Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

In UNICEF, Critique of Veneman Is Only Half Answered, Second Term Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 27 -- As Ann Veneman's term as UNICEF Executive Director comes to a close, whether she should get a second term is a rising topic of discussion, particularly within the agency.

   The publication The Lancet, acknowledging that it "has good reason to thank Ann Veneman," nevertheless recommended that "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should announce that the next Executive Director of UNICEF will be selected through a transparent, merit-based appointment process. Candidates... should have to declare themselves, publish manifestos, and be available for public scrutiny and questioning."

  Since the UN increasing refuses to name short lists for its top posts, or as in the case of the contested Associate Administrator position at the UN Development Program, even who makes the decision, Inner City Press has decided to do what it can in terms of making these processes transparent to the public.

 Whistleblowers inside UNICEF forwarded Inner City Press a detailed critique of Veneman's tenure. In fairness, Inner City Press asked, with partial success, UNICEF's chief of media for the Executive

"Director's responses to each of the following critiques from long time UNICEF staff / whistleblowers, so that the responses can be included in the article along with the critiques. Please provide Ms. Veneman's responses asap the statements by UNICEF staff that 'more serious charges can be leveled against Ms. Veneman on:

- her continuing to use Bush administration "Secretary of Agriculture" stationery even after becoming head of UNICEF;

- but her total failure to do any effective policy-based lobbying or even fund-raising with the U.S. Congess and U.S. administration;

- her frequent, unannounced, mysterious trips to Washington, DC and failure and unwillingness to visit even nearby Canada, a major donor;

- her reluctance to cultivate other key donors, e.g. Japan;

- but her strange willingness to go out of her way to cultivate San Marino and Gucci

- her failure to turn up and provide leadership during major humanitarian emergencies - e.g. in Lebanon during the huge Israeli attack and massive damage and destruction, in Myanmar / Burma during Cyclone Nargis, in China during the massive earthquake, etc.

- her early reluctance to travel to " hot and humid countries";

- the totally useless, unnecessary, expensive and counter-productive organizational review and attempt to reorganize UNICEF that had to be largely abandoned later;

- her lack of humility, and pretense of seemingly knowing many things, dismissing the views of many truly knowledgeable and competent staff;

- her lack of engagement and leadership with UNICEF national committees in industrialized countries who are among UNICEF's greatest assets;

- her neglect of major developing and emerging economy countries like the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China);

- her total lack of engagement and imagination in dealing effectively with middle income countries, e.g. in cee/cis

- her glaring lack of support for the convention on the rights of the child or for rights-based approach to development as such in the early years of her tenure;

- her opportunistic jumping into certain aspects of u.n. "reform" agenda completely ignoring the considered views and advice of most of her seasoned senior staff;

- her failure to connect with field offices and staff to the point that even after 4 years, many UNICEF staff in the field do not feel they know who their leader is and what she really wants or stands for.

   UNICEF's chief of media Chris de Bono answered some but not all of the questions. We have decided to run his response in full, as well as the initial questions, to highlight which questions were ignored.

UN's Ban and Ann Veneman, second term not shown

  UNICEF's de Bono wrote:

Subj: Response
From: [Chris de Bono at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 11/24/2009 6:27:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Matthew, The statements are unsourced opinion and contain a number of factual errors. Here is my response:

On leadership in humanitarian crisis and travel to difficult regions:

UNICEF stands by its excellent record of providing leadership during humanitarian crises, including through visits by members of the senior management team. The Executive Director herself travelled to Sri Lanka almost soon after taking up her position to see first-hand the Tsunami humanitarian relief operation. She was the first UN agency head into the Philippines after the recent floods. In October 2005, she went to Pakistan soon after the earthquake. Earlier this year, she was in Gaza and in Zimbabwe following the cholera outbreak. She has also travelled to the DRC twice, Darfur and Northern Uganda.

Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Executive Director regularly speaks out on violations of children’s rights. The work of UNICEF is anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As you know, last week, UNICEF convened a major commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the CRC with partner NGOs ( UNICEF produced a special edition of its flagship State of the World’s Children report focused on the CRC – looking at achievements and challenges of the child-rights agenda (

On staff relations: Staff meetings and teleconferences with senior staff in the field are held on a weekly basis. Staff surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009 revealed that 93% say they are proud to work for UNICEF. Eighty-four per cent said they are clear about the goals that UNICEF is seeking to achieve. The Executive Director always meets with UNICEF staff when she travels to programme countries, and wherever possible also meets with the UN Country team.

