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On Sri Lanka, Ban Belatedly Cites UN Lessons, After Spox Said "May Not Exist"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 11 -- Ever since the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did nothing, and worse, as 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka in 2009, its officials and spokespeople have claimed they want to learn from what happened.

  But now, not only did the UN withhold its internal report on the lesson learned. After Inner City Press obtained and exclusively published the report on October 11 and Ban's associate spokesperson Farhan Haq answered Press questions about it, on October 17 lead spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that nothing had been confirmed, the documents referred to "may or may not exist."

   Well, it exists. Inner City Press put it online here.

  Now, in his November 11 speech to an informal meeting of the General Assembly, Ban Ki-moon has said this:

the Member States and the UN Secretariat, agencies, funds and programmes have not always succeeded in achieving our goals and upholding our responsibilities in complex situations. The 1994 Rwandan genocide represents the most emblematic failure of UN and Member State action; followed by our collective failure to prevent atrocities in Srebrenica in 1995.

We pledged to do better, and we have done so in many cases. Yet in 2012 my Internal Review Panel assessed UN action in the final stages of armed conflict in Sri Lanka as a “systemic failure”.

That is why, in January, I launched a process to follow-up on the Panel’s recommendations. This has led to the “Rights Up Front” Action Plan to improve UN efforts, in accordance with our obligations under the Charter and as set by Member States.

The Plan recommits every UN staff member to our core responsibilities for protecting human rights and strengthening accountability, particularly of our most senior managers. It will simplify communications to and from Headquarters, improve the flow of information and better leverage the UN’s work and presence in a country.

I also intend to do more to help Member States reach early consensus to prevent large-scale violations.

I urge all Member States to support these efforts, which go to the very purpose of our Organization. It is within the scope of those of us in this room to enable such change and prevent horrendous human suffering.

  But going into Ban's speech smiling, and no less so afterward, was Sri Lanka Deputy Permanent Representative, military figure Shavendra Silva. And Ban's spokesperson Nesirky had no comment on or for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting when Inner City Press asked on November 11.  Video here.

So what really has been learned?


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