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After Sandy, UN Slammed by States For Broken Email, Flooded Cars

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 5 -- The UN's own response to Super Storm Sandy was slammed by many of its member states on Monday, in a session of the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee.

  New chairman Miguel Berger, Germany's Deputy Permanent Representative, had told Inner City Press about the session late last week; other Ambassadors were already mocking the UN's claims of preparedness and its "overly rosy" November 2 press conference.

   On November 5, Berger began by noting the breakdown in UN communications, such that states' Missions heard almost nothing from the UN. The next state, Algeria, said the only e-mail it got was from New York City Commissioner Tivens, Mayor Bloomberg's sister, who covers diplomat and consular affairs. If she could e-mail, why not the UN?

   Cote d'Ivoire noted that $50 million was spend on the computer back-up center, in New Jersey. Should it stay there?

   Denmark, which rarely publicly criticizes the UN, said that the failed response was "a blow to the UN's authority" in the field of disaster preparedness.

    Other diplomats complained they were told to move their cars in the UN garage from the first basement to the third, then told only on Monday, when they could not reach the UN, to move them up. (Inner City Press on Monday afternoon witnessed some staff and diplomats nevertheless moving their cars). Those cars on 3B have been damaged.

   Under Secretary General for Management Yukio Takasu was left to fend off these questions. He pointed out that he had said the damage was "relatively contained," not "minor." Neither Secretary General Ban Ki-moon nor his chief of staff Susana Malcorra attended -- although Malcorra will be in the Committee later in the week, Berger said.

  At Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky a question posed by Brazil: will there be any outside review of the UN's response? Nesirky referred to an internal review, the one being led by Susana Malcorra.

  Nesirky's Deputy Eduardo Del Buey was asked by Inner City Press on Friday if there will be any OSHA certified inspection of the areas of the third sub-basement being are being sent to work in, armed only with dust masks and Windex.

  Still no word on that. But Inner City Press is informed that other 3B workers were told they could only go to retrieve items with sentimental value if they wear boots and disinfect their clothes; no pregnant women allowed.

 Does this sound like a safe place to work, or an Organization that should be allowed to muddle through this without outside inspection or review? Watch this site.

Footnote: also at Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN deputy chief humanitarian John Ging about cholera in Haiti. He said it's a concern, that it could spread. There was word Friday that Ban would be announcing a program with that country's government. But Nesirky had nothing on this on Monday.

  A skeptic mused that while member states said virtually nothing publicly when the UN brought cholera to Haiti, some are speaking vehemently about damage to their cars. But oversight has to begin somewhere.

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