UN, Ban Bones Up on Safety and Swing Space, Sri Lanka Pushed
Ban Questioned on Record, on Sri Lanka, Half Time Pep Talk
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 11 -- Half way into the five year term as UN Secretary
General he was awarded in 2006, Ban Ki-moon on June11 tried to defend
low grades he has received for his management of the UN and not
"speaking truth to power."
At Mr. Ban's press conference
for June, his spokesperson Michele Montas pointedly did not call on
Inner City Press. Only a week before she had
said the UN should be
able to regulate the Press, after a memo revealed her attendance at a
May 8 meeting at which legal threats and "complaining to Google
News" about Inner City Press was discussed. On June 11, she
looked elsewhere to award the right to question.
But CNN's longtime
correspondent, characteristically classy, yielded his question to
Inner City Press. Video here,
from Minute 42:41. To inquire into Ban's views on his Spokesperson's
and top officials' seeming underlying of freedom of the press, while
necessary and to later be asked, had to take a back seat to a bigger
picture question. From the UN's
transcript, the question and then
Ban's annotated answer:
City Press: There is an article
in today's Economist, called “Ban
Ki-moon - the score at half time”. It reviews half of your first
term. I want to ask you to respond to it. Under the rubric “truth
to power” they give you a three out of ten, and they use the
example of Sri Lanka - they say that Mr. Ban denied that the UN had
leaked grim civilian casualty figures. On management they give two
out of ten. There are some better grades, I acknowledge. On
management, they say there is a problem with communicating with
senior staff, that you have to show more leadership in drumming up
might add to that, protection
of whistle-blowers and
I just wanted to know, do you agree with any of this
critique, are there things you intend to do better in a second term?
What do you make of this piece in the Economist assigning those two
I would regard it as the judgment of the Economist. There may be a
different judgment on my performance. First of all, during the last
two and a half years, I had three priorities. First of all, to
catalyze a global response to critical global issues – like climate
change, managing the consequences of the international economic
crisis, global health and global terrorism. On climate change, you
may agree with me that from almost dead - if not dead, a dormant
status - this issue has risen to the level of leaders of the world.
It has become a top priority issue of this world. I am going to
really work hard to seal the deal in Copenhagen in December. I am
working for all humanity, for the future of Planet Earth.
Ban is clearly passionate about climate change, but some might also
mention Al Gore in this role. Ban appointed a mentor and former boss
in South Korea as a UN climate change envoy, then added the past
General Assembly president Srgjan Kerim to his climate roster. These
are patronage appointments, many feel, that do no credit to the
environment and provide support for the grades the Economist gave.
To deliver results to those most in need, you should know that I have
been working very hard to represent the well-being of the most
vulnerable people. I have been working as the voice of the voiceless
people, and defend those people who are defenseless. You see my
performance on the record.
Most recently Ban went to Sri Lanka, and saw Tamils locked up in
internment camps. Since returning to New York, Ban's Spokespeople
have resisted commenting on the plight of these defenseless people,
who are being locked up with UN funds.
UN's Ban, a world of worry, officials' anti-Press
moves don't help
Inner City Press asked, what
about the outgoing Sri Lankan chief justice's comment that the people
in the camps have no legal protection, cannot get the jurisdiction of
Sri Lankan court? Ban's Associate Spokesperson dryly called this a
"national issue." So much for voice for the voiceless. Some
say, apologist for governments.
On reform, you should understand that this has been accumulating over
the last sixty years. During the last two and a half years, I can
proudly say that I have made significant changes in the working
culture of the United Nations, to make this most transparent,
accountable, efficient and mobile and effective. I don't claim that I
have finished the job. There are much more things to be done in the
reform process of the United Nations. Look at these accumulated, very
cumbersome, bureaucratic systems of the United Nations. I am also in
a very difficult position to move these reform processes ahead. Have
you ever seen somebody who has been, as passionately as I have been
doing, to change this working culture of the United Nations? There
will be some complaints. People just love business as usual. They
simply don't want to change. This is what I really wanted to change.
Ban could have made his top officials file public financial
disclosure, or face non reappointment. He didn't. He is viewed,
perhaps because of those around him, as unapproachable by many. His
top management official, Angela Kane, barely speaks with the Staff
Union. Therefore few things have been reformed.
