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UN Reform Withdrawn by Swiss After Letter of Ban's Lawyer, Who Won't Speak

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 -- Less than three hours after he withdrew the Small Five draft resolution on Security Council working methods, Swiss Ambassador Paul Seger told Inner City Press that the letter by UN Legal Adviser Patricia O'Brien that led to the withdrawal was "wrong," but that the President of the General Assembly had let it be known that he would express support for the letter.

  In his withdrawal speech, both as prepared and delivered, Seger criticized "legal arguments according to which our resolution should be submitted to a qualified majority of all member States under resolution 53/30 which we find, with all due respect, utterly wrong and biased."

  Inner City Press obtained the O'Brien letter and exclusively published it May 15; Seger on May 16 referred to it being leaked to the press. But it should have been public.

  At Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon if Ban agrees with his lawyer's ruling. The spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said that since the resolution was withdrawn there was no reason to answer.

  Inner City Press asked again that Patricia O'Brien hold a press availability to answer questions, now that she had issued a legal opinion not only to Ban but all 193 member states. Nesirky said such a briefing is "unlikely," for the reason he previously said. But now O'Brien has impacted a major UN reform issue: is there no accountability?

  Ban Ki-moon talks about transparency, but O'Brien never takes press questions. Ban's more recent hire, top Peacekeeper Herve Ladsous, never answers questions, unlike for example Kofi Annan's top Peacekeeper Jean-Marie Guehenno.

  Ban talks about reform, but blocks it. Here his top lawyer rules for a two-third General Assembly vote for a reform he disfavors, when for his half-baked "Change Management" Ban wanted to proceed without any GA vote at all, until the Group of 77 slapped him down. Some reformer.

  Ban main reform has been the five year mobility rule, now renamed the "rotation" rule. Inner City Press asked on Wednesday if it applies to Patricia O'Brien and later this arrived:

Subject: Patricia O'Brien
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, May 16, 2012
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding Patricia O'Brien, her term started in 2008. Please see below:

6 August 2008 Secretary-General SG/A/1147 BIO/4002


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Patricia O’Brien of Ireland as Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel. Ms. O'Brien, the first woman in this position in the history of the United Nations, will replace Nicolas Michel.

  Note that Michel, whatever other issues, at least held press conferences. So, O'Brien until August 8, 2013? And now Q&A or accountability until then? Watch this site.

Footnote: Ambassador Seger recounted how after he briefed the Security Council as head of the Burundi Peacebuilding Configuration he was not allowed into consultations.

  Inner City Press suggested, ask for an Arria formula meeting, like was held on Guinea Bissau. There, Brazil's Ambassador who heads the PBC on Guinea Bissau pressed to get admitted. It shouldn't be required every time, fine -- but if it is, why not press?

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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