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In Philippines, UN Won't Work With Parties to Conflict - DRC, AU Contradiction?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 15 -- In responding in the Philippines to the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the UN according to its humanitarian operations chief John Ging has accepted help from the militaries of the US, Malaysia, UK, Israel, Australia, Japan and Sweden.

  Inner City Press asked Ging about concerns he has elsewhere acknowledged about the blurring of lines between humanitarian and military action. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, UN Peacekeeping has become a party to armed conflict but still blends in with aid work.

  Ging said the rule is to not work with a party to a conflict, under the Oslo Principles being applied in the Philippines. But what about the DRC, where now supposedly UN Peacekeeping will be going after the FDLR militia?

  Inner City Press asked Ging about the following online paragraph: "The U.S. Marines were reportedly instructed not to let Philippine government officials and politicians touch the relief goods that will arrive in Samar. Five C130 panes are scheduled to arrive, carrying relief goods from the United Nations."

  Ging said not to read too much into that; his co-panelist, UNICEF's Ted Chaiban, added that the Philippines has been working well with the UN.

  More was said in the briefing, but the UN insisted on beginning in even as three African Union Permanent Representatives spoke at the Security Council stakeout. Back in September, the UN delayed the noon briefing while the prime minister of Israel spoke, then started it during Iran's right of reply.

  When Inner City Press asked why, the spokesperson said that all journalists who cover hard news understood why this was done. But why talk-over the African Union ambassadors, while saying later in the briefing how much the UN values Africa?

  (There also seemed to be surprise, not from Ging, when Inner City Press asked for an update on getting polio vaccines into Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Ging said Sudan has shown flexibility, agreeing to a meeting even the UN said was unnecessary.)

It was the Free UN Coalition for Access which asked that Friday's noon briefing be delayed. UNCA's Pamela Falk of CBS, rather than protest, rushed in to thank Ging (and use the name of UNCA). Inner City Press did not say FUNCA, but said the two events should have been coordinated. We will continue to push on this. Watch this site.


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