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At UN, Politics Pollute Budget Advisory Post, Sources Say, of ACABQ and Revolving Doors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 30 -- In a switch that may more accurately reflect the UN than the speeches given here in the past week, political pressure has resulted in steering a top UN budget advisory job away from a Thai citizen who came in first place in the interviews.

  The executive secretary position in the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions or ACABQ has been open since it was vacate by Mark Gilpin. Of the applicants, the first place finisher was Dennis Thatchaichawalit of Thailand, currently serving as a Chief of Service at the D-1 level in the UN's Program Planning and Budget Division.

  But well placed sources tell Inner City Press that the Under Secretary General of the ACABQ, Susan McLurg of the United States, intervened to move up the third place finisher, Shari Klugman, currently a D-1 in the Ted Turner financed UN Fund for International Partnerships.

  The Secretary General's office on the 38th floor, sources say, gave its blessing to this legerdemain. Members of the ACABQ, many of whom know the UN well from previous service for their countries on the Fifth (Budget) Committee, are grumbling about what they call corruption. A senior UN official who Inner City Press asked about switch shrugged and said, "That's how the UN works."

  Inner City Press telephoned Ms. Klugman on September 30 and she genially confirmed that she begins as executive secretary of ACABQ on October 1. Inner City Press then asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas about the hiring. Ms. Montas did not answer, saying it is a "General Assembly matter." But sources say that the Secretariat had not only the normal, but an abnormal, role in the selection of Ms. Klugman, and bypassing of Mr. Thatchaichawalit, who had been rated higher. If the Secretariat provides any further information, it will be published on this site.

See Inner City Press' previous ACABQ stories: 1st  2nd  3rd

UN's Ban and Susan McLurg shake, finger prints on ACABQ staffing not shown

  The ACABQ is one of the few bodies which can oversee the UN that is quasi independent. When even the ACABQ staffing is politicized, in a fashion some participants in the selection process call open, there is no oversight at all.

  Inner City Press previously interviewed and profiled Ms. McLurg's predecessor Rajat Saha, on his views of the need for reform of the ACABQ. After the interview and Saha's return to India, Inner City Press learned that before he left, he got his daughter a UN staff job.

  The ACABQ reviews and opines on UN Secretariat budget proposals, among other things. If its officials can be influenced or appear to be influences by job offers to themselves or family members, the oversight function is undermined. So too if there are irregularities in the application, interview and rating processes to fill the top staff job.

Footnotes: Inner City Press has had simple request to confirm or deny UN hiring pending with UN spokespeople for weeks now. Longer time UN hands note that Saha's predecessor Vladimir Kuznetsov ended up in jail for impropriety, since sent back to Russia. And beyond ACABQ, the General Assembly's Fifth (Budget) Committee is also a launching pad for jobs with the Secretariat.

  Recently, Egypt's representative on the Fifth Committee Hesham Mohamed Eman Afifi was awarded a P-4 post in UN peacekeeping's Department of Field Support. DFS chief Susana Malcorra, who Inner City Press was able to directly ask about the hiring, said it was through the normal process. But should the revolving door between the budget committee, and the agencies whose budgets it votes on, be closed or slowed down? Watch this site.

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As UN Budget Committee Moves to Trim Missions, Croatian Ambassador Under Fire

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 22 -- The UN's Budget Committee, already weeks overdue in appropriating funds to the UN peacekeeping missions, has arrived at a formulaic cut of half a percent in each mission.

  The European Union, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea had demanded a 2.5% cut in operating budgets. But in the final deal emerging, there is an increase for the Chad and Central African Republic mission, MINURCAT, and lesser cuts for others.

  The Haiti Mission (MINUSTAH) for example faces a cut of $6.5 million out of $600 million, according to diplomats involved - a bit more than one percent.

   Meanwhile in other money news around the UN, Croatia's Permanent Representative in New York Neven Jurica is under fire for financial irregularities. With funds allegedly misappropriated in New York, the Croatian foreign ministry is looking back into Jurica's previous tenure running his country's mission in Washington.

