UN Speaks of Two Dead Americans, Libya Tent Unanswered, Hyannis to
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 26 -- The UN on Wednesday spoke of two dead
Americans: Ted Kennedy and an American civilian they left nameless
while saying that prior
to his death in Liberia on August 24, he was
under investigation for child sexual abuse. Liberian press accounts
name him alternatively as Ford Knight or Dale Fosnight, which is
a name in the UN email system, and say that he was suspected of
similar abuse while at his previous assignment for the UN in Sierra
New York, after the UN's noon press briefing was interrupted for
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to delivery a eulogy of sorts to Ted
Kennedy, recollecting each time they met, Inner City Press asked
Ban's Spokesperson Michele Montas to confirm or deny that the UN was
aware of the
Sierra Leone allegations. Ms. Montas denied it, saying
that the UN acted only on complaints by people in Liberia.
before the noon briefing was to begin, reporters were ordered out of
the room. A bomb sniffing dog entered. The word went out: Ban Ki-moon
will speak! More journalists than usual subsequently came
Bets were taken: was it going to be a unilateral statement about Ted
Kennedy, with no questions taken? Some bet no, pointing at a lectern
sometimes used by Ms. Montas while choosing whom to allow to question
Montas became reading off notices and press releases, including about
the dead American civilian employ of the UN in Monrovia and that he
was under investigation. Suddenly Mr. Ban came in. Ms. Montas asked
him if he wanted to use the lectern or her seat on the podium. Ban
took the lectern, and the gamblers in the room concluded there would
be no Q&A.
rambled on about Ted visiting him "in UNDP" on December 17,
2006, bringing him a photograph with John F. Kennedy from August
1962. JFK and JFK, he said, noting that he has a degree from the JFK
School of Government. When he finished, he pauses and a question was
shouted out that many surmised had been planted, about climate
it, then as he left several reporters asked
about the Mona Juul memo, full text here.
Ban was prepared for that
too, saying that he welcomes constructive criticism, including from
the press. Then he left, avoiding a question about Libya's Gadaffi
and his tent.
than a month now before Libya leader Mohamar Qaddafi's scheduled
descent on New York and the UN with his tent, there is talk of
confining his visit to the UN's riverside compound, or to a barge
just offshore in the East River. Push back, NYC sources tell Inner
City Press, is coming not only from elected officials like Mayor
Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, but also
from the UN's Capital Master Plan.
The CMP is in
charge of the UN's
North Lawn, on a portion of which a replacement General Assembly
building is being erected by the UN's contractor Skanska. This
contractor, already embroiled in litigation, recently had one of its
workers stopped at the UN's entrance on First Avenue carrying illegal
brass knuckles complete with spikes.
UN's Ban in Libya tent: back to the future?
the aftermath of al-Maghahi's release by Scotland and his hero's
welcome in Libya, U.S. politicians called for action. New York
Senator Chuck Schumer called for UN Ambassador Susan Rice to
introduce a resolution condemning Libya. Three days ago Inner City
Press asked for comment from four individuals at the US Mission to
the UN. No response has yet been received.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg has called for Qaddafi to be
limited to the UN's riverside compound, from 42nd to 48th Street,
First Avenue to the River. NYC authorities, who have reportedly
rejected Central Park and the old Yankee Stadium among other venues
for Qaddafi, say that the UN still has enough space, even with the
construction of the temporarily General Assembly -- which they're
calling "out of code" on other grounds, watch this site.
noon briefing on August 24, Inner City Press asked Ban
Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas:
City Press: On the issue of Mr. Al-Megrahi that was returned to Libya
and the controversy around it. Some have said that Muammar
Al-Qadhafi has in the past and would have this year, pitched his tent
on the North Lawn but for the construction. Is that the case? What’s
been the history in the past when President Qadhafi comes
where he puts his tent? Has he put it on UN land, and will he be
here this year?
Spokesperson: I can
check… No, it’s not going to happen this year. I can
check for you what has happened in the past. I don’t have the
exact information, but we can check that for you. I know it is
customary for him, whenever he moves around, to go with his tent. I
don’t know what will be done in this specific case.
spokesperson later said that according to UN Protocol, the planned
visit by Muammar Al-Qadhafi will be the first by the Libyan leader to
City Press: Okay. And has anyone in the UN system had any response
on the appropriateness of both the release of Mr. Al-Megrahi and his,
the way he was received upon his return to Libya?
don’t have any comments on that.
footnote: with American media in a frenzy on August 26 about Edward
M. Kennedy, there were "get the news out of the way" press
conferences by scandal-ridden basketball coach Rick Pitino and South
* * *
UN, Norway's Trashing of Ban Stirs Rumors of Endgame: Full Text
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 20 -- The indictment of the administration of the UN
by Ban Ki-moon signed by Norway's deputy ambassador Mona Juul [full
gathered strength and supporters on Thursday. Inner City Press asked
Ban's deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe on August 19 for Ban's view of
Juul's memo and "how does it impact his planned trip to Norway
at the end of this month?"
