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ICP Asked UN of Benefit To France Controlling Peacekeeping 20 Year, Secret Like Guterres' Budget

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 – When Jean Pierre Lacroix, the fifth French boss of UN Peacekeeping in a row, held his first press conference in UN Headquarters on May 24, Inner City Press asked him to state what he sees as the benefits of his country controlling DPKO for so long, compared to the downside (for example the French Force Sangaris rapes in CAR), and if he didn't think in an Organization of 193 states, with most peacekeeping missions in Africa, the position should belatedly be rotated. Video here, from Minute 38:38.  Amazingly, Lacroix refused to answer the question. Instead Department of Field Support's Atul Khare said he doesn't see Lacroix as French - besides the point - and when Inner City Press asked, So how was a replacement of Herve Ladsous recruited, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq cut off the follow up, as he hadn't others. Then Inner City Press asked lead (French) spokesman Stephane Dujarric to provide the response that Lacroix had refused to. From the UN Transcript: Inner City Press:  If a single country, France, has controlled peacekeeping more than 20 years in a row, five heads of department in a row… I tried to ask Mr. {Jean-Pierre] Lacroix what the benefit of it was, as you heard, I'm sure you heard; you seemed to be back there.  But Mr. Khare seemed to say he's not… he doesn't see him as French, which is fine.  But I guess I wanted to know… you speak for the Secretary-General.  What was the process for selecting a new head of peacekeeping?  And I'm sure there is a benefit of having France head it.  What is that benefit?  And does it outweigh the downside, which some people have articulated?

Spokesman:  Heads of departments, like any UN staff member, are here as international civil servants.  They are here to serve the Organization and not serve their own country, and that applies to everyone who serves, whether in a position of responsibility… of greater responsibility or of lesser responsibility.  The process for appointing heads of departments at the UN has been what it is for a long time and the Secretary-General has, I think, chosen the person he feels could best provide the leadership for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

Inner City Press:  Did he consider… I mean, I'm aware that it's happened and it's happened five times in a row, but given that he's self-described as a reformer, when he came in, did he consider shaking things up, i.e. not leaving DPA [Department of Political Affairs] with the US, OCHA with the UK, and can you just confirm that he asked for [inaudible] candidates?

Spokesman:   I think the reform…  No, I'm not going to confirm it, because it's the Secretary-General's prerogative to appoint heads of departments as he sees fit.  Some jobs are advertised.  Some are not advertised.  It's the prerogative of the Office of the Secretary-General.  So I don't know what else to say.

Inner City Press:  But shouldn't the process be… I guess my… if he's a reformer, shouldn't the process be transparent…?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General's results on reform should be judged at the end of his term, and I think we've already seen that he has changed things on how we operate here.

Inner City Press: And on the budget, could I just… it's a factual question.  You've listed today at 3 presenting his pro… proposed programme budget for the biennium 2018-19 to ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions]. One, is it open?  Two, can we see the budget?  And if… three, if not, why not?

Spokesman:  The process remains the same.  This is a budget that has start… that was elaborated before the sec… this Secretary-General came into office.  As you know… as you may not know, but it's kind of a long process.  This is the first step.  It will go to the ACABQ and then go to the Fifth Committee.  The Fifth Committee deliberations are often open, and then I think we'll get a clearer picture then.

  So, Dujarric declined to confirm that his new boss Antonio Guterres had asking only France for candidates (the others, Inner City Press first reported, here Jean-Maurice Ripert and Sylvie Bermann). So how is Guterres a reformer, if he kept this up and his spokesman won't even try to explain it? We'll have more on this. The UN's two-tier treatment in Mali and elsewhere of African versus European peacekeepers was confirmed on May 19 by the UN's Force Commander in Mali's MINUSMA mission Jean-Paul Deconinck. Video here. Inner City Press, now restricted in the UN for reporting on corruption, sought to go across First Avenue to asking him, though it would mean re-entering with tourists and missing most of an African Group press conference. On the way, the Department of Public Information's Hua Jiang, involved in the 15 months of restrictions on Inner City Press, nodded; at IPI Youssef Mahmoud told Inner City Press to keep its questions short. Even so, when it asked of restrictions on sharing technology with the African contingents suffering most of the casualties in Mali, a crew of Caucasian UN Peacekeeping supporters loudly opined, "Irrelevant." On the UN on May 22, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Friday across the street at IPI tothe Force Commander of MINUSMA [United Nations Stabilization Mission] in Mali, I asked something that I've asked you here in this room about the sharing of technology between different contingents and the complaint that, for example, Chadians have… don't have night-vision goggles and other security equipment that the European delegate… contingents had.  And he said that's just how it is; every country comes with their own equipment, and he didn't provide any provision for trying to share it and kind of equalize the degree of risk covered.  So can you clarify? What is DPKO's position on different delegations from different-incomed and resourced countries coming to serve in Mali and who faces the risk of being blown up by…

