Guinea Crisis Appears on Margins of Security Council
Debate, UN Takes Backseat on Darfur
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 20, updated Feb. 21
-- With more than 100 dead in the
turmoil in Guinea,
on Tuesday in a UN Security Council debate, Canada said that the situation there
should be put on the Council's agenda.
Afterwards, Inner City Press
asked Council president Peter Burian if he envisioned Guinea being discussed
before the end of the month. Amb. Burian said that that topic was broached at a
luncheon between Council members and Ban Ki-moon, and that now they would wait
to hear from Mr. Ban's envoy. Video
Another Council diplomat, this time from the Permanent Five, clarified that the
UN will be assessing the situation, along with the regional body ECOWAS.
Two African Ambassadors, however, took a
different stance. Amb. Nanna of Ghana told Inner City Press, "It is too early"
for Guinea to be discussed by the Security Council. South Africa's Ambassador
Dumisani Kumalo was more blunt. "It doesn't qualify" for treatment by the
Security Council, he said. When told that Canada had asked that Guinea be added
to the agenda, Amb. Kumalo sighed, "So much for our neighbors."
UN Takes Backseat on Darfur, Looks
The UN's apparently
Sisyphusian efforts to get its peacekeepers into Darfur leads it to stay
strangely silent. On Tuesday in Libya, the Darfur-based rebels of the National
Redemption Front met with the Sudanese government. At UN Headquarters in New
York, Inner City Press asked if UN envoy Jan Eliasson was attending, as at least
reported, and if the UN had any comment on the Libyan initiative.
- not Libya?
Subsequently the office of Ban Ki-moon's
spokesperson said that while Mr. Eliasson is not attending, the UN welcomes
anything that might help. But why then not mention this Darfur meeting in Libya
until asked about it? The same was raised about the UN's silence until asked
about attacks on UN vehicles in Kosovo. Two journalists on Tuesday asked the
spokesperson about calls on the UN to do something about an asteroid which has a
45,000 to 1 chance of striking the Earth in the mid 2030s. One wag noted, "Yeah,
the UN can't get peacekeepers into Darfur, but it can shoot down an asteroid in
the future." A listener said, "You are a UN-hater." But that's not true.
Tuesday evening at the Security Council
stakeout, Sudan's Ambassador took questions off-camera in Arabic. Asked by Inner
City Press if Jan Eliasson had attended the Libya meeting, the Ambassador
indicated that he thought Mr. Eliasson had attended... [ ]
Update of Wednesday, Feb. 21, Reuters again
that Mr. Eliasson will be at the Libya talks, click
view. AFP, however, got denials of attendance from both the UN and the AU.
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UN, Calls for Transparency and Short-Lists for Genocide Prevention Post, Russian
Sporting, Salad Days
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
February 14 -- The place of human rights in Ban Ki-moon's UN was questioned on
Wednesday. Acting on reports that the Kofi Annan-created Office of the Special
Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide might be downgraded or merged out of
existence, three non-governmental organization held a press conference at which
they urged transparency and that short-lists be released of any possible
successor to the current advisor, Juan E. Mendez. The NGOs, including Human
Rights Watch, the Institute for Global Policy and Amnesty International, urged
Ban Ki-moon to make public the report and recommendations of the Advisory
Committee to the S-G on the Prevention of Genocide.
Afterwards, Amnesty International's Yvonne Terlingen was asked if she had a copy
of the report. She at first indicated that she did have a copy, then declined to
provide a copy to requesting journalists, one of whom scoffed, "So the NGOs want
transparency for everyone but themselves."
subsequent UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman if
that report, and another one by Mr. Mendez about the Ivory Coast, could be
from Minute 14:53. Four hours later, the spokesperson's office responded:
question about NGOs urging the SG to consider making public the report and
recommendations of the advisory committee to the SG on prevention of genocide:
The SG has received the report and is considering its recommendations -- it is
not presently public."
