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On Blood Chocolate, Nestle and Child Trackiffing, Does UN Act in Cote d'Ivoire or through its Global Compact?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 14 -- As Halloween approaches in the United States, when tons of chocolates will be bought and handed out as treats, at the UN an organization Stop the Traffik held a briefing and was asked about child labor in cocoa production in Cote d'Ivoire. The group's web site asks, "Nestle, What Are You Doing?"

  Inner City Press asked, since Nestle is a member of the UN Global Compact, about human rights and fair labor, what is the UN doing? And since the UN has 7000 peacekeepers in Cote d'Ivoire, what has it done on the child labor and trafficking issue? Video here, from Minute 24:33.

  Steve Chalke, the founder of Stop the Traffik and "UN.GIFT's Special Advisor on Community Action against Human Trafficking" at first answered that Nestle is not the problem, the industry is the problem. But them he went on to praise Cadbury and Mars, at least in the UK and Australia, for making commitments which Nestle has yet to make.

Poster about UN Global Compact member Nestle

  Simone Monasebian, Chief of New York Office of UN Office on Drugs and Crime, did not answer about the UN Global Compact or about UN Peacekeeping in Cote d'Ivoire. (The UN's envoy there, Choi Young-jin, reads his mandate so narrowly that on October 13 he declined to comment not only the the Trafigura toxic waste scandal, but also the timing of elections). Rather, Ms. Monasebian said that UNODC gets only 10 percent of its funds from the UN's regular budget. The rest, she said, is voluntary and earmarked. If Member States gave money for this issue, UNODC would do more.

  She mentioned that the last President of the General Assembly Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann named two facilitators to being informal consultations toward a global plan of action on the topic, and that some say current PGA Ali Treki has named a third facilitator.

  Inner City Press asked PGA Treki's spokesman about this at the noon briefing, he said he hadn't heard, to ask the Third Committee. But people say that the Ambassador of Tunisia has been named. Watch this site.

* * *

On W. Africa Drugs, UN Makes Excuses for Guinea's Conte and CNDD Coup Leaders, No Shame

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 -- As the UN system brags about its work against illicit drug trafficking in West Africa, questions have arisen about the UN's engagement with the past and present regimes in Guinea. When previous president-until-death Lansana Conte died in December 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a laudatory statement about Conte's rule.

   Soon thereafter, it emerged that Conte's family used diplomatic privileges to traffic massive quantities of drugs. On July 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit and UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa about their dealings with Conte and the CNDD military coup leaders who have succeeded him, in light of Ban's statements against Honduras' coup leaders. Video here, from Minute 53:03.

Mr. Djinnit at first said he didn't understand the question, and then emphasized that he dealt more with Guinea's prime minister than with Mr. Conte, who he said was sick. Djinnit confirmed that he engages with the coup leader CNDD president, who Djinnit says is "committed to deal" with drugs, although he said the UN "has concerns about how it is being done." Video here, from Minute 54:08.

Mr. Costa recounted telling Lansana Conte about the drug trafficking of Conte's son, and then getting a call three hours later from Guinea's prime minister, who said that Conte himself had called to become better informed. Like Djinnit, Costa essentially excused Conte for allow the country's presidency to be used for drug trafficking by saying Conte was ill, and couldn't control his son. The disparity of the UN's statements about "coup leaders" in Honduras and its "flexible" approach to Guinea could not be more stark.

UN's Ban and Said Djinnit: Guinea dictators and Darfur post not shown

   Inner City Press also Djinnit, Costa or their two panel members Andrew Hughes, UN Police Adviser, Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); and Harper Boucher, INTERPOL Special Representative to the UN, to comment on the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendation that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, so praised by the UN, be removed from public life for 30 years for supporting war lord Charles Taylor.

   The only response, such as it was, from from Mr. Hughes, who said he was not the right one to answer. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked INTERPOL's Mr. Boucher about the freeing of former Kosovar prime minister Ceku from an Interpol warrant for war crimes by the flashing of a UN document. Boucher said he wasn't that familiar with the case, but that it might be "political" You don't say...

* * *

Amid Liberian Calls to Bar Johnson Sirleaf, UN Says Nothing Except TRC Not At Risk

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 -- The UN system has praised both the Liberia truth and reconciliation commission and Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Now the commission has recommended that Johnson Sirleaf be barred from public office for thirty years, in part because she supported indicted war criminal Charles Taylor, including financially.

