INNER CITY PRESS Global Inner Cities Archive 2006-- Click here for current ICP Global Inner Cities Report, reports from the United Nations

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On Somalia, Security Council Denies African Union Position, Calling It a Mere Point of View, Disagreements on Darfur

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 27 -- When is a communique not a communique?

   Tuesday in the UN Security Council, meeting about the crisis in Somalia, a number of council members said they would follow the position of the African Union, IGAG and the Arab League, which were slated to meet overnight. For example, Ghana's Ambassador Nanna said, "I am an African, I will follow what the African Union does." The Council  meeting broke up Tuesday night without taking any action, leading some to question whether the Council, or the most powerful members on it, were just dallying so that Ethiopia could "finish the job" on the Islamic Courts, as both outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff were asked.  Here's video of Annan; Video of Wolff.

            Overnight, as reported by BBC, the AU, IGAD and Arab League issued a communique calling for the removal of Ethiopian troops. But after the Council again took no action on Somalia on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked Ghana's Nanna what happened, what about the AU communiqué?

            "Which communique?" Amb. Nanna asked.

            The one calling on Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

            "Oh really. We saw that communiqué, but some of us had questions about it."

            Back at the Security Council stakeout, Inner City Press asked the representative of Qatar if any of the other Council members had questioned the authenticity of the joint communiqué.

            "I wouldn't not like to comment on that," Qatar's representative said.  Similarly, the Ambassador of Sudan, major AU member, said he would not take any questions about Somalia.

      The BBC's story about the communique quotes African Union chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.  The BBC has not run any retraction. Finally Inner City Press asked the charge d'affaires of the Baidoa-based Transitional Federal Government of Somalia if it was his position that the AU / IGAD / Arab League communiqué was somehow illegitimate. The response began with obligatory praise for the leaders of each group, including Mr. Konare, as well as of the OIC.  Then this statement: "I have seen that communique. It is the point of voice of the three organizations. It is not the point of view of the member states."

            And so, again: when is a communique not a communique? What powers are delegated to the leadership of inter-governmental organizations like the AU, IGAD and Arab League to take positions during a fast-breaking emergency? Or could it be, in fact, that the Tuesday statements about following whatever position the AU and Arab League would take were just a fig leaf, only true if they adopted a "don't-name-Ethiopia" position?

   Inner City Press asked U.S. Amb. Wolff about the AU communique, and about President Bush' reported call to Uganda's Museveni. Amb. Wolff said he had not information to divulge on the latter, and did not answer the former. Video here.

            On the sidelines of the Council stakeout, a US official portrayed Qatar as alone in demanding language about all foreign forces leaving Somalia. Another Deputy Ambassador of a Permanent Five country, asked if the split was 14-1, made reference to "a sizeable majority of the Council." Qatar's representative, on camera, said it had not been 14 to 1. He was seen in heated discussions with the Ambassador of Republic of Congo, just outside the Council chamber. Argentina's Ambassador Cesar Mayoral said he hoped this would be the last Council meeting of the year. But what about Somali civilians?

            On Sudan, Kofi Annan came to the Security Council at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and stayed in the Council for more than two hours. The topic was the December 23 letter than Sudan's president Al-Bashir had sent to him. Hedi Annabi went in, Ibrahim Gambari came out. Finally Mr. Annan came out and declared the letter an accomplishment. After Annan left, Sudan's Ambassador denied virtually everything in the letter.  Combined with the Council's open diss of the AU's chairman Konare, thinks do not look good for Darfurians.

            In the same spot, Annan had taken a few questions, all about diplomacy and where he'll be for New Year's Eve. He had mentioned Afghanistan as a "victory" of the Council and UN, but declined to take a shouted question about Pakistan's just announced policy of planting land mines on its border with Afghanistan, as a flesh-tearing argument that it is cracking down on insurgents. The Annan administration's top duo's last minute deletion from their post-employment restrictions policy, now no longer prohibiting senior ex-officials from lobbying the UN, again went unexplained. No questions were asked about the just-filed Oil for Food class action lawsuit by citizens of Iraq against BNP Paribas and the Australian Wheat Board. UNDP has been asked about its Somali operations, without response as yet. It would be bad form, apparently, to ask any questions about how the UN is run. To the next Secretary-General, then. Here's to 2007.

Fraud in UNDP-Russia Includes Malloch Brown's French Water Scheme and Kalman Mizsei's Excess

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 26 -- The fraud in the Russian Federation office of the UN Development Program, blamed on local employees and a mid-level Bulgarian supervisor, may also trace to the very top of UNDP, an ongoing inquiry has found.

   The most recent public audit of UNDP, A/61/5/Add.1, cites but does not fully disclose the fraud at the Russia office. Irregularities in UNDP's Russia operations date back at least to 2000, to a controversial water purification project championed by then-incoming UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown. Subsequently the regional director whom Malloch Brown chose, Kalman Mizsei, used the Russia office as a slush fund for personal expenses, while bragging about flying on George Soros' personal plane.

   Those disciplined by UNDP, including Stefan Vassilev, now with the Bulgarian military, and Tatiana Gorlatch, required to cover-up for Mr. Mizsei's excesses, may have taken some blame more appropriately apportioned to those above them in the UNDP hierarchy. This is the story of an agency out of control, rarely scrutinized by the press, jealous and abusing of its ever-growing power.

            Mark Malloch Brown took over at UNDP in 1999. One of his first moves was to fire three regional directors, including Africa's Thelma Awori and Europe and CIS States' Anton Kruiderink. The latter's replacement, appointed by Mark Malloch Brown, was Kalman Mizsei, who was then with insurance conglomerate AIG and who identifies himself as a close associate of George Soros (a status shared with Mr. Malloch Brown).

            Malloch Brown claimed he would bring financial sophistication to what he portrayed as a sleeping UNDP. As quoted in a book he paid over $500,000 to have published, Malloch Brown decided that too few UNDP country offices had "sustainable business models," something he sought to change with so-called "cost-sharing projects" of the type into which UNDP's Latin America Bureau first veered ("UNDP: A Better Way?", pages 299, 295.)

            A major initial project was in Russia, where UNDP arranged to be a middleman for a water purification project in St. Petersburg. In fact, the project was financed by and to be carried out by a private company, the French firm SNF Floerger.  After misidentifying the beneficiary as Sanofi SA, Malloch Brown told Reuters that UNDP saw its new "role in piloting the project through local red tape." Click here for that Reuters June 18, 2000, article.

            Virtually all of the $90 million cost was equipment. UNDP sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, state that UNDP's role was to help the company evade or avoid paying taxed on importing the equipment. Running UNDP's Russia office at the time was one Philippe Elghouayel. In a UNDP newsletter replete with photos of himself, Malloch Brown called the arrangement "an example of UNDP’s increasing efforts to foster public-private partnerships." Click here for a copy of that UNDP newsletter.

            In this scheme, UNDP would charge money to cut through "local red tape." UNDP sources indicate that concern and amazement at this Russian financial scheme and "cost sharing agreement" was widespread within the agency. UNDP would collect a hefty fee for playing the middle-man in a project regarding which is had little technical expertise, in which is role was little more than vehicle for tax evasion. One close observer of the project asked, "This is UNDP's definition of development?" But this is what UNDP has become, at least in some places and parts.

            In fairness, others in UNDP argue that the water purification proposal was far from the most outlandish project of the Russia office. They argue that clean water was needed, and that while UNDP's role was that of a middleman, along with Credit Lyonnais Bank, the goal was more to limit the ten to fifteen percent usually required in bribes than to evade taxes. A variety of even less meritorious project have been pointed out, on which we hope to run future reports, not only the Moscow planetarium but also schemes with Russian prisons, social services, oil and environmental matters -- more on UNDP and the environment, and on UNDP's Russia and CIS operations, in the near future.

            For barely two years, Frederick Lyons ran the Russian office, until as previously reported a Bulgarian, Stephan Vassilev, was sent to force him out. (Mr. Lyons went on to UNDP in Iran and then Afghanistan.)  There are conflicting accounts of Mr. Vassilev, ranging from as the re-establisher of corrupt tied who forced Lyons to grant approval to a dubious project to renovate the Moscow planetarium to, on the other end of the spectrum, relatively upright militarist who might have let corruption continue, but would not have started it. Even if his motives may have been less than pure, Mr. Vassilev was deployed and used by a Malloch Brown-selected regional supervisor, Kalman Mizsei.

            Mizsei was, until three months ago, the head of Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States for UNDP. Mark Malloch Brown brought Mizsei, which whom he shares connections to George Soros, into UNDP from the American Insurance Group in late 2000. As described by multiple sources inside and outside of UNDP, Mr. Mizsei was at best a womanizer and more widely described as a serial sexual harasser. Mizsei imported a personal assistant, whom he quickly promoted through the system until she reached her peak in the UNDP office in Ukraine. This individual would, sources say, show up at high level staff meetings and berate Mizsei "like a lover would," a person attending the meeting says.  Other female staffers he "hit on" by suggesting they water the flowers at his residence, or bring him UNDP papers, personally, on the weekend.