report on the Ivory Coast, dated back to December 2005, nothing was said. The
spokesperson did say, however, that Mr. Mendez won't be reappointed, because he
has asked not to be. So will a short-list be released in this test case? We'll
Terlinger, 2d from left, 2006
wants transparency at the UN? Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for a
comment on the
controversial settlement of
the toxic waste dumping scandal between the Gbagbo government in Ivory Coast and
Trafigura, the European dumper which, as Inner City Press first
was part of the UN Oil for Food scandal. It is a settlement between a private
corporation and a member state, the spokesperson said, declining comment. Kofi
Annan speechified on the topic, but the new Administration apparently views it
as a "private" matter.
request made on Wednesday was for a list of all UN Goodwill Ambassadors and
"Dollar a Year" dignitaries. The latter requests dated back to the prior
Administration, and has yet to be filled. At a press conference with UNDP --
for that article -- tennis player Maria Sharapova was named a Goodwill
Ambassador. UNDP's Ad Melkert declined to provide a simple number on the volume
of UNDP's payments in North Korea in 2005, a year for which the books are
presumably closed. Afterwards, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was seen
exiting the protocol room containing Ms. Sharapova with a broad smile on his
face. In the hallway he told of his "sketchy" sporting career, including speed
skating. Inner City Press asked him for his favorite length. 1,500 meters was
the answer. There followed a story of breaking his leg in St. Tropez. Ms.
Sharapova left with an entourage including UNDP's Communications Office staff.
At the UN these days it is all spin, all the time. As one wag put it,
commenting on recent fix-ups of the staff cafeteria, the only thing that's
gotten more transparent at the UN is the salad bar, which is now under less
also marked the first snow of the season in New York. The UN closed down its
main walkway, shunting pedestrian entrants into the basement corridor by the
library. Dignitaries arriving by car, denied access to the tent by the General
Assembly, parked by the front door and entered along a thin and quivering path
like on suburban yards everywhere. Many senior officials left at 3 p.m.. One
long-time correspondent remembered back in anger at when, when the Rodney King
verdict was read out in Los Angeles, the UN closed down and sent everyone home
early. What was that again, about a human rights culture?
At the UN, Questions of Jobs Given Predetermined,
Nepotism Admitted in Schori's Parting Shot
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- Jobs were the focus at
UN Headquarters on Friday. At the two highest levels, there were comings and
going, a few unexpected. Lower down the food chain, a question arose about 12
particular jobs which Ban Ki-moon said were open for application -- called
"mobility" -- from anywhere within the UN system. More than five hundred have
applied for the 12 jobs, but a rumor in the hall is that the winner were already
selected, in some cases before the window to apply had even closed, on February
Chief of staff Vijay Nambiar
took questions on Friday at noon. Inner City Press asked him a senior official
not mentioned -- Jan Beagle of the Office of Human Resource Management -- and
about the status of the 12 "mobility" jobs. From the
Press: You already had a question I think that deals with ASG Jan Beagle, of
whom the Staff Council passed a vote of no confidence, and I think was
communicated -- she wasnít on the list of acceptances, nor on the list of that
you read out of approvals. So, one, if you could somehow say what your thinking
is on that, and two, on the mobility posts that were posted on I-seek back on
January 19th for people to apply. How many people applied, and weíve heard --
there seems to be a sense among staff that some of those posts were already sort
of given out -- whatís the status of the people seeking mobility at the staff
level of the people who applied for those positions from D2 down to --
Cabinet: I think there were in excess of 500 applicants, and I think they have
been short-listed, and we are in the process of selecting the people for the 12
positions in the Executive Office. And, I think this is unprecedented in many
ways, so we hope that -- the selection process is following the normal procedure
-- so I donít think, we hope to be able to come to a kind of a closure in terms
of appointments soon.
The other one
that you said -- I wouldnít want to deal with individual cases, but I would say
that there we have laid out certain policy guidelines, and weíve been following
them as scrupulously as can be done in these circumstances.
Since Mr. Nambiar mentioned "short-lists"
for the 12 jobs at issue, Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson
for a copy of the short-lists. The response was laughter: if we don't give lists
out for Under Secretaries-General, we sure don't for these positions.