You should look very closely and follow me, what I have been doing,
what I have in my mind. I have never left climate change [or] reform
of the United Nations. I will continue to do that, whatever somebody
may say. But be sympathetic, and just try to closely follow what I
have been doing, not just based on conventional wisdom. Fix your
eyesight and vision on the 21st [century]. Don't look at the 1950s,
1960s., where the United Nations was the only universal body. Now you
have so many international actors – the European Union, the African
Union, the OAS, ASEAN – the United Nations must work together in
close coordination with all these organizations. And we need the full
support of the Member States.
Ban appointed former peacekeeping chief Jean Marie Guehenno as his
Under Secretary General for Regional Cooperation, that is on all
these grounps. Then, Ban did not assign Guehenno a single piece of
work. It was a patronage appointment, apparently designed to keep
Guehenno's visa status. This is not a new way of doing busines.
Without the political support, without resources provided by the
Member States, it is difficult, however capable a person may be the
Secretary-General. It is just impossible. I need more political
support. I need more resources by the Member States. Then judge my
support on the basis of that. The mandate should be supported and
accompanied by the resources and political support. Don't just look
at my performance on the basis of just vague or conventional
perceptions of the United Nations.
Is it too conventional to think that the UN Secretary General should
speak up for members of a minority group interned by a majoritarian
government using UN money? Is it vague to think that a CEO who has he
wants those whom he appointed to make public financial disclosure
could easily bring it about, by conditioning appointment or
re-appointment on disclosure? We could go on and on. The point is,
what improvements will there be? Watch this site.
* * *
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Muse
NATIONS, June 11, updated --
In the lead up to today's Ban Ki-moon press
conference, Mr. Ban's staff prepared him on the non foreign policy
topics of the UN's Capital Master Plan, safety and the so-called
swing space which will be used for the four years Headquarters is
under repair. While many UN staff members are unhappy with where they
are being moved and what they'll come back to, if they come back, the
press corps has become increasingly vocal.
spokesperson Michele Montas was given advance notice that Ban will be
asked about the attempt by his officials, led by Under Secretary
General for Management Angela Kane and CMP chief Michael Adlerstein,
to charge media organizations $23,000 for office space similar to
that they now have for free. Inner City
Press reported exclusively on
these attempted charges, linking it with the exodus of
organizations including the Washington Post from the UN.
the money demand was dropped, and only "open office"
cubicles offered. [But see below - on
June 10, the UN renewed its proposal to charge the press money for
space to report on the UN, which no previous Secretary General has
UN press corps remains strongly opposed and urges ratcheting things up,
as is done here.
The UN's rationale is that the UN is moving to a culture
of transparency. We've yet to see it. At a supposed Town Hall meeting
led by Angela Kane on June 5 about UN justice, security officers
checked all attendees' identification cards at the entrance doors.
Can't have any reporting on justice at the UN, apparently.
substantively, Ban or his Spokesperson's Office seem to have decided
to try to cut off questions about the year's bloodiest conflict, Sri
Lanka. On May 23, the UN's Ban Ki-moon signed a Joint Statement with
Sri Lanka's Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ban has since said that he is closely
But only this week, his Spokespeople
refused to comment on the deporting of Canadian MP Bob Rae, the
extension of state of emergency anti-terror laws, and the country's
outgoing chief justice's statement that those in
internment camps have no protection from Sri Lanka's courts. That's a
national issue, was the answer of Ban's spokespeople.
does Mr. Ban
himself think? One hopes to get an answer.
UN's Mr. Ban and Ms. Kane in basement, many
things not shown
in Headquarters, an incoming USG who is seeking answers is Gregory
Starr, the replacement of David Veness. He is slated, sources say, to
meet later this week with DSG Asha Rose Migiro. The delayed Security
Risk Assessments are said to finally be completed, but their
recommendations are not known, particularly with regard to safeguards
needed at the Madison Avenue and 47th Street swing space.
the run up to his June 11 "monthly" press conference, Ban
was said to be angry at the mounting concerns about the safety of the
way the CMP is being implemented. Asbestos removal has been
performed, for example, right next to the UN library, still in use.
