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At UN, Man Bites Man as Contracts Cut, Snafus of Relocation, Flushing Out the Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 24, updated July 27 -- A UN security officer was bitten earlier this month, not by a dog but by a just-terminated staff member. Special Operations officer Peter Kolonias, responding to a disturbance in the UN's building on the west side of First Avenue and 44th Street, was confronted by an individual distraught by his contract's termination.*

  The UN sources who told Inner City Press about the biting, which has not been reported by the UN at its noon briefing nor in any other media, said that further adverse reactions by staff are to be expected, with the UN having eliminated the so-called permanent contract as of July 1, and now moving remaining staff members out of its headquarters to locations as far west as Madison Avenue and as far east as Long Island City.

   In the course of Inner City Press' reporting on July 24 to confirm the man bites man story, a range of staff members complained about their moves, in connection with the UN's Capital Master Plan renovation. Members of the Office of Human Resources Management, after being told there would be no more changes to the relocation plan, were recent told they will move across the East River into Queens.

   Longtime Conference Management staffers have been told they will relocate to "above the liquor store" on Second Avenue. "Whiskey for breakfast," one staffer said, questioning moving his unit four blocks away from the meeting rooms they service.

UN Security with dogs, human bites not shown

   The UN's Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane told the Press earlier this week that the temporary General Assembly building rising on the UN's North Lawn will not have a bar, as the current building does in its second floor Delegates' Lounge. Ms. Kane spoke rosily of the contract changes that resulted in the elimination of permanent contracts -- and, the Staff Union says, in the death of the independent international civil service -- and of progress with the Capital Master Plan.

   CMP chief Michael Adlerstein, who along with Ms. Kane changed previous plans for enclosed media work space to an "open office" system in which whistleblowers could not approach the Press, is said to be angered concerned about a Dear Colleague letter circulated in the U.S. House of Representatives about this aspect of the CMP, and a Kane-led meeting to target the Press. But this reporting on events at the UN will continue -- particularly when man bites man. Watch this site.

Update of July 27 -- Three days after Inner City Press published the above, UN Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq confirmed the a biting incident took place in the DC-1 building, and stated that the biter was, according to the UN Development Program, a job seeker, and argued that the underlying recruitment process was transparent. Haq referred all other questions - including whether the individual was maced and taken to the local police precinct - to UNDP. Inner City Press has asked UNDP, which has declined in the past to answer basic questions, and any update will appear on this site.

Update of July 27, 6:35 p.m. -- Inner City Press asked UNDP in writing:

Please provide all available UNDP information on the biting incident I asked about at noon: Farhan says UNDP tells him the biter was a job SEEKER, and that the recruitment was transparent. Please name the underlying job, the job seeker, and what happened.

Six hours later, UNDP's Christina LoNigro replied:

There was an unfortunate and isolated incident involving an employee of UNDP on 23rd June 2009. UN Security and the New York Police Department responded, and it is now being handled by the authorities of the host government.

  But what of the biter's name, the specifics of the post and recruitment, and what happened at and after the 17th police precinct? Watch this site.

* * *

UN Moves Staff Out and In, Ripert and Henn to Leave, On Adada and Verbecke No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15, updated July 16 -- At the UN these days, everything must go. Hundreds of staff were moved out of Headquarters to the top floors of a rented building on 46th Street. But with only two elevators, the staff now waste time waiting to get up to their offices, where they say the furniture is cheap, the desks too high, not ergonomic.

  Meanwhile Department of Political Affairs staff are leaving rented space in Uganda House -- and returning to just vacated space on the 14th floor of Headquarters. It is an expensive game of musical chairs.

  This coming weekend, "the Chinese" in the Department of General Services and Conference Management are slated to move out. There is grumbling that the small refrigerators that some staff members used -- particularly in these text preparation units with their minimum numbers of words that must be typed -- will not be used by the UN to the new work space. Some have suggested that a small business spring up to offer just this service.

   And some people will be left out. From the Security Council, French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert is being pushed out by Sarkozy's political advisor, in favor of Gerard Araud.

   From UN Security, Bruno Henn is said to be losing out on the Capital Master Plan job, and now looking for employment outside of the UN. His right hand man Albert Lyttle, exposed some say by Inner City Press in the DSS pre-decided promotion scandal, is said to be under investigation.

At Council on Georgia, speech by Ripert, one of many leaving the UN

    From the Media Liaison Unit, Gary Fowlie has finally confirmed that he is leaving, over to the ITU, where he used to work, for a promotion. Whether the UN press corps will be given any input into the identity or at least qualifications of the person who will replace him is not yet known.

  CMP chief Michael Adlerstein wrote last week to the UN press corps that there will be no walls or doors for any print reporter in the swing space he's preparing. The UN as a no whistleblower zone, some are calling it. Ironically, broadcasters will get private, soundproofed offices. But investigative reporters need to talk on the phone, meet whistleblowers, even tape online debates about the UN.

   There are other envoys on the way out. On July 14 Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe about reports that UN - AU envoy to Darfur Rodolphe Adada's job is being shopped, to a range of other African UN envoys. Okabe declined to comment.

