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As Ban Launches Book, Kim's Missile Joke, Lanka in Princeton Club

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 -- The UN's story should be better told. That was the stated goal when the idea for Tom Plate's “Conversations with Ban Ki-moon” was born, in 2010, at Singapore's Mission to the UN.

   Plate had profiled Lee Kuan Yew as his first “Giant of Asia” and let it be known that he saw Ban as a future Giant in his series.

   Fifteen hours of interviewing later, a smallish 236-page book was belatedly launched Tuesday night at the Princeton Club in Manhattan.

  The crowd included some press, some students from Loyola Marymount where Plate has taught for the last three years, and Permanent Representatives from the UK, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Kazakhstan and South Korea.

  Ambassador Kim Sook, saying he's known Ban for thirty years, joked that he prefers book launches to missile launches. The word armistice, however, was not used.

  Ban said when he read the first draft of the book, it seemed to him too light hearted, like EZ-Listening music. But, he said, it might work in letting people know how the UN works.

  And how does the UN work? Earlier on Tuesday, Ban met for more than two hours with the Group of 77, mostly about “post-2015 development” but also his delayed plan for mobility, which has been opposed by staff, at least in New York.

  Ban used the word “selfish” in referring to some of this opposition; this was followed by a Staff Union vote of No Confidence. This was not mentioned Tuesday night. But Ban's Under Secretary General for Management, Yukio Takasu of Japan, was in attendance.

   How does the UN work? Also present was the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Palitha Kohona. The UN's failure to speak and act while 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka in 2009 is one of the UN's biggest failures under Ban, among with its unexplained dismissal of claims for bringing cholera into Haiti.

  The anti-Tamil impulse of Sri Lanka's ruling family was in fact raised by Lee Kuan Yew in Plate's first Giant of Asia book.

   But what's been done since? Ban recently accepted what's called a “whitewash” report about Sri Lanka from Japan's Ambassador Nishida, along with Bangadesh's Ambassador Monem, Kohona, the Permanent Representative of Romania and the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria.

   The UN didn't release the report, which Ban went on to praise when asked in Geneva about Sri Lanka. And Ambassador Nishida, when Inner City Press asked for the report, said it would first be given to all member states.

   Kohona on Tuesday in the Princeton Club's lobby told Inner City Press this hand-over took place last week, but not in the UN -- in the Japanese mission. It seems timed to counteract the belated talk of accountability at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This is how the UN works: Giants of Asia, indeed.

   Hardly mentioned Tuesday night was Africa, where most of the UN's work is. On March 5 Inner City Press asked Ban, at the Security Council stakeout, about inaction on 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army, which the UN supports.

  After the rapes, under Ban's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, the UN support was to have stopped. But it still hasn't.

   Two days later his Department of Peacekeeping Operations, led for the fourth time in a row by a Frenchman -- this is how the UN works -- offered belated spin to friendlier journalists about threatening two unidentified units of the Congolese Army with loss of support if they don't prosecute by an unspecified deadline.

  So has Ban allowed his Human Rights Due Diligence Policy to be less than meaningful, under France's Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous?

   Inner City Press' critique of this has given rise to a formal but undisclosed complaint against it, in a Kafka-esque system without rules. The head of the Ban's Department of Public Information was in attendance Tuesday night, and quite polite.

  But despite requests, including from New York Civil Liberties Union then the new Free UN Coalition for Access, there are still no due process rules for journalists at the UN. We will have more on this, how the UN does not work.

   We will also have more about the book, about mobility, Sri Lanka, Africa, Asia and Haiti. Watch this site.

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