 13 -- still less than predecessor Mark Lyall Grant's 14 stakeouts in June 2013, below.

  The UK mission has gotten higher or newer-tech since Lyall Grant, Periscoping the stakeouts alongside @InnerCityPress and using other social media platforms. Are they, though, more accessible, more even-handed? Rycroft himself seems to be. On November 30 Inner City Press asked him about both Burundi and Yemen. As fast-transcribed by InnerCityPro.com:

ICP: On Burundi, beyond the lack of dialogue, seems like since the resolution the government closed down 10 civil society organizations and thereís reports today of neighborhoods being blockaded and searches of homes. Did this come up? In that context, is a trip enough?

And on Yemen, since there were supposed to be talks in the middle of the months and they didnít happen, itís now the end of the month and youíre the pen holder. Where is that process going?

Rycroft: "On Burundi, no one is saying that a Security Council visit on its own would be enough to solve a problem as difficult and complex as Burundi. But those of us who support it Ė and actually all countries support it, the debate is about when, exactly Ė all of us think there should be a visit, and it should play a helpful role in shining an international spot light on Burundi and demonstrating the importance of all the parties doing everything weíve been calling on them to do, including having dialogue about the future.

Now, the issue about the NGOs and civil society came up very quickly in consultations this afternoon. When you look at the picture of what is happening in Burundi, it is significant that there continues to be violence and oppression and civil society is by no means free. And these are worrying indicators for us, which require us to do as much preventative diplomacy as we can.

On Yemen, itís not been a particularly prominent issue in the month of November but I think it will get more prominent in the month of December. The reason it hasnít been prominent is that the UNís special envoy has been preparing the ground carefully with the talks, with the backing of the SC. But the talks themselves havenít happened yet. The latest indications is that he is hoping to begin those talks in the first week or so of December, and the Council will be keeping a very close oversight of those talks and will be having some discussion with him during the US presidency."

  Regarding a proposed trip to Burundi, Inner City Press understands that questions of timing were raised by Angola, and that Burundi stands poised to take over chairmanships in December at the African Union and the East African Community. Does that make a Council trip more or less likely? Watch this site.

  Back on June 27, 20133 when the UK's then UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant took media questions at the end of his month's presidency of the UN Security Council, predictably most of them dealt with Syria and relatedly the Golan Heights.

But at least three of the 14 press stakeouts he did in June were about Somalia, not least about the deadly attack on the UN compound in Mogadishu. So on Thursday Inner City Press asked Lyall Grant three questions about Somalia.

First, how did he view Kenya's role in the Kismayo / Jubaland fighting? Second, would he acknowledge that the way the Security Council drafted the new UNSOM mandate has resulted in Somaliland ordering UNSOM out?

Finally, Inner City Press asked Lyall Grant if he thought the UN and its Department of Peacekeeping Operations should offer a substantive response, and a confirmation or denial, of a Mogadishu whistleblower's allegation that David Bax of the UN Mine Action Service shares information with UN intelligence?

Inner City Press first reported on the allegation on June 22. Despite direct requests to DPKO, UNMAS and even via Twitter to UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay (clearly busy after the bombing, but the question is related), all the UN has said is they won't discuss what the whistleblower sent to Herve Ladsous. But what about the charges, a simple yes or no?

  Lyall Grant did not answer this last, but did offer a lengthy answer on federalism -- like in the UK -- as the solution to Somalia's problems. We will add the transcript. See below.

  At the end of the press conference, Lyall Grant listed steps toward transparency, including the 14 stakeouts for which the new Free UN Coalition for Access had thanked him. Inner City Press asked about one of the demands in the past of the ďSmall Five,Ē and now of ACT -- that the Council not make final decisions in open debates until it hears from the non-Council members.

  In fact, on topics on which the Council deigns to hear from the non-members, why not give them some role in drafting and negotiating the thematic resolution? Lyall Grant replied that the UK is flexible, even to ďradicalĒ ideas like non-Council members at times speaking before Council members.

Reform is slow in the UN -- but a response should be given to the troubling allegations of the Mogadishu whistleblower. Updates should be given on accountability for the 135 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, and now on all steps Chad takes to get off the UN child soldier recruiters list, while it is getting paid for peacekeeping in Mali. Watch this site.

Here is the UK Mission to the UN's transcription:

Inner City Press: On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks, not only for this briefing, but that you did fourteen stakeouts so it may be a new record, so that was a good in terms of after consultations. I wanted to ask you about Somalia. Three of the fourteen having been about Somalia and also, not just the bombing, but it seems like, although thereís, I know Mr Feltmanís there and he is saying things are the most positive theyíve been in two decades, it seems like in Kismayo, first I wanted to ask you whether you think that Kenya has some role in the sense of supporting at least one of the parties that wants to make a Jubaland there and also, in Somalialand, whether the Council, in writing the new mandate, may have Ė obviously thereís been a lot of push back. And finally, Iíve learned that the UN Mine Action Service in Somalia, in Mogadishu, there seems to be allegations that somehow they shared information with US intelligence. And this is something that the UN has failed to deny, despite UN whistleblower there with pretty serious information so I wonder... I donít know what to say to that. I know that you are a person that, youíre a Permanent Member and you look at the Secretariat a lot. Do you think that this is the type of thing that the Secretariat should either come out and confirm or deny and do you think that there is any way in which a UN agency should share information with the intelligence of a Permanent 5 Member. Thanks.
 
Amb Lyall Grant: Thank you. I canít comment at all really on that last question, Matthew, because I am not aware of the facts of that... I wasnít even aware of the allegation that you referred to. On the role of Kenya: I mean Kenya has been part of the AMISOM force for some time. It wasnít there originally in Somalia as part of AMISOM of course. They went across the border into Somalia for their own reasons, but they have been integrated into AMISOM and therefore they take instructions from the AMISOM force commander. What is important, in our view, is that there should be a proper dialogue between the centre and the regions. We believe in the territorial integrity of Somalia but it needs to have a federal constitution. It needs to have a proper relationship between the centre and the regions. Many countries, including my own, do have such a system and I think thatís the sort of constitution Somalia will need if it is to hold together, so we want Jubaland, we want Somilaland, we want Puntland, we want all the different regions of Somalia to be constituent parts of the state of federal Somalia, so that is still to be worked out. The government is new. The transition has passed, but it is still a new government and those issues need to be worked through. Now we strongly support the President. He recognises what needs to be done. He is trying to work on the Kismayo issue, but itís not easy. After twenty years of civil war and conflict in Somalia, where large parts of the country are still being occupied and run by Al-Shabaab, it is not easy for the President and the federal authorities to make progress on the sort of political dialogue and constitutional arrangements that we think is going to be necessary, but there is, as I mentioned before, strong Security Council unity on this issues and there is a lot of international support that is going into Mogadishu, so I think, Iím optimistic. The situation fragile, but Iím optimistic that Somalia has seen... the worst of the history is behind it.


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