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ICP Asks O'Brien of Saudi PR Saying OCHA Against Yemen Aid Resolution 

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- In the run up to this month's World Humanitarian Summit, Inner City Press has asked David Miliband, the UN's Stephen O'Brien and the EU's Ambassador to the UN João Vale de Almeida about how and if beneficiaries of aid will be heard at the Summit, and specifically about UNOCHA taking most of its Yemen money from Saudi Arabia, which is bombing the country. Miliband and EU video here.

   To OCHA's O'Brien, Inner City Press added a question about Saudi Arabia's Permanent Representative saying that his “senior leadership” saying there was no need for a humanitarian resolution in the Security Council about Yemen, as there is one on Syria.

  O'Brien said he was unaware of that quote. Well, here it is, March 4, 2016 video from Minute 2:03. Vine here.

How can OCHA not be aware of this?

   On beneficiaries, Miliband said that the International Rescue Committee tries to hear from beneficiaries in the field; O'Brien said that those journalist who go to Turkey to cover the Summit can speak to beneficiaries. The EU's Ambassador João Vale de Almeida said that there is a need for transparency, not only to donors and implementers but also to beneficiaries. We agree: why then is there no Freedom of Information Act or procedure at the UN?

In fact, the UN under Ban Ki-moon is moving backwards. After Inner City Press asked questions and sought to cover an event related to the UN bribery scandal, Ban's Under Secretary General for “Public Information” Cristina Gallach unilaterally ousted Inner City Press from the UN on February 19, then had its office and files evicted onto First Avenue on April 16; Ban knew all about it.

Back on February 9, before USG Cristina Gallach ousted Inner City Press from the UN without even speaking with it, when UN Relief Chief Stephen O'Brien  came to answer questions on February 9 about the UN's new report for the World Humanitarian Summit, Inner City Press asked him about Page 17 of the report, which refers to Ban Ki-moon's “Rights Up Front,” which is to say, his failure in Sri Lanka in 2009.

   In 2008 and 2009 in Sri Lanka, OCHA which O'Brien now heads left Killinochchi, and hid reports of the number of people being killed, as Inner City Press exposed. Is it different now, Inner City Press asked O'Brien on February 9, specifically asking him about South Sudan (for example, Mudri) and Yemen: is he aware of the targeting of a UN agency in Sana'a?

Inner City Press also asked him why his CERF gave funds to Ethiopia but not Somaliland, given FAO's finding of drought. Video here.

  O'Brien answered that aid access in Yemen is key, and said there is no legal impediment to CERF funds for Somaliland. We'll have more on this.

Previously, Jan 17: Outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon often names “High Level Panels,” not only as today on humanitarian aid but also for example on the scandal of peacekeepers' rapes in the Central African Republic. But today's Panel is on aid, headed by one of the reported candidates to replace Ban as SG, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria and the EU. The report is here.

  Inner City Press at an embargoed briefing prior to the release of the report asked Georgieva about the report's proposal for “Participation Revolution” in which the recipients of aid could hold it accountable. Inner City Press for the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked, would that include for example a UN Freedom of Information Act, so that the public could get disclosure of how money is spent?

  Georgieva, responding by video from a roomful of other journalists in Brussels, acknowledged that there is a need for standardized accounting; she did not directly response, as FUNCA will be asking all Next SG candidates to do, on the need for a UN FOIA.

 Ban Ki-moon issued a canned statement including that “In May last year I asked the panel to identify ways in which the gap between rising needs and the resources available to meet them can be closed. I am also requesting them to work on generating solutions around the issues of more timely and predictable funding, as well as ways in which resources can be used more effectively. Since they began their work the needs created by the demand for humanitarian aid have continued to rise dramatically. We are living in the age of the mega-crisis. But, as this report clearly demonstrates, the gap in funding is a solvable problem.”  We'll have more on this.

 How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization?

On December 15, after President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft as well as US Ambassador Samantha Power co-signed a letter to all states and Observer States to put forward candidates, Lykketoft took questions.

