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UN Security Links New DRC Brigade With Risks, Syria Rebels' NGO Threat UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- Amid threats by Syria rebels to international aid groups in Jarabulus and with the UN preparing to "go to war" in Eastern Congo, Inner City Press on Friday asked UN Security chief Kevin Kennedy what his Department of Safety and Security is going on these and other issues. Video here and embedded below.

  Although the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' spokesperson Amanda Pitt told Inner City Press that "on northern Syria, UNDSS would be the UN department to comment on security issues," Kennedy did not offer specifics about the threats by the ISIS rebels, acknowledged by the US State Department.

  Kennedy did say that the UN offers security recommendations to NGOs, as "implementing partners" of the UN, through a program grandly called "Saving Lives Together."

  A UN veteran, Kennedy said this work has long been going on without the catchy name. NGOs, however, do not have to take the recommendations of the UN's designated security official in the 117 countries DSS operates in.

  (As if to prove that, when Inner City Press asked Kennedy about MSF's recent decision to leave Somalia and if the UN had recommended it, the answer along with praise of MSF was essentially, no.)

  On Eastern Congo, Inner City Press asked if the new UN Intervention Brigade with its mandate of neutralizing armed rebel groups changes the way UN Security prepares. Kennedy likened the new posture to the Katanga war in what become Zaire "in 1960, 61 and 62... it's deju vu all over again, a more robust mandate."

  Kennedy said he supports it, if it helps the UN fulfill its mandate. But some wonder, what is the UN's mandate: to support a particular government? Even if it means continuing to work with Army units like the 391st Battalion, implicated in mass rapes like in Minova in November 2012, and corpse desecration since?

  Kennedy's DSS colleague added that "the change of posture will influence decisions of parties to the conflict of using violence against the UN, we acknowledge it may change." He added, "it's only one component.. it changes the variables, we react to it." Video here and below.


 Inner City Press also asked Kennedy about a recent UN Dispute Tribunal case it has exclusively covered, in which under "Geographic Representation" the UNDT recited that "twenty supervisers are from the Caribbean... and one each from Portugal, South Africa, Egypt, Italy and 'Africa.'" Inner City Press continues to receive inquiries and complaints; Kennedy said he's aware of the case and/but his staff is very diverse. We'll have more on this.

  Overall, Kennedy illustrated the shift in UN Security by contrasting the pull out of UN staff from all of Afghanistan in 1998 after the US missile strike on a training camp in Eastern Afghanistan to the current posture of attempting to stay, even if in smaller numbers.

  Afterward by the 27th floor elevators, still with the smell of smoke from a fire last night in the UN's third sub-basement, Inner City Press asked Kennedy more about Somalia and about Louis Maxwell, the UN Security officer murdered after defending a UN guest house in Kabul, for which there has been no accountability.

  Kennedy's answer was more heartening than in Inner City Press' previous stories on the topic, consonant with a recent answer from Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. We hope to have more on this. Watch this site.

Footnote: Kennedy's briefing was set up by the Department of Public Information, as it has for example with Margaret Vogt, the former UN envoy to the Central African Republic.

  To be fair, these briefings are a DPI improvement, even as working conditions and access at the Security Council and General Assembly are declining, free speech and the right of association are under attack, and questions go answered.

 The Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info will continue to press for increased access to the UN for the press and public. Watch this site.


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