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At UNGA, China & Philippines Rights of Reply, Ban Chats Off-Camera On Kosovo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- While there was much talk about the UN during its General Debate on Saturday, September 25, there were strikingly few people actually *at* the UN.

Inner City Press went to cover Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's meeting with Burundi, where even UN experts say there is a risk of genocide. But Ban's meeting with the country's foreign minister lasted less than 20 minute. Afterward, Ban stood chatting with his chief of staff Edmond Mulet, waiting to repeat the process with the president of Guyana.

   Inner City Press stayed upstairs for the next few photo ops, held not in Ban's conference room on the 38th floor, where earlier in the week it first reported on Ban handing signed copies of his vanity press book “Highlights of the Tenure of Ban Ki-moon” to visiting dignitaries, but rather on the near-empty 27th floor.

  The previous day on 27, when Inner City Press live-streamed Yemen's president in exile Hadi has stumbled and turned the wrong way, only to be turned around by Ban - physically, not on his continued calling for airstrikes by the Saudi led Coalition - in the shadows were two lobbyists from Human Rights Watch, one of whom scurried away when seen by the press.

Does it make Ban feel better, having these token insiders around while he sells out the children of Yemen, or phones it in on Burundi?

  Saturday there was almost no one on the 27th floor. Even UNTV did not film the photo op with Kosovo -- “they're not a country,” it was said -- so Inner City Press went back upstairs to do it.

Ban asked Inner City Press, “Working on a Saturday?” Yes - no thanks to Ban Ki-moon and his head of “public information” Cristina Gallach who evicted Inner City Press and reduced its accreditation and access to retaliate for UN corruption coverage.

   In the less than half full GA Hall, Burundi's foreign minister was denying genocide; the day's session ended ended with rights of reply by Turkey (against Syria), Indonesia (on Papua) and two rounds between China and the Philippines -- things are heating up.

Inner City Press was told by sources there would be a Security Council meeting about Aleppo in Syria on Sunday. Inquiries with the spokespeople of the Council's president for September, New Zealand, did not yield an answer; later the UN itself announced an 11 am meeting in the Council Chamber. We'll be there. Watch this site.

As Ban Ki-moon's time at the UN winds down and he prepares coyly to run for President in South Korea, his packaging of his legacy has become a vanity amateur operation.

Take for example the hard cover book on his conference table when he met on September 18 with Donald Tusk, President, European Council and Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President, European Commission. Inner City Press subsequently went and saw it give to Poland, Chad and it seems clear (all) others.

It is called “Highlights of the tenure of Ban Ki-moon, 2007-2016.” Inner City Press asks: who wrote it? Who paid for it? Why was this done? What are the contents?

Team Ban has refused to show a copy to the Press, even though we've discovered it is listed in the UN Department of Public Information catalog as finished in August, for sale for $45. Click here for photo Inner City Press tweeted.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric and for three days, nothing. Then this:

"You asked me about the book the Secretary-General has been giving to visiting dignitaries. The genesis of this reflects the Secretary-General's efforts to ensure a smooth handover to his successor.  In addition to the usual issue briefs on the full a-to-z agenda, the Secretary-General felt that it would be beneficial for the Secretariat as a whole to assess in an open, broader, more thematic way the challenges that were faced, to explain the approaches that were taken to address them, and to catalogue the obstacles that were encountered along the way and how they were -- or were not -- overcome.  

This exercise was undertaken by small working groups across the Secretariat, funds and programmes. It was also an important exercise in teamwork across the Secretariat and a useful exercise for staff members at all levels who participated, providing the opportunity to pause and look back at what has been achieved in each of their areas of competency.

While the insights provided should help inform the next administration, it was also decided, in line with Secretary-General's general policy on transparency, that it may be of interest to a wider audience and as such, it was decided to issue it for publication. In this regard, there will be an initial print run for book of 500 paperback editions and 1,000 hardcovers. It will be sold in the Bookshop and through our other distribution channels and be published through DPI’s publication unit."

So it IS a vanity press publication. How much did it cost? Why has Ban's office been unwilling to show a copy, if it is such an "open" approach? What does it say about Yemen? Haiti cholera? Sri Lanka? The John Ashe / Ng Lap Seng case? Burundi? Ng Lap Seng and the promotion of Ban's son in law?

On September 22, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, transcript here:

Inner City Press: Earlier today, you sent me an answer about this… the book that the Secretary-General has been signing and giving to Heads of State.  What I wanted know… I mean, I'd asked you in writing how much it cost and to see a copy of the content, because it seems to be called Highlights of the Tenure of… I've seen the cover.  And then you've said that it's sort of an open review, including… does it have self-criticism or…?

