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UN Guterres Was Silent 2 Days on Budget, Now "Note to Correspondents," No Updates on Cameroon, DRC

By Matthew Russell Lee, photos, Video

UNITED NATIONS, December 26 – Antonio Guterres' year as UN Secretary General began by telling UN staff how much he respected them, but ended with Guterres on vacation while the UN budget was cut and staff ousted from their work-spaces, demoralized and disrespected. Then on the morning of December 26, two days after covering the UN budget cuts until 2 am and still without any comment from Guterres, Inner City Press sent five questions to his top spokespeople, went in through the tourists' entrance and did a Periscope broadcast, then received these five response IN CAPS from lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "12/26 - 1: What is the Secretary General's comment on the UN budget adopted, until 2 am December 24 in the 5th Committee and noon in the General Assembly? What will be the impact of the budget cuts? Why did UN DPI request 18 new posts? WE EXPECT A STATEMENT A BIT LATER TODAY." Past 5 pm, with no statement, Inner City Press went back to the Office of the Spokesman, who said "it is in your mail." It is a not even a statement by Guterres, rather this "Note to Correspondents," phoning it in: "Note to Correspondents: on the approved United Nations regular budget for 2018-2019: On Sunday morning, 24 December, the General Assembly approved the Regular Budget for 2018-2019 at an amount of $5.397 billion. This amount sets the budget level around $286M (or 5%) below the final approved level for 2016-2017, and $193M below the initially proposed budget level for 2018-2019, including all “add-on’s”. The additional reductions come mainly from across-the-board cuts in non-post resources for most Departments and Offices, including the Special Political Missions. A total of 9,959 posts have been approved for 2018-2019; 131 below the total number of posts approved for 2016-2017.  The General Assembly approved resources in the amount of $88M for the establishment and maintenance of the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) for the period from 16 October 2017 to 30 June 2018; and approved resources in the amount of $911M for the maintenance of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.  This brings the total overall approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the 2017/18 period to $7.316 billion, which compares to approved resources for the 2016/17 period of $7.909 billion, a reduction of $593M or 7.5 per cent. The General Assembly granted a one year commitment authority for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The Secretary-General welcomes the General Assembly’s support to his management reform proposal aimed at enhancing delivery of all mandates and the performance of the Secretariat. The General Assembly also provided guidance on the comprehensive proposals, including on the restructuring of the Departments of Field Support and of Management to be submitted by mid-2018. In particular, the General Assembly endorsed the proposal to move from a biennial planning and budgeting period to annual programme budget on a trial basis, as of 2020. This signals one of the most significant shifts in the programme planning and budgeting process of the Organization since the 1970s. The General Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to undertake an assessment of the mechanisms and levels of discretionary managerial authorities that may be required in order to address unanticipated programmatic needs and to report in the 73rd Session."

The other questions and "answers" - "12/26 - 2: Now that the funding for a UN Envoy on Myanmar has been approved, what steps has the Secretary General taken, or will he take, to implement the resolution(s)? WE’VE TAKEN NOTE OF THE DECISION BY THE GA TO FUND A SG SPECIAL ENVOY FOR MYANMAR. WE WILL ANNOUNCE DEVELOPMENTS IN DUE TIME. 12/26 - 3: The Ugandan army says they killed 100 ADF rebels in the DRC, and/but has no boots on the ground. What is MONUSCO estimate of the death count, and if any civilians were killed, how many? PLEASE CHECK WITH MONUSCO. WE HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY UPDATES. 12/26 - 4: On Cameroon, state the UN's awareness of and any action on the armed forces' destruction in recent days of the entirely of Kembong and elsewhere in Mamfe. Separately, given that the Commonwealth at least just visited the Anglophone areas, please state if Francois Fall or anyone in his UNOCA team has made such a visit in 2017, when and who. NO UPDATES. 12/26 - 5: It is reported that “Egypt has rejected claims by Sudan that the Halayeb and Shalateen areas of southern Egypt fall under Sudanese sovereignty and are being occupied by Cairo.Sudan’s foreign ministry sent a letter to the United Nations, declaring Khartoum’s rejection of the April 2016 Egyptian-Saudi border demarcation agreement.” Please confirm receipt of this letter, and any from Egypt, and state the UN's current and prospective involvement in this potential explosive issue. HAVE NOT SEEN THE LETTER." Typical. In 2017 Guterres delayed for months in responding to the slaughter of the Rohingya in Myanmar, out of too much deference to Aung San Suu Kyi. Guterres continued in Yemen with a Saudi-biased envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as ports were closed, children starved and cholera spread. Pressured to respond to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, his response was a brief stop-over in Yaounde where he accepted a golden statue from 35-year president Paul Biya.