UN's Ban with Croatia's President Mesic and, on shoulder, "Perm" Rep Jurica

 An inquiry with the Mission in New York yielded that

Hi Matthew, Ambassador Ranko Vilovic, the Deputy Permanent Representative, is charge'd affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the UN. Any questions pertaining to Ambassador Jurica's status need to be directed towards Mr. Mario Dragun, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

  We hope to have more on this. For now, on and from DPKO, this:

Subj: regarding your question yesterday on a proposal in the Fifth Committee to cut the UN peacekeeping budget
From: DPKO Spokesperson's Office
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 6/11/2009 12:15:18 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

You had asked at the Noon Briefing yesterday about the proposal to cut the UN peacekeeping budget... As the discussions on the UN peacekeeping budget are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter that's still being discussed by Member States and on which no decision has been made. From a broader perspective - I think you're already aware, so do forgive me if I state the obvious - our peacekeeping operations do need to be fully financed if they are to be able to carry out the mandates set for them by the Security Council.

   And even then...

* * *

UN's $8.2 Billion Peace Budget Faces 2.5% Cut, S. Korea Puts Congo Drones on Block?

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- Anyone can call for peace, but who will pay for it? That question was being debate, or at least discussed, in the basement of the UN past 10 p.m. on Monday night. The UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee had passed its end of May deadline and still the $8.2 billion peacekeeeping budget was in dispute.

  The U.S, Japan, European Union and surprise Westerner South Korea are proposing a 2.5 percent across the board reduction in all peacekeeping missions' budgets. The phrase, taken from the Western Sahara draft of June 6, was a decision "to reduce the Mission's overall operational costs by a further 2.5 per cent to be accommodated through efficiency savings." The Group of 77 and China are resisting.

  Take for example the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions' "recommendations on the financing of MONUC would entail an overall reduction of $66,818,200 or some 4.7 percent of the Mission's overall budget," mostly due to the local elections MONUC will support being put back into 2010.

  The African Group, on the other hand, "is concerned that the cuts proposed by the ACABQ could negatively impact on the effective functioning of the Mission."

  These quotes are from public speeches. Consider, however, the confidential presentation of the Secretariat to ACABQ, the slide script of which Inner City Press has been given by a well-placed source. The Secretariat argued that "the budget before you is not a maintenance budget based on routine operations." Instead the Secretariat proposed "an increase of $235 million compare to 2008/09... 168 new posts and positions directly related to the surge in troops."

This "surge" is the 3,000 additional personnel called for the Security Council during the CNDP fighting in the Kivus, before the house arrest and Nkunda and incorporation of indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntanganda into the Congolese Army, where he has worked in connection with UN-supported operations according to Congolese records. While troubling, this should at least save money, no? No. The Secretariat still proposed ever-increased spending.

  The surge will come, the document says, from "troops from Bangladesh, Egypt and Jordan... The new Egyptian battalion will be deployed to South Kivu and the Bangladeshi will be deployed to Ituri... while the Jordan Special Forces company will be positioned in North Kivu."

  Interestingly, the budget includes "$18 million additional requirements for 2 UAVs" -- unmanned aerial vehicles, the drones MONUC chief Alan Doss requested at the turn of the year.

UN's Ban and Doss (not Mountain) in DRC, budget cuts not shown

  Several Fifth Committee sources emphasized to Inner City Press the news value of South Korea's position. Here you have Ban Ki-moon, one source spun, putting his name on proposals to increase peacekeeping budgets by almost five percent, while his home country South Korea has joined the push to instead cut the budgets by 2.5 percent.

   The source asked, "who's kidding who?" All we could say is "whom." (On this front it must be said that the Secretariat's presentation to ACABQ has some laughable typos. It refers for example to "the Pakistanese battalion." But we digress.)

   Upstairs in the Delegates' Lounge, a proponent of the Haiti mission's budget told Inner City Press that MINUSTAH, as it's known, spends 100% or more of its budget. Mission head Hedi Annabi is called Napoleonic. Other missions, in their start up phase or even earlier, like Somalia, might face even steeper cuts.