 On January 15, Lykketoft's office put online a third nomination letter, that of Montenegro for Igor Luksic, joining FYROM's Srgjan Kerim and Croatia's Pusic. Here.

And when, we ask, might Slovakia put in a nomination for Jan Kubis? And would Czech Republic make a nomination, while its Deputy Prime Minister says "no more refugees"?

 Earlier on January 15, Inner City Press asked Lykketoft who is paying for his trips to the United Arab Emirates, Davos and Jordan. Video here. Later Lykketoft's spokesperson replied, "The PGAs trip to Abu Dhabi is being funded by Govt of UAE and the rest of the trip by the Office of the PGA." The answer is appreciated; we'll have more on this.

 On Next SG, back on December 15 Inner City Press asked Lykketoft if the General Assembly's “dialogues” with candidates will be open -- yes -- and if he thought a candidate currently heading a UN agency should step down to run. (He did not answer this.)

  Lykketoft said so far there are two formal candidates: Croatia's foreign minister Vesna Pusic and former PGA Srgjan Kerim of FYROM. Inner City Press asked, during the press conference, how for example a person like ex-PGA Vuk Jeremic, without the support of his government at present, could run. Lykketoft said that another state could nominate him.

(An aside: if it's true that neither Pusic nor Kerim are on Twitter, what does that say about the place of technology and social media in the current Next SG race?)

  Minutes later, on Periscope (speaking of transparency), Inner City Press asked Lykketoft of a nomination from a non-state would even be processed. No, he indicated. So much for “We the Peoples.” And so much, perhaps, for Eastern Europe, if Crimea becomes a litmus test.

On December 11, Inner City Press asked the foreign ministers of both Ukraine and Lithuania, both members of the Eastern European Group, about who should be next SG. Video here.

From the answers, it seems at least these two countries will demand a candidate which would condemn a P5 Security Council member's violation of the UN Charter. Since p5 members have a veto over the SG, maybe the post will move beyond the group. We'll be covering this, watch this site.

F On November 18, after the UN Security Council met behind closed doors on the issue, the month's UN Security Council President Matthew Rycroft of the UK emerged and read a short Elements to the Press on “the issue of the letter that will be written shortly by the President of the Security Council and the President of the General Assembly, on the selection process for the appointment of the next secretary general, and an exchange of views on the basis of a draft letter from the UK and we agreed to do further work, both on the letter and to keep in touch with each other on the timing of that, in order to fulfill our side of the work of the security council. The General Assembly has already begun with their resolution 69/321.”

  But less than an hour before, Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had told the press that “I’m sure the President of the Council is going to speak. And what I proposed, half-jokingly I must admit, that we should set a working group which will have weekly meetings until the end of next year on a draft letter by the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council. In fact, if we stick to the resolution of the General Assembly, it says that they are asking for a joint letter, which is going to describe the process and invite candidates. The process is described in the Charter and inviting candidates is saying yes please, submit your candidates. But if you try to turn it into a lengthy negotiation, some kind of a fancy document, then it will take 12 months for us to achieve this draft letter. So my pitch, which was shared by some colleagues, let’s not over-complicate things. Come on. And if we don’t over-complicated things, then I think it can be done.

   France 24 asked Churkin, You have a candidate? Churkin replied there are seven or eight candidates from Eastern Europe, but France 24 insisted, “From Russia?”

  Churkin explained that Permanent members of the Security Council don't submit UNSG candidates. And so it goes. We note that at the increasingly corrupt UN Correspondents Association, there are no term limits and this year, all six officers are running without opposition, headed by Giampaolo Pioli who previously rented one of his apartments to Sri Lanka's ambassador then screened his war crimes denial film, and now sells seats with Ban Ki-moon for $6,000. Let's hope this process can lead to an SG who can clear the UN up.

 On September 22, after the Permanent Representatives of Estonia and Costa Rica announced a high level meeting on the topic on September 26; Estonia's Sven Jürgenson said his priority is the best candidate, not necessarily from the Eastern European group.

