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UN's Ban-tourage to Haiti Grows After Protest, of Turf Wars, Hillary and Planes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an entourage prepare to leave the UN in New York at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, for Newark International Airport and, reportedly, a U.S. provided plane to Port au Prince, the turf war to coordinate aid to Haiti has just begun.

  Despite UN claims to be at the center, at least in this country where it had 7000 peacekeepers, 490 international and 1200 Haitian staff, the U.S. has taken control of the airport. With Ban slated to go to Haiti on Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Saturday.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon if he thought the $100 million in aid pledged by U.S. President Barack Obama would channeled through the UN's $560 million flash appeal. Ban said that whether or not to work through the UN is the decision of each sovereign government. Well, the Obama Administration's $100 million is not going through the UN.

  Well placed sources tell Inner City Press that went Ban asked Bill Clinton how to fly to Haiti, the response was to "ask Hillary, she'll probably give you a better plane than she'd give me."

  Close watchers of Ban Ki-moon see in all this an attempt to re-brand Mister Ban. Accompanied by new spokesman Martin Nesirky, Ban has appeared each day at the Security Council stakeout, providing television sound byte and avoid questions such as the safety compliance of the UN headquarters building which collapses, and his not counting national Haiti staff in the casualty figures he provided.

  Late Friday, Inner City Press published a detailed report on how Ban and Nesirky chose to accompany Ban to Haiti a TV reporter from Ban's native South Korea, while excluding major wire services.

  Later, and after subsequent protest by spurned wires, an angry Nesirky reversed course and included first two more wires, including the one he used to work for, then also the Voice of America and CNN's long time Diplomatic License correspondent. Another media was belatedly asked if it wanted a seat on the plane but declined, just as the South Korean Yonhap declined Ban's invitation to document his trip to post-Nargis Myanmar.

UN's Ban and copter- Myanmar 2009, Haiti 2010 not yet shown

  Troublingly, it has emerged that the UN initially reached out and hand selected which journalists it wanted to accompany Ban. Inner City Press covered this self-selection of coverage in connection with Ban's controversial trip to Myanmar, where by most accounts he was used and abused by dictator Than Shwe.

  A humanitarian tragedy like Haiti should not present such dangers to Team Ban. Some see in the inclusion from the beginning of Korean television an attempt to use the tragedy for promotion in the homeland, and wonder if that means Ban wants to return there. But that's another story. For the immediate future, along with other UN matters Ban and Nesirky have tried to sideline, we will be reporting on Haiti, in as much detail as allowed or possible. Watch this site.

* * *

As UN Ban Plans Sunday Haiti Trip, Picks South Korean and UN Media, Spurned Sources Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 15, updated Jan 16 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will fly to Haiti for a one-day trip on Sunday. To publicize his trip, Ban will be accompanied by journalists from France's wire service and television station, and in a surprise to some, South Korean media.

  Several journalists who had put their names on the list to go demanded to know why they were not included, while not only South Korea media but also the UN's own in house self documentarians were selected.

  One reporter, representing a major South Florida daily, says he was told by Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, this is not like selecting a soccer team, I don't have to say how I made choices, remember, I'm not new at this job, I was with Reuters for years.

  When pressed, Nesirky told the reporter the criteria included multi-media platforms, "coverage of the UN," circulation, history of covering the region and inclusion in the directory of the UN Correspondents' Association. At least one of the invitees does not comply with this last criterion. And it is unclear, at least to some, if by "coverage of the UN" positive or negative coverage is meant.

  While the inclusion of South Korean media seems designed, several correspondents told Inner City Press, to feed Ban Ki-moon's image in his native country, they also saw a wider communications strategy at work.

  The earthquake was and is a disaster, they were quick to acknowledge. (We agree.) But for both Ban and his spokesman to resist for days now answering questions on any topic but Haiti represented, to them, a drive to remain "on message" as a politician would.

  At the January 15 noon briefing, Nesirky told Inner City Press that "I'm sticking with Haiti today," when a question about a rocket attack near the UN in Kabul was being raised. Video here, from Minute 43:05; the exchange was omitted from the UN's transcript.

   While Nesirky later relented and allowed this and a question about the UN in Somalia to be asked, ten hours later neither question had been answered. Even Nepal, on the Security Council's agenda with the UNMIN Mission, got no UN headquarters support from the UN on Friday, click here for Inner City Press story today on this and impunity.

UN's Ban and his spokesman on Jan. 14, only Haiti questions, even those (on Haitian staff) not answered

  Notably, a 2000 word expose of corruption in Ban's UN that moved on American newswires on Tuesday was never asked about or responded to, lost in the UN's wall to wall statements on Haiti.

  Even on Haiti matters, controversies were identified, outsourced and marginalized. When questions arose about Ban not counting casualties above the UN's national Haitian staff in the nation-specific presentations he made, to member states and to the press, Ban next said he would not report by nation, only Nesirky would.

   Nesirky in turn tried to explain the UN's reporting focus on international staff, and then to argue that while processed differently, reports of the deaths of national Haitian staff were treated equally.

   Ban received several waves of negative coverage in 2009, on topics ranging from seeming weak with strongmen in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. (Inner City Press went on Ban's May 2009 Sri Lanka trip, remaining on the issue since and, in full disclosure, applying to cover Ban Haiti trip.)