   During all of this, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy is slated to travel from June 9 to 23 to West Africa. He will stop first in Nigeria, where 27 peacekeepers have been sentence to jail for life for protesting not being paid after a UN mission. Another peacekeeper, female, says she was pressured for sex while on mission. As a now-dead rapper sang, More money, more problems.

   Le Roy will head to Cote d'Ivoire, where Laurent Gbagbo keeps putting off the promised election. When will the mission draw down? The force in Liberia, too, is called larger than needs be. In the basement, however, it is a question of whose ox is gored. Watch this site.

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At UN, Near Final Draft on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Arms Export Ban and Cargo Inspection Added

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Exclusive-Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Thirteen days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a near-final draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council.

The six-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts online here as a must-credit exclusive, has more than thirty operative paragraphs, compared to the mere 14 paragraphs of the three-page draft Inner City Press similarly obtained and published on May 28. (AP, Japanese and other media appropriately credited Inner City Press).

  This time, Inner City Press is told by its sources that the draft was circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five Plus Two -- these last are Japan and South Korea -- with the deadline for comments on June 5 at 10 a.m. New York Time.

   The provision allowing North Korea to import light weapons, in Paragraph 10, is attributable to Russia, according to a well placed Inner City Press source who calls it the Kalishnikof or AK-47 clause.

   Beyond the cargo ban, other provisions are weaker than the proponents wanted. Paragraph 19, for example, merely calls on "member states and international financial and credit institutions not to enter into new commitments... except for humanitarian and developmental purposes." Paragraph 17 prohibits "bunkering services, such as provision of fuel or supplies" to vessels. Paragraph 22 calls for reports within 45 days.

At UN, media chases news of draft now published by Inner City Press

  While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest for nearly two weeks now at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Somalia, Bosnia and Tribunals and on June 5, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

  Non-permanent members of the Security Council complained to the Press that they were kept in the dark throughout the days of negotiation.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. Watch this site.

* * *

Sri Lanka Denies IDP Reduction Reported by Inner City Press, Raises to UN

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- The Sri Lankan government has denounced a story about "missing" internally displaced people which Inner City Press, based on discrepancies in UN documents and statements from UN sources, published this week.

  Beyond denying that any IDPs have been removed from the UN-funded camps in Vavuniya, which Inner City Press visited on May 23, the government has said that it is raising the matter with the UN. "Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations," according to a pro-government web site.

 On June 2, Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson publicly denounced Inner City Press for its reporting, but denied she had discussed "complaining to Google News" about it, presumably to stop its distribution or censor it. The next day she recanted, click here. Click here for Inner City Press (on on tensions in Sri Lanka.

   Inner City Press' story noted that even the UN, in a May 30 report, acknowledged that its number of IDPs in the camps decreased by over 13,000.

  While the public report by UN OCHA ascribed this sudden drop -- from May 27 -- to "double counting," local UN sources, on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation not only by the Sri Lankan government but also by the UN, told Inner City Press that as with the satellite photos of the conflict zone and casualty figures, some in the UN were seeking to downplay this potentially troubling information.

In Vavuniya IDP camp, UN's Ban on government's banner

   OCHA's May 30 report states that "276,785 persons crossed to the Government controlled areas from the conflict zone. This represents a decrease of 13,130 IDPs since the last report (Sitrep No.18) on 27 May 2009. The decrease is associated with double counting. Additional verification is required."

   But earlier, OCHA had praised the "improved, systematic registration being undertaken in the camps."

    The article continued that UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, as UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews

    Shouldn't the UN look into this more closely, given multiple and credible reports of people being "disappeared" from the UN-funded IDP camps? The UN so far has done nothing in this regard.

   To expedite matters, one hopes, Inner City Press now publishes a list of some of the places where the UN -- or perhaps a less compromised body -- should look for missing people:

Pallekelle near Kandy; Ambepussa, Boosa and, it is said, the Army training camp at Diya-talawwa.

