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UN Silent As Protesters Tear Gassed in Ivory Coast, As UNMOVIC Plods On and War Spreads in Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 21 -- In continuing fall-out from the September dumping of toxic waste in Cote d'Ivoire, a crowd of protesters was tear gassed this week in Abidjan. Given the large UN presence and role in Ivory Coast, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked the UN spokesman if the Secretariat or the UN's two envoys to the country have any comment on the tear gassing of the protesters. The following written response was received: "The UN has no reaction to the dispersal by police of people protesting developments in the toxic waste scandal."

            In September, the demonstrators in Abidjan targeted the home of the then-head of the Abidjan port, Marcel Gossio, a supporter of President Laurent Gbagbo and of his street youth team, the Young Patriots. Nine weeks later, the protest was BY the Young Patriots, seeking to get Mr. Gossio put back in his job. In the interim, the UN Security Council passed a resolution allowing Gbagbo to stay in power for at least another year. Apparently emboldened, Gbagbo through his street team now want to regain full control of the port through which the pollution came.

            Back on September 13, Inner City Press had asked Kofi Annan about the toxic waste, as well as financial disclosure, and Mr. Annan had responded, according to the UN's transcript:

"this is a serious issue. We need to be careful that the developing world and the poor countries do not become dumping grounds for these kinds of waste, and I hope serious action will be taken against the company and all involved. And of course UN agencies have been active in helping the Government resolve this."

            Nine weeks later, the dumper of the toxic waste, Trafigura, has moved on to scandals in Jamaica, where is has stealthy paid tens of millions of dollars into the bank account of a politician's campaign while seeking another sweetheart oil deal.

            As Inner City Press reported back in September, Trafigura figured in the Volcker report on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, as having paid $250,000 into a bank account of Kofi's son Kojo Annan.

            And still the UN has no comment, as tear gas is deployed? It is not only the waste which is toxic.

Medicine in Cote d'Ivoire

            The full question-and-answer on September 13 was as follows:

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, this is on Côte d'Ivoire, following up on an earlier question. I know that you're meeting on the 20th of September in the G.A., or on the sideline of the G.A. Do you think with the postponed elections, when should they be held? Should President Laurent Gbagbo stay in power until the elections are held? And what about this toxic dumping that's taken place? It's actually by a company, Trafigura, which shows up in the Volcker report in connection with Cotecna. Also, if you could just address one thing, and this is for your able spokesman, that said, “Have you filed your financial disclosure and if so, why not?”

Kofi Annan: Let me take it in turn. First of all, on the question of Côte d'Ivoire, we are going to have a mini-summit here with all the leaders of the political parties and regional leaders. And we will resolve some of the issues that you have raised. On the question of the toxic waste, I think that this is a serious issue. We need to be careful that the developing world and the poor countries do not become dumping grounds for these kinds of waste, and I hope serious action will be taken against the company and all involved. And of course UN agencies have been active in helping the Government resolve this. As to your second, your third question, I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I have always done.

            Since then, Mr. Annan has begrudging filed his financial disclosure form, which insisting that it remain confidential. Last week outgoing Under-Secretary-General Chris Burnham, now at Deutsche Bank, said that incoming S-G Ban Ki-moon, whose spokeswoman was present at Tuesday's noon briefing, will make his financial disclosure public, and that in the future all officials at the Assistant S-G level and above should be required to publicly disclose their finances. The Annan administration has had no comment on that, either.

            Fresh from Switzerland, where he met with Ivan Pictet, who is both on the UN Investment Committee and sold services to the UN, Mr. Annan will be back at Headquarters on Wednesday, to describe his Darfur deal to the Security Council. Developing.