One of the position is that of
speechwriter. It is entirely understandable that a Secretary-General would want
to choose his own speechwriter without the formalities of the UN's job
recruitment rules. But to pretend one is following those rules to pick a
speechwriter casts doubts on the claim of fairness for the other eleven
There is also the rumor of officials from
South Korea, still parked in neutral in DC-1 and DC-2, gunning for positions.
Most seem to feel that they will not land in this high-profile 12 jobs, but
rather elsewhere. We shall see.
Other questions arose about which of the
officials whose resignations were accepted will actually stay on at the UN. Mr.
Nambiar responded that Ban Ki-moon will certainly want to keep some experience.
But behind the question are the rules, that staff members can return to their
jobs after services as political appointees. Or, as is said of Carlos Lopes, can
seek jobs back in UNDP, playing the card of the former Administrator.
Among those whose resignations
were accepted were two of the putative bosses of scandal-plagued Guido Bertucci:
USG Jose Antonio Ocampo and ASG Patrizio Civili. Inner City Press interviewed
Mr. Ocampo in mid-December outside the South Korean mission -- click
that story -- and Mr. Ocampo said he saw no substance to the charges against
Bertucci. Now it is rumored that Bertucci might get Civili's post. Along with
Beagle staying, that would set a certain tone.
Mervat Tallawy, who fought
tooth and nail to keep her post, including in conversation and lobbying of Inner
City Press, lost it. Click
the story on Tallawy More damning information had come in, but now is rendered
moot, except as indication of how the UN works. But for that,
see Inner City Press' four part (so
about the UN Pension Fund. Next week we are told that the Pension Board's audit
committee will meet. The meeting should be public. Thirty-six billion dollars
should not be doled out in secret. We will be returning to that topic next week.
In a sparsely-attended press
conference on Friday, outgoing UN envoy to the Ivory Coast Pierre Schori went
off, denouncing the Gbagbo government and troublingly, some things more. Inner
City Press asked Schori to confirm that his predecessor, Albert Tevodedjre of
Benin, had shown nepotism in hiring, and tarnished the name of the UN and its
Schori did not disagree, noting that when he started he received no transitions
memo, and noticed "many strange people" working in the mission, who took a long
time to get rid of. We aim to have more on this.
After Schori's briefing, four Ivorian
mission representatives made their case to Inner City Press that the next UN
envoy should be more attuned to Ivorian-ness. But how will that be accomplished?
Through the votes on the Council of the U.S. and of China. It is a process we
will cover, after the weekend is over.
In an end-of-week burst of unexplained
secrecy, a meeting on Children and Armed Conflict held at 3 p.m. on Friday in
basement Conference Room 5 was deemed closed. The sign outside did not say so,
and Inner City Press entered the room. Immediately the order to leave was
issued, and the sign was changed. Inside, French Ambassador de la Sabliere was
bragging about the achievements at the recent Paris conference. Why close this
to the press? And so it goes at the UN.
At the UN, Haiti and Kosovo Predictions, Labor
Mobility and Offshore Banking
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, February 8 -- At the UN, even the
word "migration" has become controversial and is being worked around. Iran's
deputy Ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, responding Wednesday to Inner City Press'
question about migration for employment, said that the UN Commission on Social
Development, which Iran chairs, has decided to avoid the word "migration."
Instead they use the phrase, mobility for labor. But what's in a word?
Barbados Central Banker Marion
Williams said at the same event, in response to Inner City Press' questioning of
why in Barbados there are
six commercial banks,
and 57 offshore banks, gave a long explanation about the mobility of capital,
and the need to labor, and laborers, be more mobile. Migrate, do you mean? Video
Wednesday Inner City Press
asked the Office of the Spokesperson about
the UN's Deputy SRSG Ivo Petrov was told that the Abkhaz side would not attend
upcoming talks in Geneva. Minutes later, a spokesman responded that there will
be Abkhaz representation at the talks.