   Inner City Press asked if this same push for transparency applies to the current murky process of selecting the new High Commissioner for Refugees, of which it is said Ban Ki-moon alone choose (Danish UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft told Inner City Press he “favors” the Danish ex-Prime Minister but plays no role.)

  Costa Rica's Juan Carlos Mendoza Garcia told Inner City Press that reforms in Secretary General selection could help reform other selections in the UN system. Inner City Press - and the Free UN Coalition for Access -- ask, isn't the refugee top post something of a test case?

  Tellingly, the old UN Correspondents Association demanded to ask - and largely waste - the first question, the time of meritless hierarchy that is precisely what's wrong with the UN. We'll have more on this, and on the September 26 high level meeting.

  Back on July 22 the subject was discussed behind closed doors by the UN Security Council. Afterward UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft emerged and described the meeting as a first step, adding that the UK intends to convene a so-called Arria formula meeting of the Council once candidates come forward.

  Inner City Press asked Rycroft if the issue of regional rotation - that is, the the Next SG post belongs to the Eastern European Group -- came up. He said that it did, adding among other things that the UK does not think that is the most important factor. Periscope video here, for now.

  It was argued to Inner City Press that while the UN Charter in English assumes that the Secretary General is male, that is not the case in the Chinese (or Russian) versions - for what it's worth.

Update: as to Russian, an astute reader notes that

Within Chapter XV of the Charter (“The Secretariat”), in the third sentence of Article 97, where the English version of the Charter says of the Secretary-General, “He shall . . .”, the Russian version instead uses the name “TheSecretary-General shall . . .”, thus avoiding specifying the SG’s gender.  But in Article 99, where the English says, “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten . . .”, the Russian also uses, “. . . in his opinion”.

h/t/ SC Procedure

Статья 97

Секретариат состоит из Генерального Секретаря и такого персонала, который может потребоваться для Организации. Генеральный Секретарь назначается Генеральной Ассамблеей по рекомендации Совета Безопасности. Генеральный Секретарь является главным административным должностным лицом Организации.

Статья 98

Генеральный Секретарь действует в этом качестве на всех заседаниях Генеральной Ассамблеи, Совета Безопасности, Экономического и Социального Совета и Совета по Опеке и выполняет такие другие функции, какие возлагаются на него этими органами. Генеральный Секретарь представляет Генеральной Ассамблее ежегодный отчет о работе Организации.

Статья 99

Генеральный Секретарь имеет право доводить до сведения Совета Безопасности о любых вопросах, которые, по его мнению, могут угрожать поддержанию международного мира и безопасности.

Background: on June 30, UN Conference Room 11 was full to discuss the Next SG question, in an event organized by the 27 member states (so far) making up ACT (Accountability, Coherence, Transparency).

  Surprising to some, on the panel was UK Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft, who said among other things that the Next SG should not necessarily be from the Eastern European Group.

  The room was full -- Inner City Press stood by the door, broadcasting by Periscope and live-tweeting with laptop in hand -- but with a notable contingent of Eastern European representatives. One question identified herself as such: a woman, and Eastern European. Just saying.

   William Pace of WFM reminisced how Boutros Boutros Ghali's second term was vetoed in a deal between the (Bill) Clinton adminstration and then-Senator Jesse Helms, to release dues payments to the UN.

 The proposal now is for a single seven year term. Mary Robinson says she knows of another P5 country, beyond the UK, which is open to a single seven year term.

  When it was open for questions, Inner City Press (also on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which unlike the older correspondents grouping actually fights for more transparency by the UN) asked why not have a debate among prospective candidates?

  Why not require disclosure of how much is spend on each candidates campaign, including banning or requiring the disclosure of spending of the funds of UN Programmes (UNDP) or Organizations (UNESCO) for their chiefs to campaign to replace Ban Ki-moon?

   The UK's Rycroft said that prohibitions are not the answer -- agreed -- but did not answer on requiring financial disclosures. (He said we don't want massive spending, one isn't running for president. Which raises another question: what about some form of matching funds for candidates from lower income countries?)