  Inner City Press on July 7 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson Michele Montas if Mr. Ban or the UN Mission in Liberia have any response to the recommendation, given both the UN's central role in Liberia and Sierra Leone and previous statements about Ms. Johnson Sirleaf. It is up to the Liberians," Ms. Montas said, "not for the UN to decide." Video here, from Minute 16:56.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has recommended that President [Ellen] Johnson-Sirleaf be barred from public office for 30 years for having supported Charles Taylor, including economically. Does the… given the central role in Liberia and Sierra Leone, what does the UN think of this recommendation?

Spokesperson Montas: This is a report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, and the UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has received the draft of the Commission’s report. It will be up to the Liberians to determine how they want to take forward the reconciliation process. It is not for the UN to decide; it is for the Liberians to decide.

Inner City Press: What about the issue… because I have seen a lot of UN statements very laudatory of President Johnson-Sirleaf. She has acknowledged apparently giving $10,000 to Charles Taylor rebels at the time. Does that change the UN’s opinion at all?

Spokesperson Montas: I will not comment on this.

  But the UN, particularly the UN Development Program, has supported Johnson Sirleaf including in her campaigns. Given reports that she gave $10,000 to Taylor's forces, which recruited child soldiers and cut off limps, shouldn't the UN have something to say now?

UN's Ban and Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, TRC finding of support of Charles Taylor not shown

   Inner City Press asked UN envoy to West African Said Djinnet, was briefing the Security Council on Tuesday morning, what he thought of the recommendation. Mr. Djinit declined to comment, noting that there is a UN Mission in Liberia, UNMIL. Inner City Press then asked Djinnit directly about what Inner City Press has quoted an African Ambassador as saying, that the UN offered Djinnit as a possible replacement for Rodolphe Adada in Darfur. Djinnit laughed and pointed at his ear.

   On July 8, Inner City Press asked Ms Montas if the UN will be responding to the call by the Liberian Human Rights Campaign that UNMIL provided protection to the members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

   Ms. Montas wasn't sure; later in the day, UN Police Advisor Andrew Hughes answered Inner City Press by saying he wasn't the right person to ask. Said Djinnit thanked Inner City Press for not asking in public about the possible Darfur post. (Separately, a concerned diplomat told Inner City Press that "the West" likes Djinnet.) And then the following arrived:

Subj: Liberia and TRC Commissioners
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 7/8/2009 3:27:25 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Regarding your question at today's Noon Briefing regarding Liberia and the TRC Commissioners: UNMIL already supports the Liberia National Police, (LNP) in the police's primary responsibility for ensuring day-to-day civil security in Liberia.Currently, there is no credible evidence of threats to any member(s) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). If any such threat was made, UNMIL, in support of the LNP, would be available to assist in the protection of TRC Commissioners. To date, no requests for additional security support have been made by the TRC Commissioners.

   But still not comment by the UN about the recommendation of the TRC Commissioners. Some rule of law...

For G-8 Spouses, WFP Flies in Ghanaian Children for "Simulated Feeding," $500,000 Cost and Ms. Sheeran Disputed, re N. Korea

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- During the upcoming G-8 meeting in Italy, the UN World Food Program is flying school children from Ghana to Rome for a "simulated food distribution" display for the spouses of G-8 representatives. WFP has ordered staff not involved in the display to not come to work that day. They will, however, received "special leave with full pay."

   Inner City Press wrote about this last week, quoting an internal WFP e-mail. On July 7, Inner City Press called in to what was described as a WFP press briefing about the G-8 and asked for response to criticism of the event as insensitive to beneficiaries of UN aid and for the cost, as well as about limitations WFP accepts from the government of North Korea.

   The WFP officials on the conference call -- who will remain unnamed at their request -- at first did not answer the question, and then stated that the event would cost only a fraction of the figure Inner City Press used its its July 2 story, $500,000.

  Inner City Press asked to be given on the record WFP's figure, including staff time, accommodation and air fare -- and carbon offsetting of the jet travel, if any. Four hours later, after close of business in Rome, a WFP spokesman said that an answer might be forthcoming. In the interim, WFP had scrubbed up and approved a quote from the "background" briefing for a less critical wire service piece.

