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Ramos Horta's Panel Balances Mandates with Darfur Cover-Ups, Haiti Cholera

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- The review of UN Peace Operations chaired by Jose Ramos Horta of Timor Leste kicked off with a press conference then an interactive dialogue with the Security Council on November 20.

In the press conference, Ramos Horta was asked of scandals facing UN Peacekeeping, from cover-ups in Darfur of attacks and now 200 rapes in Thabit, to a lack of accountability for cholera in Haiti to the use of private military contractors and even “eavesdropping.”

  Inner City Press asked Ramos Horta about UNAMID's pro-government press release of November 9 denying the Thabit rapes, and about Haiti cholera, which Ramos Horta vowed to raise to his fellow panel members.

  Some of these members spoke with the Security Council later on November 20, and a smaller subset with Inner City Press after the meeting. From that and what some Council members said, it appears that the Security Council's vision of the panel's mandate is far narrower and more bureaucratic, on such issues of how mandates should be drafted.

  That's all well and good for the pen-holding countries in the Security Council, some of which contribute few to no peacekeepers to UN missions. But what about the people ostensibly served by those mission? Those in Haiti, impacted by cholera? Those in Darfur, under-protected, now criticizing UNAMID and the ultimately the Department of Peacekeeping Operations run by Herve Ladsous?

  One outgoing Security Council member, Rwanda, said it had raised the cases in which UN Peacekeeping does not live up to its mandate, like letting civilians be attacked and killed mere miles from its bases. Others pointed out that while many Troop Contributing Countries question the mandates now being given, those drafting the mandates come from countries without their own soldiers in the field.

  Permanent Five countries are well represented on the panel, including former Ambassadors who served in the Security Council, former diplomats who then served the UN like B. Lynn Pascoe, long time UN-ers like Ian Martin (who, for the record, is interested in Sri Lanka but not working on it at the moment).

  Norway's Hilde Johnson, after what some view as a controversial time at the helm of the mission in South Sudan, was present on November 20 but did not speak afterward. Others did, like Wang Xuexian of China, Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh, still the head of the Department of Field Support and Alexander Ilitchev of Russia. Radhika Coomaraswamy, named an “ex officio” member by Ramos Horta, did not appear to be present for this dialogue with the Security Council, at least not in the hallway afterward.

  Ramos Horta has vowed to listen to all constituencies, including those impacted by UN Peacekeeping. This could result in needed reforms, or at least a report publicly calling for them. Watch this site.


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