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As Global Compact Lets in Private Military Contractor, UN Quiet on Mercenaries

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 15, updated twice -- Even after the UN's own Joint Inspection Unit criticized the UN Global Compact as presenting “reputational risk” to the Organization, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon through his spokesman Martin Nesirky had no response much less a plan for reform.

  Rather, Nesirky directed Inner City Press on Tuesday to an answer that Compact boss Georg Kell had already given.

  Inner City Press asked if Ban Ki-moon has any problem with his Global Compact allowing a private military company -- read, mercenary firm -- to join, despite being protested for involvement in Israeli run prisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Danish-British private military contractor G4S announced

G4S has signed up to the United Nations Global Compact, an international standard which promotes socially responsible business behavior in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.”

  But “[a]ccording to a brochure from the company...G4S Technology has supplied security technology to seven Israeli prisons and two remand prisons located in Israel and on the occupied West Bank.”

  Nesirky's response was to say that Ban has confidence in Kell.

In the same Tuesday noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for the second time if Ban thinks that Bahrain's use of security personnel from Pakistan and Yemen is an example of mercenaries. If I have anything on that, Nesirky said for the second time, I will tell you.

Kell, Nambiar & Ban, answer on G4S in UNGC not shown

  So what is Ban Ki-moon's position on mercenaries? It appears to some to involve double standards: he and his top officials have alleged and criticized the use of mercenaries by Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire and to a lesser extend Gadhafi in Libya, but won't answer questions about presumptive mercenary use by Bahrain's royal family.

Meanwhile the Global Compact, which put a convicted business fraudster from South Korea on its board, now allowed mercenary firms to join it and drape themselves in the UN flag, as the JIU has warned. And so it goes in Ban's UN.

Update: after the noon briefing, the following was sent to Inner City Press, to which follow up questions were asked:

Dear Matthew, The OSSG informed me that you had a few questions regarding the JIU report...

Here is a statement on the JIU report, attributable to Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact:

1. On two occasions (July and August 2010), the Global Compact Office provided comprehensive feedback, including corrections, to draft versions of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report. Regrettably, the authors ignored nearly all of this information, resulting in a document riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

2. Moreover, the authors failed to take into account any developments of 2010, especially the deliverables and outcomes of the Global Compact Leaders Summit, which is held every three years and which represents the most important forum to give strategic direction to the initiative.

3. As a consequence, the report is based on incorrect or outdated information that does not reflect the Global Compact’s strategic and operational status quo. Stating that consideration of the Leaders Summit’s results "fell outside the scope and timeframe of this review" is as much an admission of the report’s shortcomings as it is an acknowledgement of the JIU’s fundamentally flawed methodology in this case.

4. The report’s conclusions, especially those concerning the Global Compact’s mandate, reveal a lack of understanding of the type of public-private partnership that the initiative has come to represent and that has been repeatedly recognized by the UN General Assembly, the G8 and the African Union, among others. Likewise, much of the report’s tone suggests that its authors also lack any appreciation for the critical role business can play in advancing development, peace and good governance.

5. In sum, we feel strongly that this report raises serious questions about the JIU’s professional standards

  Inner City Press immediately responded:

At the noon briefing I asked about the Global Compact accepting private military contractor G4S into the Compact,

despite protests about its involvement in, for example, prisons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is what I am requesting a Secretariat response on, for example this:

Please advise, thank in advance.

  The Global Compact said it would provide a response later, and subsequently this arrived:

Subject: Press Q at noon re Global Compact accepting private military contractor G4S into the Compact
From: Matthias Stausberg [at]
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Cc: Kristen Coco [at], Farhan Haq [at], Martin Nesirky [at], Ursula Wynhoven [at]

Hi Matthew, here are some answers for you:

Since you use the term "mercenary", can you please clarify (and provide sources) which current G4S activities you believe would qualify under commonly accepted definitions of the term mercenary (e.g., as in the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries)?

2. The provision of private security services is not an illegal activity. We therefore saw no reason to deny G4S participation in the UN Global Compact.

3. Regarding the specific provision of security technology to various clients in Israel and the Occupied Territories, please note the recent announcement by G4S that it will cease providing certain services and technologies through its Israeli subsidiary. (

4. Please note also that G4S is a signatory to the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (ICoC), which was launched in November 2010 as a voluntary initiative to improve industry standards and ensuring respect for human rights and humanitarian law by private security service providers. While the ICoC is not intended to replace national regulation and state control, it marks a critical effort to clarify the role of non-state actors in this arena.