 In November alone, Guterres ignored evidence that his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed undermined environmental protection, at a minimum, in signing 4000 certificates for endangered rosewood exported from Nigeria and Cameroon to China, then ignored a UN bribery indictment in the courts of Lower Manhattan. Guterres' UN used $1 million from the China Energy Fund Committee of indicted Patrick Ho even after the Press asked his spokesman about the indictment - and still no audit.

But little coverage either: Guterres eschewed press conference, holding none at the end of the year, but allowed himself to be sold for $1200 a pop at a fundraiser on Wall Street in mid-December. Inner City Press, which covered the event, is launching a series on Guterres' performance as UN Secretary General, even as he and his head of “Global Communications” Alison Smale keep Inner City Press more restricted than no-show no-question state media like Egypt's Akhbar al Yom, assigned the work-space it long shared along with the alternative Free UN Coalition for Access, pushing for a UN Freedom of Information Act.

A spotlight must be shined on this UN. This is the beginning.

And this was the end of the year 2017: the UN's more than five billion dollar budget was supposed to be adopted by the UN's Fifth Committee on December 22 then, the Committee chairman told Inner City Press, noon on Saturday December 23. Ultimately the Committee approval didn't finish until 2 in the morning on Christmas eve, with the ultimate approval postponed until 10 am on Christmas eve. Inner City Press, the only media covering it, was required to get a UN "minder" to access the General Assembly, unlike other no-show non-critical UN resident correspondents. From a booth about the GA it Periscoped the approval, and even an impromptu holiday carol. And holiday was the word. While in previous hears a colorful Christmas tree has been displayed on the GA Hall after the last session, this year it was a generic pine tree with no ornaments. In all other ways, it was routine: opposition to Responsibility to Protect and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to funding the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 2231 (Iran) and 1559. Myanmar opposed any UN envoy being funded, but it passed 122 yes, 10 no, 24 abstaining.There was vague praise of reforms, even as absent S-G Guterres hasn't even ordered an audit of the most recent UN bribery indictment, much less his own Deputy's signing of 4000 rosewood certificates. Reform? And end of UN censorship of investigative Press? We will Press on this. On a document Inner City Press obtained, Speial Political Missions was blank. The Comptroller read it out orally, including $853,800 for the belated UN envoy to Myanmar. On a vote on R2P, Liberia spoke up and said having been asleep, an abstention was intended. There was laughter. It was after 1 am. Earlier Tommo Monthe confirmed Inner City Press' reporting on constraints on freedoms the vacationing Secretary General Antonio Guterres had wanted, the overall $166 million budget cut figure including 15% and higher in human rights. (He smiled.) Others told Inner City Press about North Korean ships, here. Particular opprobrium was reserved for the Department of Public Information under Alison Smale. DPI had requested 18 new posts or jobs, all of which were rejected, with the word "abolished" reserved for (GS)OL and Public Information officer (Japan) and UNIC-DC (G77 and China). Quitting time? On the other hand, no thanks to Smale, the push continued for posts in the Kiswahili and Portuguese UN Radio units. 18 posts or not, Smale or not, the UN and DPI must implement content neutral accreditation and access guidelines. We'll have more on this. When Inner City Press came in through the tourists' entrance Saturday at 2, nothing was moving except diplomats sleepwalking down in the 1B basement. One told Inner City Press the vote might not happen until 8 pm on Saturday; another gave it a copy of the "negotiators' broad agreement" including 10% to 25% cuts in human rights. Exclusive photo here. (Inner City Press would scan the whole document, but its scanned was evicted from UN along with all in its office by UN Department of Public Information, run by Alison Smale.) Where was UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, with the reforms he ran on and supposedly cares about also getting bogged down? He was on vacation already, for the next ten days, leaving the investigative Press restricted and killings in Cameroon and elsewhere unaddressed. Among the parts of the UN facing budget cuts for waste is not only the Department of Public Information, increasingly a propaganda arm which, as if as a sidelight, engages in censorship of the investigative Press, but also the UN's Regional Commissions, Budget Committee officials told Inner City Press on December 13. On December 21, as Inner City Press covered the process down in the UN basement past 11 pm, this was confirmed. The US wants to cut from Regional Commissions, the sources said, while others target "human rights" and DESA, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, respectively. Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly about it on December 22, then at 3 pm headed down to Conference Room 5. After other reporting, Inner City Press asked the chair, Saturday? He said, Yes, we'll vote as the Fifth Committee plenary at noon on Saturday, then GA in the afternoon. During this, Secretary General Antonio Guterres is already on vacation, through January 3. The chair told Inner City Press, we're just working through associated issues. These include the Group of 77 and China's response to vacationing Antonio Guterres requesting more discretion. See G77 draft Combined Proposal as of 8 am on December 22, which for example "15. decides not to implement any changes at present regarding any expansion of exceptional budgetary authorities, unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, and the Secretary-General’s limited budgetary discretion." Full draft here on Patreon. Late night on December 21-22 Paraguay bought in empanadas just before midnight; UK Deputy Jonathan Allen, who had spoken on Peacekeeping much earlier in the day, told Inner City Press, "Could be a long one." It always is - and this year, there are more cuts publicly threatened... New DPI chief Alison Smale's swearing in ceremony was closed to the Press; she has still not even responded to Inner City Press' three petitions for review of its eviction and restriction for reporting on corruption at the UN. Meanwhile, the UN Budget Committee head for the year, the Cameroonian Ambassador who joined DPI in its censorship after Inner City Press asked about abuses by his president Paul Biya, told Inner City Press it will all be done by December 22. We'll see. The UN delivered a threat to Inner City Press to “review” it accreditation on October 20 at 5 pm. The UN official who signed the letter, when Inner City Press went to ask about the undefined violation of live-streaming Periscope video at a photo op by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, had already left, minutes after sending the threat. This comes two days after Inner City Press asked Guterres about the UN inaction on threatened genocide in Cameroon, and the UN claimed Guterres hadn't heard the 15-second long question.

  It also comes after Alison Smale the head of the Department of Public Information which would “review” Inner City Press' accreditation has ignored three separate petitions from Inner City Press in the six weeks she has been in the job, urging her to remove restrictions on Inner City Press' reporting which hinder its coverage of the UN's performance in such crises as Yemen, Kenya, Myanmar, and the Central African Republic where Guterres travels next week, with Smale's DPI saying its coverage of the trip will be a test of its public relations ability. But the UN official who triggered the complaint is Maher Nasser, who filled in for Smale before she arrived.

UN's Letter Threatening to Review Inner City Press' Accreditation for Audio Report While Staking Out on Cam... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

His complaint is that audio of what he said to Inner City Press as it staked out the elevators in the UN lobby openly recording, as it has for example with Cameroon's Ambassador Tommo Monthe, here, was similarly published

A UN “Public Information” official is complaining about an article, and abusing his position to threaten to review Inner City Press' accreditation. The UN has previously been called out for targeting Inner City Press, and for having no rules or due process. But the UN is entirely UNaccountable, impunity on censorship as, bigger picture, on the cholera it brought to Haiti. And, it seems, Antonio Guterres has not reformed or reversed anything. This threat is from an official involved in the last round of retaliation who told Inner City Press on Twitter to be less "negative" about the UN - amid inaction on the mass killing in Cameroon - and who allowed pro-UN hecking of Inner City Press' questions about the cholera the UN brought to Haiti and the Ng Lap Seng /John Ashe UN bribery scandal which resulted in six guilty verdicts. We'll have more on this.


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