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Women in War Zones Need A Dedicated UN Bureaucrat, Advocates Urge

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 -- On the systemic issue of women and war, advocates at the UN in New York have a solution -- to create a new high level post. This is how problems are dealt with in the UN. Already there are Assistant Secretaries General rarely seen at Headquarters or in the field. There is a position of Under Secretary General for Regional Cooperation, whose occupant Jean-Marie Guehenno has acknowledged he has been assigned no work.

 This post on women and war, however, would be more serious, advocates pitched Inner City Press on Friday morning. They said there are countries ready to contribute funds for the post. "It wouldn't even have to go through the Fifth Committee," one said, referring to the UN's budget process. By that logic, Coca-Cola could sponsor an Office of the UN ASG for Soda Studies. There has to be a better way.

  The plight of women in war zones is of course a serious matter. In instances, the UN and its peacekeeping missions contribute to the problem (notwithstanding the UN's Congo force commander's self-exoneration on August 6, click here for that.) The advocates say that the purpose of such a post would be to coordinate UN offices' and missions' work on the issue. Don't nominate a celebrity, they said. But that, too, is how the UN works.

  More seriously, in the UN's basement on August 6, women in the UN's police forces in Haiti , Congo and South Sudan spoke to a packed room, describing the plight of victims of sexual violence. But if the UN works and co-exists with indicted abuses like Jean-Bosco Ntaganda in the Congo, how can it be seen as the solution? As is so often the case, "first do no harm" would make most sense.

UN's Ban and the question about women, Anna Tibaijuka demotion not shown

  Even on the level of bureaucracy there are problems. Earlier this year, Ban Ki-moon and his Department of Management replaced Anna Tibaijuka as head of the UN in Nairobi with a German man, Achim Steiner. No real explanation was ever given, even as local staff and residents protested. Ban's Gender Advisor, another of these posts, was not even consulted.

  Friday as the Security Council's gab-fest debate on the topic began on Friday morning, Inner City Press asked those entering for their views about the post. Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro graciously stopped to shake hands, and noted that the S-G will be presenting his report. Chief UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy stopped, just before the S-G Ban Ki-moon and entourage swept by.

  The Ambassador of Kazakhstan rushed in. "Perhaps you can fill the post one day," Inner City Press suggested. She laughed, shook her head no and continued in. There was no other media around. Thematic debates rarely draw much coverage; we note that when UN and UNDP were asked to apply their positions on sexual violence to such real world hot spots as Sri Lanka, they demanded off the record treatment, here.

   Clearly some messaging is necessary, beyond the call for a new post. The UN needs "less bureaucracy and more sincerity," someone remarked. Then the gab-fest began. This will be updated.

Update of August 7, 11:55 a.m. -- Alain Le Roy, exiting the chamber, emphasized to Inner City Press that there appears to be consensus for a special envoy on the topic, rank (ASG for example) to be determined...

* * *

UN in Congo Dodges on Sex Abuse, Bosco and Kashmir, Sudan Blindness, Silence from Lebanon and from Alan Doss

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 6 -- The UN's Mission in the Congo is apparently continuing its efforts to cover itself by self-exonerating on sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, and obtaining a sort of clearance letter from the Congolese government, that indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda is not technically part of the military operations that the UN mission, MONUC, works with.

   Inner City Press on August 6 asked MONUC force commander Babacar Gaye about reports that Bosco walks freely around Goma in the Kivus, and about reports that the Pakistani battalion was South Kivu was unwilling to cross the administrative border into North Kivu, manned mostly by Indian peacekeepers. Video here, from Minute 45:56.

   Once again, the UN covered itself: the Pakistanis were "never asked" to cross the demarcation, even though they were the closest UN peacekeepers. Rather, General Gaye said, he asked the Uruguayans to respond. Thus was the reported "Kashmir in the Kivus" avoided.

  Asked about charges of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers, Gen. Gaye waved around what he said was a report finding not enough evidence for the charges.He said, "I have the results of the fact finding, this is the document that I received... there was nothing on the the ground as evidence that something took place." Video here, from Minute 41:46. Inner City Press requested a copy of the report from UN peacekeeping and has been told, "we won't be able to provide you with the actual document, but will be able to provide a general summary/read-out of it."