Ms. Okabe answered that "We do
not know the veracity of the reports to which you refer... we have
not announced the Secretary-General’s next travel plans." Transcript here.
emerged that the plan had been to announced Ban's Norway trip on
August 19, but that the announcement was pulled back in the face of
news of and questions about the Juul memo. Inner City Press has
interviewed two senior Ban administration officials, both of whom
acknowledge that Juul's critique is devastating, even debilitating.
is a big donor, one of them said, noting that Sudan, on the
other end of the spectrum, has also protested Ban. "Who will
stand up for him?" the other official asked rhetorically. Of the
reheated rumors in the memo, including that top humanitarian John
Holmes might replace Vijay Nambiar as Ban's chief of staff, as Inner
City Press has previously predicted, the official said that Holmes
might do a better job. But India, then, would need another post.
administration officials both said that a new communications strategy
is needed. They speculated who will takeover as spokesperson in
November. While one has been predicting another outsider from
Newsweek, the better placed official now predicts a French speaker
from within the Outreach Division of the Department of Public
Information. It's been a disaster, both conceded, of recent and
reduced UN noon briefings.
actually worse that Juul
presents them, in that her memo does not touch on the brewing
nepotism and corruption scandals at the UN.
under-reported aspect of Juul's memo are eye catching: her
description of Deputy Secretary General Migiro's limited scope of
responsibility, her diplomatic dismissal of Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann
as a "rather special President of the General Assembly." She hits Ban even on
his signature issue, climate change. Juul describes "a
culture of decision-making which is marked by
information both up and down the system being filtered by the
omnipresent assistant chief of cabinet Kim" Won-soo.
Norway-) servingly, Juul wrote that "Ban has consistently chosen
special representatives and leaders in the Secretariat who don’t
distinguish themselves, except for the case of Afghanistan" --
the SRSG is Norwegian, Kai Eide. One wonders why Juul didn't in the
memo praise her husband, USG Terje Roed Larsen.
was Juul's quip that "As a woman from that part of the world,
[UNDP's Helen ] Clark could quickly become a competitor for Ban’s
second period." New Zealand may geographically be in Asia, but
politically at the UN it is part of the WEOG (Western European and
Other Group). More likely is the scenario
first laid out by Inner
City Press, that China in
exchange for getting to head the World Bank
in 2012 allows another group -- possible WEOG or an Eastern European
-- to take over the UN Secretary General's post. Click here for
that Inner City Press exclusive; see below for full text of Juul. Watch
Team Ban on 38 last month, Mona Juul not shown
translated by the "Group of Friend on Inner City Press," is
Ban Ki-moons fruitless visit to Burma at the beginning of July was
emblematic of a Secretary-General and an organization that is
struggling to show leadership. At a time where the UN and the need
for multilateral solutions to global crises is more necessary than
ever, Ban and the UN are conspicuous by their absence. In the last
half-year, follow-up to the many crises that dominated last fall’s
General Assembly should have brought the Secretary-General and the UN
fully into the fray, but the opposite seems to have occurred.
relation to the financial crisis, neither the Secretary-General nor
the General Assembly – despite the major meeting on the financial
crisis at the end of June – have distinguished themselves as the
most important arena for discussion, and the vacuum has been filled
by the G-20 and other actors. Ban's voice on behalf of the G-192 and
the poor has hardly [there’s a misspelling in the original; “kapt”
is not a word but “knapt” means “hardly”] registered. An at
times invisible Secretary-General in combination with a rather
special President of the General Assembly has gone far to sideline
the UN, and the organization hasn’t realized its limits. On the
environment/energy area the UN is also struggling to be relevant,
despite the planned high-level meeting on climate change at the
opening of the General Assembly this fall. Even though the
Secretary-General to the point of boredom repeats that Copenhagen is
supposed to “seal the deal,” there is widespread worry that the
UN-high-level meeting won’t contribute notably to the process
leading up to Copenhagen.
the many political/security crises around the world, the
Secretary-General’s leadership and ability to deliver on behalf of
the UN is still being sought. Burma is a shining example of this.
There was no lack of warning that the Secretary-General shouldn’t
go at this time. The Americans were among the most doubtful to his
trip, but the British thought he should go. Special Representative
Gambari was initially also doubtful, but Ban insisted. Gambari
pointed to the fact that recent negative press coverage (headlines
like “Whereabouts unknown in The Times and “Nowwhere Man [sic]”
in Foreign Policy) had made Ban even more set on visiting Burma.