            Inner City Press also asked for comment on the reported fighting in Somalia between Ethiopian troops and the Union of Islamic Courts. Unlike Monday, the spokesman responded:

Spokesman:  Well, as you put it, I think the Secretary-General called on all parties concerned to stop shooting it out, as you put it.  He spoke, I think, very clearly on that during his press conference in Nairobi, where he urged all parties to put their difference aside and resume the discussions.  And he also clearly called on the international community to assist Somalia.  And that would go through asking neighboring countries not to rush in troops or support one movement over another.  I think there’s enough violence and enough guns in Somalia as it is.  What we need to support is the resumption of the discussions between the Islamic Court and the transitional Government.

Inner City Press: And the Monitoring Group.  When are they going to get back to the Council?

Spokesman:  The Monitoring Group, if I recall, has another meeting with the Security Council Sanctions Committee this afternoon somewhere in this building.

            More than a week after their explosive report, including allegations of 720 Somalis in South Lebanon, became public, the Monitoring Group has yet to surface, has yet to take a single journalistic question. "Somewhere in this building," the spokesman Tuesday said. But where?

            What Inner City Press did stumble on in the basement of UN Headquarters was a meeting of the seemingly-mooted UN team to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNOMIC.  On Tuesday, the following was asked:

Inner City Press:  What’s the current mandate?

Spokesman:  They’re still around, if that’s the question.

Inner City Press: I tried to go in.  It’s a closed meeting.  Can you articulate what they’re about?

Spokesman:  Their mandate is given by the Security Council and it’s up to the Security Council to decide on the fate of UNMOVIC.  And as for their activities, they put out quarterly reports, which are public documents, which would explain to you exactly what they are doing.

            In the basement outside Conference Room A, a television monitor announced an UNMOVIC meeting inside. A staffer quickly rose to block entry, and directed Inner City Press to "UNMOVIC dot com" to learn what this unit has been up to since Saddam Hussein fled, then was captured, and now sentenced to death. It's, and frankly the web site is not convincing, in explaining this continued use of UN and member state money. Developing.

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In the UN, Uzbekistan Gets a Pass on Human Rights As Opposition to U.S. Grows and War's On in Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- On Friday evening, the UN General Assembly moved to express concern and investigate Israel's bombing of Gaza, by a vote of 156 in favor, 7 against and 6 abstaining. Afterwards, Inner City Press interviewed the GA President, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalif. "According to the [UN] Charter," she said, "we are the people of the world. We must protect civilians."

            Inner City Press asked GA President to compare the processes of the GA and Security Council. "This is democracy, you see," she said. "Nobody accepts killing civilians for no reason. It is not fair."

            On Monday morning, the GA's Third Committee voted to quash a resolution expressing concern about the "Situation of human rights in Uzbekistan," A/C.3/61/L.39. The vote was close, with 74 countries voting with Uzbekistan, 69 against, and 24 abstaining.

            The UN's Special Rapporteur on torture has found that in Uzbekistan "there is ample evidence that both police and other security forces have been and are continuing to systematically practice torture, in particular against dissidents or people who are opponents of the regime" of Islam Karimov. Particularly vulnerable are participants or witnesses in the May 2005 Andijan demonstrations, ended by government crackdown.

   The UN Secretary-General's recent report on Uzbekistan "highlights concerns over asylum seekers and refugees who fled Andijan and have been detained or returned to Uzbekistan, including fears for the safety of five men who were returned by Kyrgyz authorities in August. The Uzbek Government claimed fewer than 200 people were killed in the unrest. However, more than 450 of the Uzbek refugees subsequently provided testimony... Uzbek authorities called for the closure of the UNHCR office in Uzbekistan earlier this year."

            Monday when the results were posted, showing victory for Uzbekistan's request for no action on its human rights record, "there was applause among some delegations as the results appeared on the electronic voting board," as described by the UN's Meeting Coverage.

            The 74 countries voting to quash any further inquiry into Uzbekistan's human rights record include, for example, Russia, China, South Africa, Morocco, Pakistan and India, which is the beneficiary last week of a U.S. Senate vote for the nuclear sharing.