Spokesman:  The book… you know, you will be able to see the book when it hits the UN Bookstore shortly.  I don't have a copy on my desk, unfortunately.  As I said, it's an open exercise reflecting on what went well, what went wrong during the last 10 years.  I think any time in this organization where we can take the time to stop, pause and look back is very useful.  It's something that we don't do often enough.  Obviously, the Secretary-General will give his successor direct personal advice.  There will be handovers of… kind of handover briefs of papers that will be internal.  But, I think an open and transparent look back on the tenure, as I said, with what went well and what went wrong will be… I think is useful to all, is useful to the next Secretary-General and his team, is useful to Member States.  As I said, the book should be available soon, and it will be… it's the same version that the Secretary-General is giving visiting heads of delegation as a gift.

ICP Question:  How many were printed?  You said that there will be 1,000… 500 paperback and 1,000 hard cover… have they already been printed?

Spokesman:  They're in the process of being printed and some advanced copies…

ICP Question:  Okay.  Just… people that have seen this answer have asked me this, so I wanted to ask you this.  Do you see a contradiction… if the people writing the book are, in fact, UN staff whose job is dependant on the UN, how open a review is it?  I mean…  Are there anonymous chapters?

Spokesman:  I think, before… I would encourage you to review the book once you've read the book.  And I would encourage everybody to do that.

On September 23, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: about the book, but I did want to just… I'd asked you how much it cost, and I don't know if there's an estimate of the cost of the book and what budget… at a minimum what budget… was it authorized by the GA?  Which department paid for it?

Spokesman:  The Department of Public Information publishes… regularly publishes books on all sorts of issues.  It's part of the regular publishing budget.

ICP Question:  Right, because you'd said… you made it appear that initially it was going to be just an internal document… maybe I misread your answer…?

Spokesman:  No, I didn't think… no, it will have a… it will be a book, like… I think you and I may disagree on what a definition of a book is, and it will meet that definition.

ICP Question:  Right, but it's already that.  Does it have an ISBN number…?

Spokesman:  I haven't looked on the back.  I have no doubt that it will have an ISB number.

ICP Question:  Do you have a copy?

Spokesman:  I do not have a copy.  You… you know, wait… wait to read the book before you review it.  And as soon as it's available in the bookstore, I'm sure you can expense it.

ICP Question:  Can it be changed?  What I'm saying, is it a final version?  The printed copies that are being given…?

Spokesman:  It's not going… no, it's final.

ICP Question:   And final thing, just on substance… I saw it.  It's called Highlights of the Tenure.  So, how is this consistent with the idea… the subtitle of the book is Highlights of the Tenure of Ban Ki-moon.  How is that consistent with an objective self-critical view that will help the next Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  You know, you could write 10,000 volumes of just every day exactly what happened.

Correspondent:  Highlights doesn't mean positive?

Spokesman:  If you're going to publish… highlights is the important things.  I mean, we can disagree on the definition of what "highlights" means. 

  So is Sri Lanka, for example, a "highlight" or a low-light for Ba Ki-moon? Watch this site.

  For the next meeting, with Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, another copy of the Ban vanity book was out, along with a pen to sign it.

By the last meeting of the day, after Inner City Press tweeted then first published this story, the copy of the book for UNASUR's Ernesto Samper Pizano was covered up with a file by Ban's staff. Is this on the level?

 In the hall was the office of Nardos Bekele-Thomas, moved out of the top job in Kenya so Ban's son in law could occupy it before Ban leaves. Legacy, indeed....

 The Friday before UN General Assembly week starts in earnest, reporters at the UN were told of some of the upcoming meetings and how, despite restrictions, to cover them.

Inner City Press asked the head of the UN's Department of Public Information Cristina Gallach why DPI says the non-resident correspondents, the vast majority of journalists covering the UN, will be placed in basement Conference Room 1 where no only food and beverages but even water is not allowed.

(In Ban's conference room there is water and, we've noted at his all-Korean meeting, tea.)

   Gallach's reply cited to “professionalism” and rules, both of which she invoked when she ousted and then evicted Inner City Press from the UN earlier this year.

Ironically, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric less that an hour later explained having violated the rules (about those without cameras not attending photo ops) so that South Korean print journalists could witness Ban's speech to politicians visiting from Seoul.

The UN's rules are selectively implied, in this case to censor.

  Last October 19, 2015 Inner City Press asked Gallach about her attendance at the South South Awards of Ng Lap Seng, the Macau-based businessman under house arrest for bribery at the UN.

  On September 16, Inner City Press asked Gallach about the since-released Office of Internal Oversight Services audit, which found that her DPI did not due diligence on events by Ng Lap Seng fundees.

  Gallach said that the outside event - the case in Federal court - is being followed. So Inner City Press asked for her response to testimony in the case that South South News, which unlike Inner City Press the rule-invoking Gallach left in its UN office despite or because of it not asking any questions at the UN, was named as a “conduit of bribery.” This, she did not answer.

   After the briefing, which included film maker Richard Curtis whom Inner City Press asked about the Next SG race, Gallach's staffer asked for further information about the water(less) issue.

  Inner City Press added the exclusion of non-resident correspondents from access to the UN's EZTV which shows more events than the UN webcast. See flier here of the Free UN Coalition for Access, also ejected and sign torn down under Gallach. What will change? We'll see. Watch this site.


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