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After UN Breakdowns in Sandy, Going Blue at Home, What Response to Haiti?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1 -- After Hurricane Sandy knocked out the UN's chiller unit and turned off its email and servers, and before a "manual migration" to a backup center kicked up, UN Security Council Affairs had a duty stretching to the Horn of Africa.

  The mandate of the AMISOM mission in Somalia would expire on October 31, and unlike tax filings or other deadlines of national bureaucracies, it could not be automatically extended by fiat. The Security Council had to meet in person and at least "roll over" or extend the mandate.

  But the Security Council itself is bureaucratic. A resolution, even one for a roll-over, must be put in blue or finalized before it is voted on. In this case, the "putting into blue" was done by Security Council Affairs staff from their homes, outside even the UN's (broken) e-mail system.

  The Somalia resolution was voted on in a special Council meeting held in the North Lawn building on October 31. (Inner City Press, after some blockage, managed to cover the meeting in person; click here for that, and see footnote below. Click here for Inner City Press' November 1, 1pm story on the chiller unit.)

  In a post-Sandy press conference on at 2pm on November 1, three Under Secretaries General each thanked UN staff for what they'd done during the storm. Inner City Press decided to report on one such story, that would not necessarily be told on the UN's in-house News Service.

  Inner City Press asked USG Takasu why it took so long to switch to the UN's backup data center in New Jersey. He acknowledged it was slow, blaming it on the need to "manually migrate."

  After complaints to Inner City Press that facilities in the UN's third sub-basement were flooded by up to four feet of water and now "stink," it asked USG Starr if the Security locker room would be relocated. He said it would, at least until the locker room is fully fixed and cleaned up.

  Inner City Press asked "Chef de Cabinet" Susana Malcorra about Haiti, where the health minister has warned of increases after Hurricane Sandy (and Isaac) of cases of cholera, a disease the UN is said to have brought into the country.

  She extended the question to Cuba as well -- later in the North Lawn, a Caribbean diplomat told Inner City Press, "Jamaica too" -- and on Haiti said that the Secretary General will be announcing a program with the government later this year. We'll see. Watch this site.

Footnote: on Somalia, the Permanent Representative of another African country on November 1 told Inner City Press that European cheapness was killing the Somalia mission. A comparison is to the over-compensation to the naval component of UNIFIL off Lebanon. We'll have more on this.

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