Adlerstein insists that the work is being done on weekends, by "men
in spacesuits... using negative pressure." But the Staff Union
has questioned the process, and has also now in writing, they say,
questioned what they call Angela Kane's grab of space on the library
building's third floor, causing a unit of the Department of Public
Information to move twice.
a recent meeting, Adlerstein insisted that such double moves are
common, and blamed Inner City Press making it an issue. If he only
knew -- the issue was raised first by the Staff Union. Inner City
Press spoke briefly with Adlerstein on June 10, asking the status of
the white PVC piping, otherwise illegal in New York, and the septic
tank installed in the third sub-basement next to the garage for Mr.
first declining to answer -- Adlerstein, as well as Ms. Montas, say
they are opposed to "getting quotes in the hallway," which
is routinely done by the UN press corps, particularly on the Security
Council beat -- Adlerstein said that the PVC is legal, and the septic
tanks will stay. Staff Union sources wonder if Ban has smelled his
car. "That's not a new car wax," one joked on Thursday
morning. He added that such close Press coverage of the UN is a
mark of respect, not disrespect, for "the Organization."
sources insist that the USG for Management post is "in play,"
as they put it. The initial impetus, they say, came from the United
States, but others have now joined in. Inner City Press asked, but
where does one shift a USG? The sources pointed to the lateral move
of Ms. Kane's predecessor Alicia Barcena to ECLAC in Santiago, and
joked that the UN now like "giving Germans high UN posts in
Africa," referring to Ban's (or Kane's) replacement of
Tibaijuka as head of the UN office in Nairobi by UNEP's Aichim
As we've noted before, most recently in connection with
what is described as Ms. Kane's
memo to Ban about a May 8 meeting
with other USGs about legal action against three media organizations,
one of which interviewed Ban on June 10, and proposal to
complain to Google News about Inner City Press, click here
-- we'd like to get direct responses on these issues from Ms. Angela
Kane, but she has indicated in writing and never changed a statement
that she has not time to answer questions, to just ask in the
briefing room. Watch this space.
of 10:59 a.m. -- Ban's press conference, scheduled for 11 a.m.,
been pushed back to 1 p.m.. It is the only thing on this public
schedule for the day (he flies to St. Louis later in the day).
Reportedly, the UN is again proposing to charge the press money for
space to report on the UN, which no previous Secretary General has
With Angela Kane not in the meetings -- reportedly out of town
-- Ban's deputy chief of staff has taken the lead. Some say his focus
is on newly arriving South Korean media, if they must work in the
non-enclosed bullpen, then everyone should. Ostensibly to allay
concerns about journalists' expensive equipment being stolen from
open office space, the UN has offered to install additional, multiple
angle security cameras. There's talk, satirical or absurd, about a
designated "UN Whistleblower Zone," perhaps like the
so-called "No Fire" Zone in Sri Lanka. To be continued.
of 12:56 p.m. -- the press corps is settling in for Ban's presser,
putting their names on the list maintained by his Spokesperon's Office.
Inner City Press was here early, after the stakeout of top humanitarian
John Holmes, immediately entered into the list and took a spot in the
front row, so we'll see.
of 1:01 p.m. -- Ban has begun, stating that he waited until 1 p.m. in
light of WHO raising its Swine Flu / H1N1 level to six. There is
whispering about how or even if the swing space issue will be raised.
of 2:12 p.m. -- while Ban's Spokesperson did not call on Inner City
Press, despite the right to ask follow ups to a question if Ban thinks
he will be a two term Secretary General, when she called on CNN, their
long time correspondent with characteristic class said he would give
the question right to Inner City Press. It was the last question of the
press conference; Inner City Press asked for Ban's response to the
Economist rating him 3 / 10 on Speaking Truth to Power, and even lower,
2 / 10, on Management Skills.
Ban gave a long and unscripted answer, which we will
analyze and report on later today. For now, various observers called it
his only passionate answer, or to be more charitable as he requested,
the most passionate of his answers.
As Ban left for St. Louis, his deputy chief of staff approached the
first questioner, about the swing space, and audibly said, let's
continue the dialogue, but you broke our agreement. Another journalist
replied, We are not sorry, Mr. Kim. It all took place in the briefing
room, with recorders running. Only at the UN... Watch this site.
4 in the UK with allegations of rape and
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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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News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
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