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Americans for UNFPA's President Calls Ban's N. Korea Audit "Political," Katrina "Too Local"

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 27 -- The UN Population Fund held a press conference Wednesday about "Unleashing the potential of urban growth." Also unleashed were the views of Americans for UNFPA, represented at the press conference by its president, Anika Rahman.

            Inner City Press asked UNFPA speechwriter Ann Erb Leoncavallo if the Population Fund is going to submit a management response to recently-released audit of UN four UN agencies' operations in North Korea, and asked Ms. Rahman if Americans for UNFPA think that such a management response should be submitted. Ms. Leoncavallo said she didn't know if a written response will be submitted. (UNFPA executive director Thoraya Obaid said the same thing when asked more than a week ago. Ms.  Leoncavallo said "I'll have to get back to you," but in the 12 hours afterwards, did not.)

            Ms. Rahman said that the audit was "a political issue," and that Americans for UNFPA is "not interesting in finding additional excuse for our government to defund this agency."

            While de-funding was tied to abortion issues, it was Ban Ki-moon who called for the North Korea audit. Inner City Press pointed out to Ms. Rahman that it was a UN audit, not a U.S. audit. "The U.S. has been one of the primary movers behind the desire for that audit." Video here, from Minute 49:05 to 53. Click here for UN's own press release, which mistakenly states that the audit was by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, when it was by the UN Board of Auditors.

            In a second round of questions, Inner City Press asked Ms. Rahman if she was saying that Ban Ki-moon had given in to the U.S. in even ordering the North Korea audit. Ms. Rahman replied that "as Americans for UNFPA, we believe that the U.S. call for the audit was a simply a political move to further find grounds for its de-funding, which has existed for the past five years, of UNFPA." Video here, from Minute 1:02:12.

            Inner City Press pointed out that Ban Ki-moon called for an audit of "all UN funds and programs" on January 19; Ms. Rahman said that the Secretary-General would be the one to answer such questions.  Ban's spokesperson was on the rostrum during the press conference, but did not speak to the question.  On this issue, watch this space.

Americans for UNFPA's Rahman

            Inner City Press also asked about the UNFPA report's praise of planning in New York City, which did not include any mention of housing affordability. Ms. Rahman called that issue too local, and also declined to provide any more detail than the report did, about Hurricane Katrina and planning. Ms. Leoncavallo did answer Inner City Press' question about birth rate disparities against girls, saying that UNFPA tries to counter this. The issue does not, however, appear to have been raised in the 100 page report. Too local? To be continued.

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