            Following the vote, early Monday afternoon Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to comment on the Third Committee's vote against the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Uzbekistan. From the U.S. Mission-prepared transcript:

Inner City Press: The Third Committee just voted down this morning the resolution on human rights in Uzbekistan. Does the U.S. -- or do you have any comment on that not going forward?

Ambassador Bolton: It's obviously a disappointment to us. I've been involved in the Security Council all morning. I can't -- I don't know what the vote was, so --

            The vote was 74 for Uzbekistan, 69 for the U.S.-sponsored resolution, and 24 abstainers, including Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Somalia (this last apparently referring to those in Baidoa, where the UN's Francois Lonseny Fall held a meeting on Monday regarding which the UN spokesman had no read-out, hours later, see below in this report for Somalia update.)

            Those not voting at all on the Uzbekistan resolution included Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Lebanon and Cote D'Ivoire, which abstained from Friday's vote on Israel, in a move many called a return favor to the U.S. for supporting Laurent Gbagbo during the recent Security Council resolution process.

Fleeing Uzbeks cut carrots, pixellated to remain anonymous

            Friday by the Security Council Inner City Press asked for a U.S. comment on the loss of American Michael J. Matheson, one of 44 candidates for 34 seats on the UN International Law Commission. Inner City Press was told this was not part of any larger trend of U.S. losses in the United Nations, but only the product of their being other qualified European candidates.  What struck many observers in Friday's votes was the EU and even United Kingdom breaking from the U.S. and voting for the resolution to investigate the bombing of Beit Hanoun. In the Security Council resolution that the U.S. vetoed, the UK had abstained.

            Has Uzbekistan benefited from growing opposition to the United States? Separately, have some agencies in the UN system working with the Karimov regime, for example UNDP helping the regime collect taxes, helped bring about Monday's result? Developing.

            On Somalia, some updates were provided in response to Inner City Press' questions to the UN Spokesman on Monday:

Inner City Press: In the reports from Somalia between Ethiopian troops and the Union of Islamic Courts, can anyone in the United Nations system confirm, deny or speak to that?

Spokesman:  I'll see if I can get something from the Somali office.

Inner City Press: Has Lonseny Fall or any...  I know he was supposed to be... (inaudible)

Spokesman:  I did not have an update on his activities today, but we'll try to get one.

Inner City Press: And also on the monitoring group report on Somalia.  On Friday, I think you said what countries had protested or issued demarches to the United Nations about their being named in the report.  Do you have that list?

Spokesman:  I had that list Friday afternoon and I've deleted it from my head.  There were two countries that came to see the Secretariat and I do know a number of other countries have written to the Sanctions Committee.  For that, you would have to talk to the Security Council. 

Inner City Press:  Do we know what two countries?

Spokesman:  That, I will find out.  [The correspondent was later informed that, as of today, the countries that had filed formal complaints to the UN Secretariat in reaction to the Somalia report were Egypt, Iran and Syria.

            It is unclear why Uganda is not on this list. Later on Monday, the following arrived:

"We have no independent confirmation of fighting between Somalia's Islamist fighters and Ethiopian troops. FYI, the Ethiopian government has denied that any fighting took place or that any Ethiopian troops were killed in Somalia by Islamists."

            Now even Somalia's president has admitted the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia. Developing.

At the UN, Cluster Bombs Unremembered, Uighurs Disappeared and Jay-Z Returns with Water -- for Life

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- As in the UN General Assembly speeches continued on Israel's bombing of Gaza, Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman was asked by Inner City Press about his country's use of cluster bombs. "I must confess I really don't know about that," Ambassador Gillerman said. "I arrived very early this morning. I may have missed something during my flight." Video here, at Minute 12:41.

            Inner City Press subsequently asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN's condemnation of cluster bombs, and their use in South Lebanon earlier this year, had been conveyed to Israel. The spokesman answered, "We have spoken out very publicly." Video here, at Minute 14:50.