            Kalman Mizsei also abused UNDP and its finances. For example he took a lengthy "study tour" of Russia, all paid by UNDP. There was no academic sponsor for the trip, which consisted of visiting museum with personal guide and translator, paid by UNDP. Mark Malloch Brown was responsible for signing off on these expenses. The number and length of Kalman Mizsei's UNDP-paid visits to Ukraine raised eyebrows in the agency, although often pretexts were found. Click here for UNDP photos of Mizsei's April 2006 sojourn in Ukraine to, among other things, kick off the UN Global Compact with corporations there. Click here for another Mizsei trip to Ukraine, this time for a "mini-Davos" conference. Click here for UNDP in-house news of Mizsei and Ben Slay in Zagreb, Croatia. Click here for news of Mizsei partnering the UN with Coca-Cola. There are other legends about Kalman Mizsei charging UNDP for unneeded helicopter rides over the Balkans, and throwing a cell phone at staffers while screaming, "I demand a woman!"

            In the course of his many travels, Kalman Mizsei instructed staff how he needed to be treated: a hotel no more than a twenty minute walk from the work place, flowers when he arrived, and, perhaps incongruously, that no required drinking take place in formal or informal functions (sometimes difficult given the region that he covered).

            Sources tell Inner City Press that Kalman Mizsei required that these unjustifiable expenses come out of project budgets in the Russia office. At first it was easy, to find long-finished projects with still open budgets. But later, to meet the costs, full-fledged fraud became required. The replacement as head of the office of Frederick Lyons by Stephan Vassilev was, sources say, orchestrated by Kalman Mizsei, either for Mr. Vassilev to perform a cover-up or to become the scapegoat.

            Inner City Press asked UNDP's Communications Office about the Russia office, and also about Kalman Mizsei. Each response increasingly seems like a whitewash:

In a message dated 11/30/2006 11:29:56 AM Eastern Standard Time, cassandra.waldon [at] undp.org writes:

Matthew, Below are the responses to your questions:

Question: Was Kalman Mizsei fired or otherwise relieved or removed from his position with UNDP?  If so, on what grounds?

Response: No. As stated previously, at UNDP -- like at other organizations -- with time colleagues retire, move on or are reassigned. After serving six distinguished years at UNDP, Mr. Miszei is now Professor at Central European University's Department of Public Policy in Budapest.

             Kalman Mizsei left UNDP in the Fall of 2006. Despite Mark Malloch Brown's refusal to comment, sources tell Inner City Press that Mizsei's antics became so legend, and the fall-out so undeniable, that even Malloch Brown chastised Mizsei. Kalman Mizsei was given a choice: to leave UNDP voluntarily, or to stay but face charges. Mizsei chose the former, and from Hungary has sent emails bragging that he is now a personal advisor to George Soros.

            Despite the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General's refusal to comment on Inner City Press' questions about Kalman Mizsei, most recently at the noon briefings of December 1 and December 6, it is noted that Mr. Mizsei was given that very rostrum, as a UN Assistant Secretary General, on April 30, 2004, click here for the Real video, from Minute 13, for six minutes of eyeglasses playing and ironic reference to human trafficking of sex workers and no follow-up questions, click here for the transcript. On the issue of UN rank, UNDP sources say that Kalman Mizsei repeatedly and inaccurately declared that he was an Under-Secretary General. In any event, he represented the UN, and the UN should answer for him; UNDP refuses to.

            UNDP's Communications Office has said it will not comment on recruitment, hiring or promotions issues, and will not released audits like that of the Russian Federation office. (Nor will it release a full copy of that audit even to the nations on the UNDP Executive Board.) Mark Malloch Brown, when Inner City Press previously requested comment from him, responded with the word "jerk," click here for that story, in the spirit of full disclosure. Last week, Inner City Press was told it would not be possible to get a comment on reports that Mr. Malloch Brown was responsible for weakening the post-employment policy finalized on December 22, his last day in the office. Therefore this story runs as such, citing, for UNDP, its most recent public audit and long-delayed narrative response.

            The most recent public audit of UNDP, A/61/5/Add.1, states

"Potential fraud had been detected at the Russian Federation office and reported to it for further investigation. The Office of Audit and Performance Review performed an investigation and released its report on 6 December, 2005. This report concluded that one payment amounting to $190,000 was fraudulent.  Additional payments that could be fraudulent were under further investigation."

            An article entitled "$1.2 million fraud revealed at the U.N. Office in Moscow," in Kommersant, No 163, page 9, quoted UNDP's then-spokesman William Orme that "this appears to be a sophisticated operation that has been difficult to detect. Unfortunately, we detected it only this year." The irregularities of the water purification / tax avoidance scheme dated back much further, however, as did Kalman Mizsei's use of the office. Given the reference to an OAPR report being "released" on Dec. 6, 2005, Inner City Press asked UNDP for this report. UNDP has refused to provide it, but after some delay provided a narrative, which Inner City Press published in full, stating in pertinent part:

"When the extent of the fraud became evident, Mr. Vassilev was summoned to headquarters.  He was removed from his post in August 2005 and subjected to  disciplinary proceedings stemming from shortcomings in management performance and oversight. Mr. Vassilev is no longer employed by UNDP... UNDP has assigned some of its most experienced staff to the Russia CO. Ercan Murat, a UNDP veteran who had served previously as Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Afghanistan, came out of retirement to serve as acting Resident Representative in Russia from September 2005 until September 2006. Marco Borsotti, who currently serves as UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, has received clearance from the Russian Government and is expected to take up his post as the new Resident Representative in January 2007."

            Ironically, of Mr. Murat it is reported that while unlike Kalman Mizsei he is not abusive of staff, his brother engaged in business deals in UNDP's Central Asia footprint that generated some controversy within the agency. Of Mr. Borsotti, we hope to have more in the near future -- UNDP's agreement with Russia specifying the procedures and standards to received the above-referenced "clearance" was requested more than ten days ago from UNDP, but has yet to be provided.

            Stephan Vassilev returned to the Bulgarian military. Ms. Gorlatch, who was embroiled in a drag-out divorce and child custody fight with an affluent diplomat, may have reasons to stay silent. But given UNDP's refusal to even respond to questions about its recruitment, hiring and promotion practices, or to release audits of the Russian office, Inner City Press runs this interim investigative piece.  Again, there are serious people who are arguing that the St. Petersburg water purification proposal was far from the most outlandish UNDP project. A variety of even less meritorious project have been pointed out, including schemes with prisons, social services, oil and environmental matters -- more on UNDP and the environment in the near future. Watch this site.

At the UN, Mysterious Deletion from Iran Sanctions List of Aerospace Industries Organization Goes Unexplained

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 23, 1:50 p.m. -- Minutes before the UN Security Council voted 15-0 to impose sanctions on Iran on nuclear issues, a spokesperson emerged from the Chamber and breathlessly told reporters of a particular company which got deleted from the sanctions list at the last moment. Aerospace Industries Organization, listed in previous drafts under "Entities involved in the ballistic missile program," was suddenly taken off the list. A Security Council source, representing a Permanent Five, veto-wielding member, confirmed to Inner City Press that Russia had demanded the deletion of this company.

            After the vote, Inner City Press asked the European Union Three ambassadors to explain the deletion. French Ambassador de la Sabliere said it came out as part of the negotiation, in order to get the resolution passed. UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry pointed out that three subsidiaries of AIO remain on the list. But why then remove the parent company? What do the other subsidiaries of AIO do?

EU3 leave AIO deletion unexplained

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff to explain the effect of deleting AIO from the list. Ask other members, Amb. Wolff suggested. Next up was Russian Ambassador Churkin. Inner City Press asked, specifically, what the other subsidiaries of AIO do. Amb. Churkin stated that "the sponsors" of the resolution took AIO's name off the list, and when press about what the other subsidiaries of AIO do, stated, "I am not an expert on these matters." But why then demand that the name come off the sanctions list?

            Since, as previously reported, the U.S. used online research to compose the sanctions list, here are two top online references to the "Aerospace Industries Organisation" --

From irandefence.net, as a "subsidiary of Iran's Ministry of Defense" -- "The Aerospace Industries Organisation, a subsidiary of Iran's Ministry of Defence, claims to support the manufacturing process by engaging in 'Scud missile restoration'.

From warshipsifr.com, as the manufacturer of "an anti-ship missile named 'Kosar'" -- "recently Iran's Aerospace Industries Organisation revealed it had manufactured an anti-ship missile named 'Kosar.'"

            So why would it be so important to Russia to continue being able to do business with this conglomerate, other than three subsidiaries? The three "subordinate entities of AIO" which remained on the sanctions list as enacted are:

Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group -- reportedly has contracted in the past with Russian Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) and Rosvoorouzhenie;

Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group -- reportedly has contracted with Russia's Baltic State Technical University and the China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO); and

Fajr Industrial Group, formerly Instrumentation Factory Plant -- which has been linked, interestingly, with KBR / Halliburton, click here for more.

To be continued.

            In other Saturday Security Council action, a resolution on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts was enacted, and then announced to reporters by the Ambassador of Greece. Inner City Press asked how armed conflict is defined -- specifically, if the definition would include situations like Chechnya, and murders of reporters like that of Anna Politkovskaya. The Greek Ambassador turned quickly away from the microphone. Like the question, repeatedly asked, about the double-standard of cracking down on some countries' nuclear programs and not others, some issues are just not discussed at the UN Security Council. But if an alleged nuclear proliferators is included on a sanctions list and then at the last moment is deleted, it should we think be explained.