   And so, beyond the WFP e-mail below describing the event, here is the basis for Inner City Press' estimate of cost:

According to the WFP website, 'WFP employed 10,200 people in 2008 (91 percent of staff serve in the field.)' That means about 1000 work at WFP Headquarters in Rome. Even accounting for a satellite building that will stay in operation -- though who knows how many staff will show up or be able to get near it -- we estimate that 800 staff go home and that the average grade is the mid range of a P4 (grades are higher at WFP headquarters than in the field). The direct cost for such a post is about $100,000 but one must add to that pension, staff assessment and a large "post adjustment" because the dollar is weak against the Euro. Therefore a more realistic annual cost for a mid range P4 is perhaps $150,000-160,000.

   The work year has 260 days, so a single day of labor lost costs the organization $576. Multiplied by 800, one gets about $467,000 -- plus related security costs, the cost of flying in the Ghanaian children to eat corn-soy blend in view of the G-8 spouses, the construction of a fake schoolhouse by WFP's pool, etc. In addition there is the Italian government paying rent on a building that is not being used to manage food aid but as a set for this theater. The last public figure on the website for the building costs was about $45 million per annum with a daily cost of roughly $123,000. So $467,000 plus $123,000 yields about $590,000.

   Immediately after a senior WFP official on Tuesday's conference call said that costs were only "a fraction" of $500,000, Inner City Press formally asked for WFP's estimate of costs, and for confirmation that a WFP staffer was expelled from North Korea.

UN's Ban and WFP's Sheeran, luncheon June 2, 2009, 'simulated feeding' not shown

  At deadline nine hours later, the following arrived:

Hi Matthew, On the question regarding the planned event at WFP headquarters on Friday 10 July, I refer you to the response given during the teleconference earlier today. On the question of DPRK, I have the following response:

A senior WFP official said one WFP staff member in DPRK has had to leave the country because his visa was not renewed by the authorities. A number of other WFP staff members have been reassigned, or rotated to new duty stations because WFP's operations have contracted and the number of people required to support WFP's activities have gone down.

"While WFP continues to operate under the new conditions imposed by the DPRK authorities, it has not formally accepted them, and WFP is continuing to push for a return to the original terms of agreement negotiated with the government at the launch of the current emergency operation," the official added.

    We continue to wait for WFP's cost estimate. Inner City Press immediately followed up on the above, asking for the costs, if the WFP staff member who had to leave DPRK was from South Korea, and another question.

    The initial questions were sent to WFP chief Josette Sheeran's e-mail address. Ms. Sheeran, on whom Inner City Press has previously reported, including where possible praising her work, has taken to hiring yet more former colleagues from the Washington Times, most recently Elizabeth "Lisa" Bryant.

   Within the UN system community in Rome, many believe that Ms. Sheeran engaged in a quid pro quo with FAO chief Jacques Diouf, hiring a relative of his for an information technology post in exchange for FAO hiring the husband of her personal assistant, Tanujah Rastogi. They snark that since Ms. Sheeran Shiner bragged that while editing the Washington Times she ran story after story about the Clintons and Whitewater, the Obama Administration with Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State might want to see a change at the top of WFP. Through in the snafu of the $500,000 simulated feeding program and.... well, watch this site.

Rome colleagues:

As you know, Italy will be hosting the G8 Summit next week and leaders from more than two dozen countries will be in L’Aquila. We are honored that the Italian government has asked WFP to host an official program at our headquarters on Friday, 10 July, as part of the spouse program.
This visit is a profound testament to the increasing visibility of WFP's work -- and an opportunity to help the world better understand the important work we do. On our premises, we are arranging a simulated food distribution and a symbolic African schoolhouse, where a small group of Ghanaian schoolchildren will help celebrate our work. (You may have noticed the large exhibit being erected this morning behind the pool.)

Due to the security precautions mandated by the Italian government and the visiting delegations, only those employees involved in the event or deemed necessary for critical operations by their managers will be permitted on the main building premises during the morning of July 10. Among other things, parking will be severely limited at our main building and automobile access limited in Parco de Medici in general.
But we encourage you to take advantage of this special exhibit and bring your families, including your children, on the afternoon of 10 July – anytime after 2:00 – so they can get a taste of our field work and meet the schoolchildren. If you cannot bring your family on 10 July, note that the tent and displays will remain up on Monday, 13 July, so we invite you to bring family members to see the display then.

