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At UN, $1850 Fee for Tips on "Revenue Generation," N. Korea Talks Not Covered

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- There is a two day event held in the UN's basement for which $1850 is being charged. It is called Incentive2Innovate. At the UN's June 8 noon media briefing, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq plugged the event, implying it was about how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Video here, from Minute 12:01.

   Inner City Press asked why it costs $1850, and where the money goes. Faq said he wasn't aware of the charge. Video here, from Minute 18:54. But it is right on the online registration form, click here.

To learn more, Inner City Press went down to the basement and stood in the back while a panel of five, including Marthin de Beer from Cisco and Filippo Passerini from Procter & Gamble, Arianna Huffington and a gold miner spoke, in essence, about how to make more money.

  In the brochure, they call it "revenue generation." There is scant mention of any of the MDGs, unlike in the UN News Services' plug for the conference under the Millennium Development Goals rubric. In the Updated Conference Program, the only Millennium of any kind mentioned is the Millennium Plaza Hotel, where breakfast will be served on June 9. One wag said, it better be caviar."

   Again the question: why is this being held at the UN? As one wag put it, they are people seeking to make more money -- but it is at the UN, it has the veneer of public spiritedness. Keynote speaker and Wikinomist Don Tapscott, after screening two television ads for Doritos corn chips, praised a financial services firm, VenCorps, in which to his credit he disclosed he has a stake.

   The only UN department that links to the event is the UN Office of Partnerships, set up with money from another innovator, Ted Turner. Its one page in the inches of material given out or sold at the conference quotes Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that in "addressing global challenges... through partnerships... we increase our chances of success."

   But will the UN partner with just anyone? What other than $1850 are the criteria? Other companies listed in the brochure range from WellPoint to the BT Group, insurance companies to Google, which is sponsoring a prize for a team that lands a robot on the moon. It's part of the X-Prize Foundation, a sponsor of the event.

  They call it, "the confererence you cannot afford to miss this year!". But for most, they can't afford the $1850 conference at all.

   While Don Tapscott took some questions, he only called on those sitting in the front of Conference Room 2, with name plates in front of them. Perhaps that was part of the $1850 charge -- the name plate, and the ability to ask questions.

Another "Innovation" conference, i2i mood captured, MDGs not shown

   Perhaps a more productive question, with these executives in the House, would be how these innovative "Web 2.0 ideas" might be applied to the UN itself, or at least to the Security Council, where for example the Permanent Five members along with Japan and South Korea have for two weeks like dinosaurs been negotiating a response to North Korea's second underground test of nuclear bomb.

On June 5, Inner City Press obtained and put online the most recent draft resolution, for all the world to see. This seemed very Web 2.0. Since then, Inner City Press has received push back from various quarters. Certain Western P-5 Permanent Representatives are described as being incensed, starting a witch hunt to find who, from what Mission to the UN, leaked the draft to the Press.

   Even one non-Permanent Five member of the Council opined what it would have been better, as he said, to described the draft without actually uploading it. He considered this too graphic.

   Might one call it diplomatic pornography? But why as an Internet publication would one describe a document without putting it online, as PDF or otherwise? "By now, you'll be believed that you have it if you say you have it," the Ambassador said. But still: why not put it online?

   A Permanent Five Ambassador explained that once the actual draft is out, it is hard for the negotiating countries to go backwards. So "you are slowing things down," was the accusation. But that can't be the Press' criterion to publish or upload such a document.

    Trust the people -- what's what they were teaching down in the basement of the UN, for $1850 a pop. There will be a reception - perhaps partially explaining the hefty cover charge -- and a second day, including "breakout discussions" on "creating an innovative culture in your company" and X-Prize CEO Peter H. Diamandis. To be continued.

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At UN, Near Final Draft on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Arms Export Ban and Cargo Inspection Added

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Exclusive-Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Thirteen days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a near-final draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council.

The six-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts online here as a must-credit exclusive, has more than thirty operative paragraphs, compared to the mere 14 paragraphs of the three-page draft Inner City Press similarly obtained and published on May 28. (AP, Japanese and other media appropriately credited Inner City Press).

  This time, Inner City Press is told by its sources that the draft was circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five Plus Two -- these last are Japan and South Korea -- with the deadline for comments on June 5 at 10 a.m. New York Time.

   The provision allowing North Korea to import light weapons, in Paragraph 10, is attributable to Russia, according to a well placed Inner City Press source who calls it the Kalishnikof or AK-47 clause.

   Beyond the cargo ban, other provisions are weaker than the proponents wanted. Paragraph 19, for example, merely calls on "member states and international financial and credit institutions not to enter into new commitments... except for humanitarian and developmental purposes." Paragraph 17 prohibits "bunkering services, such as provision of fuel or supplies" to vessels. Paragraph 22 calls for reports within 45 days.

At UN, media chases news of draft now published by Inner City Press

  While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest for nearly two weeks now at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Somalia, Bosnia and Tribunals and on June 5, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

  Non-permanent members of the Security Council complained to the Press that they were kept in the dark throughout the days of negotiation.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka Denies IDP Reduction Reported by Inner City Press, Raises to UN

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- The Sri Lankan government has denounced a story about "missing" internally displaced people which Inner City Press, based on discrepancies in UN documents and statements from UN sources, published this week.

  Beyond denying that any IDPs have been removed from the UN-funded camps in Vavuniya, which Inner City Press visited on May 23, the government has said that it is raising the matter with the UN. "Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations," according to a pro-government web site.

 On June 2, Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson publicly denounced Inner City Press for its reporting, but denied she had discussed "complaining to Google News" about it, presumably to stop its distribution or censor it. The next day she recanted, click here. Click here for Inner City Press (on on tensions in Sri Lanka.