This hearkens back to a threat never
followed through on, by Russia to file complaints about the U.S. blocking the
visa request of a Georgia-designated official for Abkhazia during last Fall's
General Assembly, based on extraneous concerns. At the time, Russian Ambassador
Vitaly Churkin said he would be filing a complaint. But this appears to never
The Abkhazia issue also arose Thursday at
the UN, as Martti Ahtisaari briefed reporters on his draft status proposal for
Kosovo. Mr. Ahtisaari called Kosovo "sui generis" and distinct from Abkhazia,
South Ossentia, Transdniestria, and Nagorno-Karabakh where, he said, separatists
hardly need a Balkan precedent to do what they are going.
Inner City Press asked Mr.
Ahtisaari to explain a
his in The Guardian, that "Failure to act would lead to 'a weakening of the
security situation' and a possible withdrawal of Nato peacekeeping troops, he
said. 'If I was advising my government I would say to pull out.'" Mr. Ahtisaari
explained that in the course of a long interview, he was thinking not of a
possible veto -- if it comes, from Russia -- in the Spring of 2007, but of
longer-term delay. Video
Meanwhile it is predicted to Inner City Press by informed sources that the
current Russian thinking is to abstain, and not veto. We'll see.
Connecting this items is a simple economic analysis: as other countries have
entered the European Union, those still outside find their ability to travel --
their labor mobility, so to speak -- increasingly curtailed. This harms their
economic prospects in ways that the World Bank and IMF, which Mr. Ahtisaari
stresses, are unlikely to make up for.
At Thursday's noon briefing, beyond a colloquy
with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed
Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, on which we are still working, Inner City
Press asked questions about Haiti and WFP. From the transcript:
Inner City Press: Thereís a
quote hundreds of protestors in front of the UN DPKO in Haiti. So, Iím
wondering, I donít know, there have been reports of this and we havenít seen any
statement by MINUSTAH. One, is that the case, and two, if so, the report quotes
a protestor saying the UN is part of the cause of the violence. So, obviously,
are you aware of that, and can you comment on it?
Yes, we are aware of it, but we cannot comment on it at this point. There have
been demonstrations over and over again for quite a few weeks now. Itís nothing
new, and nothing particularly that the Mission is reacting to.
Press: You were here when Mr. Mulet said that everyone wants the UN in Haiti.
Obviously, itís not everyone, but what percentage is it? Does the UN see the
protest as representing an important part of Haitian public opinion or not?
Well, we have no way to assess that. The Mission has not informed us of
Press: Well, I was wondering if you are willing toÖ what do you think?
I have absolutely no personal opinionÖ my personal opinion will stay with me, if
you donít mind.
Press: I guess, just to follow it up. If they do say something, maybe you could
give me what they said here, or highlight it in some way, if MINUSTAH has some
response to these protests?
Definitely, Matthew, I will. As soon as we get an answer from them, weíll
Press: And, on the Secretary-Generalís schedule, Josette Sheeran is becoming
head of WFP. Is she still in the building? Is there some way to get an
opportunity, either at the stakeout or some other way, to ask her some
We tried to have her, but, unfortunately, her schedule did not allow her to
come, so thatís why. We did try this morning.
Inner City Press: When was she, has there been a change in her start date at WFP?
No, nothing has been changed. Still the same.
We'll see. It's been noted to
Inner City Press that Ann Veneman, as she was entering
did a stakeout interview. In the months since her controversial selection to
head WFP, Ms. Sheeran Shiner hasn't taken any question at all. What, as simply
one example, is her view on whether internal audits of WFP should be available
to member states, the Executive Board, the press and the public? We'll see --
WFP has of late been responding to questions with answers, watch this site.
Inner City Press' fourth story on the UN Pension Fund, whose CEO has refused to
act on an OIOS investigative report, triggered by the complaint of a
whistleblower who gave an exclusive interview on Thursday night, click
Other, earlier Inner
City Press are listed here, and
some are available in the ProQuest service.
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