On the organizational review: It is the responsibility of every organization to regularly reexamine its activities and to seek continuous improvement. UNICEF’s organizational review was initiated after meetings of senior management concluded that such a process would help UNICEF adapt to the changing world in which it operates. As a result, management changes are being implemented to more efficiently deliver on our mission and mandate.

On UN coherence: UNICEF has a longstanding commitment to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the UN system, as it is critical to enhancing results for the most vulnerable.

On visits to donor countries: Meetings with donors are a constant part of the activities of the UNICEF Executive Director and senior management. She recently returned from her fourth trip to Japan, during which she was the first UN head of agency to meet with the incoming Japanese government. She regularly meets with donor governments in capitals, at UN headquarters and at conferences. This includes Washington where the Executive Director meets with Government officials, the World Bank and other key partners.

Relations with National Committees: The Executive Director attends the global meeting of annual National Committees every year. She has also personally visited National Committees in 18 countries. National Committees are very important to UNICEF and their chiefs play a key role in UNICEF’s global leadership team meetings.

Emerging economies and Middle Income Countries: Strengthening engagement with middle income countries is an ongoing focus at all levels of the organization and with UNICEF’s Executive Board. The Executive Director has been to all the BRIC countries; Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as a number of other middle income countries.

   While we have run the response in full, several of the questions remain unanswered. Ms. Veneman, after months without appearing in UN briefing room 226 to take questions, is scheduled to appear on November 30. At press time, UN Secretariat sources say she will not appear, since Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, is no longer coming, they say. Watch this site.

* * *

UNICEF Has "No Position" on China's One Child Policy, Lucy Liu Calls It Tradition, of Stealth MOUs and Re-election Worries

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 -- What is UNICEF's position on China's One Child Policy? It doesn't have one.

  In the run up to a UN children's agency event featuring Lucy Liu commemorating the Convention on the Rights of the Child's twentieth anniversary, Inner City Press asked UNICEF to "please state UNICEF's / Ms. Veneman's position on China's one child policy."

  Inner City Press also requested a copy of UNICEF's memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government's state media organization Xinhua, which has recently been publicizing the UN's "child protection" work.

  On the eve of the event, UNICEF refused to provide a copy of the MOU with Xinhua -- it pointed instead to a press release -- and responded to Inner City Press in writing that:

"UNICEF does not work in China on either population or family planning issues.This relationship is managed by another UN agency, UNFPA, which works with China's National Population and Family Planning Commission. UNICEF works only in maternal and child health with the Ministry of Health. We are not involved in the Government's Family Planning and Population policies or programmes and as such, we have no official position on the issue."

  Given UNICEF's rhetoric about its uncompromising protection of children, to hide behind UNFPA or say it takes no position on policies until it work with them seemed puzzling. Inner City Press went to UNICEF's headquarters on November 19, hoping to ask Executive Director Ann Veneman directly for her position.

  Ms. Veneman was appointed by then-President George W. Bush, and many have speculated that the Obama administration may have someone else in mind for the post. If this is indeed the dynamic, how would Ms. Veneman's silence on this issue of human rights in China play?

UNICEF's Ann Veneman, at left, Gucci but no policy. UNICEF has many good staff, but glitz and politics are beneath it

  At the press conference, at which Inner City Press despite raised hand was not called on to ask a question, Ms. Veneman and Lucy Liu were asked indirectly about the policy. An intrepid reporter from Xinhua asked about the disparity between male and female children in rural China, which is how UNICEF's relatd "State of the World's Children" report, at page 22, couched the issue.

  Ms. Veneman replied that "it is not only China" but that "we need to speak out." But why then does UNICEF not have a position -- that is, why does UNICEF not speak out?

  Lucy Liu, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, said that it is important for UNICEF to respect countries' "traditions." Whether the current Chinese government's one child policy can be construed as a tradition is unclear. Ms. Liu also said that China's greater number of males may lead to sexual violence and rape, equating a "room full of men" with "endorphins." Ms. Veneman laughed, seeming uncomfortable.

  The U.S. Congress recently heard testimony about China's One Child Policy. Ms. Veneman is known to micro-manage UNICEF's public communications on such topics, for example by insisting to see and personally approve any press release about countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. In further micro management, UNICEF sources tell Inner City Press that when interviewed by her stealth partner Xinhua, Ms. Veneman gave stage direction such as to only film her from the "third button up." Xinhua, despite having at the UN several energetic or respected journalists, apparently complied.