   On August 5 in the Security Council, the Permanent Representative of India Hardeep Singh Puri complained that in UN peacekeeping, "Mission personnel are forced to ask national contingents to undertake tasks... in a manner which is inconsistent with the legal framework under which they are deployed." Video here, from Minute 48:35.

  Inner City Press asked General Gaye to respond to this, and asked Darfur commander Martin Luther Agwai to respond to reports that the fighting between the Sudanese army and the rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement has spread east into Kordofan.

   General Agwai said that the UN can't confirm what it doesn't see, and is not well enough resourced to speak to the fighting in Kordofan. Video here, from Minute 51. "They cannot influence anything there," he said. He spoke, as General Gaye did, about the difficulty of boundaries. With time running out, there was no time to ask General Agwai about a separate scandal reported in UN headquarters and its Medical Service, or to ask General Gaye the unanswered questions about MONUC chief Alan Doss, who emailed the UN Development asking to be shown contractual "leeway" and for his daughter to be hired.

Gen. Gaye and Alan Doss, one self-exonerates, the other doesn't answer

   General Agwai may be answering additional questions on August 7. With MONUC's Alan Doss, UNDP has still not answered, and the UN Secretariat pretends it doesn't even know what Doss converted to a DKPO contract. Watch this site.

Footnotes: All week, dozens of medal covered generals are in UN headquarters this week, but only Generals Agwai and Gaye were presented to the media for a press conference. Nearly all questions were directed to Darfur commander Martin Luther Agwai. While he spoke, Congo commander Babacar Gaye flipped through his note book, while master of ceremonies Michele Montas pointed from side to side of the briefing room yielding question after question about Darfur.

  Then again, despite numerous requests, the commander of UNIFIL in Lebanon General Graziano refused to speak to the media, although on August 5 when the Security Council adjourned for lunch he was seen walking toward the UN Delegates' Dining Room with DPKO chief Alain Le Roy.

   Earlier on August 5, Inner City Press asked Le Roy how his Department's "New Horizons" non-paper applied to sending a UN peacekeeping mission to Somalia. Le Roy said that a peacekeeping mission is an accompaniment to a political strategy, not a substitute for one. But what is the UN's strategy in the Congo -- beyond blind support of Joseph Kabila and the Congolese Army -- and, even more so, in Darfur? Watch this site.

Update of August 6, 6:40 p.m. -- in response to Inner City Press' request for a copy of the document General Gaye waved around on-camera, the following arrived:

Sent: 8/6/2009 6:32:01 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Subj: in regard to General Gaye's comments in Room 226 today

Regarding your questions about General Gaye's comments in relation to the fact-finding mission sent to eastern DRC, we've double-checked the video recording and can confirm that General Gaye did not use the word "exonerated."

His exact words were: "Yes, we sent a fact-finding mission in the localities in South Kivu and North Kivu where allegedly there was SEA cases. I have the results of this fact-finding mission. This is the document that I received. Unfortunately, or [do] we say fortunately, most of the time the accusations, the allegations, are not precise enough to see soemthing on ther ground and that is why we have decided to send as soon as possible a fact-finding mission every time there is this kind of accusation. You know that it is up to OIOS to investigate this kind of things. But this fact-finding mission is the way for us to react as promptly as possible in order at least to send evidence and so on and so forth. In both cases, that probably your question is related to, there was nothing on the ground for being evidence that something took place."

In relation to that document which General Gaye referred to, please find below a summary of it:

"The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) dispatched on 23 July a fact-finding mission to eastern Congo to reinforce preventive measures against sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers. This initiative follows the appointment last year of 48 military officers to act as focal points within MONUC’s national troop contingents, to strengthen field training programs on SEA and the reporting of offenses.

"The fact-finding team interviewed internally displaced persons, local leaders and medical staff in the areas of Goma-Sake and Rutshuru but did not record any allegation of SEA committed by peacekeepers, nor did it bring to light new factual elements that would require the opening of a formal investigation.

"The fact-finding team was led by a senior MONUC military officer, supported by an independent military officer and two civilian staff from MONUC’s Conduct and Discipline Unit (CDU) one of them a female. A CDU staff remains based in Goma, the capital of North Kivu to liaise with and alert the UN’s investigative arm of possible offenses."

