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In Haiti, UN Calls Criticism “Claptrap,” Defends IOM On Pepper Spray Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 10 -- The UN refuses to accept criticism, even where as in Haiti it is faced with street protests telling it to leave, and critiques by high officials of the regional organizations the UN says it works with and respects.

  Inner City Press asked Nigel Fisher, the UN Resident Coordination in Haiti, to respond to comments by former top Organization of American States envoy Ricardo Seitenfus, that the UN has spent too much on violent policing in Haiti. “Claptrap,” was Fisher's response. Audio here, from Minute 28:45.

  Fisher derided Seitenfus for saying Haiti is being used as a “humanitarian laboratory.” While he claimed to only be involved in the UN's development side, Fisher defended the huge MINUSTAH Peacekeeping bills as being about strengthening the rule of law in Haiti.

  But on the rule of law, Inner City Press asked Fisher about a documented incident in Camp Imakale in Cite Soleil in December, in which UN peacekeepers pepper sprayed protesters who say that the International Organization for Migration predicated aid on reducing public protest.

  Fisher said he couldn't imagine IOM “conditioning assistance on stopping criticizing the government.” (In fact, it was criticism of IOM and of the UN which was allegedly being discouraged.)

  Seitenfus put his job at risk in order to speak up for what he saw as mistreatment of Haitians. Fisher offers knee jerk responses. The UN's performance does not improve.

Nigel Fisher in previous video appearance, learning not shown

  For weeks, Inner City Press has asked the UN how much former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas has been paid. At first, Martin Nesirky said he “would not comment.” Then he suggested to “ask MINUSTAH.” Finally this arrived:

Subject: Re: Your question regarding Special Advisor in Haiti
From: UN
Date: Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 2:52
To: Inner City Press

In response to your querry with the Spokesperson of the Secretary General regarding Ms Montas's appointment to MINUSTAH, please find the answer below.

"Following the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which had a severe impact on the substantive sections of MINUSTAH, Ms Montas was engaged by the mission's senior leadership as the D-1 Special Advisor to the Head of Mission. Her contract will terminate on 30 June 2011, when the post itself will be eliminated, as part of the mission's post-surge readjustment."

Watch this site.

* * *

On Haiti, UN Role in Recount Unclear, US Mirrors UN On Cholera Origins

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 10 -- Fresh from the snafu of UN's involvement in Cote d'Ivoire's contested election, it remained unclear Friday what role if any the UN will play in the recount of Haiti's election, and the run-off.

 Inner City Press asked first the UN Spokesperson, then this month's Security Council president Susan Rice, who also mirrored the UN's position on whether it introduced cholera to Haiti.

At Friday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN's Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: the President of the electoral council there said yesterday, in light of all these, the swirling fraud allegations, et cetera, he said that… he read a statement saying that the ballots will be recounted with international observers and electoral officials watching. So I wanted to know, will the UN be playing any role in this; will they be observing a recount? Will they certify the results?

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I said to you, Mr. Le Roy is briefing the Council, and as part of that briefing he said that they are awaiting clarification about the Commission’s terms of reference and membership. So that’s still not clear.

Less than an hour later, US Ambassador Susan Rice came to the Security Council stakeout position to read out a Council press statement. Inner City Press asked her:

Inner City Press: On the recount, did the Council discuss, and, separately, would the U.S. support some kind of a UN role in observing the recount and certifying the results? And also, on cholera, given the allegations that somehow the peacekeepers may have brought it, which may or may not be true, is there any reform that you can think of, in terms of sending people from one part of the world to another, in terms of what the DPKO can do better to just take the issue off the table?

AMBASSADOR RICE: The fact is that no one can determine conclusively where the cholera strain originated. And certainly it has been the U.S. view, and I think, appropriately, the view taken by the United Nations, that it is far more important at this crucial stage, when people are dying and contracting the disease in high numbers, to figure out how to prevent and treat the epidemic, rather than focus principally on its origins, which can never be medically determined with certainty.

Susan Rice over Haiti, cholera and its origins not shown: or sought

With respect to the electoral process, obviously the Council did discuss, having heard Under-Secretary-General Le Roy's briefing, the importance we attach to the will of the Haitian people being respected, and that all efforts being made by the responsible Haitian authorities and by the responsible international monitors and observers is welcome to try to ensure that, as this process unfolds, that there is transparency and maximum support as needed and requested by the authorities to ensure that the ultimate result is free and fair.

We'll see.

 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.

* * *

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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