At the UN, Security Council and GA Games and Holiday Spirit As Revolving Door Ban Disappears on Final Day

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 22 -- On the Friday before Christmas, when the General Assembly went deep into the night and the Security Council deferred for one more day a much watered-down resolution on Iran, Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric held what he's called his last press conference. Coincidentally, or not, the long awaited, much-hyped anti-revolving door policy was to be announced. The briefing was begun by Mark Malloch Brown, who praised Stephane Dujarric and then prepared to go. What -- no questions? Well, no. No questions taken at all.

            In his opening presentation, Mr. Dujarric mentioned the new post-employment restrictions. Inner City Press asked him to confirm that there had been a stronger draft, which would have precluded senior UN officials, not only those in procurement, from lobbying the UN for two years after leaving. Mr. Dujarric declined to comment on prior drafts, or who made the weakening change -- that individual had just left the room.

            The earlier draft, dated June 12, 2006, provided that

"Former staff members at the Assistant Secretary-General level or above are prohibited from making, with the intent to influence, a communication to or appearance before any staff member of the United Nations, regardless of level... This prohibition is effective for two years."

            This provision is entirely missing from the finalized policy, which is limited to "staff members participating in the procurement process." All of the Assistant Secretaries-General, and the Deputy Secretary General, were given a Christmas present three days early: the ability to lobby the UN during the next two years. The DSG will, at least initially, be based at Yale University. But the lobbying will have to be watched, particularly in light of the opaque process by which the initial prohibition was removed.

            Later on Friday, a UN official gave some rationale for dropping the prohibitions on senior officials, giving rise to a drier, stand-alone story, click here to view.

            The mood in the UN briefing room on Friday was like a professor's last day. The journalists, not dissimilar to a school class in a hothouse, thanked Stephane in turn. Reuters regretted being third to AP and Bloomberg -- "as per usual," Bloomberg jibed -- and a wise and wizened Anatolian reporter wished the half-French Steph "bonne chance." Inner City Press said, and meant, "It was a pleasure," a statement that was reciprocated. Then Inner City Press asked about human rights in Zimbabwe, a topic left unaddressed in Kofi Annan's ten years. What about Mugabe's refusal to honor the extradition request for Marian Mengistu?

            "The Secretary-General is against impunity," Stephane said, and meant it. But what does it mean? Peter Karim, who held UN peacekeepers hostage, was given a MONUC-brokered position in the Congolese Army. Joseph Kony of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, although indicted by the International Criminal Court, meets with Mr. Annan's humanitarian envoy and is not close to begin arrested. We are all against impunity. And yet it continues.

            Overnight full copies of Paul Volcker's report on UN Oil for Food appeared in the hall outside the UN Spokesman's office. Seven volumes, more fifteen pounds, fine reading for the holiday season.

            But the holiday has yet to being, at the UN. The Security Council scheduled Saturday meetings on Iran and journalists and armed conflict. The GA left until 10 then 11 p.m. it's rubber-stamp approval of committees' reports, including the Capital Master Plan. The funding of investigation of Qana caused much consternation, with the U.S., Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voting negative. Where, one asked, was Ivory Coast? Doesn't Gbagbo want the U.S. vote in the Council?

  They droned on in the GA: the Fifth Committee adopted this resolution without a vote. May I take it the General Assembly wished to do the same? (A beat.) It is so decided. And then the swinging of the ceremonial gavel we saw given to Jan Eliason.

            From the Security Council itself, it can now be reported: China delayed the resolution continuing diamond sanction on Liberia because of a specific Taiwan issue. To whit, in Brussels a bureaucrat had floated the idea of upgrading Taiwan from observer status in the (blood diamond) Kimberly process. China was so opposed to this it said it would not vote to continue diamond sanctions on  Liberia unless the Brussels wonk recanted. And so it was done. In consultations, issues are traded away and it rarely gets reported. Other examples, to be more fully explored in 2007 are Ivory Coast and Abkhazia, and, we predict, Kosovo.

            Also noted in the week's vote counts is Ivory Coast joining the U.S. and Palau in opposing resolutions. Gbagbo knows which side his bread is buttered on. And he and his wife Simone prepare, it is reported, to throw UN envoy Pierre Schori out of the country.

            In this last week of Security Council action for 2006, several lesser-noticed resolutions are indicative of the Council's flaws. While the Council finally enacted a purported "de-listing" procedure whereby individuals and entities on which the Council has imposed sanctions can try to get off the list, the regime makes a mockery of due process. Instead of providing standards of proof and rules of procedure, it's again a popularity contest and political football. Without the support of (key) Council members, there'll be no de-listing. Pomp and circumstances, a kangaroo court on the west bank of New York's East River, at least as regards the claims of those put on sanctions lists.

            But it is not only a hall of mirrors, our Turtle Bay idyll. As night fell on the second shortest day, the Spokesman's office threw its end-of-year, end-of-term party. The food was chips, the drink red wine and scotch. But the stories were, as the credit card ad has it, priceless. Mojitos and cigars on beaches with ambassadors of Brazil, chefs de cabinet decamping to Mexico for a few days. Why, one asked, does Russia get so few top posts? The USSR used to pay eight percent of the budget, and now barely over one percent, comes the answer. And soon after the party, the GA was to meet, on the dry but crucial scale of assessments. We are family.

            Kofi Annan himself will be at an undisclosed location in New York for the rest of his term, "available if needed," he's said. There's continued suffering in Darfur, accelerating war in Somalia and, as decried in a little-noticed UN press release, increased abductions of school children in Haiti. We'll have more on and around this last in the near future.

UNDP's Ad Melkert Says He Will Finally Increase Transparency, Describes Fraud in Russia, Dodges Uganda

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN - 14th in a series  Intro followed by 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th

UNITED NATIONS, December 15 -- "I'd like to bring our transparency in line with the UN procedure", the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Program, Ad Melkert, answered Inner City Press on Friday. This answer came after UNDP had refused to provide copies or even summaries of audits of its admittedly troubled Russian Federation office, and after Inner City Press pointed out that the UN Secretariat at least provides full copies to any of the 192 member states which make a request. Mr. Melkert added, "That should be normal... Talking about transparency, the best criteria for me is my own transparency.. I'm looking into that right now." Video here, from Minute 45:46.

            Inner City Press inquired into a meeting Mr. Melkert held on December 1 with the staff of UNDP's Poverty Group, concerning steps taken to quickly bring Jeffrey Sachs' team from the UN Millennium Group onto the UNDP payroll. Having just referred to transparency, Mr. Melkert nevertheless began with the "hope you are not going to ask me about all the meeting that I've had." He continued that "for this exception case, yes, this First December meeting, I was... It was a managerial decision to merge, it's my responsibility, everybody can and should work with that. With respect to staff rules, we have tried to make the best out of that." While confirming much of what Inner City Press sources have said about the meeting, Mr. Melkert denied that he has told staff not to speak to the press. Time will tell.

            Mr. Melkert claimed that UNDP never funded disarmament in Uganda, only "community development." Rather than naming Karamoja, the region in Eastern Uganda in which the program was funded, Mr. Melkert apparently confused it with the Lord's Resistance Army-impacted area he called "Northern Uganda," where he said it is "hard to distinguish from the situation of risk and potential conflict including the roles weapons play." Video here, from Minute 36:25. But William Orme, previously of UNDP's Communications Office, said earlier in the year there was a voluntary disarmament component, and UNDP in Uganda issued a press release announcing the suspension of funding. When the seeming dissembling spreads to the Number Two in the agency, the plot thickens. What will the often invisible Number One, Kemal Dervis, have to say? While his December 18 appearance has been cancelled, Inner City Press was again told on Friday that he will appear on December 21. He can be expected to be asked to spell out UNDP's plan for greater transparency, among other things.

            Perhaps as a forerunner of the increased transparency needed at UNDP, hopefully as a sample of the type of response that will come regarding other scandals and locales inquired into, the following was provided to Inner City Press in response to questions:

Subject: UNDP responses

From: cassandra.waldon [at] undp.org

To: Inner City Press

 "On UNDP's Russia office: Three Resident Representatives have headed the UNDP Country Office (CO) in the Russian Federation since it began operations in 1997. Philippe Elghouayel served from August 1997 until January 2001. Frederick Lyons served from March 2001 until April 2003. Stefan Vassilev served as acting Resident Representative from April until June 2003, and then as Resident Representative from September 2003 until August 2005.

 A full internal UNDP audit of the Russia Country Office was conducted in August 2001. This cited numerous shortcomings and gave the CO an overall rating of "deficient." A follow-up partial audit was conducted in September 2003. This noted improvement in many areas and issued a rating of "partially satisfactory." 

 The discovery of suspected fraudulent activity triggered an internal investigation in June 2005. This investigation concluded that one payment amounting to $190,000 was fraudulent. Additional payments that could be fraudulent were under investigation. Three former UNDP staff members, all locally employed Russian nationals, were implicated in the fraud. All three resigned from the Country Office before the investigation was launched. 

 When the extent of the fraud became evident, Mr. Vassilev was summoned to headquarters. He was removed from his post in August 2005 and subjected to disciplinary proceedings stemming from shortcomings in management performance and oversight. Mr. Vassilev is no longer employed by UNDP. 