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For UN Peacekeeping, Lost Horizon of Somalia and Sexual Abuse, Chad Mission Half Staffed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 -- Faced with demands to deploy peacekeepers in Somalia, to stop rape while working with rapists in the Congo and to police restive crowds in Haiti, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has produced a report, which a UN official calls a "cry from the heart," called New Horizons.

  On July 27 two UN officials who declined to be identified by name described the report and conundrums to a handful of reports on the UN's 37th floor. They called a budget cut of seven percent cut from what they'd asked for "doable," they described trying to get peacekeepers from new countries like Vietnam.

   Inner City Press asked what the report is suggesting on the topics of sexual abuse and exploitation, procurement irregularities like the no-bid Lockheed Martin contract in Darfur, and on the human rights records of the troops the UN takes, from countries like Sri Lanka and Fiji or perhaps one day Myanmar and North Korea. Strangely, these relatively obvious issues for UN Peacekeeping are neither the focus nor in some cases even mentioned in the report.

   On sexual abuse and exploitation, such as charges against the Moroccan contingent in Cote d'Ivoire or the Sri Lankan troops in Haiti, an official argued that upon repatriation to their countries, the peacekeepers are often disciplined. Inner City Press asked, then why doesn't the UN report on it?

  The official said that some countries inform the UN confidentially of the outcomes, but do not consent to make it public. The UN shouldn't be surprised that its reputation suffers. Since the UN pays countries for peacekeepers, why not make the public reporting of discipline a condition of the the payments? It's not in the report, which might thus be called "Lost Horizons," a lost opportunity.

   This official has previously told Inner City Press, after a question was left generally unanswered on camera at the stakeout by chief peacekeeper Alain Le Roy that DPKO has proposed that peacekeepers be tried in the communities they are charged in, but under the law of their own country. But member states, he said, shot down this proposal.

  He added with helpful but too rare candor that the countries in the General Assembly jealously keep control of UN Peacekeeping, not wanting it taken over for example by the Nordics, with their ideas of a permanent rapid deployment force, or such countries as France, which in Cote d'Ivoire and Chad keeps its own national troops alongside more constrained UN forces.

   The officials named as the largest UN missions those in Congo, Sudan and Chad and the Central African Republic. Two hours later, Inner City Press asked Victor Angelo, the chief of the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic which known by the French or feline acronym MINURCAT, how the New Horizons plan would help him get deployment in MINURCAT up from the current less than half. Video here.

  Angelo answered about stopping child soldier recruitment, which Inner City Press had previously asked about, but did not name any change New Horizon would bring. Lost Horizons, then?

UN's Le Roy and the Lost Horizon

   Angelo said that soldiers don't deploy because their equipment is not ready. Inner City Press asked about the case of a French EUFOR soldier shooting an killing a Togolese peacekeeper serving the UN. Angela acknowledged the incident -- the only violent killing of a UN peacekeeper regarding which the UN did not issue a statement, either at the request of France or because the story was too isolated and strange -- and said that the shooter from EUFOR was caught two or three days later and is on trial in France. Will France report the outcome?

   New Horizon will be the subject of a Security Council debate on August 5. It will not, the official said, just sit on the shelf, since it is written in prose reminiscent of Hemingway. He acknowledged, however, that despite all this planning ahead, the current renovation of the UN will leave some DPKO staffers twenty minutes away on Madison Avenue.

  Inner City Press suggested they speed to meet with Le Roy on a fleet of Segways. The official envisioned bicycles instead: send in the clowns. Back to the future, Lost Horizons, a laudable mission hamstrung by politics, excuse making and lack of follow through. We will cover the August 5 debate.

Footnote: while the UN can unilaterally declare the officials it produces to answer question to be anonymous, what is seen with the eye is still for now on the record. On the 27th floor on Tuesday morning was Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who only the day before briefing the Security Council the Middle East, but afterwards did not speak to the Press at the stakeout, or to a reporter who tried by the elevators. If the UN has a story to tell...

