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For Reform at UN, Obama Withdraws Leslie Berger Kiernan, Repped Rangel

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 -- Back in November, we reported that the US Mission to the UN's ambassador for reform Joe Torsella will leave by the end of the year, then on November 21 that the Obama administration nominated to replace Torsella the lawyer Leslie Berger Kiernan. 

  Today, so far without explanation, her nomination was withdrawn, notified to the press by email after 6:25 pm:


Leslie Berger Kiernan, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador, which was sent to the Senate on January 6, 2014.

  The administration's summary was that she has been with the Office of the White House Counsel since 2011 -- and from 1988 to 2011 with the firm Zuckerman Spaeder.

  There, her highest profile client at least from public records was Congressman Charles Rangel. This seemed noteworthy, given the nomination for the US Mission position trying to root out UN corruption. But a lawyer is not his or her client; Inner City Press  sought comment from the US Mission, as it has now, then from the White House, natch.

  We noted that Leslie Berger Kiernan authored a legal treatise chapter on "Political Patronage and the Revolving Door," processes too prevalent in the UN.

Background: On November 15 the US Mission's Ambassador Samantha Power announced that Torsella would be leaving by the end of 2013.

  Inner City Press immediately tweeted it, along with the suggestion of 21 audit salute, since Torsella focused on the issue of releasing UN audits, pushing forward from where things were under his predecessor at the US Mission, Mark Wallace.

(Wallace went, notably, to United Against a Nuclear Iran which appears dis-united on the issue of new sanctions, with president saying no but spokesperson saying members say yes.)

  Torsella pushed for Fifth (Budget) Committee proceedings to be on UN Television. The Group of 77 responded that other committees like the Second on development and Fourth which included decolonization and work on the rights of Palestinians should also be filmed.

  Both have happened -- improvements in technology are also involved -- and it's all to the good.

   Two weeks ago the G77 meeting at which Bolivia became as Inner City Press first reported the successor to Fiji was not initially televised; when Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access complained, the UN official in charge said it was belatedly on, check before asking.

   But it was UN staff which also complained, and this automatic defending of the UN is one of the things wrong, in the bigger picture for example on the UN bringing cholera to Haiti. Where does Torsella stand on that, before he leaves?

  Where does or would Leslie Berger Kiernan stand on it? And a newly arising issues, which Inner City Press reported on yesterday: should the US State Department support a UN bid for immunity for allegedly bringing cholera to Haiti?

  We'll have more on that. For now, this on less reported parts of Torsella's legacy:

Torsella to his credit wasn't just about the money. The issue of lack of accountability in Sri Lanka got delegated to him, in part because military figure Shavendra Silva was cynically put on Ban's Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  (Click here for longer form reporting on Sri Lanka and last weekend's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.)

  In classic UN form, Ban stayed away telling Inner City Press it was a decision of the member states. Without saying more, Inner City Press can report Torsella worked on this. One reason more can't be said is that the US Mission so often puts things off the record, sometimes after the fact.

  Even the farewell for Ambassador Susan Rice was said to be off the record. Inner City Press complied, but scribes more obsequious to the US uploaded selfies of themselves with Rice, and left them up, while attacking investigative journalism and free press at the UN.

 This too is an issue in the purview of Torsella and whoever his successor will be. The US should do more on this -- with spying undermining privacy, claims of freedom of the press are one of the definitely US values. Let that be pushed at the lawless UN, not only in 2014 but by Torsella before he leaves.

  Torsella said the US is opposed to "clean slates," without competition, in UN system elections. But in the recent elections for the Human Rights Council, there was no competition to France and the UK in the Western Europe and Other Group, of which the US is a member. There's more work to be done at and on the UN -- much more.

  Here's one, in the spirit of reform and transparency: cost cutting proposals in the UN system, largely supported by the US Mission, would involve Americans losing their jobs to off-shoring. Is this the US being selfless? Or just hoping no one puts the contradiction together?

  Click here for Inner City Press' exclusive coverage of UNDP's job off-shoring plans, including Accenture report.

  American Tony Lake at UNICEF is also doing it - but he can say he is an international civil servant. The US State Department and Mission - isn't their job to advance American (and Americans') interests at and in the UN? Watch this site.


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