 In September 2005, drawing on the evidence collected in the investigation, the UNDP Administrator made an official request to Russian law enforcement authorities to open a criminal investigation into the fraud. Such an investigation was opened by the Moscow Prosecutor and is currently under way, with UNDP's active cooperation.

 UNDP informed its Executive Board of the fraud, as part of its regular reporting processes. In the wake of the special audit and rigorous internal reviews, UNDP has undertaken a painstaking restructuring of its finance operations and management structure, enacting the recommendations both of UNDP auditors and of a regular UN Board of Auditors audit conducted early in 2006. In addition, oversight roles and functions have been carefully reviewed at Headquarters, and fresh efforts have been devoted to ensuring that audit recommendations are heeded.

 To support these corrective efforts, UNDP has assigned some of its most experienced staff to the Russia CO. Ercan Murat, a UNDP veteran who had served previously as Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Afghanistan, came out of retirement to serve as acting Resident Representative in Russia from September 2005 until September 2006. Marco Borsotti, who currently serves as UNDP Resident Representative in Azerbaijan, has received clearance from the Russian Government and is expected to take up his post as the new Resident Representative in January 2007. 

 The effectiveness of UNDP's corrective measures was recently confirmed through an independent external review which judged the management practices of the Russia CO to be fundamentally sound and in line with UNDP regulations and standards."

            There. Some of the things not yet addressed are the Brussels funding for the Moscow planetarium project, as well as the other requested audits concerning Honduras, Afghanistan and the Private Sector Unit of the Bureau of Resources and Strategic Partnerships. There is also the reference to "receiv[ing] clearance from the Russian Government," more on which anon.

            In fairness, on Thursday evening UNDP sent Inner City Press among other things this denial:

---Original Message-----
Subject: UNDP responses

From: cassandra.waldon [at] undp.org

To: Inner City Press
Sent: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 7:00 PM

"Dear Matthew, regarding the allegations relating to the Bratislava Regional Centre... Ben Slay has not collected any improper daily sustenance allowance at any time. We find no suggestion that his predecessor did, either, but because his tenure ended some time ago, we are pulling additional records out of storage to confirm this. The Vienna office you appear to be making reference to opened before Ben Slay even arrived as Director of the Bratislava Centre. Ben Slay sometimes works from the Vienna office. He does not collect DSA for doing so. "

            Sources in Bratislava indicate that the individual opened a small UNPD office in Vienna, then sought to recruit other UNDP officials in Slovakia to relocate to Vienna, "to make his move look less strange." When an investigation into UNDP-Bratislava and the antics of Kalman Mizsei began, the individual hurriedly moved back to Slovakia...

Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UNDP sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of UNDP and many of its staff. As they used to say on TV game shows, keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

UNDP Questions Mount, Mark Malloch Brown Calls Them Irresponsible, Answers Only in Vanity Press

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

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 4, lightly edited Dec. 7 -- As additional information arrives in the wake of last week's sudden re-assignment of Brian Gleeson, the head of the UN Development Program's Office of Human Resources, Inner City Press on Monday morning sought comment from Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, previously the Administrator of UNDP. It is reported by staff that Mr. Gleeson repeatedly invoked Mr. Malloch Brown's name to justify what he called his best practices policies, and stated that Mr. Malloch Brown was going to make him head of the UN Secretariat's Office of Human Resources and Management.

            In the wide hallway between the UN General Assembly and Security Council, Inner City Press approached Mark Malloch Brown with a series of questions, beginning with a request for comment on the re-assignment of Brian Gleeson.

            Mr. Malloch Brown replied, "You are a jerk. You are the most irresponsible journalist I've come across."  And then he walked away.

            Inner City Press called after him that there were other questions.  Many are contained in the first four installment of this ongoing UNDP series. An additional question, regarding favoritism and entitlement, involved the use not only of UNDP but also of UNFPA, to dole out to a Malloch Brown ally a job in Turkey, sources tell Inner City Press, when the MMB ally's spouse had a UNDP job in Turkey. Numerous staff members have come forward with complaints of favoritism, abuse and threats of retaliation. If Mr. Malloch Brown is right, perhaps they are all irresponsible jerks. But perhaps Mr. Malloch Brown is not right.

            Another question, which Inner City Press raised Friday to the Secretariat's Office of the Spokesman as well as to UNDP, is how Mark Malloch Brown decided to commission the recent book, "UNDP: A Better Way?" The book's author, Craig N. Murphy thanks as his first acknowledgement "Mark Malloch Brown, who hired me to write this history. He offered the unbeatable combination of... a good salary and travel budget."

  Mr. Malloch Brown having declined, at 10:44 a.m., to take questions, Inner City Press at noon reiterated the question to the Secretariat's spokesman: how did Malloch Brown decide to have this glowing history writing, how was the author selected and how much was he paid? Was he paid from UNDP core funds? Beyond the still-unspecified "good salary" paid to the author, UNDP retained the copyright. The book, perhaps not surprisingly, effusively praises Mr. Malloch Brown. It is reminiscent, to one UN-immersed reader, of the "Great Book" of Turkmenbashi, the President for Life of Turkmenistan, a volume known as Ruhnama.

            From the field, UNDP Resident Representatives have over the weekend written to Inner City Press with congratulations for its series on UNDP, which began with a November 29 report on the reassignment of Brian Gleeson. In that report, Inner City Press noted that there were competing theories for Gleeson having been told to resign. More specific information has arrived, that while UNDP is authorized to have some 65 officials at the D-2 level, a recent check found more than 110 officials received D-2 payments and perks. This played a role, as it would in nearly any other organization, in making a change at the top of the Office of Human Resources.

            Additionally, a letter to a funder nation, purportedly dated November 4 and giving a seven- to ten-day window to respond, was delivered to the nation's representatives after the deadline, a snafu also cited in the re-assignment of Mr. Gleeson.

            [Paragraph excised, see Note below.]

            It is reported that Mr. Malloch Brown brought Brian Gleeson into UNDP as a consultant on efficiency, and that this later became a high (and high paying) job at UNDP. This is similar to the current process by which associates of Jeffrey Sachs are being put onto UNDP's payroll outside of UNDP's normal recruitment and hiring procedures.

            As one specific example, for this mid-day report, Inner City Press is informed that Guido Schmidt-Traub, still listed on the web site of the UN Millennium Project, is already working at and paid by the UNDP Poverty Group. Meanwhile, sources tell Inner City Press, the post Mr. Schmidt-Traub has been given is still purportedly being advertised to create the appearance of a normal recruitment process. More on this in forthcoming reports. UNDP's Communications Office, along with Mr. Kemal Dervis, was asked about this on the morning of Friday, December 1, in written questions reference a deadline of later that day. On Monday the response has been that the questions will be answered sometime this coming week. To date, the candor of the responses, the delay and obfuscation, are not acceptable. Perhaps they are, to adopt a phrase from the hallway, irresponsible.

MMB w/ FM of Uganda (click here for earlier analysis of UNDP's role in ongoing violent disarmament)

  Regarding Mr. Malloch Brown's impact on UNDP staff in Vietnam, again for example, the following arrived last week:

Subject: Update on Brian Gleeson Story, for Mr. Matthew Russell Lee

From: [Name withheld upon request]

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 3:44 AM

  Dear Mr. Matthew Russell Lee,

 I write as Vietnamese staff member at UNDP Viet Nam. I wish remain anonymous to protect my job, but I feel is my duty to write you about other linkages with Mr. Brian Gleeson and high salary appointments by Senior Management in our Country Office.

 The story on Mr. Brian Gleason is quite demoralizing for many UNDP staff who carry out their duties with honesty, integrity and fairness... our senior management approved a number of high paying international appointments without following required procedures and regulations of UNDP.

 Many of us national staff know that former Resident Representative at UNDP Viet Nam Mr. Jordan Ryan (a close friend of Mr. Mark Malloch Brown) and the Deputy Resident Representative of Operations Mr. Neil Reece-Evans (a close friend of Mr. Brian Gleeson) collaborated to recruit through the "back door" an American friend from the past Mr. Jonathan Pincus at very high paying job in our office.

 Mr. Brian Gleeson was informed but he choose to ignore. Mr. Jonathan Pincus then use similar procedure to hire his friends in the office and on projects. [Click here for more.]

[For the record: On Dec. 4, three days after this story was published, UNDP wrote that "Hiring at the Vietnam country office takes place according to standard UNDP procedures. Jonathan Pincus, a tenured professor at the University of London, was recruited in 2004 as Senior Country Economist in a transparent and competitive process. He was not previously known to any senior staff at the UNDP Vietnam Country Office. Dr. Pincus is a widely recognized expert in his area and has made substantial contributions to UNDP and the wider UN system’s work in Vietnam. With respect to the staff letter posted on your website, UNDP has been a leader in establishing channels through which staff can air their grievances or report misconduct without fear of retaliation.  Among other measures, UNDP has put in place an anonymous fraud hotline and a mechanism to file complaints on sexual harassment and abuse of authority." And see Inner City Press's December 7 article, the eighth installment in this UNDP Series, also on Vietnam - click here to view.]  

