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On Ebola & WHO's Failures, Chan Tells UNSC of "High Gear" Reforms, Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 13 -- Amid widespread criticism of the World Health Organization's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, WHO's Margaret Chan on August 13 told the Security Council, "I am personally overseeing reforms in WHO that include the establishment of a global health emergency workforce, an operational platform that can shift into high gear quickly, performance benchmarks that show exactly what we mean by 'high gear,' and the funding needed to make this happen."

 But what will it come to?

 On August 13 in the Security Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power asked why and how information from the field got "lost" further up the chain. This echoes UN Peacekeeping in New York - Ladsous - ignoring and allowing rapes in the field, then letting a field commander be the scapegoat, staying on vacation. This is today's UN system.

 Back on May 9 when the UN's High Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crises held a press conference on May 8, Inner City Press asked the panel about criticism by Doctors Without Borders MSF and others of the UN's and World Health Organization's initial response to Ebola. Video here.

 Former Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa replied about the need for clear chains of command; Brazil's Celso Amorim spoke movingly about disparities like $9 per person for health care in Liberia versus $8000 per person in some European Union countries.
  Inner City Press asked the High Level Panel's chair, Tanzanian President Kikwete, if he would speak about Burundi and his role there. Video here.

 Kikwete told Inner City Press to ask him about Burundi after the press conference. Inner City Press did, specifically if the EAC will be opining on if a third term would violate the Arusha Agreements or pose regional threats.

  "Be patient," was Kikwete's response, saying that the foreign ministers who visited Burundi will report back on May 13. We will cover that at that time.

  During the press conference, Kikwete dealt with aplomb when UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq called him the "former president" of Tanzania. There were a number of "formers" (and "futures") on the panel, but Kikwete is current.

   Moments after Kikwete's and the panel's press conference, the UN Security Council issued "elements to the press" which "called upon all parties to refrain from violence and to prioritize Burundiís peace and stability through the current political dialogue and also to achieve their needs through legal and peaceful means. They stressed the need to hold a credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful electoral process."

 Inner City Press asked the Security Council's president for May  Raimonda Murmokaite of Lithuania how the third term was discussed in the Council's closed meeting. She replied that individual members did express their views on the third term but it was not really the essence of the discussion.  We'll have more on this.

  Inner City Press has asked the UN about Burundi, most recently on May 4 and 5 and now May 6, below. Now it's said the UN's Said Djinnit will belatedly brief the Security Council on May 7 - we'll be there.

  On May 6, Inner City Press asked the UN, " I don't know if you have an update on Burundi?"

  Moments later, beyond an if-asked, a statement was handed to UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, who answered Inner City Press with this:

"Regarding Burundi, after a plenary session yesterday, Burundian stakeholders continued the political dialogue.  Our Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, is facilitating work in smaller committees.  The objective of the dialogue remains to seek common grounds for creating conditions for the holding of peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections in Burundi.  Meanwhile, we welcome the arrival in Bujumbura of the foreign ministers of the East African community, and we look forward to working closely with the region on this."

  The UN is relentlessly upbeat - and marginalized. Watch this site.

 On May 4, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: On Burundi, I want to know if you have any statement on the violence in the capital in which at least two people have been killed today protesting the third-term run of the President?

Spokesman Dujurric:  Sure, we continue to follow the events in Burundi with great concern and deplore the loss of lives and injuries as well as the destruction of property that we've seen.  We reiterate our calls to all the parties to reject violence, exercise maximum restraint, and avoid using inflammatory language, as well as to take the necessary appeasement measures to create conditions for dialogue.  In this regard, the UN mission on the ground, MENUB, has been encouraging all stakeholders to seize the opportunities of the dialogue that is organized by the Ministry of Interior with the support of the UN on 5 and 6 May.  That is tomorrow and Wednesday.  And we trust that stakeholders will see and build on this dialogue as an opportunity to defuse tensions and seek common grounds for creating conditions for the holding of peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections in Burundi.

 Later on May 4, Ban Ki-moon met with Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, but no UN read-out was issued. On May 5, Inner City Press asked for this, and about the judge who fled the country amid death threats. Video here.


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