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As UN Humanitarian Ging Raises Ethiopia, Displacement, Comms Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- When the UN's John Ging took questions on July 23 about South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia's Gambella region, Inner City Press asked him about the spike in people fleeing since April, and about reported “villagization” and displacement there for commercial agriculture.

   Ging noted the temporarily decrease in refugees in April, and the increase since. He agreed that the renewed fighting in Nasir may lead to more refugees.

  Later, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs provided this quote from Ging: “'I applaud the generosity of the people and Government of Ethiopia, who are now hosting almost 600,000 refugees from the region. Despite not being a rich country, they have consistently kept their borders open, and are an example of international standard for the treatment of refugees in practice. It is now the international community's turn to step up and shoulder its responsibilities to share the burden with Ethiopia.' So far, of the 193 member states of the United Nations, only 18 are funding the appeal.”

   That part of OCHA's communications works well. Less well, last time Valerie Amos spoke -- on the Sudans -- Kieran Dwyer insisted it was normal to withhold the statement for hours.

   Later in the week he was seen spinning member states about World Humanitarian Day. But this is the same guy who, contrary to Ging's - and Amos' -- approach defended the stonewalling of Herve “The Drone” Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping, video here. Will this approach infect the UN's humanitarian arm?

  Are there unexplained double standards at the UN on humanitarian access?

  On July 16 in “elements to the press,” the Security Council on the “humanitarian situation in Sudanese states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile... urged warring parties to allow humanitarian access in accordance with Resolution 2046” adopted by the Security Council, more than two years ago.

(Inner City Press has put the full "elements to the press" below.)

  Inner City Press asked UN Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, and the Council's Rwandan presidency for July, if the newly adopted Syria model for humanitarian access would be applied to Southern Kordofan.

  Amos did not answer that part of the question -- perhaps because she said she was only answering on Sudan and South Sudan -- and the Rwandan presidency said that no member of the Council had suggested even circulating a resolution as was done on Syria.

  OCHA and many Security Council members have bemoaned the lack of access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But why have no steps been taken, as on Syria? Reports under Resolution 2046 are not, as those on Syria are, put out in advance in the UN Spokesperson's office.

And a request by the Free UN Coalition for Access to OCHA's head of communications, previously in the same position for UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous, for a copy of Amos' clearly prepared opening remarks at the stakeout on Sudan and South Sudan (or "if not, why not") was not responded to, whereas Amos' statements on Syria can be disseminated.

Update: an hour after FUNCA's request he replied, "The written statement will be delivered to media soon, once the text is aligned with what was delivered. This is standard practice. I'm not sure why the 'if not why not' question."

  It was more than four hours after that, and long after filing of this and other stories, that OCHA belatedly sent Amos' Sudan remarks - after OCHA had sent a number of other statements.

   In fact, OCHA has provided to the media near real-time summaries of information given in closed consultations to the Security Council on Syria, for example on the morning of May 29. Why the difference with Southern Kordofan?

  Inner City Press also asked Amos about a critique of Ladsous' UNMISS mission in South Sudan, as undermining humanitarian independence. Amos gave a thoughtful answer about the need for escorts and security, given the logistics challenges. But how will this be received at the upcoming humanitarian summit?

  After the Rwandan presidency read out the “elements to the press,” Inner City Press asked about the status of Rwanda's June 26 complaint that Ladsous' MONUSCO mission had flown the FDLR militia's leader from Eastern Congo to Kinshasa before any decision by the 1533 Sanctions committee on giving a travel ban waiver (it was denied).

  Ladsous' DPKO has not even responded to the complaint, was the answer. On July 15, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told Inner City Press that the FDLR leader was escorted back to Eastern Congo - but then insisted he hadn't said that the UN did the escorting. Who did, then? Watch this site..


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