   Also on the 37th floor was UN envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, who asked Inner City Press, perhaps as a joke, who had invited it so high. Inner City Press was told that his presence on the Peacekeeping floor on Tuesday was only because they have a big conference room, that the briefing was humanitarian and included John Holmes, who has yet to speak on Sri Lanka's backtracking on commitments to release its detainees or its self-exoneration in the murder of 17 aid workers from Action Contre la Faim.

  In an attempt to get something at least on the record, Inner City Press at the subsequent noon briefing ask if Ould Abdallah will have a media availability on July 29 after he briefs the Council. Video here, from Minute 18:07. He has been in New York for some days, the official answered -- Inner City Press saw him in the increasingly empty UN cafeteria on Monday -- and he will be asked to speak to the Press. We'll be here.

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UN's $8.2 Billion Peace Budget Faces 2.5% Cut, S. Korea Puts Congo Drones on Block?

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- Anyone can call for peace, but who will pay for it? That question was being debate, or at least discussed, in the basement of the UN past 10 p.m. on Monday night. The UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee had passed its end of May deadline and still the $8.2 billion peacekeeeping budget was in dispute.

  The U.S, Japan, European Union and surprise Westerner South Korea are proposing a 2.5 percent across the board reduction in all peacekeeping missions' budgets. The phrase, taken from the Western Sahara draft of June 6, was a decision "to reduce the Mission's overall operational costs by a further 2.5 per cent to be accommodated through efficiency savings." The Group of 77 and China are resisting.

  Take for example the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions' "recommendations on the financing of MONUC would entail an overall reduction of $66,818,200 or some 4.7 percent of the Mission's overall budget," mostly due to the local elections MONUC will support being put back into 2010.

  The African Group, on the other hand, "is concerned that the cuts proposed by the ACABQ could negatively impact on the effective functioning of the Mission."

  These quotes are from public speeches. Consider, however, the confidential presentation of the Secretariat to ACABQ, the slide script of which Inner City Press has been given by a well-placed source. The Secretariat argued that "the budget before you is not a maintenance budget based on routine operations." Instead the Secretariat proposed "an increase of $235 million compare to 2008/09... 168 new posts and positions directly related to the surge in troops."

This "surge" is the 3,000 additional personnel called for the Security Council during the CNDP fighting in the Kivus, before the house arrest and Nkunda and incorporation of indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntanganda into the Congolese Army, where he has worked in connection with UN-supported operations according to Congolese records. While troubling, this should at least save money, no? No. The Secretariat still proposed ever-increased spending.

  The surge will come, the document says, from "troops from Bangladesh, Egypt and Jordan... The new Egyptian battalion will be deployed to South Kivu and the Bangladeshi will be deployed to Ituri... while the Jordan Special Forces company will be positioned in North Kivu."

  Interestingly, the budget includes "$18 million additional requirements for 2 UAVs" -- unmanned aerial vehicles, the drones MONUC chief Alan Doss requested at the turn of the year.

UN's Ban and Doss (not Mountain) in DRC, budget cuts not shown

  Several Fifth Committee sources emphasized to Inner City Press the news value of South Korea's position. Here you have Ban Ki-moon, one source spun, putting his name on proposals to increase peacekeeping budgets by almost five percent, while his home country South Korea has joined the push to instead cut the budgets by 2.5 percent.

   The source asked, "who's kidding who?" All we could say is "whom." (On this front it must be said that the Secretariat's presentation to ACABQ has some laughable typos. It refers for example to "the Pakistanese battalion." But we digress.)

   Upstairs in the Delegates' Lounge, a proponent of the Haiti mission's budget told Inner City Press that MINUSTAH, as it's known, spends 100% or more of its budget. Mission head Hedi Annabi is called Napoleonic. Other missions, in their start up phase or even earlier, like Somalia, might face even steeper cuts.

   During all of this, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy is slated to travel from June 9 to 23 to West Africa. He will stop first in Nigeria, where 27 peacekeepers have been sentence to jail for life for protesting not being paid after a UN mission. Another peacekeeper, female, says she was pressured for sex while on mission. As a now-dead rapper sang, More money, more problems.

   Le Roy will head to Cote d'Ivoire, where Laurent Gbagbo keeps putting off the promised election. When will the mission draw down? The force in Liberia, too, is called larger than needs be. In the basement, however, it is a question of whose ox is gored. 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.

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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

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