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ICP Asks UK Rycroft About Burundi Threats, CAR Rapes Report, FOIA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- When UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft held his Program of Work press conference about his upcoming month atop the Security Council on November 3, Inner City Press asked him about further threats in Burundi and if he expects the Council to take up the already-delayed UN panel of inquiry report into alleged peacekeeper rapes in the Central African Republic. Video here.

  Rycroft, who previously told Inner City Press of concerns about the threat of genocide in Burundi, said he paying close attention to developments in Burundi and that the Security Councill will take it up under Any Other Business or AOB.

 On the Central African Republic rapes and report, Rycroft said generally that those response should be held accountable. But will the Security Council get a copy of, and review and act on, the report Ban Ki-moon has commissioned?

  Back on October 30, Rycroft took and even answered Twitter questions for an hour, as the Council adopted a resolution about its Working Methods.

  Questions ranged from Yemen and the DR Congo to peacekeepers' sexual abuse, NGO involvement and transparency to the public of the Council's closed-door proceedings. Inner City Press asked Rycroft what he would do to make the Council more accessible to those impacted by it, for example in Burundi,  Yemen, Libya and Haiti, and if he or his Deputy Peter Wilson will hold question and answer stakeouts after closed consultations.

  The latter, Rycroft answered in the affirmative, adding that the UK mission will be using Periscope as well.
  On November 3, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access said that since Rycroft had already committed to this (and thanked him), the FUNCA request is for the UK Presidency to experiment with a Security Council (Presidency) Freedom of Information Act or procedure. We'll have more on this.
  How to supplement stakeout over coverage by UNTV is a question Inner City Press has been working and 'Scoping on; the UK take will be interesting to see.

   Asking about the MONUSCO mission in the DR Congo, and by Inner City Press about the mission's failure to try to “neutralize” the FDLR militia, Rycroft replied with worry for civilians and the hope that the government will work with MONUSCO.

  Given questions about the government's commitment to go after the FDLR as it did the M23, and given that DPKO's Herve Ladsous said the mission could go after the FDLR on its own, why hasn't it? This question hasn't been answered, nor any comment or action on Ladsous, on camera, including peacekeepers' rapes to “R&R.”

 Rycroft was urged to engage with the Saudi mission about airstrikes in Yemen - one wonders, aren't weapons being sold? - and to open up to NGOs. To this, he agreed; it was pointed out not only that the usefulness of NGO submissions is uneven, but that the UN has allowed in the NGOs of the now-indicted Ng Lap Seng, Frank Lorenzo and Sheri Yan. We'll have more on this.

Back on September 23, Inner City Press asked Rycroft similar questions not in the UN but a dozen blocks away at a Digital Diplomacy / “Soft Power” event by Facebook and Portland Communications. #Periscope video [was] here.

   Rycroft told Inner City Press that the best Security Council meetings he's been in have allowed in outside voices; he noted it is still not the custom to tweet from inside consultations, though perhaps it should be.

  Inner City Press asked the US State Department's Moira Whelan about US Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones quitting Twitter back in March, after one of her tweets about bombing of the Tawerga was attacked. Whelan said the State Department wants to support its diplomats when they come under fire; Rycroft said if a diplomat's intentions were good and well-considered, they should be supported even if things go wrong.

   Facebook's Katie Harbath mentioned that India Prime Minister Modi would be meeting with Mark Zuckerberg; an hour later at the Indian delegation's press conference in the Waldorf Astoria's huge Empire room, there was confirmation of this and other tech meetings for Modi. (Inner City Press asked about UN Peacekeeping, whose chief Herve Ladsous recently linked UN rapes to “R&R” on video, here.)

  There was talk of the UN and social media; from Inner City Press' and the new Free UN Coalition for Access' perspective, the UN itself far too infrequently responds and engages, and much of the corporate press corps resents new media coverage of the UN, for example with the old UN Correspondents Association's Valeria Robecco saying multimedia is NOT a photographer to block coverage of the Pope's visit, click here for that. But we will continue: watch this site.


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