   On July 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's chief Spokesperson Michele Montas -- herself said to be leaving in or before November -- if the UN would replace Johan Verbecke as envoy to the talks on Georgia if, as Inner City Press is told, Verbecke returns to the Belgian foreign service, specifically as Ambassador to the UK. Montas said it was too early to say. But at the UN, it's getting late. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Voiceless Chissano Ends "Useless" Outreach to LRA, Looks to Madagascar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- Despite former UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland and others calling for the UN to remain involved in trying to mediate between Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, on Wednesday the UN's envoy to the LRA affected areas Joaquim Chissano gave a final briefing under the mandate to the Security Council, and "stepped down" from his post.

   After the closed down Council session, Inner City Press and BBC Afrique asked Mr. Chissano to explain his reasoning. I am voiceless, Chissano said, pointing at his throat. A UN official with him, Africa I Deputy Director Margaret Vogt, told the Press "we can deal with that later."

   When the Council's President for July, Uganda's Ambassador Ruhakana Ruganda, came to read out an oral press statement by the Council, he was asked how Chissano briefed the Council if his voice was so weak. He was clear, Ruganda replied. Inner City Press asked Ruganda to respond to what another Council Ambassador told the Press earlier, that ending Chissano's mission sent the message that the military solution to the LRA is viewed as the only solution. Video here, from Minute 1:40.

  No, Ruganda said, the military action of DRC and Uganda takes place alongside efforts to make Kony sign a peace agreement, "to remind" him of the need to sign. Inner City Press asked if it is true that Kony demands that the ICC and its chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo come and explain what will happen on the ICC's warrant against him, before he considers signing.

  Ruganda said that Kony would gave accountability mechanisms in Uganda. Inner City Press asked, Not the Hague? Ruganda repeated, in Uganda.

  At Wednesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas if Chissano's UN office in Kampala will close. Yes, Ms. Montas said, adding that Chissano had felt ill and couldn't speak at the stakeout. What about Egeland's critique -- does Chissano still have a role? Video here, from Minute 14:12.

Not at this point, Mr. Montas said. Who in the UN if anyone is reaching out to Kony, Inner City Press asked. Why end the effort at this time?

    Ms. Montas said the UN "stopped what had become useless." If so, it would be a first.

UN's Ban and Joaquim Chissano: not men of words, LRA solution not shown

   The DRC's Ambassador to the UN told Inner City Press last week that at least Chissano stopped, closed the office and save the UN money, "unlike Obasanjo," he said, referring to the other Great Lakes mandate for the UN of the former Nigerian president....

Footnote: one would have liked to ask Chissano about any relation between his stepping down on the LRA and accepting another mediation job, for SADC, regarding Madagascar, trying to convince persuade what on Honduras is called "coup leader" Rajoelina and his Prime Minister Albert Zafy to meet with deposed President Ravalomanana and with his predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka. It is worth comparing the UN's stance on Madagascar's coup with that it has adopted on Honduras. Watch this site.

At UN, Uganda Promotes Its Action on LRA, Affably Dodges on Kenya and Abkhazia

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- Uganda still has "scouts and intelligence people" working with the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, six months after their ill-fated joint action against the Lord's Resistance Army, Ugandan Permanent Representative to the UN Ruhakana Ruganda told the Press on July 2.

  Ambassador Ruganda, as the Security Council's rotating president for July, affably took four questions from Inner City Press, two about the LRA, one about Kenya and another about the recently disbanded UN Mission in Georgia, a vote on which Uganda abstained.

   Surprisingly, Ruganda described the joint DRC - UPDF action in December 2008 against Joseph Kony's LRA as a "positive thing" that "liberated captives." Video here, from Minute 36:02.

  Most observers called it ill-conceived, in that once Kony got away, the LRA slaughtered scores of Congolese civilians. It is said that the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, was told about the operation only moments before it began.

    Inner City Press asked Ruganda about his quoted statement that he will use his month as Council president to vigorously promote such "regional cooperation." Ruganda answered first about the Hutu rebels partially repatriated from DRC to Rwanda, 500 of whom he said the Council visited during its recent mission to the region.

Amb. Ruganda on July 2, on LRA, Georgia but not Kenya

  What Ruganda did not say is that the remaining FDLR in the Kivus are now killing villagers in retaliation, as denounced July 2 by Human Rights Watch.

    On disbanding the UN's Mission to Georgia, on which Uganda voted with China, Vietnam and Libya, Inner City Press asked if the Council will at least still monitor the mission of past and present envoy Johan Verbecke, whom Ban taps to continue to participate at the Geneva talks involving Russia and Georgia. Video here, from Minute 22:04.
  We haven't discussed that very specific question, Ruganda answered. Sources tell Inner City Press that Verbecke's Georgia gig will soon terminate, as he'll be named Belgium's Ambassador to the UK.

   When Inner City Press asked about the long-delayed briefing to the Council about Kenya, called for in the Council's own February 2009 Presidential Statement, Ruganda opined that "I don't think the Security Council should be involved in everything." Video here from Minute 39:02.  But the Council issued statements on Kofi Annan's mission, and called for his report.

  Some say that because the UK and US took different sides in Kenya -- and because Ban Ki-moon does not like to be compared with Kofi Annan -- the called for briefing will never take place. Even though Annan has now set an August deadline for Kenya to try suspects for inciting violence at the time or he'll refer them to the International Criminal Court, Ruganda's answer makes it appear that for all these reasons, the Council will not revisit Kenya. Just as the Council never officially put Sri Lanka on its agenda, despite tens of thousands killed there.

    Still, Ruganda's affability portend a more open Council month in July. 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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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