        Regarding Kalman Mizsei, by many accounts chased out of UNDP earlier this year after multiple complaints of sexual harassment -- including having brought and hired young women from Central Europe and then applied inappropriate pressure -- it now appears that Mr. Malloch Brown was among those who heard or tolerated Mr. Mizsei's racialist rant in a taxi in South Africa in 2002. "Zero tolerance" for some and not for others, it appears.

  The UNDP produced, Malloch Brown-commissioned book "UNDP: A Better Way?" refers, at 297, to the UN Millennium Project's "Jeffrey Sachs, the economist whom Malloch Brown had bought in." Given that Mr. Malloch Brown declined, at 10:44 a.m., to take questions, Inner City Press at noon asked this question of the spokeswoman for the president of the General Assembly, who'd been speaking about the Millennium Development Goals: what is the status of the UN Millennium Program, and how many if any of its staffers are being hired by UNDP and on what basis? If not from Mr. Malloch Brown and the Secretariat, and if only after already days-delay from UNDP, then from the General Assembly President's always professional spokeswoman, an answer should soon be forthcoming.

News analysis:  When now outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Bolton called a Malloch Brown speech the most irresponsible act by the Secretariat he'd seen, Inner City Press asked Amb. Bolton to compare the speech to Rwanda. But hyperbole is not limited to one side of the debate.  Among the UN press corps, even some supporters of Mr. Malloch Brown opine that the questions he faced about his living arrangement have left him too quick to conclude that any questioning or investigating of the UN must come from the far right (viz. his references to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh earlier this year.) 

  In 2005, Mr. Malloch Brown pointedly advised journalists to question their motives. But as seen for example with UNDP's attempt to cover-up that a disarmament program it funded in Uganda resulted in human rights abuses, trying to mislead, intimidate or insult the press doesn't help an institution nor its real-world constituents. As the UN's Jan Egeland again confirmed in agreeing to respond to Inner City Press' questions on Monday, the abuses in Eastern Uganda continue, with nary a word for example on UNDP's Uganda web site. On disarmament, UNDP's presumably non-irresponsible web site Uganda website still trumpets the government's round-up of guns in May 2006, reciting that "Mr. Cornelis Klein, outgoing UNDP Resident Representative, hailed the GoU for having taken a lead in the SALW [Small Arms and Light Weapons] program by, among others, establishing the Ugandan National Action Plan on SALW."  Jan Egeland's response on Wednesday about Eastern Uganda's Karamoja region should go online here soon.

[Dec. 7 note - In the above, certain details have been removed so that there is less distraction from the subject of this series: the UN Development Program. According to the Secretariat's spokesman's December 7 lecture, these were the details which led to the December 4 comments of the Deputy Secretary-General, ex-Administrator of UNDP. While the paragraph now-missing above was only reported after Mr. Malloch Brown's comments, and therefore cannot have formed a basis for Brown's comments, they are excised in order to keep the focus on UNDP. Back to the substance - click here for a list of the most recent articles.]

As UN Speechifies, UNDP Audits Are Still Being Withheld, While War in Somalia and Sudan, Pronk Blogs On

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN - 9th in a series

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 at 6 pm, updated below -- With Kofi Annan's Special Representative Jan Pronk back in Sudan for what seems the final time, Annan's spokesman on Friday on noon continued deflecting and stonewalling requests for simple information about an ally of Mark Malloch Brown whom he had extensively defended the previous day. At five p.m. deadline UNDP informed Inner City Press by email that an audit of fraud in UNDP's Russia office, responsive to a December 1 request, would not be released. UNDP states that no such information, nor comments on allegations of violations of UN hiring practices rules, will be released.

    Less than an hour later, Inner City Press found at the UN Spokesman's Office document counter a press release by UNDP, apparently placed there much earlier in the day, which makes a number of claims. Click here to view. Ironically, UNDP did not email a copy to Inner City Press, nor ask any question for comment prior to its "publication."  UNDP tries to argue that individuals named in this series were not contacted prior to publication. In fact, Inner City Press called the direct lines of Brian Gleeson, Nora Lustig, Romesh Muttukumaru and others, as well as directly asking and attempt to ask questions of Kemal Dervis on Nov. 27 and Mark Malloch Brown on December 4.

   Mr. Dervis, the head of a $5 billion UN Program, has not held a press conference in 14 months. There is more that will be said, while not deviating from the substance of this series on UNDP. This is merely an update a half-an-hour after seeing strangely UNDP's blind side press release, just before the festive annual ball of the UN Correspondents Association.

        Earlier on Jan Pronk, the spokesman said he wasn't sure if he was actually in-country. If the Dutch press had it, one might think that the UN would know. The Number Two on story 38, however, is adverse or lacks knowledge about new media. He called workplace reporting about UNDP "irresponsible" and its purveyor a "jerk." Then his spokesman loyally sketched a scenario in which the "personal" material about Brian Gleeson would come down, and apology be offered. Click here for the transcript. The material came down, in the spirit of diplomacy, and the spokesman was so informed. Video here, at Minute 19:40. But the stonewalling continued.

            Question: if at the direction of Mark Malloch Brown the spokesman is so quick to trash a journalist with whom he purports to joke, in robust defense of a friend of Mr. Brown, how can the spokesman the next day refuse to answer any question about the Malloch friend? It is hard to comprehend. Or it is the way that power work, in the late Annan-Brown regime. Everything's genteel until the wrong toes are trodden on. Then the gloves come off. The effect is to stonewall reporting on one of the UN's largest programs. Despite its annual budget of $5 billion, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis has been allowed to go 14 months without taking questions. Last week, after the UN ruled that even a ritual Memorandum of Understanding signing with the Islamic Development Bank couldn't be attended, an in-house photo came out.

Dervis with press kept at bay

            Today Mr. Dervis is in Vietnam, and so we continue our reporting, from a UNDP volunteer there, an on-the-record source since UNDP cannot retaliate, at least not directly. Pierre De Hanscutter was a computer / IT volunteer with UNDP in Vietnam. He states that while there, he attended a meeting in which UNDP proposed to buy computer equipment and services, from a company managed by the Vietnamese military, TECAPRO, at costs up to 35 times the going rate. Pierre De Hanscutter has provided a document, click here to view [which for now is blocked out by UNDP's Dec. 8 press release]. For example, he says, the purchase of a wireless router for $3500, when it normally priced at $120. His immediate boss Bui Khanh Huong made these arrangement, and Pierre De Hanscutter states that neither the top guy, Neil Reece nor the middleman Koen Van Acoleyn did anything to stop it. Mr. Reece said only that it would be good if it could be 10% cheaper.

            Pierre De Hanscutter's check of UNDP computer security found 15% of computers entirely unprotected, including that of the office's director. After raising the over-paying and other irregularities first to UNDP-Vietnam and then by letter to the UN in New York, Pierre De Hanscutter says he was told to no longer work in the office. Now outside the UNDP system, Pierre De Hanscutter has called for an investigation of UNDP in Vietnam, including its relation with TECAPRO. Is Kemal Dervis there to investigate? It doesn't sound like it. And so the questions mount, for his belated December 18 presser.

  Along with two questions posed with a five o'clock deadline (to be further reported out and with the responses to follow in full), and December 6 questions not even responded to, here was a question posed, and the response:

"responsive to earlier still-unanswered question, please provide the investigative report on UNDP's Russian Federation office referred to in the paragraph below, which is in the most recent audit of UNDP, A/61/5/Add.1, at page 22:

"Potential fraud had been detected at the Russian Federation office and reported to it for further investigation. The Office of Audit and Performance Review performed an investigation and released its report on 6 December, 2005. This report concluded that one payment amounting to $190,000 was fraudulent.  Additional payments that could be fraudulent were under further investigation. Two former UNDP staff members were implicated in the perpetration of those transactions (the former Assistant Resident Representative for Operations, who resigned on 20 April, 2005, and a former Project Administrator who resigned on 1 November, 2004). These cases were also reported by the Administrator of UNDP to the authorities of the Russian Federation on 15 September, 2005 for further action."

  And please provide an update." On this the following arrived, twenty minutes after deadline, thus confined to later in this report:
-
From: [CW at] undp.org
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 5:20 PM
Subject: RE: deadline today 5 p.m.

...we are still working to provide you with a response to your 1 December question on our Russia Country Office (you asked about "any and all investigations undertaken in the past 10 years", not just about the 2005 investigation). In response to your above request for the 2005 investigation report, please note that we do not release the reports of our internal audits and investigations. The results of these reports, however, are communicated on an annual basis to the UNDP Executive Board in the form of an annual Administrator’s report on Internal Audit and Oversight (this is the longer document that contains the text you have pasted above). The reports of UNDP’s external auditors are available at http://www.unsystem.org/auditors/.

  How convenient, this non-release of "the reports of [UNDP] internal audits and investigations." We'll have more on this shortly, including once at least some of the December 6 UNDP questions are answered.

Update of 7:25 p.m. -- More than six hours after UNDP published its naming-names press release, UNDP finally sent Inner City Press a copy, along with a reiteration of the above with a new promise to be even less transparent:

Subject: Your UNDP queries
From: cassandra.waldon [at] undp.org
To: Inner City Press
cc: dujarric, et al. [at] un.org
Sent: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 7:13 PM
 
 UNDP is working to address the numerous questions you have asked us. As many of your concerns touch upon similar kinds of issues we thought it might be helpful if we were to state, for the record:
 That we do not release the reports of our internal audits and investigations. The results of these reports are communicated on an annual basis to the UNDP Executive Board in the form of an annual Administrator’s report on Internal Audit and Oversight, which we believe you already have. The reports of UNDP’s external audits are available at http://www.unsystem.org/auditors/.

