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At UN, Yvo de Boer and Africa's Secret Climate Number, of Indian Black Carbon and Shell Games in the Niger Delta

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- With the UN simultaneous shrinking hopes for the Copenhagen climate change meeting and telling the Press not to cover the diminshed expectations, its top negotiator Yvo de Boer on November 19 effectively set $10 billion as the ceiling for transfers to the developing world.

  There is only one problem: the African Union alone is said to be looking for $67 billion annually, with a threat to walk out of Copenhagen is less is offered. Inner City Press asked de Boer is he knew of the African Union number, and if even a feigned successful conference would be possible in the Africans walked out.

  De Boer said that as a UN official, he believes in bringing people together, and that any walk out would be bad. He then argued that $10 billion was only a start, not a ceiling at all. But by stating the number as an indicia of success, he effectively did that.

  Inner City Press asked de Boer to comment on India's environment minister Ramesh's comment that not only will India not make binding commitments in Copenhagen on greenhouse gas emissions, it will not discuss black coal emissions at all: "Copenhagen meeting is for negotiations for cuts in GHG emission and not for black carbon emission. We would resist any move for bringing in black carbon emission for discussions. Scientific link between black carbon emission and global warming and melting of glaciers is still being studied."

  At first de Boer said he hadn't seen the comment and so couldn't response. Then Inner City Press e-mailed it to him.Hours later, to his credit, de Boer responded:

Subj: Here's the Minister Ramesh / black carbon emissions quote I've asked about
From: Yvo de Boer [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 11/19/2009 8:24:29 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

The Minister correctly states that the climate negotiations do not address black carbon as it is not a greenhouse gas. However efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can also significantly lower emissions of black carbon

   We'll see. Meanwhile, given the environment, some were surprised on November 18 to find Shell's Elizabeth Cheney in a UN conference room blithely praising her company's record.

  Inner City Press asked about Shell's activities for example in Nigeria, specifically in the Niger Delta where Shell was accused for playing a role in the death of activist Ken Saro Wiwa, and is currently being sued before the ECOWAS court for pollution and human rights violations.

Protesters of Shell, UN and $10 billion not shown

  Ms. Cheney said Shell is "suffering the activities of criminal and terrorists [who] blow things up." She said, "We are not the government of Nigeria... sometimes we shut production and move out of area."

  But what about pressuring those who oppose the oil drilling or distribution of revenue? "That's more detailed than we need to get into today," Ms. Cheney said. Afterwards she promised to put Inner City Press in touch with both "communications and... the leadership part of the business, there's more transparency there." If you say so...

* * *

UN Descends Toward Slopenhagen, Of Vattenfall's Abuse and Stakeout Post Hoc Games

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- If an agreement is not binding, can you be said to seal the deal? This question was put Monday to the UN's climate change advisor Janos Pasztor, who until recently was calling for a legally binding agreement at the Copenhagen talks in December.

  Now Pasztor echoes Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's retreat to a "politically binding" agreement, as phrased most recently in London: " if we agree on a strong politically-binding commitment that will be I think a reasonable success." Toward that goal, apparently, Ban travels to Washington on November 10.

  Inner City Press asked Pasztor when it occurred to the UN Secretariat that a legally binding -- that is, a binding -- agreement would not be possible: before or after they said Yvo de Boer was incompletely quoted when he said precisely that? Video here, from Minute 26:12. There was not a specific month, Pasztor answered genially. A few weeks ago.

  It's been a slippery slope, one commented, from Jeffery Sachs to Yvo de Boer to this. A slippery Slopenhagen indeed.

  Inner City Press asked about the reported walk-out by African countries from the last negotiating session in Barcelona. Pasztor was, as always, relentlessly upbeat, saying they did not walk out of Barcelena (certainly not the city, one wag whispered) but only some meetings -- and then they "walked back" in. So all's fine?

  Noting that the SealTheDeal2010 web site, unlike its 2009 version, is not in UN hands, Inner City Press asked if the campaign would morph. Video here, from Minute 30:30. No, Pasztor said, we must have a deal in 2009 in Copenhagen. But is a deal that is not legally binding a deal at all?

UN's Ban in Norway, descent to Slopenhagen not shown

  Pasztor on November 6 attended a meeting of the Secretary General's Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, in the UN's basement. Yvo de Boer was listed as "not participating," and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu as participating only by teleconference. That was better than the CEO of Vattenfall, a company which has said publicly its use of coal will actually increase in the next few years.

  As Inner City Press has raised to Pasztor and UN global goods guru Bob Orr, Vattenfall put out a press release stating that CEO Lars Josefsson's selection by Ban meant the company has a good environmental record. Both have said such claims are inappropriate, and the CEOs are selected and must attend in their personal capacity.

  Apparently, Vattenfall has never been disciplined or retracted its claim using the UN. And on November 6, the list of participatants lists "Arne Mogren (on behalf of Lars Josefsson)." What was that about CEOs attending personally?

  Listed among "additional participants (consultants and advisors to principals)" was Reid Detchon, a vice president with an NGO, the UN Foundation. Who would he -- or they -- be advising?

Footnote: While some NGOs are invited in, another was escorted away from the General Assembly stakeout on November 5, and had UN passes stripped. On November 9, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas when NGOs can speak at the stakeout. Video here, from Minute 17:31.

  When they are sponsored by Member States, she said, then added "or Observer Missions," a reference to Palestine's Riyad Mansour and his guests from Jerusalem who spoke at the Security Council stakeout on November 6.

