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NGO's Report on Conflict Resources, Targeting Rebels, May Let Regimes Off the Hook, Is Reviled by UN's Doss

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 -- The UN is a club of governments. Even the seemingly idealistic things it does, it does for reasons of state and sovereignty.

  A UK-based NGO with 45 employees, Global Witness came to the UN in New York to lobby about conflict resources. Two of its campaigners met with the EU, and later the Press. They talked about the Congo, about Angola, all Africa all the time.

  Inner City Press asked about Myanmar, about the military regimes use of resources to fund its war on the Burmese. Global Witness is looking at Burma, but only rebel groups export of timber across the border.

  It seems obvious that to merely crack down on rebel groups is just what governments would want. What about North Korea? What about Sri Lanka, where clamp downs on financing of the rebels was accompanied by debt relief to the Rajapaksa government and then a "bloodbath on the beach" in 2009? What about Zimbabwe? Asked these question by Inner City Press, Global Witness' campaigner Amy Barry said another side of their work is anti-corruption.

  But that doesn't line up with squarely with human oppression. And Equatorial Guinea, which she cited, is not on the Security Council's agenda. Nor is Sri Lanka: even during the peak of 2009's bloodbath, inclusion on the Council's agenda was opposed by China and Russia, and not pushed for by the UK and others.

  Japan, she said, indicated it would need more evidence that in a UN Experts' report to go after companies trafficking in conflict resources. The UK said it could not rely entirely on reports by the UN Group of Experts. But few countries can afford to do their own research. If the UN reports are not credible, according even to an ostensibly human rights sensitive P-5 member, why are they being funded?

  While many in the UN open their ears to Global Witness, the head man in the Congo Alan Doss showed only anger, it was said. As Inner City Press has reported, to solve his nepotism scandal he has rolled the dice with the ex-CNDP. Doss has called Human Rights Watch short sighted. He was even more brusque with Global Witness.

UN's Doss escorted through ex-CNDP mining territory

  Ms. Barry recounted the founding and history of Global Witness: three guys concerned about timber sales in Cambodia. Lo these many years later, all three are still involved: two working from homes in the warmer part of Europe, the third and last still in London. They are still active on Cambodia, urging donors to impose conditions of transparency and human rights.

What sad is that despite all this heartfelt effort, when Inner City Press quizzed Security Council Ambassadors at the Chinese end of presidency shindig on the night of January 28, few had heard of the visit of Global Witness. Even spokespeople of EU Council members said they were not aware. Pearls to swine, it seems, at the UN Security Council.

Footnote: another too ignored NGO, International Commission on Nuclear Disarmament and Non Proliferation, re-released its report "Eliminating Nuclear Threats" last week. The first launch was during the Copenhagen climate change summit, and was largely ignored. Gareth Evans appeared at the UN last week, saying the report will have a long tail.

  Inner City Press asked about North Korea, Reuters about Iran. Then Ambassador Gary Quinlan, the Permanent Representative of Australia who was moderating the press conference, called on an Italian diplomat, who gave a speech which cut off journalists' questions. So it is with NGOs, even those sponsored by governments, at the UN.

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In Haiti, UN of Two Minds on China, No Guidance on Bullets, Florida Football Games Blocking Medical Flights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- Two days after the UN's spokesman in Haiti David Wimhurst denied knowing about UN Peacekeepers shooting even rubber bullets to control crowds of aid seekers, detailed reports emerged of "UN troops" shooting 50 caliber guns over crowds.

  Inner City Press asked the UN's humanitarian coordinator John Holmes about these reports, and what the UN considers the best practice in crowd control while aid is distributed. "There is no set standard in the humanitarian lexicon," Holmes said, adding that the main focus is that nobody gets hurt. Video here, from Minute 26:03.

  So are tasers okay? Tear gas? Electrified fences? Are these decision left up to each country's contingent adopting the UN's blue helmets in Haiti, including a battalion from Sri Lanka, accused of war crimes?

  A stark different in the statements of David Wimhurst and Holmes was also raised but not resolved. On January 27, Wimhurst confirmed to the press that the Chinese search and rescue team, once it dug out the Chinese diplomats from the wreckage of the UN's rented Hotel Christopher, left the country.

  But on January 28, Chinese diplomats told Inner City Press to check with John Holmes, who they cited as on record about additional Chinese work in Haiti -- a country with whose government China has no diplomatic relations, since Haiti recognized Taiwan.

  Inner City Press asked Holmes to square this with what Mr. Wimhurt said. "I don't know what to add," Holmes said. "That's my understanding, the Chinese information as well." But was he a witness? Video here, from Minute 15:34.

UN's Holmes, UNDP's Helen Clark behind: paying $5 or just $3 a day in Haiti?

  Media in Florida reports that the flights evacuated injured Haitians to Florida have stopped, due to the upcoming Super Bowl and Pro Bowl of the National Football League. Inner City Press asked Holmes about this. "I have no idea," he said. "Ask the Americans."

  A reporter whispered, "Touchdown!" -- referring also to Holmes "touchdown" space in the UN compound, now that others in his office have been moved full time to Madison Avenue. Football is only simulated war. But the UN in Haiti is shooting with real bullets. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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