 That we will no longer be responding to unsubstantiated allegations about UNDP’s recruitment and personnel practices. We urge you to desist from publishing such allegations, however, as doing so can harm the reputations and be personally hurtful to innocent colleagues. As previously communicated to you, UNDP has in place checks and balances to ensure transparency, and mechanisms to allow staff to air their concerns. We also have effective mechanisms for redressing legitimate grievances. Like any organization, we of course could undoubtedly do better. But our 2005 Global Staff Survey indicates that morale at UNDP is at the highest level since the survey began in 1999, with 74 per cent of staff saying they would recommend UNDP as a good place to work.

 Finally, kindly find attached a statement that we issued today.
 Regards,
 Cassandra Waldon

  "Finally" is right - it was six hours after UNDP distributed the press release. The statement that UNDP "will no longer be responding to unsubstantiated allegations about UNDP’s recruitment and personnel practices" means, for example, that questions about violations of the UN System's stated hiring practices will simply not be answered by UNDP. Perhaps UNDP sees an opportunity, in the time Secretary-General transition with some key Under-Secretaries General already gone, to declare independence from transparency, the press and the public. We'll see.

            By contrast, fast answers were provided Friday on Sudan and Somalia -- the sides should talk, always a fine thing to say -- and a speech made up on the Congo. Video here, from Minute 14:20.  On Somalia, the spokesman said he hadn't seen reporters of increased shelling by Ethiopia (click here for one) and of Uganda chomping at the bit to send troops against the Islamic Courts Union. "The S-G would call on those who send troops to reach out to all Somalis," the spokesman speechified. Great. Meanwhile what has the UN's envoy Francois Lonseny Fall been doing? He's been to Mogadishu once. And the requested list of the UN's partners in Mogadishu? It has still not been provided, nor a simple list that was promised days ago. This regime is just playing out the string. And the gangsters, in the tent and out, seem to sense it...

Update of 7 p.m. -- Less than an hour after this article was published, and less than two after the emailed response above, Inner City Press found at the UN Spokesman's Office document counter a press release by UNDP, apparently placed there much earlier in the day, which makes a number of claims. Ironically, UNDP did not email a copy to Inner City Press, nor ask any question for comment prior to its "publication."  UNDP tries to argue that individuals named in this series were not contacted prior to publication. In fact, Inner City Press called the direct lines of Brian Gleeson, Nora Lustig, Romesh Muttukumaru and others, as well as directly asking and attempt to ask questions of Kemal Dervis on Nov. 27 and Mark Malloch Brown on December 4.

   Mr. Dervis, the head of a $5 billion UN Program, has not held a press conference in 14 months. There is more that will be said, while not deviating from the substance of this series on UNDP. This is merely an update a half-an-hour after seeing strangely UNDP's blind side press release, just before the festive annual ball of the UN Correspondents Association.

From Sleaze in Vietnam to Fights in DC-1, UNDP Appears Out of Control at the Top

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN - 3d in a series

UNITED NATIONS, December 1 -- In UNDP's far-flung empire, the strings are pulled for giving jobs by a very few hands in New York. This week the director of UNDP's Office of Human Resources Brian Gleeson was "re-designated" without notice to a quickly created Special Advisor post. Since Inner City Press' Wednesday night report on this, mail has flooded in. Below is a sample message regarding Vietnam, the author of which requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation by UNDP.

            Where UNDP employees' communications allow for direct follow-up, Inner City Press has been calling UNDP. Friday Inner City Press telephoned the head of UNDP's Poverty Project Nora Lustig. UNDP sources have told Inner City Press that Ms. Lustig was brought in to UNDP in April 2006, outside of the normal channels, and that she has since then similarly brought on a crew of her own. Click here for Ms. Lustig on film.

    Friday Ms. Lustig's secretary told Inner City Press that she was in a meeting, but wrote down a question and request for comment on a detailed account Inner City Press has heard from multiple sources of a incident in which, allegedly, Ms. Lustig was abusive to a UK staffer, in front of a representative from the UK Home Office, who complained of Ms. Lustig's behavior. The story goes on from there, and may soon be told at greater length in this space. In fairness get Ms. Lustig's comment, Inner City Press left a detailed question with her secretary, in the building known as DC-1 otherwise known as a maze. Ms. Lustig's secretary called back to say that Ms. Lustig was referring Inner City Press to Kemal Dervis' personal spokeswoman, who in turn stated that the deputy communications official of UNDP would call with answers, which never happened, as of 9:55 p.m. deadline.

            Because of the involvement of UK officials and personnel, Inner City Press on Friday asked UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry about the incident, and whether he thought it appropriate, as a matter of UN reform and transparency, that the head of UNDP has not held a press conference in 14 months. Amb. Jones Parry said he would not be aware of the former, and had no comment on the latter, other than pro forma praise for UNDP. Further inquiries have been made with the UK mission.

            At UNDP, a pattern of favoritism in hiring is emerging. Regarding Vietnam the following arrived:

Subject: Update on Brian Gleeson Story, for Mr. Matthew Russell Lee

From: [Name withheld upon request]

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 3:44 AM

  Dear Mr. Matthew Russell Lee,

 I write as Vietnamese staff member at UNDP Viet Nam. I wish remain anonymous to protect my job, but I feel is my duty to write you about other linkages with Mr. Brian Gleeson and high salary appointments by Senior Management in our Country Office.

 The story on Mr. Brian Gleason is quite demoralizing for many UNDP staff who carry out their duties with honesty, integrity and fairness.

 But no organization is 100% clean. Senior Management of UNDP Viet Nam often advise our Party and Government on transparency and stamping out corruption, even while some of us know that some elements inside our office are not always clean.

 But it seems that lower paid national staff are held at much higher standard than senior international staff who run our office. One female national staff member was made to suffer greatly for two years following minor infraction and then forced out of the organization.

 Meanwhile not long after, our senior management approved a number of high paying international appointments without following required procedures and regulations of UNDP.

 Many of us national staff know that former Resident Representative at UNDP Viet Nam Mr. Jordan Ryan (a close friend of Mr. Mark Malloch Brown) and the Deputy Resident Representative of Operations Mr. Neil Reece-Evans (a close friend of Mr. Brian Gleeson) collaborated to recruit through the "back door" an American friend from the past Mr. Jonathan Pincus at very high paying job in our office.

 Mr. Brian Gleeson was informed but he choose to ignore. Mr. Jonathan Pincus then use similar procedure to hire his friends in the office and on projects.

  Everything was made correct on paper according to procedure, but recruitment decisions were made prior to "official advertisements" and a recruitment process that was superficial and not clean.

 Meanwhile there are many national economists in Viet Nam who can do the job at much lower cost or even other foreign economists living in Hanoi who require much less pay and can save transportation costs. 

 Some of these appointments should now be reviewed and cancelled and a proper recruitment process undertaken with open, fair and transparent competition for Vietnamese economists in our country. Mr. Kemal Dervis will visit our country next week, but we dare not speak.

I wish to remain anonymous. This seems only way to clean our organization.

            This desire to clean up UNDP is widespread at the non-top levels of UNDP. And the account of bogus competitive evaluations for job which have already in reality been doled out to favored insiders is echoed from elsewhere in the system.

            On Friday morning, Inner City Press put to Kemal Dervis and three members of his communications staff a set of six questions, one of which concerns hiring practices at UNDP Vietnam. As of six o'clock, there had been no response from UNDP. Therefore Inner City Press made two telephone calls to UNDP. Kemal Dervis' personal spokeswoman told Inner City Press that the agency's deputy spokesperson would be calling with answers. But as of 9:30 p.m. deadline, no information was forthcoming.

            Now, after Inner City Press on Friday asked one and then another of the Permanent Five Security Council members' UN Ambassadors countries for their views on Kemal Dervis not having held a press conference in 14 months, Inner City Press is informed that Mr. Dervis will deign to take questions, it is believed on December 14. We'll see.

            Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UNDP sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this second installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of UNDP and many of its staff. As they used to say on TV game shows, keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag but keep the information coming -- "to clean [the] organization" of UNDP, as said above by the economist in Vietnam.

In UNDP, Drunken Mis-Managers on the Make Praised and Protected, Meet UNDP's Kalman Mizsei

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN, 2d in a Series

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 -- Drunk on a plane to Turkey, making racialist comments in a taxi in Johannesburg, engaging in sexual harassment and the awarding of jobs in expectation of sexual favors at the UN's Headquarters in New York. These are snapshots of the director for Europe and the CIS Countries for the UN Development Program, Kalman Mizsei, before he was finally asked and allowed to resign in September of this year.

            A number of UNDP sources, including in Central Europe, have described for Inner City Press the tenure of Kalman Mizsei (pronounced, Mee-Jay) which included overseeing serious corruption at UNDP's Moscow office, in which funds from the European Union for rehabilitating the Moscow planetarium went missing, and UNDP served as a veneer for sole source contracts in exchange for 10% of the money passing through. Kalman Mizsei, a neo-conservative economist, was a proponent of these financial schemes, in which UNDP made money (built up "local resources," in the agency's parlance) for serving as a conduit on projects including by the World Bank for such things as irrigation and sewage projects.

