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At UN, Sickle-Cell Day Sees Dodging on Casamance, Congo's Kouchner Scandal

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 -- The health ministers of three African nations spoke Friday to the Press about sickle-cell anemia. Inner City Press asked how outreach works in the restive Casamance region of Senegal, and on both the island and mainland of Equatorial Guinea. The health minister of Equatorial Guinea, whose now oil-rich leadership is reputed to torture its opponents, answered that the country's health system is weak.

   His Senegalese counterpart, Therese Coumba, did not answer the Casamance question. Video here, from Minute 43:22. A recent shoot out killed three in the region; the local rebel group lost its spokesman in a ship sinking. The talk Friday was anemic, and not of political diseases.

   Also on the podium was the minister from Republic of Congo. Her department has been named as making payments to Bernard Kouncher's for profit consulting companies. The press conference, largely held in French, was too positive for that.

At UN, Equatorial Guinea across from Gabon, Ban and adviser

  The First Ladies of Congo-Brazzaville and Senegal were praised. An Indian doctor spoke of "tribal" people in Gujurat having a ten to fifteen percent change of being carriers of sickle cell anemia.

   Inner City Press asked about any medicines to combat the disease, hoping to explore whether they are made to expensive for people. Last week, Inner City Press asked World Health Organization head Margaret Chan about the policy of Novartis not to donate any vaccine it develops to the H1Ni virus to poor countries. Video here.

   How is it with sickle cell anemia? The three ministers' expert said there is no cure for the disease. Video here from Minute 41:51. Later he came to Inner City Press and denounced Benin for making a hero of the investor of something called VK-500, which he said is snake oil scam.

   Meanwhile UN spokesperson Michele Montas was asked about two damning studies of the UN system's use of members states' health care money. Ms. Montas insisted that both studies were by the World Health Organization, and that it is good for the UN to be criticizing itself.

  First, that praise has not recently been extended to whistleblower, including in the UN Medical field. Second, the statement wasn't true: one of the studies' only connection to WHO is that its author worked at WHO in the 1990s. The UN reflexively defends itself, whether or not it is true.

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At UN, Dutch Talk On Child Labor But No Action on Haitian Slavery and Uzbek Cotton, No Comment on Melkert to Iraq

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- The Dutch Mission to the UN held a press conference on June 12 about the scourge of child labor, but when pressed had few answers. Inner City Press asked what the Netherlands and the European Union are doing about the government of Uzbekistan's use of school children to pick cotton, and in Haiti about what others in the UN system have called the slavery of poor rural children working in the homes of more affluent urban families.

  Dutch Deputy Permanent Representative Piet de Klerk criticized the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, saying its "paradigm is not right" but acknowledging that his answer was "too general." Video here, from Minute 40:25.

  Paul Mikov of World Vision added, in response to Inner City Press' question about the work on new UN envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton, that "we would urge him to pay particular attention to children in Haiti, child labor as well." Mikov later stressed to Inner City Press that the global financial crisis can make child labor worse.

  On Uzbekistan, Inner City Press asked about Dutch and EU policy and IMF lending. Video here, from Minute 31:11. Peter de Ruiter, author of A World for Children: Growing up without Child Labor, referred Inner City Press to page 154 of his book, a paragraph mentioning an employee of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who had taken an interesting in child labor in Uzbekistan. But what are the Dutch doing?

de Klerk, polite but vague answers on Haiti and Melkert

  Ambassador de Klerk said that the Netherlands has made a request to the European Commission to analyze incentives and "other trade actions." He said that on the economy and trade, there is a comment European policy.

  But the EU has eased up on Uzbekistan, even after reports of political opponents being killed. Sometimes the EU talks a good game, but does far less than money is involved. Watch this site.

Footnote: at the conclusion of the press conference, Inner City Press asked Dutch Ambassador de Klerk to confirm or deny that Dutchman Ad Melkert is being considered as the UN's envoy to Iraq, after twice losing out for the top post at UNDP. De Klerk said that the UN is looking for ways to keep Ad Melkert, but would not specify. Inner City Press stands by its story and will continue to inquire.

UN Mulls Sending Melkert to Iraq, Local Staff in Pakistan Shortchanged, Owondo's Service

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- Inside the UN system, staff were angry Thursday night. First came indications that beyond the international staff killed in the bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, at least three national staff were killed as well. Not only where they barely spoken of, but the benefits package for them is slated to be a fraction of that offered to the internationals. Also barely mentioned was the UN's evacuation of some but not all staff from Peshawar to Islamabad.

  The UN Mission in Iraq, the staffers said, is slated to receive a new manager from New York. Ad Melkert, the Associate Administrator of UNDP who twice lost out in races for the top job, is reportedly being sent to Baghdad. As such, he would be rewarded for publicly disagreeing with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call for public financial disclosure, and for breaking away from the UN Secretariat's Ethics Office and what whistleblower protections exist.

UN staffer Solecki returns home, local staff and red flag not shown

   UNDP's staff union head Dmitry Samaras was present Thursday in the Church Center across from the UN, at the funeral for former staff member Joseph Owondo, who died in the crash of the Air France flight from Brazil to Paris. Owondo's death is a loss: if the UN had more whistleblowers like him, it would be a better place. Click here for Inner City Press' previously story on Owondo.

   Speaking at his funeral were Emmanuel Goued, Regis Onanga Ndiaye and Raphael Mbadinga. Samaras knows where many UNDP skeletons are buried, but what is the interest in exposing them? From now on, do it for Owondo. The UN is full of conflicts.

 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.

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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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