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Ban on Twitter at UN: Social Media Meets Information Control of Ban Ki-moon, No Answers on Haiti, Ladsous, Corruption

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON* DC, September 13 -- For weeks the UN promoted it, that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be on Twitter for an hour on September 13, answering questions under the hashtag #AskTheSG.

Ban hadn't held a press conference at UN Headquarters for more than three months, so Inner City Press submitted four questions, including

Why UN response to peacekeeper sexual abuse of underaged girls in Haiti is merely to pay child support? Why in denial on cholera?

Why giving top UN DPKO job to 3d Frenchman in row, Ladsous, spoke for ouster of Aristide & advised Aliot-Marie of Air Ben Ali fame?

Why UN has twice flown ICC indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun to Abyei in Sudan? Why peacekeepers stood by in S. Kordofan?

Why so quick to clarify this morning UN is not against colonialism in Papua & French Polynesia / Tahiti?

  None of these questions were answered. Participants complained of questions like, How many hours a day do you sleep? A celebrity chef's question was taken, perahps by pre-arrangement.

  Then at the noon briefing, Ban's spokesman took only four questions, all of them on Palestine or Israel: no questions or answers on Haiti, Congo, Somalia, Sri Lanka or UN corruption, much less the announcement in Washington of a bill which would require the UN to adopt a code of conduct for any any peacekeeping mission, or political mission such as the one Ban wants in Libya -- though his adviser Ian Martin's plan for 200 military observers was shot down by the Libyans.

Ban previously in DC, new climate and DPKO head not shown

  Ban's spokesman said there were only ten minutes for the noon briefing, four minutes for questions, because Ban was coming to a press conference.

  Ban sat there, being congratulated by another UN system official, and given a gift. It was said that questions could be asked - but only about malaria. Of five questions asked, Ban passed three of them to other speakers. He said he "appealed passionately... at world leaders level." Meanwhile where were the watchers? We'll have more on this.

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In DC, UN Funding Questioned, As Pascoe Lame Ducks on Palestine, Ban Dodges on Haiti & Ladsous, Goes Social

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON* DC, September 13, updated -- With UN Peacekeepers in Haiti charged with sexual abuse and fathering children with under-aged Haitian girls and little transparency about how public money is spent, on consultants and flying part time envoys around, on Capitol Hill today Congress members are putting forward their bill to make funding of the UN a la carte, i.e. based on performance.

  According to the sponsors, the bill includes "opposition to new or expanded peacekeeping missions until reforms are instituted, including the adoption of a universal code of conduct." And see updated bill summary, here, esp. Title X.

  This comes as Haitian elected officials move to strip the UN of its immunity after Uruguayan UN peacekeepers engaged sexual abuse, and barely pay child support for their offspring with under-aged Haitian girls.

  At the UN on September 12 Inner City Press posed the question to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky: "I wanted to ask here at Headquarters, is it the UN’s position that the payment of child support after sex by peacekeepers with underage people in the countries in which they are serving, is sufficient, is that a lack of impunity?"

  Nesirky did not answer at the time, but after Inner City Press left the UN and New York inserted into the transcript "that the investigation had in fact concluded and that the issue of financial support for the mother and the child by the soldier involved was one of the outcomes of this process, independent of whatever other punishment is meted out."

  But as appears to be the case with Sri Lankan peacekeepers merely "repatriated" after documentation of sexual abuse of minors in Haiti, there appears to have been, nor that there will be, any additional punishment.

  Even in this context many have mocked the idea of conditions on UN peacekeeping and political missions and a la carte funding. The UN seems to be going on as ever, with simultaneous canned social media responses from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at #AskTheSG and some in the UN Correspondents' Association saying they'll "urgently" meet on a draft statement to journalists about what they should publish, and who and what they should use as sources, explicitly in response to complaints from a particular country's mission to the UN.

 (That would be France, which has controlled UN Peacekeeping during all this, and whose new DPKO head Herve Ladsous was chief of staff to French minister Aliot-Marie as she flew Air Ben Ali to Tunisia -- none of which Ban seems to have reviewed or yet answered for.)

  But given the make-up in Congress, and President Barack Obama's recent move rightward on issues ranging from the environment, where he kiboshed the proposed ozone rules, and tax cuts, complacency at and around the UN may be misguided.

  For now the speakers in favor of the legislation, H.R. 2829, are all Republicans, including Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, Dan Burton, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Steve Chabot and Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Scott Garret of New Jersey, Michael Grimm of New York, and Robert Dold and Allen West of Florida.

  But already the US Mission to the UN's new Ambassador on Management is criticized a proposed 3% pay raise at the UN -- only for Professional level staff, Inner City Press notes, and not the General Service staff that would need it more -- and has called for more transparency at the UN Development Program.

  Simultaneously, sources tell Inner City Press, the Administration is taking a hard look at their main American Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe of the Department of Political Affairs. Wikileaks has released a cable summarizing a US Ambassador Rice meeting with Pascoe at which he claimed credit for working with the government of Zimbabwe. Rice asked pointedly about the wisdom of throwing Robert Mugabe a lifeline.

Since then, Inner City Press has told, Rice has indicated that meeting with Pascoe is not for her, and largely left it to deputy Rosemary DiCarlo. Now DPA sources say Pascoe is a lame duck. At a press briefing at the UN on September 12, Pascoe repeatedly (lame) ducked and weaved past questions about the request for state status by Palestine, another topic at Tuesday's Capitol Hill hearing. Watch this site.

* - with reporting from Washington DC.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

* * *

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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