  Note: even regarding the announcement of getting out of the West Bank, note that G4S' predecessor Group 4 Falck made a similar claim in 2002 which was subsequently disproved. But the question raised is not limited to G4S but to whether the standard applied by and to the UN Global Compact be whether an activity is “legal”? Manufacturing weapons is legal, as is the production of pornography. Would the UN Global Compact allow pornographers and weapons merchants to join? Apparently yes.

* * *

UN Silence on Mercenaries Not Only in Libya but Bahrain, Pakistani Police

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 22 -- The UN made much about the reported use of mercenaries by Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire. But when Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday about reports that Gadhafi is recruiting mercenaries in Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana, Martin Nesirky said he was not aware of the UN looking into this.

   In Bahrain, the Sunni ruling family used police from Pakistan, Yeman and Sunni Muslim from India to crackdown on largely Shiite protesters. The Executive Office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is aware of this, but has yet to say anything.

  These too can be viewed as mercenaries, even if the Bahrain ruling family offers some of them citizenship in order to keep up Sunni numbers against the Shiite majority. But the UN has said nothing.

UN's Ban & Bahrain PM, action on mercenaries not shown

On February 20 Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky

Given that the Presidency of the General Assembly was held just three years ago by a family member of the dynasty which has ruled Bahrain for 300 years, has the Secretary-General sought to use his special relationship with former PGA Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa (who served during Ban’s first year as SG) to persuade the her ruling regime not to gun down any more protestors, as Bahraini Defense Forces did on Thursday? Does the Secretary-General think he has any influence at all over the ruling House of Khalifa, and might the former PGA be of assistance to the UN in this regard?”

More than two days later, no answer from the UN. Watch this site.

* * *

As Libya Kills Protesters, Gadhafi Daughter is UN Ambassador, UNDP Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 -- As in Libya the forces, including mercenaries, of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi shoot and kill peaceful protesters, the UN has been nearly entirely silent.

  On the morning of February 20, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

In the wake of the gunning down of 46 democracy protesters in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, by security forces under the command of Colonel Gadafi, is the UN reassessing its relationship with Col Gadhafi’s daughter, Aicha, who the UN has designated a “Goodwill Ambassador?

Has the Secretary-General sought to use the UN’s special relationship with its Goodwill Ambassador Dr Aicha Gadhafi to persuade her father not to use such excessive force against peaceful demonstrators?

  Nine hours later, no response at all from the UN. Inner City Press also asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky “in this context, the Secretary-General's planned trip to California to meet and greet 'the entertainment industry,' how much is this trip costing, and is it funded by the Regular Budget of the UN -- and if not, what is the funding source?” Again, no answer.

On February 17, Inner City Press had asked Nesirky

Inner City Press: Is there any thought of using the existing UN programs on the ground, whether it is UNDP or otherwise? There was some criticism of this training of police in Egypt prior to the — there was criticism by NGOs that it didn’t bring in human rights activists but rather Government people. Is there some thinking of how — the UNDP website about Libya hasn’t been updated now in several months, I guess — it seems to some, due to the turmoil. What about these UN…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Who might that be? Who is it, these people who think it might be?

Inner City Press: People that look at it and have seen that it was updated all the way, until suddenly there was turmoil in the country and then it is not updated any more.

UN's Ban and Gadhafi, Goodwill Ambassador daughter not shown

Inner City Press: What’s the role, according to the Secretary-General, of the existing UN programmes in countries like Libya and Yemen, where Helen Clark visited and didn’t say anything about democracy?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, there are lots of, as you know, across the region, there is a UN presence in different constellations; country teams with different components, whether it is UNDP or other UN agencies, funds and programmes. Of course, given that they are already on the ground, given that they have been working there in different capacities on different projects, they are well placed to be further involved. But this is part of a bigger picture, and it is being very carefully coordinated.

Inner City Press: Is there any change of policy? I guess I am saying, given that the announcement today that the UN is sort of taking cognizance of all this, is there, is that…?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, Matthew, it’s hardly an announcement today. This is something that has been said consistently for a number of weeks now. And indeed, further back, as you know, the Human Development Reports on the Arab world have been saying this for the best part of a decade. So, okay, thank you very much.

But what had the UN been doing about Libya? 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.

* * *

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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