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For UN Drones, Ladsous Put Out Bids 7 Weeks Before UNSC Orange Light

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- For months UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has claimed that he would move on his dream of drones once inter-governmental consultations and approvals had taken place.

But now it emerges that even before the first -- but not only required -- limited "case by case" approval was obtained from UN Security Council president Masood Khan on January 22, Ladsous's DPKO had already put out a request "Expressions of Interest" for drones back on November 28, 2012.

 The closing date was January 11 -- before any approval at all.

Inner City Press has identified the UN Procurement document, here.

 Notably, in November 2012 Ladsous was looking for drones in "support of peacekeeping operations in West Africa and/or
Central Africa." He initially wanted drones for use in Cote d'Ivoire in West African FrancAfrique.

   How and why would Ladsous start this process before he had even a single approval? In March 2012 when his proposal was met with opposition in a closed door meeting of the C-34 committee on peacekeeping, members told Inner City Press they suspects Ladsous would just get drones from the French contractor Thales, and give the information collected to France.

  Ladsous is the fourth Frenchman in a row to head DPKO, and was foisted on the UN without so much as an interview, as a last minute replacement for Jerome Bonnafont.

  When Inner City Press reported on this last minute surprise, Agence France Presse began a process against Inner City Press in the UN Correspondents Association (a/k/a UN Censorship Alliance), in which UNCA met with "UN officials (very quietly)" to move to dis-accredit Inner City Press.

  After fight-back this didn't work. And on January 25 Inner City Press asked both Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq and Security Council president Masood Khan about Ladsous' drone plan.

Haq said that consultations with other bodies would continue, but when asked who would get the information, said all fifteen Security Council member.

Less than an hour later, a Security Council member disputed this to Inner City Press, and called Khan's letter not a green but "orange" light, case by case, only the Congo, "a trial."

   When Khan as Council president for January took questions he told Inner City Press he was unaware that the procurement had begun, or at least of Haq's statement.

  (Haq was seen later on Friday going into the Security Council chambers. We note however that this is usually the time when the spokesperson's office meet with the next month's president, and both lead spokesman Martin Nesirky and his Deputy Eduardo Del Buey were out of the office in New York on Friday.)

  Security Council sources tell Inner City Press that this issue of when the procurement began came up in closed door Council consultations. When will Ladsous, despite his reliance on his sponsor the Permanent Five member France, be called on this?

From the UN's January 25 transcript:

Inner City Press: a letter has been released in which the Security Council apparently gives its blessing to the use of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], but what wasn’t clear to me from this is, it was said earlier by DPKO that they would seek all of the approvals needed, and I had asked Martin [Nesirky], what are the approvals needed? Does DPKO believe that it needs the consent of the Committee on Peacekeeping, C34 [Committee of 34], of the General Assembly? Where does it actually stand in terms of them using drones? Have they begun procurement? Would they accept it from a Member State, and who would get the information feed from these drones?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Yeah, on that: first of all, the basic point to make is one that we’ve made before, which is that UN peacekeeping assets and resources are used in line with Security Council mandates, force requirements and guidelines. Beyond that, in this particular case, a procurement procedure has been launched. And we have had a formal written consent from the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to deploy these assets, and neighbouring countries in the Great Lakes region have also been notified. And that is part of our response to the Security Council approving the trial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a case-by-case basis by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

Inner City Press: When does the procurement end? And again, I have asked this about six times, who gets the information? DPKO collects information, filmed, do all 15 members of the Security Council get it, or 193 Member States get it? Where does the information go?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, obviously, first we’ll have to acquire the information and then see from there about how that is used, because it will go, of course, to the members of the Security Council, because they are the ones who have been… who have requested this, have approved this. Now, in terms of the procurement process, it has been launched. We will provide further details about procurement once that happens, but it has just begun.

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