  On June 2, Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson while again publicly denouncing Inner City Press for its reporting, denied she had discussed "complaining to Google News" about it, presumably to stop its distribution or censor it.

  The next day, Ms. Montas confirmed that both legal action and "complaining to Google News" were discussed at a meeting she had with four top UN officials, including Mr Ban's speech writer, who also traveled to Sri Lanka on May 23, the UN's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien, Angela Kane and the head of UN "Public Information," Kiyotaka Akasaka, previously of the Japanese foreign ministry.

   Following a failure by these officials to respond to requests that they explain how the strategy they discussed comports with the free press Article 19 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Inner City Press has asked for action from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, click here.

Footnotes: During this week's back and forth about the UN threatening legal action against the Press, and to complain to Google News about Inner City Press' coverage, a high UN official, again anonymous due to fear of retaliation even at his level, approached Inner City Press to say that the attempt at censorship or expulsion was being pushed by what he diplomatically called "a member state." Asked if this meant Sri Lanka, he nodded.

   Meanwhile, in a show of retaliation, the UN has taken the step of seizing and checking the UN e-mail of staff members who they believe have been sources for Inner City Press. Some say that when the UN went to Sri Lanka, rather than seek to hold the government to a high standard of human rights, the effect was to make the UN (even) more like the administration of the Rajapaksas...

Guard in Manik Farm camp, (c) M. Lee May 23, 2009

   The article below quoting that "Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations" takes issue with Inner City Press quoting that

"UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, [as] UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews."

Contrary to the (intentional?) misinterpretation below, Inner City Press was not saying that all Sri Lankan nationals are Sinhalese -- rather, that within the UN's staff in Sri Lanka, those who are of the majority Sinhalese group are seen by their Tamil colleagues as in some cases using their positions in the UN to advance, as some phrase it, "the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist cause." Inner City Press did not invent these divisions, and the article's and minister's statement that all is now well in Sri Lanka is, at best, wishful thinking. Within the UN, some recall the way in Rwanda a Hutu staff member named Callixte Mbarushimana was allowed to use his UN position and materiel to further the Hutu extremist cause which has since been acknowledged as genocide. The UN continued employing and paying Callixte Mbarushimana for many years. Some wonder, will that happen with the UN in Sri Lanka?

On June 5 outside the UN Security Council, Inner City Press asked the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, if his Office will do any work on Sri Lanka. "We try to follow what is going on, the post-conflict developments," he said. "It's been going on for twenty five years, you don't just...." His voice trailed off. "One phase ended, presumably, but....". And his voice trailed off again. Of course, it's been "going on" for far longer than 25 years.

The article:

Sri Lanka rejects ICP report on IDP disappearance

Fri, 2009-06-05 18:06

By our Colombo Correspondent

Colombo, 05 June, ( The Sri Lankan government today totally rejected a claim in a Inner City Press (ICP) quoted by a pro LTTE website, that 13,000 people from Internally Displaced camps have disappeared, and described it as a malicious attempt to discredit the Colombo government.

Highly placed government sources said that the Tamil Diaspora overseas working for the LTTE were now engaged in a disinformation campaign to discredit the Government unable to bear the crushing defeat of the LTTE and its' terrorism.

Rehabilitation Ministry sources expressed anger and surprise over the pro-LTTE canard that is being spread through internet websites misquoting figures of the number of displaced persons.

They said the ICP report was aimed at creating a rift between communities now living peacefully as one people of one country." That is why they have quoted Sinhalese as Sri Lankan nationals knowing well that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country", they added.

Explaining further about the contents of the ICP report quoted by a pro-LTTE website, a ministry source said that if Sri Lanka nationals were only Sinhalese as claimed, there could be no Tamil displaced persons in the country.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management,Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations as the ICP report from the pro-LTTE website had quoted unnamed UN sources in Colombo to claim such disappearance of a large number of displaced persons, which, the Sri Lankan government has totally rejected.

Watch this site.

 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.

* * *

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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