            On the topic of the power plant in Gaza, which was destroyed by Israeli bombs and is insured by the U.S. Overseas Private Insurance Corporation, Inner City Press asked Amb. Gillerman for an update. Video here, at Minute 10:55. "We are in the process of building a high-pressure cable to enable the residents of Gaza to have electricity," Amb. Gillerman replied. Another correspondent muttered, "So that they can turn it on and off." Inner City Press later asked the UN for an update, and received this in return:

"It would appear that temporary transformers from Egypt (replacing the destroyed ones from Sweden) are in place , with power imported from Israel also assisting to cover any outstanding gaps. This is a temporary measure."

            The U.S. government's OPIC's role in this should be pursued. Recently, the U.S. government's aid chief, Randall Tobias,  who visited Lebanon last month to check on U.S. aid work there, said that "at the time I was there, the estimate was that we had removed or assisted in the removal of about 50,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance."

After the bombing, where are the bombs?

            Another traveling U.S. diplomat was in the UN on Friday: Phil Reeker, previously a State Department spokesman and now the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. In the half-light of the Security Council stakeout he recounted how the-Secretary of State Colin Powell has once offered to "drop him off" by plane in Budapest while flying elsewhere, an offer with Reeker declined.

            Reeker's companion, who will remain unnamed, pointed out that the day after the UN General Assembly's Third Committee passed a resolution about naming-and-shaming countries on human rights, the full GA spent the day debating Israel's bombing of Gaza. Inner City Press subsequently put this question to the GA President's spokeswoman, who said "there are ironies everywhere."

  Later she pointed out that the full GA does not yet have to follow a resolution approved in committee.

   Later still, she forwarded an answer to Inner City Press' question if the GA's new Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance" applies to the U.S.'s extraordinary rendition flights, or to abductions by North Korea. The answer, from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, is that "extraordinary rendition is not necessarily enforced disappearance.  There are several elements of the act that are required.  The definition of enforced disappearance is contained in the draft Convention, as well as the preamble to the GA Declaration on Enforced Disappearance."

    These provide that "enforced disappearance is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law."

    Significantly, the new Convention on Involuntary Disappearances also provides that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance."

            So --the definition of involuntary disappearance appears to apply to abductions, extraordinary rendition and to the fate of the Chinese Uighur last seen in Kazakhstan, described below in this report.

            The Third Committee's passage of the resolution against naming-and-shaming countries on their human rights records was not the United States' only loss on Thursday. In elections of 34 members of the UN International Law Commission, from only 44 candidates, the U.S. nominee Michael J. Matheson lost out, while among the elected were representatives from Cameroon and Sri Lanka and, from Nigeria, Bayo Ojo. The GA President will be meeting with NGOs on Tuesday, her spokeswoman says.

            Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman for comment on the GA's Third Committee's passage of a resolution against the naming-and-shaming of countries for their human rights records. While declining to comment on the GA's work, the spokesman made reference to Mr. Annan's earlier statements that the countries on the new Human Rights Council should have their records reviewed. Inner City Press then asked if Mr. Annan or anyone else in the UN system has spoken out about incidents in Mexico's Oaxaca region -- Governor Ulises Ruiz's crackdown on APPO, the dead of journalist Brad Will, etc. -- particularly given Mexico's role in the UN Human Rights Council. Subsequently, the spokesman's office sent Inner City Press the following:

"The Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues made a statement on the situation last month. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Mexico is monitoring the situation and is in contact with the authorities.  They also issued a statement condemning the violent acts in late October."

             Speaking of speaking out, Jay-Z returned to the United Nations on Thursday evening, and took questions from reporters in the lobby of the UN prior to the premiere of the MTV documentary "Water For Life."

            As first done at the August 8 press conference announcing that this documentary would be filmed, Inner City Press on Thursday asked Jay-Z for his views on the privatization of water systems in the developing world. On August 8, Jay-Z called the question one of "bureaucracy."