Though this is a special event, we realize it might cause some inconvenience. We hope you can appreciate what an historic opportunity this is for some of the world’s most influential people to understand what we do and to see the impact of their donations.

Here are some guidelines for the day: If you work in the main building, please do not come to the office Friday morning, 10 July. The St. Martin’s building will remain open. As much as possible, please work from home... We expect the main building to re-open for business as usual at 2:00, so if it's feasible for you to return, please do so. If returning to the office in the afternoon is not feasible for you -- we recognize that some of the Parco de Medici transit options do not run in the afternoon, for instance – you are authorized special leave with full pay. Thank you,
Steve Taravella
Chief of Internal Communications, World Food Programme
Via C.G. Viola 68,Rome, Italy 00148

Footnote: one WFP staffer, anonymous from fear of retaliation, asked if Josette Sheeran would similarly "parade around Food Stamp recipient in the United States," and went on to suggest that if the G-8 spouses wanted to see "needy Africans" while in Italy, they could check out the camps on Lampedusa...

* * *

WFP In Pyongyang Has Korean Speakers Expelled, Flies African Children to Eat for G-8

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, July 2 -- While the UN in New York announced that its World Food Program will shrink what remains of its program in North Korea, in the midst of declining donor confidence and missile tests by Pyongyang, the UN was more quiet about the restrictions it had been under and is accepting in the country. WFP in a memorandum from Beijing notes that the Kim Jong Il government now requires that none of WFP's remaining international staff should be able to speak Korean.

Inner City Press is told that WFP - Pyongyang's main Korea speaker was expelled from the country as persona non grata on June 20 and that this bodes badly for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon naming a new UN envoy to North Korea. Reportedly, Ban had focused on a South Korean envoy, with an eye toward running the candidate by members at the upcoming G-8 meeting. But if Kim Jong Il is expelling from the country what few UN system Korean speakers remained, such an envoy seems even less likely.

Speaking of WFP and the G-8, for the upcoming meeting WFP is flying in children from Ghana to eat as a part of an "exhibit" for the spouses of G-8 leaders on July 10. The internal WFP email is below. Several WFP sources expressed disgust to Inner City Press at the event, which they ascribe to WFP head Josette Sheeran. One asked, "Would she parade around Food Stamp recipient in the United States?" They put the expenses of the event, including the substantial closure of the WFP headquarters on July 10, at $500,000.

WFP's Sheeran gives award to UN's Ban, PNG and  Eat for G-8 not shown

At UN, N. Korea Test Reaction Veiled in Secrecy, P-5 Search for Leak

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 10, updated June 11 -- Seventeen days after North Korea conducted at least its second underground nuclear test, the UN Security Council is scheduled this morning to circulate a previously-leaked draft sanctions resolution. A belated reaction with belated demands for secrecy, it will finally be made public on a volutary basis. For that reason and those below, for now there was no need to have it published here until circulated - now here it it.

  North Korea has already denounced it, and it is unclear who, if anyone would actually search North Korea ships. Perhaps the U.S. will seize more of Kim Jong-Il's money, as it did in Banco Delta Asia. But it could have done that without action by the Council.

Early in the process, Inner City Press got and published a draft of the resolution, minus substantive operative paragraph eight. Credit was given; there was little push-back.

  Then on June 5 Inner City Press obtained the near-final draft, which had been circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five member plus Japan and South Korea. Inner City Press put it online that Friday at noon, it went with credit to Japan, the AP, Times of London and Washington Post. The feedback, however, was not all positive.

   Several Ambassadors approached Inner City Press to complain. You have made things more difficult, they said in different ways. One, Rosemary DiCarlo of the U.S., was to her credit willing to explain why. Countries find it hard to back away from positions in a draft that goes online, she said. Another had said, just summarize it, don't put the text online. Ambassador DiCarlo said that it's easier to back away from a summary.

   France's Permanent Representative Jean-Maurice Ripert had an extraordinary reaction. He summoned "the French press," how ever defined, and insisted to them that the draft Inner City Press had put online had not, in fact, been circulated. This had been contradicted by others in the French mission, and by other diplomats. Still Ripert insisted it was true, according to multiple sources in attendance at his meetings.

   Ripert held yet another news event for only portions of the press corps on the eve of the North Korea meeting, this time about peacekeeping. He focused on the Congo, yet the topic of the UN Mission there, known by its French acronym MONUC, constructively working with indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntaganda somehow did not come up. We'll have more on this.