  Montas even defended the stakeout of Mia Farrow, as a "UNICEF Special Ambassador." But what about Polisario, which had the plug pulled while it spoke? What about HRW, after the Human Rights Council elections? Which Member States invited them to the stakeout? And was that known in the heat of the moment, or only made up afterwards?

* * *

On UN, Congo Says All or Nothing, Silence on MSF "Bait" Accusation, New P-5ers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- While the UN Mission in the Congo will stop assisting some units of Congo's 213th Brigade because they killed 62 civilians, according to top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy, evidence mounts of far more extensive murder by other brigades and units of the Congolese army.

In this context, Inner City Press on November 5 asked the DRC's Ambassador to the UN Atoki Ileka what he thought of Le Roy's announcement. Ambassador Ikeka turned the question around, asking "how can you work with only parts of an army?"

Inner City Press noted to him that this was similar to Human Rights Watch's position, that MONUC should stop working with the Congolese Army as a whole, at least as regards the Kimia II operation. Yes, Ambassador Ileka said, on that we have the same position. Only at the UN.

   Unprompted, standing outside the UN General Assembly after the debate and vote on the Goldstone report on Gaza, Ambassador Ileka told Inner City Press, Alan Doss, he has his own problems, I'm not going to add to them.

At the November 6 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: Medecins sans frontieres has said in great detail that a vaccination campaign they conducted in October in FDLR-control areas of [the Democratic Republic of] the Congo was used as “bait” -- that is the word they used. So that FARDC [the Congolese Armed Forces] attacked the vaccination sites, killed some civilians and sent others into the bush. It’s such a graphic allegation on their part, I’m wondering what is MONUC -- is this a unit MONUC works with? Does MONUC deny that it happened? What’s MONUC going to do about that?

Spokesperson Michele Montas: I’m going to get more information -- in fact, we are going to have someone from [MONUC] coming to brief you on the Congo shortly. Mr. Ross Mountain [Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is supposed to come next week and he will be briefing you on the Congo, so I would suggest that you ask him the questions.

  Ross Mountain will immanently leave the MONUC mission, and more and more people say Alan Doss should. Is there accountability in the UN system?

In DRC, Obasanjo arrives, FARDC civilian abuse not shown

  On November 9, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo strode into the Security Council with an entourage, to brief about the Great Lakes region: how many trip to how many heads of state. Some mused that one of his last times at the UN, he was questioned about his role in now controversial Chinese infrastructure deals in Nigeria, if that gave him a conflict in deal with Congo's similar -- although now somewhat shrunken -- deal. Didn't he get mad? a correspondent asked Inner City Press, the poser of the Chinese dealing question. He should have seen it coming. And this time? Watch this site.

Council footnotes, or bookends: The grandly named new UK Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mark Lyall "No Hyphen" Grant, is said to have arrived in New York "at the weekend." He will get accredited, some face time with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and then assume his position in the Council. There are some hoping he's adopt a less exclusive approach, at least to the media, than those before him.

  France's Gerard Araud, who's said in French-only briefings to rebuff questions about poverty and spending, for example Sarkozy's on his EU Presidency stint, is still settling in. And so Russia, with the longest serving Ambassador, and China, which reportedly blocked consensus on the most recent Sudan sanctions report, will some say have the P-5 upper hand for a while. We'll see.

* * *

On Food Speculation, UN's Expert Says Nothing's Being Done, S. Korean Land Grabs from Madagascar to Sudan, Brazil on Ethanol

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- After many speeches at the UN about the need to crack down on financial speculation in food, nothing has been done, the UN's expert on the right to food told Inner City Press on Wednesday.

  Olivier de Schutter, a Belgian law professor just back from a visit to Brazil about, among other things, the loss of land for food to ethanol, replied that "nothing is moving at the inter-governmental level." This despite a statement by the G-20 in April favoring the regulation of hedge funds which present systemic risk. The argument is that commodities index funds which speculate in food present systemic risk to net food importing countries. But nothing has been done.

   De Schutter spoke about the monopolization of the seed industry, and made a slew of recommendations for governments. The three top monopolizers -- Monsanto, Dupont and the Swiss-based Syngenta -- are all members of the UN Global Compact, and claim to comply with human rights. De Schutter pointed out the antitrust law is directed as national and not global or subnational markets. It is all very heady but one wonders what effect it has.

  Brazil might be one of de Schutter's claims to impact. He spoke glowingly of President Lula, saying that Brazil has said that only 19% of land can be used for sugar cane for ethanol, and has committed to monitor labor rights. But what about, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia?

De Schutter, action on food speculation not shown

  After De Schutter's briefing, Inner City Press asked his staffer for an update on the proposed land grab in Madagascar by South Korea based Daewoo, which was reputed after the coup in that country. De Schutter had been scheduled to visit, but it was put off by the coup. The same thing happened in Honduras. So perhaps De Schutter does have an effect after all, mused one wag.

Footnote: immediately after De Schutter's briefing, the UN's Haile Menkerios was scheduled to speak to the Press about Madagascar. While the UN usually compartmentalizes its work such that a rapporteur looks at land grabs, while the Secretariat remains on "political affairs" narrowly defined, this land grab played a role in the change of government. Now it's said the South Korean deal is being pursued from India, while South Korea appears to have moved on to 690,000 hectares in Sudan. 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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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