  Whether such careful management, of camera shots and policy positions, leads to a second term for Ms. Veneman at UNICEF is not yet known. Watch this site.

* * *

As Blair Lobbies for Wataniya, Do Kuwait and JPM Chase's Arranger Role Spell UN Conflict of Interest?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- When Tony Blair does business, who does he work for? He represents the Quartet, and thus the UN, on development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He has been paid by JPMorgan Chase as a consultant, and presumably works for them. When he acts in the West Bank for the Wataniya cell phone company, who is he working for?

  The UN has repeatedly claimed that there would and could be no conflict of interest between Blair's paid position for JPMorgan Chase and his work in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. When Inner City Press asked Blair, after a meeting of the Quarter in the Conference Room 4 in UN Headquarters, about any safeguards in place for his UN and JPMorgan Chase roles, he scoffed. A Blair staffer confirmed that he continued in JPM Chase's employ.

  This week, Tony Blair attended a press conference announcing the finalization of Wataniya's deal, which Blair "negotiated." At the UN noon briefing on November 11, Inner City Press asked about this last:

Inner City Press: yesterday, Tony Blair was in Ramallah, and he’s described as having negotiated on behalf of a cell phone company with the Israeli Government. There’s a whole press conference also that noted his role for the Quartet and for the UN. So I’m wondering, did he do this on behalf of the Quartet and the UN and what is the UN’s knowledge, do they have any knowledge on this business negotiating activity?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I have no knowledge of that.

  Even forty six hours later, no answer has been provided. But even cursory research reveals that Blair's employer JPMorgan Chase served as a "mandated lead arranger" for the acquisition of Wataniya. Click here for the document.

  So again, what safeguards are in place? Who is Tony Blair working for?

  Tony Blair Associates has as a client Kuwait, and by implication its royal family, while Blair has met with the finance minister of Kuwait while representing JPMorgan Chase. Wataniya Palestine is substantially (57%) owned by investors from Qatar and... Kuwait. For the former, it's Qatar Telecom. But for the later, it's the Kuwait Investment Authority, which operates on behalf of the State of Kuwait -- Tony Blair Associates' client.  So when Blair lobbies for Wataniya, who is he representing?

Tony Blair and UN's Ban, JPM Chase safeguards not shown

  While awaiting the UN's answers, we note that in June 2009, "Wataniya Palestine CEO Alan Richardson recently called on Middle East envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair to intervene on behalf of Wataniya to get the frequency released. Richardson previously has been involved in controversial cell phone projects in Iraq, with Orascom and Iraqna, contracts which the U.S. Pentagon urged the Coalition Provisional Authority to cancel.

  So to the degree Tony Blair is working for Richardson, this too is problematic. But beyond the UN and Quarter, is Blair working for Kuwait? With JPMorgan Chase's documented mandate lead arranger role for the acquisition of Wataniya, there is a conflict which, it would seem, will require action. Blair is dismissive, and the UN appears cowed. Watch this site.

* * *

Were Galbraith's Oil Interests As Undisclosed at UN as at Opinion Pages He Wrote For?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12, updated Nov. 13 -- Following reports that former UN Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith's oil investments are worth up to $100 million, Inner City Press on November 12 asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if Galbraith disclosed this interest in his financial disclosure form.

  Ms. Okabe stated that such forms are filled out when a person joins the UN at the level Mr. Galbraith did, and are "vetted by a professional firm," namely PriceWaterhouseCoopers. But did Galbraith make the disclosure which it's now clear was required?

   Ms. Okabe refused to answer, instead referring the question to UN Ethics Officer Robert Benson, who oversees the financial disclosure regime. Inner City Press asked Mr. Benson by both e-mail and telephone, early and late on the afternoon of November 12, but received no answer by the evening.

 Update: on November 13, UN Ethics Officer Robert Benson wrote to Inner City Press that "The Ethics Office can confirm that although Mr. Galbraith is no longer with the United Nations, he was a participant in the United Nations Financial Disclosure program following his appointment; however, as provided for in GA Resolution A/RES/60/238, the information disclosed remains confidential."

   Inner City Press is informed that Galbraith is now being barred from the op-ed pages of major American media based on his failure to accurate disclose his financial interests. The New York Times confirmed this on November 13. Galbraith is arguing that he didn't read the form, a strange argument for a diplomat who argued that the U.S. didn't have to comply with UN Security Council resolutions regarding the Balkans as long as they were under Chapter VI and not VII of the UN Charter.