   The U.S. mission took a different approach, grilling other Council members and even Secretariat staff trying to determine the source of the leak. To some, the approach seemed inconsistent with what Barack Obama has said, about transparency and openness to the press. Several journalists detailed to the UN during these past two weeks have expressed surprise at the press relations of the current U.S. mission. Perhaps a work in progress.

Secrecy at the stakeout, hunt for leak and promises of transparency not shown

   Tuesday at six o'clock, the Russian mission emailed out comments of Ambassador Churkin, that consensus is emerging. Then at nine a.m. Wednesday, a meeting was scheduled for two hours later. It will be live blogged here. Watch this space.

Update of 11:08 a.m. -- one by one, or rather each with separate entourage, they have entered. Susan Rice with security and spokesman; Vitaly Churkin, like China's Deputy Liu, with a jaunty step. China's Permanent Representative with a single political advisor and a smile.

  France's Ripert, who reported told some journalists to only expect a vote on Friday, stopped and said in French, hopefully "demain" (tomorrow).

Update of 1:20 p.m. -- the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, true to form, held its noon briefing in direct conflict with the Ambassadors who spoke at the stakeout. Perhaps so that even fewer reporters would attend and ask questions at the Secretariat's briefing. There were only three, and none of the questions were answered. Afterwards, Russia's Vitaly Churkin was speaking at the stakeout. He was asked why the draft has not yet been "put into blue." Ripert, it was said, repeated his prediction of adoption tomorrow or Friday. Several Japanese reporters expressed relief, that their two week vigil of watching nothing happen appears finally at an end.

Update of 7:53 p.m. -- a vote on Thursday is said to be unlikely, by a non-permanent Security Council member, some of whom pushed back against not having been included in the process of the P-5 plus Two. As Swiss Ambassador Peter Maurer told the Press on Wednesday afternoon, on the record, why do countries work for four years to get a seat on the Council only to sit back and wait to be given the menu by the P-5?

Update of June 11, 11:19 a.m. -- A Russian diplomat tells the Press that there have been a number of amendments proposed, presumably by non P-5 members, and "they must be considered." Asked if a vote Friday is possible, he said, "I do not know... I have to ask my expert."

Update of 11: 26 a.m. -  Japan's Ambassador Takasu, more upbeat, said in Japanese to the press from that country (which in turn offered this translation to Inner City Press) that he is not aware of any opposition, but that he will of course listen to any opinion. Asked if there will be a vote Friday, he said he does not like to make predictions.

Update of 11 p.m. -- it has "gone blue," and a meeting scheduled for June 12 at 11 a.m., presumably to vote: watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Near Final Draft on North Korea Leaked to Inner City Press, Arms Export Ban and Cargo Inspection Added

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Exclusive-Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Thirteen days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, a near-final draft resolution emerged behind closed doors at the UN Security Council.

The six-page draft, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts online here as a must-credit exclusive, has more than thirty operative paragraphs, compared to the mere 14 paragraphs of the three-page draft Inner City Press similarly obtained and published on May 28. (AP, Japanese and other media appropriately credited Inner City Press).

  This time, Inner City Press is told by its sources that the draft was circulated to the capitals of the Permanent Five Plus Two -- these last are Japan and South Korea -- with the deadline for comments on June 5 at 10 a.m. New York Time.

   The provision allowing North Korea to import light weapons, in Paragraph 10, is attributable to Russia, according to a well placed Inner City Press source who calls it the Kalishnikof or AK-47 clause.

   Beyond the cargo ban, other provisions are weaker than the proponents wanted. Paragraph 19, for example, merely calls on "member states and international financial and credit institutions not to enter into new commitments... except for humanitarian and developmental purposes." Paragraph 17 prohibits "bunkering services, such as provision of fuel or supplies" to vessels. Paragraph 22 calls for reports within 45 days.

At UN, media chases news of draft now published by Inner City Press

  While the draft resolution seems unlikely to change North Korea's course, it has been the subject of intense journalistic interest for nearly two weeks now at the UN in New York, particularly by Japanese media, who have remained camped out in front of the Security Council during meetings on Somalia, Bosnia and Tribunals and on June 5, Sudan and Sri Lanka.

  Non-permanent members of the Security Council complained to the Press that they were kept in the dark throughout the days of negotiation.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. 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.

* * *

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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