            Since UNDP had no technical expertise in these areas, it was easy for money to be stolen. But since so few journalists, at least at and around UN Headquarters, cover UNDP, and since UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis makes himself unavailable to the media, not having held a press conference in 14 months, the well-meaning agency continues to be run into the ground. This is part two in Inner City Press' periodic series, Profiles in Kemal Dervis' UNDP.

            First, the current set up. On November 27, Inner City Press sought to question Kemal Dervis in the entrance of UN Headquarters. "I don't take questions like this," Mr. Dervis answered. On November 29, Inner City Press sent questions by email to Mr. Dervis and his communications staff, including

Question: Was Kalman Mitzei fired or otherwise relieved or removed from his position with UNDP?  If so, on what grounds?

            On November 30, the following was sent from UNDP:

Subject: RE: Press questions, on deadline, re UNDP [and] Kalman Mitzei, etc.

From: [at] undp.org

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 11:28 AM

Matthew, Below are the responses to your questions: [Question: Was Kalman Mitzei fired or otherwise relieved or removed from his position with UNDP?  If so, on what grounds?]

Response: No. As stated previously, at UNDP -- like at other organizations -- with time colleagues retire, move on or are reassigned. After serving six distinguished years at UNDP, Mr. Miszei is now Professor at Central European University’s Department of Public Policy in Budapest.

            The six distinguished years included an incident on a plane to Turkey, in which a drunken Kalman Mizsei assaulted a stewardess and the police were called, until the UN system helped extricate Mizsei from the problem. Inebriated or not, there were racist comments by Mizsei in a taxicab in Johannesburg, in earshot of a(nother) close associate of Mark Malloch Brown, then-head of UNDP and now Deputy Secretary-General.  Sources indicate to Inner City Press that Kalman Mizsei's antics, including sexual harassment and violation of hiring rules in search of sexual favors, were "legend" within UNDP. That nothing was done for so long, and that UNDP continues to this day in response to direct questions about why Mizsei left to cover it up, is indicative of more serious problems.

            In his capacity as Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, Mizsei presided over mismanagement by UNDP Russian of a World Bank-funded sewer project. (The direct mis-manager, it is reported, is still working at the UN Office of Project Services, UNOPS, more regarding which later in this series.) The next UNDP Russia manager, Fred Lyons, made the mistake of firing a local-hire Russian employee. After that, Mizsei sent a fixer, a 33-year old Bulgarian who moved Fred Lyon out of the way (to Afghanistan) and took his job -- and then went on the lam himself, embroiled in a smaller, only $1 million UNDP Russia scandal with one Tatiana Gorlov.

            Beyond these so-called smaller scandals, UNDP's business model in the Mark Malloch Brown era grew to include using UNDP's "excess administrative capacity" to become a middleman for project funded by others, about which UNDP knew little. Fees of up to 10% were paid to UNDP, for holding money for as little as one day. UNDP would provide the veneer of a legitimate bid-out and tender process, but in many cases the winner was pre-selected, and money even wired to them, before the supposed competition was held. This was and is called "mobilizing local resources," and was praised from the highest levels of UNDP.

            One aside and interim update about Brian Gleeson, who yesterday was "redesignated" from heading up UNDP's Office of Human Resources to a Senior Advisor to Surge position: some Gleeson supporters, while not disputing that Kemal Dervis attempted to fire Gleeson as, in September, Kalman Mizsei was fired, say that along with the other issues, Gleeson refused to quash one or more investigations that Dervis wanted stopped. Brian Gleeson's office was called to discuss just this type of nuance. Watch this space.

            But back to Kalman Mizsei. After a series of complaints, finally in September 2006, sources say, Mizsei was advised to resign or fire himself. Since returning to Hungary, he has bragged about, among other things, being a personal adviser to George Soros, even a nephew. Despite a number of UNDP sources placed at different levels of the agency saying that Mizsei was a disgrace and even a laughing-stock, an email query to Kemal Dervis and his communications staff this week resulted in the claim that Mizsei's service was distinguished and his departure entirely voluntary. If these are UNDP's and Dervis' standards, it is a sad day for the world's poor.

            Because a number of Inner City Press' UNDP sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this second installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of UNDP and many of its staff. As they used to say on TV game shows, keep those cards and letters (and now, emails) coming.

UNDP Sources Say Dervis Fires Malloch Brown-linked Officials, Then Offers Hush-Up Jobs

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Kemal Dervis, the administrator of the UN Development Programme, sent out an email mid-afternoon on November 29 stating that the Director of UNDP's Office of Human Resources, Brian Gleeson, was taking a lower-level job as a Senior Advisor. UNDP sources tell Inner City Press that the Special Advisor position was quickly created after two events. In the first, UNDP moved to fire Brian Gleeson for having funneled high-paying jobs, outside of normal channels, to associates of UN Deputy Secretary-General, and former UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown.  According to these UNDP sources, alternative grounds for firing or requesting resignation involved sexual harassment or the outright sale of jobs for cash, or first month's salary. Then, between 11 a.m. and Mr. Dervis' 2:20 p.m. email, something changed. Some say Mark Malloch Brown intervened. Other say Mr. Gleeson went to the office of Kemal Dervis and showed evidence of other improprieties at UNDP which he would release if the firing proceeded. Suddenly the Senior Advisor position was offered, effective immediately.

    This is also a story about an agency and its personnel being unable or unwilling to answer simple factual questions on a timely basis.  By telephone and email, and in person in the case of Kemal Dervis, Inner City Press sought comment on these UNDP issues. The agency's head of Communications William Orme was told that these were questions on deadline, but made no response. Brian Gleeson was called and a detailed message was left with his secretary. Given the lack of subsequent response, only this film, click here, can be offered, expressing dissatisfaction at "certain political leaders" and at reporters for not telling the UN's story. You have to return calls, some reporters say.

  In the UN Headquarters building, the UN spokesman was asked to seek comment, including from Mark Malloch Brown. Was Malloch Brown consulted prior to Mr. Gleeson's redesignation? Did Malloch Brown play any role in this process? These are yes or no questions.

            It was at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday that Mr. Dervis wrote to "colleagues" that "this is to inform you that Brian Gleeson, Director, Office of Human Resources (OHR), Bureau of Management (BoM), has been designated to serve as Senior Advisor for the Surge Project in the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery... on Thursday, 30 November, 2006." Mr. Dervis' email also thanked Brian Gleeson for having "done a difficult job well." If the swirl of Gleeson issues remains, this written praise by the head of UNDP seems more like cover-up than diplomacy.

            The demotion announced Tuesday is the most recent of moves by Mr. Dervis against officials previously installed by Mark Malloch Brown. In UNDP's Office of Finance, covering all European and CIS countries, the Hungarian Kalman Mitzei was fired, Inner City Press is told by UNDP sources, for sexual harassment and favoritism and was replaced by one of Mr. Dervis' colleagues from when he was at the World Bank, a before that from Belgrade. Observers question the wisdom of this selection, for Balkan(ized) geo-political reason and otherwise.

            It's worth noting that both Mark Malloch Brown and Kemal Dervis formerly worked at the World Bank. Those who know him say Mr. Dervis envied Malloch Brown's ascent to the top of UNDP. Now that he rules UNDP, with surprisingly little oversight, Mr. Dervis is putting his own hand-picked associates in place.

From: Kemal Dervis [mailto:kemal.dervis@undp.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 2:20 PM
Subject: Appointment of Brian Gleeson as Senior Advisor for BCPR Surge Project

Dear Colleagues,

This is to inform you that Brian Gleeson, Director, Office of Human Resources (OHR), Bureau of Management (BoM), has been designated to serve as Senior Advisor for the Surge Project in the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR). On behalf of the organization, I would like to thank Brian for doing a difficult job well for more than two and a half years and to wish him success in his new assignment While the selection process for the appointment of a new OHR Director is underway, I have asked Romesh Muttukumaru, Acting Deputy Director of the Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships (BRSP), to serve as Officer-in-Charge of OHR. These transition arrangements will come into effect on Thursday, 30 November, 2006. I urge all staff to please cooperate during this transition period.
With best regards, Kemal

            Mark Malloch Brown, of course, is still asserting himself. His close ally Bruce Jenks remains in place at UNDP's Bureau of Resources and Partnerships (Mr. Jenks was traveling on Wednesday and would not be able to comment, Inner City Press was told, until next week at the earliest) and his Cape Verdean associate Carlos Lopez has been selected to give briefings to incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

   Some call it Shakespearean, this hard-ball dueling between ex-World Bankers Kemal Dervis and Mark Malloch Brown. But how is it, these people ask, that high-paying UNDP jobs are given outside of official channels, in some cases, such as that of one Nancy Barnes, without even showing up in databases of employees? In UNDP's European Union  and CIS shop, corruption is said to be endemic. The European Union in Brussels funnels funding through UNDP, a funding stream never reviewed even by UNDP's Executive Board. Nor is oversight being given by UNDP auditor Jessie Mabutas, whose role in jobs-for-pay may be more participatory than investigative. More on this next week.