  While much of the focus seems to be on arranging letters from the President of the Security Council to the President of the General Assembly, as Inner City Press asked at the ACT event and asked the new PGA Mogens Lykketoft himself, twice (video), can't the PGA call a high level meeting and invite candidates to present themselves? In this way, the wider world outside the UN could get engaged, and put on some pressure. The anonymous polling of which candidates are “discouraged” by the P5 members should not, FUNCA contends, be repeated.

  Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Juan Carlos Mendoza-García wrapped up, and the event was over. It was promising, but moves for reform and opening up should begin as soon as possible. Watch this site.

  Back on June 1, after several press conference on the topic and a closed door General Assembly session on April 27, the ACT group of 27 states (Accountability, Coherence and Transparency) submitted their page and a half set of proposals to the Presidents of the Security Council and of the General Assembly.

  Here is a photo, re-tweeted from the Swiss by the Free UN Coalition for Access.

  Even before these proposals are debated, candidates are edging for an advantage; dark horses are positioning themselves for it the post slips away from the Eastern European Group. Inner City Press has mentioned Helen Clark, using the UN Development Program post to campaign (staff who cross her on Twitter are reprimanded, as Inner City Press reported here.)

 Another "dark horse" candidate, Inner City Press is told, is Swedish foreign minister and former UN official Margot Wallstrom. We'd like to hear from her what she thnks of the UN's handling of allegations of sexual abuse by French "peacekeepers" in the Central African Republic, including the role of another reputed dark horse candidate, Susana Malcorra. And what did Ban know, and when did he know it?

  The Free UN Coalition for Access agrees, there should be formal candidacies, platforms -- and adds, why not debates?

 How to pick the next UNSG: that was the question on the afternoon of April 27 in what was called a "closed" meeting in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. The meeting being labeled closed, and not on UN webcast, is a bad beginning, the Free UN Coalition for Access believes.

 To counter-act this Inner City Press did its reporting about the meeting, from India urging that there be more than one - a panel - of candidates proposed, to Moldova emphasizing that the next SG should come from Eastern Europe.

 Canada said regional rotation should inform but not determine the selection. The UK to its credit released a copy of the speech by new Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft - but how to square its proposals with David Cameron nominating Andrew Lansley to replace Valerie Amos as Emergency Relief Coordinator, then insisting that the UK should have the post, now in the person of Stephen O'Brien.

Update: With only a few dozen states choosing to speak, the chair decided to try to finish them all -- five states in twelve minutes? -- to end the debate on April 27. This too may not be the right spirit.

Update II: And when the rushed session ended, the next one was announced for May 12, on the "institutional memory" of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

  Earlier in a 10 am press conference by the campaign called "1 for 7 Billion: Find the Best UN Leader."

  At the April 27 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson for Ban's views on needed reforms. Apparently there are none: it is up to member states, he said, adding that selecting a women would be good. What about pay to play?

  Inner City Press asked the panel if, as happened last time, increase trade and aid funding by a candidates' country should at least be disclosed, if not prohibited. William Pace of WFM replied not only about countries spending hundreds of million of Euros, but also about the heads of international agencies using their posts to campaign.

  Since UNDP's Helen Clark is known to have told associates and underlings she would like to be the next SG, Inner City Press asked the panel for comment. They were diplomatic, including on the UK, said to be a reformer on the SG post, having insisted it retain the Emergency Relief Coordinator positioon, albeit in the person of Stephen O'Brien and not Cameron's first nominee (and National Health Service destroyer) Andrew Lansley.

  Natalie Samarasinghe of UNA-UK said the campaign around (well, against) Lansley was a positive step forward; she said that social media makes secret processes less possible. (But see the replacement at Yemen envoy of Jamal Benomar by a Mauritanian official who has not made public financial disclosure).

  Yvonne Terlingen, now Senior Policy Adviser at WFM,  also cited the OCHA process or campaign. WFM's Pace seemed to conflate the entire UN press corps with the UN Correspondents Association, a group that for example tried to censor Press coverage of how Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous got the job, then tried to get the Press thrown out.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access seeks to open the UN and these processes - watch this site.


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