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As UN's Stealth Envoy Goes Missing in Niger, Secret Process and Payments Questioned

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- Days after Robert Fowler, belated described as a Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, disappeared in Niger, UN spokesperson Michele Montas said there are other as-yet-undisclosed envoys out in the field. Inner City Press asked if the list of special envoys is confidential. "I'm not saying its confidential," Ms. Montas responded. "I don't see what is the use of making them public until something is actually done." Video here, from Minute 17:16.

  But the names of other envoys who have not accomplished their stated missions are routinely and repeatedly made public. Matthew Nimetz, for example, has been the envoy on the unresolved "name issue" about the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for more than ten years. So what was Mr. Fowler doing in Niger, and who are the other stealth envoys of the UN's Ban Ki-moon?

  Hours after Ms. Montas' statement that the list would be provided, it has not been. The only question which was answered after the briefing concerned Fowler's rank and method of payment: " Robert Fowler is employed on a When Actually Employed (WAE) contract at the Under-Secretary-General level." That's a high rate of pay. But how much has Fowler actually been employed by the UN since he was so quietly appointed? And what has he been doing?

  It has been reported that "the UN vehicle carrying Mr. Fowler, Canadian diplomat Louis Guay and their locally hired driver was found unoccupied Sunday night about 45 kilometers northwest of the capital of Niamey, raising fears they have been kidnapped. According to authorities in Niger, the trio had visited a gold mine operated by a Canadian company about 125 kilometers from Niamey." This last has been confirmed when "UN spokesman Farharn Haq said the three men were headed Saturday toward an area called Samira, the site of a gold mine that is partly Canadian-owned."

   So was Fowler on UN business? Or Canadian corporate business? Was the UN paying Fowler's full salary or only part? What about conflicts of interest? What was the relation between Fowler's ostensibly UN mission and Louis Guay's Canadian mission? Some note, harkening back to yellow cake, the involvement of Canadian firms in uranium extraction in Niger.

Fowler, circles, previously as UN, other secret envoys not yet shown

   Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas where in the UN budget the payments to Mr. Fowler and other stealth envoys are disclosed. In the budget of the Department of Political Affairs, she said. But DPA, run by American B. Lynn Pascoe, has for weeks declined to provide even a simple summary, requested in a UN noon briefing, of what its mediators are working on. The lack of transparency cannot be justified by the purported sensitivity of the topics. Many topics at the UN are sensitive, but nevertheless it is an inter-governmental agency whose budget is public, and whose Secretary-General is supposed to take direction from, or at least make disclosure to, the Security Council or wider General Assembly.

  Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly if the Assembly was even informed of Ban's naming of Fowler or any more otherwise undisclosed special envoy. He said he didn't think so, but would be looking into the issues. So will we.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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