Spokesman:  Obviously, I'm not going to contradict what the Force Commander may have said.  But, as you know, the troop-contributing… the units come with their own equipment.  We, obviously… also sometimes we have to provide the equipment.  But it is clear that the safety and security of our troops is something that is shared… that concern is shared by the mission as a whole, and any mission as a whole will try to protect all of the troop-contributing countries as much as possible.

Inner City Press:  I'm sure the concern is shared.  What I'm wondering is whether the night-vision goggles and other equipment are, in fact, shared.

Spokesman:  Well, I think the work that one contingent may do to provide for the security of the rest of the mission is obviously of common interest.

  The Force Commander will speak to the Security Council on May 22. But will he take Press questions? Amid attacks on and mismanagement from UN headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, an "extraordinary" meeting for troop contributors was held on January 27.

  Inner City Press, which has covered the disparate treatment in MISUSMA between for example troops from Chad and Europe, wanted to cover it. But due to a retaliatory eviction order by the UN's Cristina Gallach, it could only do so with the UN "minder."

  Even so, UN Security officials demanded to know where its minder was, cutting off several diplomats who had approached Inner City Press to give it information.
  As the meeting wound down, Inner City Press worked around the minder to learn -- from UN official Atul Khare to his credit -- that there is discussion of moving the Senegalese "quick reaction force" from Cote d'Ivoire to Mali.

  It was not possible yet to ask about the recent mutiny / unrest in Cote d'Ivoire. Khare had to go, and Herve Ladsous refused to answer any Press questions, having been exposed linking peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R."

  Other diplomats, even as Inner City Press was being told to leave the second floor where other journalist were free to stay (though none were in fact staking out the Mali meeting), told Inner City Press that Egypt is offering a battalion.

  Troublingly, to some, Sri Lanka is being recruited by Ladsous' UN to provide "convoy protection," despite its military's record of killing in northern Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2009 and abuses since, to say nothing of sexual abuse in Haiti.

  Inner City Press wants to do more reporting into the UN's engagement with the Sri Lankan military. But Gallach's minder ordered Inner City Press to leave. This is censorship. To be continued.

As in The Gambia Yahya Jammeh moved on December 1 to shut off the Internet (and Viber, etc) for the / his election, there was again a deafening silence from the UN and its “communications” chief Cristina Gallach.

 On January 5, Inner City Press asked holdover UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: about Gambia.  The electoral commission chief has gone into hiding, and the Government has closed three radio stations, one of which reopened with no news on it.  So what's the status of the UN's work on this holdover presidency?

Spokesman:  We've had… various UN officials have had contacts with parties involved, and obviously we would like to see and are very keen to see a peaceful resolution to the current crisis in the Gambia and, notably, the… for the President… the outgoing President to leave way for the President that was just elected.

 As of January 7, new Secretary General Antonio Guterres had yet to speak publicly about Jammeh and Gambia. Meanwhile the US issued a travel warning:

  "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future.  On January 7, 2017, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and authorized the departure of all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country.

The security situation in The Gambia remains uncertain following December 1, 2016 presidential elections.  On January 10, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the current president’s petition contesting the election results, which is a potential flashpoint that could lead to civil unrest.  The sitting government has begun taking restrictive measures, which include shutting down and restricting radio stations, and making politically motivated arrests.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stated it may intervene if the president does not step down by January 18.

U.S. citizens should consider departing on commercial flights and other transportation options now, as airports and ferry terminals may close unexpectedly in the event of unrest.  All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.  U.S. citizens should ensure that travel documents (passports and visas) are valid and up-to-date.  Consular services, already limited throughout the country due to very poor transportation infrastructure and security conditions, may be further limited, including in Banjul itself.

U.S. citizens who decide to remain in The Gambia should prepare for the possible deterioration of security."

  We'll have more on this.


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