After an apparently fruitless visit by the Secretary-General, the
UN’s “good offices” will become even more problematic. Special
Representative Gambari will have big problems continuing after “the
top man” has failed and the generals in Yangoon [sic] no longer
want to meet him.
example of weak handling from the Secretary-General’s side is the
war in Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General was a powerless observer to
civilians in their thousands losing their lives and being driven from
their homes. The authorities in Colombo refused to receive the
Secretary-General while the war was going on, but he was an honored
guest -- and he accepted the invitation -- once the war had been
“won.” Even though the UN’s humanitarian effort had been active
and honorable enough, the Secretary-General’s moral voice and
authority have been absent.
in other “crisis areas,” for example Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan,
Zimbabwe and not least Congo, the Secretary-General’s passive and
not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears. Many would also
claim that the handling of the inquiry commission after the war in
Gaza ended up with an unsteady and too-careful follow-up.
surprisingly, and therefore more disappointingly, Ban Ki-moon has
been almost absent on the disarmament and non-proliferation area.
This was a field he himself presented as one of his priority areas
before he started his post. The reorganization of the department of
disarmament to an office directly answerable to the
Secretary-General, led by a High Representative indicated a big stake
in this area, also given the Secretary-General’s own background on
the Korean peninsula. With a new nonproliferation treaty review in
2010 and an American administration which has put the team much
higher on the agenda, it’s cause for concern that the
Secretary-General isn’t more committed.
common thread in all these cases is that an unclear Secretary-General
with a lack of charisma is not compensated for by high-profile and
visible colleagues. Ban has consistently chosen special
representatives and leaders in the Secretariat who don’t
distinguish themselves, except for the case of Afghanistan.
Furthermore, he seems to prefer to be in the center himself, without
competition from his colleagues, and lets it shine through pretty
clearly that commenting to the media is a privilege belonging to
himself. The result is that the UN becomes a less visible and
relevant player in areas where it would have been natural and
necessary for an active UN-engagement. A notable exception is the
selection of Helen Clark as the new leader for UNDP. She has in her
short time on the job shown promise. It will be interesting to follow
if she is given room to distinguish the UN’s development side. As a
woman from that part of the world, Clark could quickly become a
competitor for Ban’s second period.
was common knowledge that it was a conscious choice [NB! The
Norwegian word “bevist” which is written here means “proven,”
but in this context it appears to be a misspelling of the word
“bevisst” meaning “conscious.”] from the then-current
American administration that an activist Secretary-General was not
wanted. The new American administration hasn’t yet signaled any
change in their attitude to Ban, even though there are rumors that
some people in Washington are now referring to Ban as “a one-term
SG”. It’s said that the people around both Susan Rice and Hillary
Clinton are very negative to Ban, but the two are yet to speak on the
matter. China is probably pretty happy with him and it’s primarily
China which holds the key to whether Ban will be renewed for a second
term. Russia has for a long time been dissatisfied with the
Secretary-General both in terms of his handling of Kosovo and
Georgia, but also because of a lack of recruitment of Russians to
important positions. At the same time, Russia is well served by a
Secretary-General who isn’t too interventionist.
the remainder of the member states one notices that the perception of
Ban at the midway point is growing steadily more negative. Among the
many who thought he should be given some more time, that everything
would get better once he warmed up, and that the comparison to his
predecessor’s charisma was unfair, the tune is now that the
beginner’s goodwill [direct translation: “learning potential”]
appears to be spent and that a lack of charisma is actually a
problem. The Secretary-General seems to function well enough when he
sticks to the script, and shows up to a lot of meetings and other
events. The problem arises when he’s “on his own” where he
can’t manage to set the agenda, create enthusiasm and show
leadership – not internally either. Ban’s lack of engagement and
lack of interest in mastering the issues means that he doesn’t
become an effective player or negotiator in the many conflict
situations he is expected to handle.
mood at “the house” is still characterized as not very motivated,
with a culture of decision-making which is marked by information both
up and down the system being filtered by the omnipresent assistant
chief of cabinet Kim. After recent negative media stories about the
Secretary-General, the mood on the 38th floor is said to be pretty
tense. Ban has constant temper tantrums [direct translation:
outbreaks of rage] which even levelheaded [the Norwegian word
“sindig” is untranslatable and describes a quality of being
capable and calm as well as having common sense] and experienced
colleagues have trouble handling. The relationship with
next-in-command Migiro is as strained and her sphere of action
appears to have shrunk even further. There are constant rumors of
replacements and switch-overs. In addition to rumors that Migiro is
on her way out, it’s rumored that OCHA-boss Holms [sic], who is
roundly praised, is taking over as Chef de Cabinet, and that Nambiar
is quitting. The same is said about the head of the political
department, Pascoe, and that Holms [sic] is also a candidate to
taking over his job. The British are probably still very concerned
about getting that post back. These are, however, only rumors and
most probably, Ban will continue with the same crew – at least
‘till the end of this year. If that’s good enough for a second
term only time will tell.