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UN Admits Impact of Syria Sanctions,Won't Raise in Kuwait, Met SPLM-North, Press Preferences

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- Two days before the UN makes a pitch in Kuwait for $1.5 billion in aid for Syria and Syrian refugees, Inner City Press asked UN humanitarian official John Ging about the current impact of sanctions on humanitarian activities in Syria.

  Complaints come not only from the Syrian government but also NGOs from Italy and Denmark, among others. Medicine can't be produced; even diapers are in short supply. What does the UN have to say about this?

  Ging acknowleged that the sanctions are a problem, noting the shortage not only medicine but also fuel.

   So will the UN be raising the impact of sanctions, Inner City Press asked Ging, at the January 30 meeting in Kuwait?

   Ging said that would be up to the "participants," seeming to mean the donors themselves.

   But the UN didn't leave it up to donors to come up with the $1.5 billion estimate. And isn't the UN supposed to lead? To identify a problem, even if one powerful donors would rather ignore, and raise the issue?

   Inner City Press also asked Ging to answer a question that others in OCHA have declined to answer: did OCHA meet with the SPLM-North representatives who were in New York last week?

  The UK's Mark Lyall Grant to his credit, forthright like Ging, acknowledged to Inner City Press that the UK met with them, despite Khartoum's opposition.

  French Deputy Permanent Representative Martin Briens, by contrast and like an OCHA deputy, said "no comment."

  If the UN has a meeting its existence should not be private. By what right could the UN, owned and ostensibly controlled by all 193 of its member states, have secret meetings?

   Ging said yes, OCHA did meet with SPLM-North, on humanitarian issues. He expressed outrage that eight months after a Security Council resolution demanding access, "nothing" has been accomplished in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

  Earlier in his briefing, Ging was talking about moving aid through border crossings to Syria that not controlled by the Syrian government, say it is not possible for now but something could be done about it.

   Inner City Press asked him to contrast this with the possibility of bringing in aid to Southern Kordofan from South Sudan. This, Ging did not answer.

Footnote: normally at a noon briefing with a UN official as a guest, there is no hierarchy of question, no first question to the now-dubious UN Correspondents Association, a/k/a UN Censorship Alliance. But new president Pamela Falk on Monday arranged to be called on first, and pointly thanked Ging "on behalf of UNCA."

   Then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey called on a series of other UNCA members. As the last question, Inner City Press thanked Ging on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, and asked about Sudan and Syria sanctions. 

   It's ironic because Falk, while often not present at the UN, has in the past been a lawyer about sanctions, representing clients with business in Cuba before the US Treasury's OFAC. So since she claimed the first question, why didn't she ask about sanctions, or something other than a softball? Ah, politics.

 When UNCA inserts or asserts itself, so will FUNCA as is its right. The head of the UN Department of Public Information has been informed to this effect. The matter of UNCA's "exclusive" glassed-in bulletin board and the UN's "postponed" threat to tear down FUNCA's flyers remains unanswered by the UN, like so many others. Watch this site.

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