   Inner City Press' story noted that even the UN, in a May 30 report, acknowledged that its number of IDPs in the camps decreased by over 13,000.

  While the public report by UN OCHA ascribed this sudden drop -- from May 27 -- to "double counting," local UN sources, on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation not only by the Sri Lankan government but also by the UN, told Inner City Press that as with the satellite photos of the conflict zone and casualty figures, some in the UN were seeking to downplay this potentially troubling information.

In Vavuniya IDP camp, UN's Ban on government's banner

   OCHA's May 30 report states that "276,785 persons crossed to the Government controlled areas from the conflict zone. This represents a decrease of 13,130 IDPs since the last report (Sitrep No.18) on 27 May 2009. The decrease is associated with double counting. Additional verification is required."

   But earlier, OCHA had praised the "improved, systematic registration being undertaken in the camps."

    The article continued that UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, as UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews

    Shouldn't the UN look into this more closely, given multiple and credible reports of people being "disappeared" from the UN-funded IDP camps? The UN so far has done nothing in this regard.

   To expedite matters, one hopes, Inner City Press now publishes a list of some of the places where the UN -- or perhaps a less compromised body -- should look for missing people:

Pallekelle near Kandy; Ambepussa, Boosa and, it is said, the Army training camp at Diya-talawwa.

  On June 2, Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson while again publicly denouncing Inner City Press for its reporting, denied she had discussed "complaining to Google News" about it, presumably to stop its distribution or censor it.

  The next day, Ms. Montas confirmed that both legal action and "complaining to Google News" were discussed at a meeting she had with four top UN officials, including Mr Ban's speech writer, who also traveled to Sri Lanka on May 23, the UN's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien, Angela Kane and the head of UN "Public Information," Kiyotaka Akasaka, previously of the Japanese foreign ministry.

   Following a failure by these officials to respond to requests that they explain how the strategy they discussed comports with the free press Article 19 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Inner City Press has asked for action from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, click here.

Footnotes: During this week's back and forth about the UN threatening legal action against the Press, and to complain to Google News about Inner City Press' coverage, a high UN official, again anonymous due to fear of retaliation even at his level, approached Inner City Press to say that the attempt at censorship or expulsion was being pushed by what he diplomatically called "a member state." Asked if this meant Sri Lanka, he nodded.

   Meanwhile, in a show of retaliation, the UN has taken the step of seizing and checking the UN e-mail of staff members who they believe have been sources for Inner City Press. Some say that when the UN went to Sri Lanka, rather than seek to hold the government to a high standard of human rights, the effect was to make the UN (even) more like the administration of the Rajapaksas...

Guard in Manik Farm camp, (c) M. Lee May 23, 2009

   The article below quoting that "Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations" takes issue with Inner City Press quoting that

"UN sources in Colombo tell Inner City Press that senior UN officials above them, Sri Lankan nationals who are Sinhalese, are downplaying the 13,000 "missing" IDPs, which would otherwise be of much concern given the reports of disappearances from the camps, the seizing of teenage males for detention and females for other purposes, [as] UK Channel 4 asserted with on camera interviews."

Contrary to the (intentional?) misinterpretation below, Inner City Press was not saying that all Sri Lankan nationals are Sinhalese -- rather, that within the UN's staff in Sri Lanka, those who are of the majority Sinhalese group are seen by their Tamil colleagues as in some cases using their positions in the UN to advance, as some phrase it, "the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist cause." Inner City Press did not invent these divisions, and the article's and minister's statement that all is now well in Sri Lanka is, at best, wishful thinking. Within the UN, some recall the way in Rwanda a Hutu staff member named Callixte Mbarushimana was allowed to use his UN position and materiel to further the Hutu extremist cause which has since been acknowledged as genocide. The UN continued employing and paying Callixte Mbarushimana for many years. Some wonder, will that happen with the UN in Sri Lanka?

On June 5 outside the UN Security Council, Inner City Press asked the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, if his Office will do any work on Sri Lanka. "We try to follow what is going on, the post-conflict developments," he said. "It's been going on for twenty five years, you don't just...." His voice trailed off. "One phase ended, presumably, but....". And his voice trailed off again. Of course, it's been "going on" for far longer than 25 years.

The article:

Sri Lanka rejects ICP report on IDP disappearance

Fri, 2009-06-05 18:06

By our Colombo Correspondent

Colombo, 05 June, ( The Sri Lankan government today totally rejected a claim in a Inner City Press (ICP) quoted by a pro LTTE website, that 13,000 people from Internally Displaced camps have disappeared, and described it as a malicious attempt to discredit the Colombo government.

Highly placed government sources said that the Tamil Diaspora overseas working for the LTTE were now engaged in a disinformation campaign to discredit the Government unable to bear the crushing defeat of the LTTE and its' terrorism.

Rehabilitation Ministry sources expressed anger and surprise over the pro-LTTE canard that is being spread through internet websites misquoting figures of the number of displaced persons.

They said the ICP report was aimed at creating a rift between communities now living peacefully as one people of one country." That is why they have quoted Sinhalese as Sri Lankan nationals knowing well that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country", they added.

Explaining further about the contents of the ICP report quoted by a pro-LTTE website, a ministry source said that if Sri Lanka nationals were only Sinhalese as claimed, there could be no Tamil displaced persons in the country.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management,Mahinda Samarasinghe is expected to take up the issue with United Nations as the ICP report from the pro-LTTE website had quoted unnamed UN sources in Colombo to claim such disappearance of a large number of displaced persons, which, the Sri Lankan government has totally rejected.

Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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.

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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]

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

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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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