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In Pakistan, UN Is Denied Access to Areas But Stays Silent, Won't Urge Acceptance of Aid from India

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 19 -- Amid the fundraising for flooded Pakistan on August 19, world Humanitarian Day, the politicization of the UN's operations also became clear.

  The UN's Martin Mogwanja provided a telephone briefing, in which Inner City Press asked about top UN humanitarian John Holmes' recent statement about parts of the country to which the UN had no access. Video here, from Minute 33:41.

Since Mogwanja insisted that the government has full control of all areas of the country, how did this square with Holmes statement, and for example the U.S. drone stikes in North Waziristan?

  Mogwanja replied that these were not contradictory, that the government has “full control” of all areas, but blocks the UN's access due to its security operations.

Leaving aside whether the government can be said to control sealed off areas into which another country fires drone missiles, one wonders why the UN has not complained publicly about the denial of humanitarian access, as it complains elsewhere.

Inner City Press asked Mogwanja, as the UN humanitarian coordinator, for his view on Pakistan's refusal until now of a $5 million offer of aid from India. Given Mogwanja's and Holmes' statements about humanitarian needs trumping politics, one expected an answer along the lines of, “aid should generally be taken, when people are facing death.”

Instead, Mogwanja replied that “each government is free to decided what to contribute, equally each government is free to decide what it will accept.” He called it a decision for sovereign governments, nor for a UN humanitarian coordinator.

But wasn't the role of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to publicly prioritize civilians needs over the dilatory politics of governments?

UN's Ban in Pakistan, denial of humanitarian access not shown

Inner City Press asked about Ban Ki-moon's envoy to Pakistan Jean Maurice Ripert. Mogwanja insisted that Ripert had returned from his overseas travels “as soon as the flood took place.”

Not so. From July 29 -- the date Mogwanja used -- to August 4, Ripert was AWOL. On August 2, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman where Ripert was. It's not about an individual, spokesman Martin Nesirky answered. On August 4, Ban called for Ripert to return to Pakistan. That is one week, hardly “as soon as.”

Mogwanja said that in the coming weeks and months the government of Pakistan will hold events closely coordinated by Ripert. We'll see - watch this site.

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In Pakistan, Belated UN Ban Trip Follows Kashmir Flip Flop, Echoes Ripert vs Holmes on JuD & Post Nargis Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 15, updated -- Amid the human tragedy of the floods in Pakistan, the presence of politics, like the belated UN trip, cannot be missed. Today UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his entourage have flown aboard a Pakistani military aircraft and told the media that the world has been too slow to respond. But, as one questioner pointed out, so has the UN.

   Ban in his Pakistan press conference said that "I have dispatched my Special Envoy for Pakistan, Mr. Ripert, immediately." But back on August 2 -- that is, two weeks ago -- Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: on Pakistan, just a quick follow-up. Where’s Mr. [Jean-Maurice] Ripert in all this? I mean, he’s the humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan. What’s been his role, particularly in light of the floods?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think you’ll find the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan is Martin Mogwanja.

Inner City Press: I guess I’m just trying to understand more his role as special envoy — is it a full-time job, and what’s he been doing since the floods?

Spokesperson: Let me find out, but you can see and hear there’s a lot of activity going on.

Question: Mr. Ripert, is he leaving now, his post?

Spokesperson: Let me find out. We’re kind of focused on less on an individual and more on up to a million people who are displaced and in need of assistance. Yes?

Inner City Press: Not to be overly focused on one, but since the UN does have this humanitarian role, I think we both want to know…

Spokesperson: Yes, and I said I’ll find out.

Without ever explaining where the UN's envoy on Pakistan was as the floods grew worse and worse, two days later, Nesirky read out a statement by Ban calling on Ripert to go to Pakistan. (Nesirky would accompany Ban to Pakistan on Aug 15, after a particularly defensive and controlling noon briefing on Aug 13, during which he tried to shut down questions ranging from Gaza to author Tom Plate's statements that Ban will be the third subject in his "Giants of Asia" series. Nesirky insisted no commitment had been made, but sarcastically said the Press might have a crystal ball.)

  Ripert did belatedly head to Pakistan, and has among other things spoken about the danger of aid being provided by groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, considered a front for Lashkar-e-Toiba.

  A week later, Inner City Press asked Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon if it was useful to his country to have a UN Special Envoy like Jean-Maurice Ripert, who was given the job after Nicholas Sarkozy replaced him with Gerard Araud.

Rather than another job in the French foreign service, a UN job was invented for Ripert. Most say he has accomplished little, and that he tried to “get out” by applying for the top job for the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he failed to get.

  On August 11, Pakistan's Ambassador Haroon spoke dismissively in context of Ripert, saying “he was sent by the S-G... He is basically there on the S-G's orders, we thank him for being there but things were already being coordinated.” Video here, from Minute 8.

  One wondered: was this strikingly dismissive answer based on the lack of need for or use of Ripert's UN position, or on his comments on Islamic extremist groups, against which his nation's president Nicholas Sarkozy has declared war?

UN's Ban in Pakistan, spox as Kilroy, Ripert-Holmes split and Kashmir flipflop not shown

Next to Ambassador Haroon was outgoing top UN humanitarian John Holmes. While also absent until then from humanitarian crises in not only Pakistan but also Darfur, Holmes was and is more savvy politically than Ripert. (In fairness we also note Holmes' belated but clear August 13 call for access to Darfur's Kalma Camp.)

Inner City Press asked the two men about Ripert's claim that extremist groups, by responding first to the floods, might spread their ideology. Video here, from Minute 18:45. Are there area of Pakistan not under government control due to armed conflict, or whatever Islamabad is calling it these days?

  Holmes stepped in front of Haroon, whose face had grown stern or serious during the question. The UN must be above politics, Holmes proclaimed, referring diplomatically to “ongoing hostilities,” a term with fewer legal implications than “conflict,” which allows inquiry into the recruitment of child soldiers, for example, an issue in Pakistan on which the UN has done little.

Holmes said both that there are areas to which the UN has no access due to fighting, then that the UN reaches all areas with aid. “Thank you,” Haroon said, and the stake out was over.

  The subtext was that Haroon had already criticized the UK's David Cameron for speaking of terrorism. UK but also still UN Holmes took a different tack, different too from Ripert's, and got thanked.

  Holmes and Ripert, along with Ban's Indian chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, accompanied Ban on August 15. Nambiar's nationality is relevant not only due to the hostilities between India and Pakistan, but most recently due to Nambiar's role in watering down a statement on behalf of Ban's spokesperson about Kashmir. Click here for that.

  This was followed by news that Indian troops were wearing UN blue helmets as they shot protesters in Kashmir, and the UN's belated and seemingly incomplete reaction.

A South Asian journalist disgusted by the UN's backing away from its already bland statement on Kashmir harkened back to Ban's trip to Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, complete with craven supplication to General Than Shwe who was allowed to steal up to 25% of aid money through forced currency exchange games swept under the carpet by the UN.

Later Team Ban cited the Myanmar trip as one of his major accomplishments, even saying that Ban had thereby saved 500,000 people. The South Asian journalist, made cynical by events such as the UN's Kashmir flip-flop, rhetorically asked Inner City Press, “how many people will Ban claim to have saved this time, when what he is mostly trying to save is his chance at a second term?”

  Even Inner City Press is disturbed by this level of cynicism, particularly when compared to the desparate need of the Pakistani people. Watch this site.

 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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