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Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - March 14, 2006

In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

   UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- The plight of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal was discussed Tuesday at the United Nations in New York, while further east Denmark's ambassador to Nepal clarified that he equally blames Bhutan and Nepal for the decade-long limbo of these 105,000 people, and Russian Chief Judge V. M. Lebedev visits Kathmandu. A report on the response of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the fuel needs of the refugees notes, on its 19th page, that "[u]nder Nepali law, income generation activities are prohibits -- even within the camps." In response to a question from Inner City Press, it was clarified that this restriction was imposed to counter the attempts of refugee women to work and sell goods outside the camps, and that now the surrounding community makes money selling items to the refugees, who are themselves prohibited from any enterprise.

   An analogy even in more developed countries without explicit refugee camps is to communities which lobby to become the location of prisons, as sources of income and employment, mused one long-winded wag. While reasons may exist to restrict entrepreneurialism among the incarcerated, refugees it would seem should be treated differently, particularly long-term refugees like the Bhutanese in Nepal, now facing further restrictions in schooling and access to even the most basic health care. The refugees have increasingly been directing protests and petitions at the United Nations, which seems otherwise occupied.

Nepal's envoy to the UN 9/05

   The executive director of the UN Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid stated in response to Inner City Press' questions that barriers to income generation by refugees is a problem worldwide. But in most situations, she said, the obstacle to work is not fixed in law. Other panelists told stories from two African nations, Liberian refugees in Guinea and Rwandan refugees in Tanzania, and urged that refugee-host countries allow refugees to attempt self-sufficiency, and that the host countries be pushed in this regard by donors and UNHCR.

Footnotes: Speaking of UNHCR, at the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked if UNHCR has re-thought in light of the March 10 African Union meeting its announcement the day prior that it will reduce service to Darfur by 44%.  No, the spokesman said, there is no update and no change.

Speaking of no change, in a press encounter after briefing the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said in response to Inner City Press questions that poppy and heroin production have not been reduced in Afghanistan, and that the reports of avian flu in the country are still unconfirmed. 

Tom Koenigs

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

    UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 28 – The UN’s Jan Pronk, briefing reporters on Tuesday about developments in Sudan, said that his mission is underfunded and that as regards Sudan’s oil sales, there is no transparency and little benefit to the Sudanese people. In the North –South conflict, according to Mr. Pronk, the North claims to have forwarded $700 million in oil revenues to the South, as a sort of peace dividend. But the South says the money has not been received. Mr. Pronk said, “Where is the oil? How much is there? How much is being produced? What is the reference price?”  Mr. Pronk said he is awaiting information from the International Monetary Fund. “There is no transparency,” he said.

     When asked by Inner City Press if he could, within the bounds of diplomacy, provide guidance to countries which are economically engaged with Sudan, Mr. Pronk declined, limiting his response to the Security Council’s consideration of a list of responsible individuals (but not corporations). Unstated at the briefing was the well documented engagement in Sudanese oil by Security Council member China.


  Mr. Pronk also spoke of Chad, into which the conflict has spread, and where the government recently reneged on its previous commitments that the revenue from the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, run by ExxonMobil, would be devoted to social welfare programs. Mr. Pronk stated that Chad is blocking action on cease-fire and other issues in the Abuja process.

  Mr. Pronk referred several times to Al Qaeda. On the one hand he stated that a force from the UN, rather than NATO, would be less likely to “set off a jihad.” On the other hand he referred to death threats in letters – not against him, he said, but unnamed others. This is based on intelligence, he said.

   Interviewed after the briefing by Inner City Press, Mr. Pronk elaborated on his earlier comment that NATO has “boots on the ground” in Darfur. Asked about press reports that NATO has been providing air support to the African Union force in Darfur, Mr. Pronk shook his head. “They have a few helicopters,” he said. “But nothing more than that.”

 Logistically, while Mr. Pronk had planned to meet with the African Union at a meeting about Darfur on March 3, that meeting has been postponed for a week. Mr. Pronk will be in Paris on that day at what he called “his” Consortium meeting, but said that “we” will be represented at the Feb. 10 AU meeting. We’ll see…

Another Inner City Press report earlier this year on Sudan:

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, for Inner City Press

   UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 18 – If the president of a lesser-known former Yugoslav republic calls for coordinated global action in Sudan, does anybody hear?

  At the United Nations on Jan. 18, Slovenia’s president Janez Drnovsek briefed reporters about the initiative he began two weeks ago by writing letters to the presidents of other, mostly larger countries, highlighting the crisis in Darfur. So far few countries have responded. Just prior to the press conference, the U.S. representative to the UN, John Bolton, told Slovene media he hadn’t heard of Mr. Drnovsek’s plan. When asked by Inner City Press if he still intends to go to Washington to meet with members of Congress, Mr. Drnovsek said no, since “some Senators have not come back from their holidays yet.” Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito might disagree.

  Mr. Drnovsek compared Darfur with Rwanda and, closer to Slovenia, to Bosnia. He stated that in the past three years in Darfur, three million people have been displaced, and 100,000 killed. He proposed, in the short term, opening a refugee camp for up to 10,000. He mentioned China’s business involvements in Sudan, without mentioning the word oil. Without mentioning Iraq, Mr. Drnovsek noted that the U.S. might not be in a position to send soldiers, but should otherwise contribute. “Mr. Bolton,” he said, “has surely heard of Darfur.” But apparent not of the Slovene president’s plan, nor perhaps of the Slovene president himself.

  Several reporters noted the relative importance of what is said, and who does the saying. John Bolton can ignore a Slovene proposal.  Similarly, for readers of Inner City Press’ recent UN reporting, the International Monetary Fund and the IAMB can apparently ignore questions from the smaller, more independent media about the oil metering contract in Iraq with a still unnamed U.S. company that was mentioned at their December 28 press conference. The U.S. company has still not been named, despite a public commitment to do so by early January. Inner City Press will continue to follow this and other UN-related issues.

  Janez Drnovsek is not the first Slovene president to trod the UN stage in Turtle Bay. Janez Stanovnik, president just after the collapse of Yugoslavia, served for years at the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe, and at UNCTAD. Mr. Stanovnik told the UN Intellectual History Project that “it is completely illogical that the operational decisions be carried out under the principle of one country, one vote,” given the difference in population between countries. Perhaps that is why some can ignore current Slovene president Drnovsek. But as he pointed out, what role is the world’s most populous nation playing in Sudan? The power-players at the UN are all otherwise occupied, with Iraq and now Iran (and, much further down the list, bird flu).  Egypt still has imprisoned several hundred Sudanese refugees, including from Darfur. In these swirling news cycles in which Africa is so often an after-thought, Mr. Drnovsek’s lonely voice is welcome. But will it be enough?

Some previous reports:

In Locked Down Iraq, Oil Flows Unmetered While Questions Run in Circles

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia, Even Terror’s Haven

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Halliburton Repays $9 Million, While Iraq’s Oil Remains Unmetered

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Royal Bank of Scotland Has Repeatedly Been Linked to Terrorist Finance and Money Laundering, Not Only in the Current Brooklyn Case

From Appalachia to Wall Street: Behind the Mining Tragedy, UBS and Lehman Brothers

Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

Watching the Detectives: Oversight of the Development Fund for Iraq Will be Discussed at the UN on December 28, 2005

From the UN Budget, Transit Strike, to the USA Patriot Act, 2005 Ends with Extensions

Some previous highlights and special reports:

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

The United Nations' Year of Microcredit: Questions & No Answers

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