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UN Budget Session Ends With Whimper, No Ban Answers, No Mobility, Replies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 27, updated three times -- As the UN Budget session came to a close on December 27, after failing to reach the ritual late night agreement just before Christmas, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's proposal for "mobility" in working for the UN was still not approved.

  South Korea took the floor to bemoan the failure to enact Ban's plan. But others noted that since Ban has kept a number of his closest advisers with him in New York well past the promised five year maximum, why should mobility be enforced on other, lower-ranking staff?

  Click here and here for Inner City Press coverage of the UN budget this week, here for the circus of the UN Staff Union election.

  Often the final votes of the Fifth (Budget) Committee take place at dawn directly after a full night of negotiating. This time is was more hum-drum, a normal 10 am meeting with the normal speeches. Syria trashed the UN's envoy on Lebanon, calling him pro-Israel. (The name "Terje Roed-Larsen" was not said, but it was there.)

  Canada and Israel made a point of saying they do not recognize "the State of Palestine," on a resolution allowing Palestine to contribute to the UN budget as does the Vatican or Holy See.

  Cuba called for a vote on an amendment to note that for Responsibility to Protect, as Nicaragua put it, there is no "inter-governmental mandate." Thirteen other countries voted this way, including Sudan; fully 51 abstained, including South Africa, Thailand and Mali. Sri Lanka did not vote at all on this.

  Sri Lanka did, however, lead negotiations on the budget of the UN mission in Mali. Given the country's attempt to use its chairmanship of the UN's Sixth (Legal) Committee to cast the 2009 Bloodbath on the Beach as counter-terrorism, this was perhaps the connection. Or not.

  Qatar, speaking on a Center for Training and Documentation in Southwest Asia, bragged how much it supports human rights. But what about those recent reports on the deaths of migrant worlds building for the World Cup? What about LGBT? About about the poet jailed for his subversive poem?

  Nor does the UN care much for freedom of speech or of the press. Yesterday Inner City Press covered the silence of the UN Mission in South Sudan while Salva Kiir's information minister cracked down on the media, here.

  This morning, Inner City Press exposed the misuse of the US Millennium Digital Copyright Act to "disappear" from Google a copy of Reuters' bureau chief's complaint to the UN trying to get Inner City Press thrown out. Copyright, indeed.

The session ended with the chairman, Finnish Deputy Permanent Representative Janne Taalas, saying he's ready in a few months to return to his regular seat next to Fiji.

  The outgoing chair of the Group of 77, Fiji, said using rugby analogies that at first it tried to just not drop the ball, but ended up score a few tries. Bolivia is the next G77 chair -- ready to score the golden goal? After Spy-gate and the take-down of President Evo Morales' plane, thing should heat up.

  While Ban Ki-moon's office of the Spokesperson has not only refused the requests of the Free UN Coalition for Access that it hold a noon briefing this week, but also refused for as long as 144 hours to respond to Inner City Press' questions on South Sudan, Central African Republic and the budget, earlier today Inner City Press asked:

"Please state where the Secretary General *is,* much as other figures such as President Obama and NYC's incoming mayor do, in light of online notice that "26-27 December 2013, Secretary-General is away from Headquarters," or please explain why that is not the SG's / UN's practice. Similarly, where is Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous?"

  The Peacekeeping question is in light not only of Ladsous under-stating the death toll in South Sudan, but of this new question about Central African Republic, then about the loss of neutrality:

On Central African Republic, please state the UN's knowledge of bombing near l'Hotel Ledger Plaza, and confirm or deny grenade and/or bullet exchange between Chadian and Burundian peaacekeepers.

What is the UN's response to the statement by India's PR Mukerji that in UN Peacekeeping, "new brigades could jeopardize the safety of traditional peacekeepers since rebels won’t distinguish between the two when they retaliate and that risks to peacekeepers should be reduced by physically differentiating them from the intervention brigade, through different uniforms." Are there any such plans in DPKO / DFS?

  In light of Ban's response at his last stakeout, on South Sudan, Inner City Press has asked his Spokesperson Martin Nesirky to please provide his / the UN's response to the subsequent report that

"The Korean side is now accusing the Japanese of politically using the emergency faced by Korean troops in South Sudan, with one unnamed official telling the Chosun Ilbo that the Abe government’s linking of the ammo supply to its “active pacifism” initiative was a “clear political provocation.” Another unnamed official said Korea had told the Japanese to handle this quietly out of fear that the locals would turn hostile and attack Korean troops if word got out that they’d received ammo, but the Japanese were instead turning this into a big story. Korean government officials are also saying that they intend to return all the ammo to Japan once Korean ammo arrives from Korea, despite the fact that the Japanese said they could keep it."

  Also posed is another corruption question, and this: "In Bentiu, what medical assistance staff are available now that MSF says it has pulled out?"

  That is the UN's work and responsibility. One thing to be said for the Fifth Committee - it works hard. It may not always function, but the members work. Happy (end of) holidays. Watch this site.

Update: the voting in the full UN General Assembly later on December 27 was largely a rubber stamp, with statements repeated from the morning. Cuba spoke in favor of UN Publishing Section staff, and "hoped" that Ban Ki-moon finds them other posts.

  But where was Ban Ki-moon, away from Headquarters? Inner City Press, and the Free UN Coalition for Access as a matter of policy, asked but without answer. This is what outgoing NYC Mayor Bloomberg did on the weekends: leave and not say to where. Is that what Ban's UN has come to?

 And while US Ambassador Joe Torsella in his swansong speech spoke about reforms, where does he stand on that one? (Inner City Press review here). And on, for example, the UN finally having content neutral accreditation rules, freedom of speech and of the press?

Update II: Diplomats thought that President of the General Assembly John Ashe was the last speaker. But then the State of Palestine had the floor. Afterward, Inner City Press asked departing diplomats about the fate in March 2014 of Ban Ki-moon's mobility and corporate partnerships proposals. "Only with oversight," one said. At the UN?

Update III: Wire service stories purporting to cover the UN budget session relied on boasting about the cutting of posts, and made no mention of Ban Ki-moon's losses on mobility and corporate partnerships, which not only South Korea but Ban's chief of staff bemoaned in the session. Such is "oversight." Watch this site.


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