            Thursday he answered, "I don't know about privatization. I was just in people's houses."

            Inner City Press asked a follow-up question, if the water in the houses he visited was provided by governments or private businesses.

            "They paid fifty cents a bucket for it," Jay-Z said.

            "Sounds like privatization to me," a correspondent muttered.

            Upstairs in the Trusteeship Council chamber, there were roped-off VIP rows. Journalists were herded to the front, then told to go back, up to the video booths. The wireless worked fine, as Anne Veneman of UNICEF thanked "Jay-Z and his staff," and mentioned his trip to Angola. A reporter arranging a trip to Angola found that visas cost over $200. Ms. Veneman called it the launch of UNDP's report on water, about which reporters were briefed ten days ago. Click here for Inner City Press' story on the report, including on UNDP's partnering with Shell Oil and Coca-Cola.

            Back on August 8, when Jay-Z briefed reporters at the UN at his video's outset, he praised Coca-Cola for providing ten "play pumps" to children in Africa. Coca-Cola is under fire on at least two continents for pilfering communities' water resources to profit from sugar-laden soda.  Is humanitarianism being privatized as well? "I don't know," was the seconded response.

            The documentary will be shown on MTV-2 on November 19, and on MTV itself on November 24.  The footage of Angola is worth it.

            Later on Thursday night, the UN Mission of Kazakhstan threw a party, with a fashion show and an apparently lip-synching trio of singers, at the New York Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue. The models in the fashion show were, as usual, tall, and some were blonde (not expected). The reception afterwards featured lamb chops and shrimp and the crowd contained, among others, the Russian mission's press spokeswoman, Ambassadors of Hungary and Azerbaijan, the teacher of the Kazakh Ambassador's daughter and, of course, the Ambassador himself, Yerzhan Kazykhanov, one of the best hosts in the UN. Afterwards many of the attendees loaded onto an Omega Express tour bus, which a bodyguard said was headed "to Pennsylvania." Mysterious, but not as troubling as the fate of the Chinese Uighur asylum seeker who disappeared in Almaty on October 23, click here for more.

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

Congo Shootout Triggers Kofi Annan Call, While Agent Orange Protest Yields Email from Old London

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With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

At the UN, Lebanon Resolution Passes with Loophole, Amb. Gillerman Says It Has All Been Defensive

On Lebanon, Russian Gambit Focuses Franco-American Minds, Short Term Resolution Goes Blue Amid Flashes of Lightening

Africa Can Solve Its Own Problems, Ghanaian Minister Tells Inner City Press, On LRA Peace Talks and Kofi Annan's Views

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UN Silence on Congo Election and Uranium, Until It's To Iran or After a Ceasefire, and Council Rift on Kony

At the UN Some Middle Eastern Answers, Updates on Congo and Nepal While Silence on Somalia

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UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

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UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

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Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

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At the UN Poorest Nations Discussed, Disgust at DRC Short Shrift, Future UN Justice?

At the UN Wordsmiths Are At Work on Zimbabwe, Kony,  Ivory Coast and Iran

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

At the UN, New Phrase Passes Resolution called Gangster-Like by North Korea; UK Deputy on the Law(less)

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UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

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UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

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At the UN, a Commando Unit to Quickly Stop Genocide is Proposed, by Diplomatic Sir Brian Urquhart

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

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UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

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Pro-Poor Talk and a Critique of the World Trade Organization from a WTO Founder: In UN Lull, Ugandan Fog and Montenegrin Mufti

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

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AIDS Ends at the UN? Side Deals on Patents, Side Notes on Japanese Corporations, Salvadoran and Violence in Burundi

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Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence (May 31, 2006)

Kinshasa Election Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's Belly-Dancing

Working with Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the UN

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

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Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

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In Liberia, From Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which China's Asked About

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Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

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Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

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Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

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