  Most recently, Ban has been accused by French President Nicolas Sarkozy of saying and accomplishing too little before, at and after the Copenhagen climate change talks.

   Responses to natural disasters are the UN's finest (media) hour, these long time correspondents said, pointing to the post-tsunami omnipresence of Kofi Annan's humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland.

  In this case, Ban himself needs better coverage -- the correspondents tied it to Ban's drive to get a second five year term as Secretary General, since more than three years of his first term have expired -- and so he, rather than Egeland's successor John Holmes, is presented day after day at the stakeout camera.

  And now on a flash tour of Haiti, documented by the UN itself and South Korean media. Mr. Ban has scheduled a meeting with UN staff in New York for Monday at 11 a.m.. Watch this site.

Footnote: when Nesirky was selected, and Inner City Press asked if the fact that he speaks Korean and has family and professional tied to Korea, having covered Seoul for Reuters, were part of the reason why, the question was not answered. Then Nesirky came to a briefing and, while taking no questions, pointed out that he speaks German as well, but not French.
  France is understood to have insisted that UN lead spokespeople speak French, the UN's other working language. Now French print, TV and wire are all included on the Haiti trip, along with South Korean media. Whether all this assists in the drive to assert the UN's centrality in coordinating aid and action in Haiti remains to be seen.

Update of Saturday, Jan 16, 1:30 p.m. -- Fifteen hours after the publication of the article above, the UN's Ban and Nesirky reversed course and moved to include two more wire services on Ban's trip, increasing the size of the Ban-tourage. Their initial exclusion, and the inclusion of South Korean media (and UN in house documentarians as media) remains unexplained. Watch this site, and see this morning's Inner City Press story on U.S. description, with little UN in it, of aid work in Haiti, here.

* * *

In Haiti, National UN Staff in Limbo, Despite Some Good News in Ruins

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- At the UN on July 14 it became even less clear what the UN Mission in Haiti is doing for it national staff, including how it is counting them. In the casualty figures released by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the morning, no national Haitian staff were included.

At the UN's noon briefing by video link from near the Port au Prince airport, figures were provided for injured national staff, but not deceased or missing. Inner City Press, which first raised the question on July 13, asked why. Because they went to their homes, was the answer. Because they are focused on survival.

  Inner City Press is informed that a MINUSTAH staffer, close with Hedy Annabi, has been found alive. A reliable source told Inner City Press that "Patrick Hein, working closely with Annabi was rescued... brought up from the mess of concrete. According to his dad Philippe Hein ( who has visited him at one point in Haiti and used to work at WTO ) his office is next to Annabi. Father was a bit piss off at Kouchner for saying that everyone has perished."

  If true, this is good news. But what about national Haitian UN staff? When Pressed, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, the tri-lingual Kim Bolduk, said that UNDP had sent out three missions to check on its national staff in their homes.

  When Inner City Press tried to follow up this answer to MINUSTAH's director of communications, UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky cut in to disallow this follow up.

Hotel Christopher, rented by UN for $94,000 a month, in ruins - MOSS compliant?

  He proceeded to allow some others two and three follow ups, whenever they wanted. The UN is full of open double standards. We will continue. Watch this site.

* * *

UN Doesn't Count Haitian Staff - But Treats Them Equally, Ban Says

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- A day after the UN's death count of its personnel in Port au Prince at first included a single Haitian staff member, and then dropped the reference, on Thursday morning Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dropped all reference to nationalities in his count of the dead.

Inner City Press asked if the UN's national Haitian staff have been included in the figures the UN has been giving out, not only of casualties but even of how many people work for the UN.

While Ban insisted that national staff are treated "equally," the figure thrown around - that 11,000 people work for the UN's MINUSTAH mission -- does not include the UN's national staff.

  In response to the question, Ban referred to notes and said that the UN has 1200 national staff in Haiti. This compares to 490 international civilian staff.

  After Ban left the stakeout, Inner City Press asked his spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain the UN's reporting of casualties. Nesirky said that the focus has been on reporting to those with international interest.

UN's Ban at stakeout, national Haitian staff not in figures

  He also said that national staff who worked in the UN headquarters in Port of Prince were somehow more likely to have already have left the building for the day when the earthquake struck. Video here.

  Now, he said, the UN is going out to the listed home addresses of its national staff to check on them. But will they now begin reporting the Haitians, equally, in their public statements? Watch this site.

Footnote: after Ban and his spokesman left the stakeout, another journalist -- not this one -- marveled that the UN would focus on internationals and not Haitians, who are the people most impacted, and of most interest to her as a journalist.

  From the UN's January 14 transcript:

Inner City Press: I understand that now you are saying that the nationality of those killed will be given by the Spokesman. Yesterday it was mentioned that a Haitian national was among those who were deceased, and then in what you said yesterday evening, it wasn’t mentioned. Some questions have arisen whether the numbers the UN is given actually include the Haitians that are hired, the national staff. What is the figure, or what are the procedures for checking how the actual Haitian nationals employed in various functions for the UN are faring?

SG Ban Ki-moon: In saving lives, there is no difference, no distinction between international and national staff. We have 1,200 national staff employed by the United Nations [in Haiti]. There seems to be very much a difficulty in communicating with all the national staff. Some of their houses have been affected. It is very difficult to account for all the national staff. We are doing, on the same principal: that we will try to save all the lives, without any distinction.

 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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