   Earlier, just after Galbraith was fired by Ban Ki-moon, Ban's deputy chief of peacekeeping Edmond Mulet told the Press that Galbraith had some ulterior motive which would soon become clear. On November 12, Inner City Press asked an involved UN official if Mulet had meant the oil investments, or that he might want to run for lieutenant government of Vermont. "The latter," the official said. Only at the UN.

Galbraith and Scott Ritter, disclosure of $100 million oil investment not shown

   From the November 12 transcript:

Inner City Press: ...about Peter Galbraith, former Deputy UNAMA representative and his interest in oil contracts in northern Iraq. I wanted to know when he became a Deputy Special Representative, did he fill out the financial disclosure forms, and I’d also like to know whether this investment was disclosed in those forms.

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: As you know, the financial disclosure forms are something that the Secretary-General has instituted, it’s part of his UN reform, and all staff, once they’ve joined the Organization as senior staff and those in positions that require financial disclosure, are required to fill that form out upon entry into the Organization. So it’s a requirement.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] It seems, this article would make it important to know whether this, they say the investment is worth up to $100 million, whether that was disclosed in the form and if it wasn’t, what were the reasons…?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: As you know, these forms are vetted by a professional firm and if they see fit that they need to follow up on any questions that they have, that is done. I think Robert Benson, when he was here last time, gave you a briefing on how that procedure works. And just because they are not made public, it does not mean that they have not been vetted, and the firm that goes through it does the vetting and if they have any questions, they do get back to the staff member and do the follow-up on that.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] is it possible to just, and I don’t expect you to do it right this moment, but to get a yes or no answer, whether that investment was disclosed in the forms. Is that going to be possible?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: You know, you can ask that to Robert Benson, but that’s his call.

  But Benson has yet to return a call, nor an e-mail asking the above and the following questions, below.

Update of November 13, 2009 -- the following was received:

Subj: Re: Press questions,Galbraith, whisteblowers etc, thanks in advance
From: Robert Benson [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 11/13/2009 9:23:56 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

Dear Mr Lee:

Responses provided:

Hi. At today's noon press briefing, I asked if Peter Galbraith (until recently Deputy SRSG in Afghanistan) had filled out a UN financial disclosure form, and separately if he had disclosed the oil interests in Iraq reported in today's NY Times.

Marie Okabe referred me to you on both questions.

A1 -- "The Ethics Office can confirm that although Mr. Galbraith is no longer with the United Nations, he was a participant in the United Nations Financial Disclosure program following his appointment; however, as provided for in GA Resolution A/RES/60/238, the information disclosed remains confidential."

Q2 -- I have also been told that in a recent UN Dispute Tribunal hearing, about the UNDP - North Korea whistleblower case, that OLA said they would not "allow" you to testify in the case. Are you aware of this? What do you think of UNDP's failure to follow your recommendation?

A2 -- "Since this is a matter that is before the UN Dispute Tribunal, I prefer not to make any comment regarding the matter."

Q3 - How many whistleblowers deserving protection have you certified / found in the past two years? Based on how many applications / approaches?

A3 - "The detailed information regarding the number of requests for protection against retaliation received by the Ethics Office and their disposition can be found in the Office’s Annual Reports for the previous two (2) years; that is, paragraphs 59-66 of A/64/316 and paragraphs 47-53 of A/63/301."

Q4 - Finally, does your Office cover local staff of UN Peacekeeping Missions? There is a recent case of a former MONUC local staffer, alleging MONUC involvement in / knowledge of diversion of jet fuel among other things, who has told me he feels retaliated against. Would your Office have jurisdiction?

A4 - "Yes, our Office would cover a request for protection against retaliation by local staff member from a UN Peacekeeping Mission. May I suggest that you have the individual contact our Office, in that way we would be able to advise the him/her directly."

Q5 - How long more do you remain in Office?

A5- "My three (3) year appointment as the Director of the Ethics Office will end on 30 April 2010, following which I will retire. During my tenure as the United Nations first Director of Ethics, I have indicated on numerous occasions that I considered it important, particularly in relation to the independence of the Office, that I serve for a fixed term and that I leave at the conclusion of that term. The Secretary-General has been informed and has accepted my plans to retire."

  While the answers, even the next day, are appreciated, one wonders in light of Q&A 2, above, who would want this job after the retirement announced in A5 takes place. Watch this site.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -