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At UN, Mandela and Rugby Praised, No Answers on Sri Lanka or Sudan, Invictus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 -- The film "Invictus" was screened at the UN Tuesday night, with a panel discussion afterwards featuring senior UN advisor Nicholas Haysom, formerly Nelson Mandela's chief legal advisor. Haysom said South Africa was lucky to have Mandela, who gambled his presidency on forging a "shared national identify [unlike in] Sudan, Sri Lanka and Iraq."

  Inner City Press asked Haysom whether these three conflict ridden societies lacked only a leader like Mandela, or what else could be done. Haysom's response because with South Africa, where he said there was a recognition that people "could not live in the old way," that the social compact had to be renegotiated.

Because he's now with the UN, because without hope the UN dies, Haysom then referred not only to the Iranian national soccer team -- integrating the "three elements of the country," he said -- but even to Sri Lankan cricket.

   But cricket did not stop the Rajapaksa government from bombing Tamil civilians in make shift hospitals and tents in the blood bath on the beach, or to holding them in UN funded internment camps. And Haysom's answer did not even purport to address Sudan. Could sport forestall the upcoming breakaway of South Sudan?

Mandela at UN 1994: S-G BBG, Brahimi, Sanbar, 1995 rugby not shown

  The film screening was, as is typical for the UN, badly organized. Many more people showed up than could be accomodated in Conference Room 3 of the North Lawn Temporary Building. People were told to line up for admission to Room 1, after film screens had been installed. Meanwhile, others were still being admitted to the main room: Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, a UNFPA officials, others. How did Security know who to admit?

  As tweeted in real time by Inner City Press, if the UN wanted coverage of Ban Ki-moon's opening speech, why exclude the press and not broadcast the speech into the overflow room? We have a new hash tag -- #OnlyAtTheUN. Watch that tag, and this site.

Footnotes: after the Q & A session, where Inner City Press prefaced the question to Haysom by saying he is not available enough on the record, UN official Bob Orr told the Press, "You couldn't resist, saying he is not available enough." Inner City Press clarified, "No available enough on the record."

Orr asked, gesturing at the room, "What this on the record?"

"Yes," Inner City Press said. "And this is too."

  While the UN Spokesperson's Office has never come back with an on the record answer to Inner City Press' thrice asked question about whether Orr's ASG for policy or "global goods" position is in the UN budget, or cobbled together from other budget lines, Orr has said it is in the budget. To be continued.

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At UN, Human Rights Sold Out in Sudan, Congo and Myanmar, Taking the Edge Off

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- When letting down their hair with tequila, even human rights true believers can be depressingly hard nosed. At a recently soirée complete with lime and salt licks, the talk turned to Sudan. "It was never genocide," said a senior NGO staffer. "Save Darfur and the Enough Project better move fast to declare victory and move on. Because with Khartoum taking over Jebel Marra it is all over."

  A more junior staffer, having spent five years in Sudan, disagreed, as least on genocide -- "they burned down whole villages" -- but agreed the war in Darfur was reaching end game. "And where did Save Darfur's Jerry Fowler go? Back to the Holocaust Museum?"

  Weeks ago, a UN staffer with responsibility for the Sudan portfolio snarked to Inner City Press that Fowler had send out an email not about Darfur "but condoms," he said and laughed, seemingly with contempt for the NGO. But what is the UN Secretariat's attitude toward human rights NGOs? Toward human rights more generally?

  There is talk of the move to fill the new human rights Assistant Secretary General post. While the expert from the Security Council Report may be best qualified, with outgoing Chilean Ambassador Munoz looking for a job, blatantly trying out on the Bhutto investigation and recent earthquake press conference with Fergie, the Secretariat is more tempted to go the member state route, to get more bang for its buck.

  Numerous human rights staffers approached Inner City Press to register their disgust with the UN's Congo envoy Alan Doss, on both nepotism and working with war criminals. One recounted that finally head UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy is mad at Doss. Before Le Roy's recent trip to Kinshasa, Doss did not tell Le Roy that Congolese President Joseph Kabila wanted the UN to begin pull out in one year.

UN's Doss preaches in DRC, feet of clay and tequila not shown

  Le Roy thought it would be three years, that had to backtrack once Kabila spoke to him. Why didn't Doss know or give the heads up? "It's last time for Doss to go," the staffer said. "His support is from the UK." It was added the Kabila has already forward names of acceptable replacements, including Le Roy's predecessor Jean Marie Guehenno and "two Americans."

  A more depressing assessment was of Burma / Myanmar. A human rights staffer recounted that the U.S. Mission to the UN's Burma expert said the Obama Administration'spreference is for the UN to stay in stasis, with "acting" envoy Vijay Nambiar in place. This is so that the Administration's accommodative position on Than Shwe is not shown up by any UN moves. And so are human rights sold out. Skoll!

 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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