            For now we note: on November 27, Inner City Press attempted to ask Kemal Dervis questions in the General Assembly hall, after a meeting about the Millennium Development Goals. As Inner City Press recounted at that day's UN noon briefing, Mr. Dervis said, "I don't answer questions this way, walking out of meetings." Inner City Press reiterated its request, made for more than five months now, that Mr. Dervis come to a press conference and answer questions, which he hasn't done since a single press conference when he got the UNDP job, 14 months ago. Mr. Dervis indicated that it would take a "special event" to get him to a press conference. Might these events be considered special? We'll see.

            Inner City Press sought to reach Brian Gleeson on Wednesday afternoon. His office expressed surprise that word of his (down) shift to Special Advisor had "spread to the UN." Some thought that UNDP was part of the United Nations. UNDP is the UN's main representative to most countries. But UNDP these days is apparently run as a fiefdom unto itself. In seeking UNDP's explanation for Mr. Gleeson's abrupt downshift, and UNDP's response to this story, messages to the UNDP Communications Office went unanswered, as has become a pattern. An attempt to reach Kalman Mitzei yielded that he has returned by Hungary. A 6:45 p.m. call to Romesh Muttukumaru, Brian Gleeson's interim replacement at the helm of UNDP Human Resources, yielded an outgoing message that Romesh Muttukumaru was busy on the phone; a message seeking comment, or UNDP's official explanation of the change at the top of its Office of Human Resources, was not returned.

       Given what UNDP sources say of Mr. Gleeson, now downshifted to advisory status with "the Surge Project in the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery," it's worth noting that a recent UNDP job ad for a position with this Surge Project in the BCPR lists, among required "corporate competencies," that the employee (and presumably advisor) "Treats all people fairly without favoritism" and "Demonstrates integrity by modeling the UN values and ethical standards." Developing...

UNDP Dodges Questions of Disarmament Abuse in Uganda and of Loss of Togo AIDS Grant, Dhaka Snafu

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 24 -- In eastern Uganda, villages this month have been burned and residents shot and killed by government soldiers. The Uganda military has been asked by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to halt a cordon-and-search disarmament program which has killed 55 civilians in the Karamoja region. Uganda's deputy defense minister Ruth Nankabirwa has said the program will continue, telling reporters that "It is true that some people were killed, but in an operation where both sides are armed, you should expect such things to happen."

            Missing from both stories, and from Louise Arbour's report,  is that the UN Development Programme funded and encouraged the wave of cordon-and-search disarmament earlier this year, until UNDP begrudgingly suspected its funding. Uganda's New Vision newspaper of June 28, 2006, under the headline " UNDP suspends Karamoja projects" recounted that

"Inner City Press reported that the UPDF were committing abuses in the process of the cordon and search exercise, including killing of people and burning of homes and shelters. But both the UPDF spokesman, Maj. Felix Kulayigye and the eastern and northeastern spokesman, Capt. Paddy Ankunda, dismissed the reports yesterday. 'That is absolutely ridiculous,' Ankunda said."

            Since then, UNDP dodged answering whether it has resumed funding the program, and UNDP has most recently reverted to claiming that it never funded or encouraged the program.  A month ago, around Karamojo, UNDP's spokesman wrote Inner City Press: "As we conveyed to the Spokesman's office when you first raised this question there, neither UNDP nor the UN is the appropriate source for comment on a member-state government inquiry; we would suggest perhaps the UN mission from Uganda may help."

            UNDP has not always been adverse to commenting on Uganda's disarmament programs. UNDP's spokesman had previously informed Inner City Press that

"In 2006 UNDP began work on an independent community development and human security project in the Karamoja region, one component of which was the encouragement of voluntary disarmament. The project was budgeted initially for $1 million, to be financed from UNDP's Uganda country office [Due to a misunderstanding on my part I erroneously identified to you in our conversation Tuesday the government of Denmark as a funder of this project.] Only $293,000 has been spent to date and all UNDP activities in the region are now halted, given that they are unworkable at this time, for the reasons noted."

   On May 25, 2006, then UNDP Country Director Cornelis Klein gave a speech praising Uganda's disarmament programs -- during a time that, as reported by Inner City Press, Karamojong villages were being torched and civilians tortured and killed. Mr. Klein's speech, still online as of this writing, said:

"Uganda -- and the state institutions involved here today -- is fast becoming a leading light in Africa and beyond in how it is seizing the opportunity to address small and light weapons concerns. While UNDP currently provides modest support to the nation, it is Uganda that can support and lead other countries in doing the same. Let me take this opportunity, therefore, to applaud the Government for its strong leadership and commitment."

            The Ugandan government's in-house investigation of that round of violent disarmament, for which the Kampala newspaper the Daily Monitor credited Inner City Press, is still pending, even as more burning and killing by government soldiers takes place. Most close observers opine that at least the May phase of the cordon-and-search operation was intended to meet UNDP's aggressive goals for disarmament, for a photo-op for a UNDP country representative who has since dropped out of sight, refusing to take questions.

            UNDP's lack of forthrightness and follow-up about abuses in Eastern Uganda is echoed in more recent agency responses regarding its administration of AIDS programs in Togo, and non-responses regarding Bangladesh.

            In Togo, grants of millions of dollars were stopped earlier this year due, the donor said, to the UN Development Programme filing incorrect data. While the health of thousands of HIV-positive Togolese continues to decline, questions to UNDP result, days later, in finger-pointing at the donor, and a full two-week delay in any UNDP response to a critique by Bangladesh officials. A Ugandan cordon-and-search disarmament program which UNDP previously acknowledges having supported has killed dozens of civilians in the past months. Now UNDP denies ever having funded the program. UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis has not made himself available for press questions in the UN's Headquarters for more than 14 months. And so the questions continue to back up.

            On November 13, Inner City Press sent UNDP's main Communications Office in New York a request for comment on UNDP snafus in Togo and Bangladesh. Two days later, UNDP acknowledged receipt of the request and promised response by November 15.

            After deadline on November 15, one of UNDP's spokespeople sent this:

Subject: RE: UNDP questions, re Togo and Bangladesh

From: @undp.org

To: Inner City Press

Sent: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 6:12 PM

Kindly find below our response to your question on Togo. We will get back to you on your Bangladesh query shortly.

Question: Please explain UNDP's actions on HIV/AIDS in Togo, including addressing the report (below) that funding has been lost. ("The Global Fund, the main donor of  antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in Togo, halted one of two three-year HIV grants amounting to US$15.5 million in January 2006, citing "irregularities" in the  information provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on managing the money.")

Answer:  With regards to the Global Fund, the Togolese HIV/AIDS grant proposal, developed by a multidisciplinary coordination committee, was approved in 2003. In light of its previous experience in neighboring countries, UNDP was appointed as the grant's principal recipient....A June 2006 evaluation by Price Waterhouse of data provided by UNDP and the concerned NGOs concluded that UNDP had not put in place systems to ensure effective reporting from the field, making it difficult to verify the actual number of people or communities serviced. As part of its normal project operations, UNDP had advanced funds for selected activities. Prior to reimbursing UNDP for these expenses, the Global Fund called for a financial review. In response, UNDP launched a bidding process in the sub-region and the firm CGIC won the bid and was contracted to carry out this independent financial review. As CGIC has confirmed in a declaration to the media and in its discussions with Togo's President, Prime Minister and Minister of Health, that study, undertaken in September and October 2006, found that, while there may have been errors in the data reported, there was no mismanagement or fraud... The Country Coordination Mechanism -- a body consisting of national partners, such as the concerned ministries, NGOs and the private sector, as well as international partners, which manages Global Fund matters in Togo -- could make a special request for the purchase of the ARVs in order to ensure that treatment of the 3,000 patients continues."

            But it is uncontested that due to the improper data, no new patients have been accepted. On Saturday, November 18, UNDP sent a further clarification:

In a message dated 11/18/2006 12:02:17 PM,  @undp.org writes: 

I'd like to clarify something regarding the Togo information I provided you yesterday evening: In its financial review report, CGIC found that no fraud or mismanagement existed. It was the Global Fund 's Manager for Togo, M. Mabingue Ngom, who informed the country's President, Prime Minister and the Minister of Health that there was no fraud or mismanagement."

            Subsequently, Inner City Press has asked for a copy of the CGIS audit. No response has been received. Nor has any response been received regarding Bangladesh, despite the passage of 11 days. It has been reported from Bangladesh that:

"The Ministry of Commerce has rejected a Preparatory Assistance (PA)  project proposal of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as  it finds the UN organization jobs unplanned, lack of coordination and integrated mechanism. 'The UNDP only suggest preparatory assistance projects rather to take  further full projects to address the identified problems," one of the commerce ministry officials' said."

            How can it take 11 days to provide a comment on this? The spin machine is at work.

            It has been 14 months since UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis appeared to take questions in UN Headquarters. On November 27, Mr. Dervis will be in UN Headquarters to attend a meeting on the Millennium Development Goals. While two of the other participants will, that afternoon, take questions at a UN press conference, Mr. Dervis is notably not listed as available for questions. While, after repeated requests, Inner City Press has been told he will take questions sometime in December, the need for answers is now.

At the UN, The Swan Song of Jan Egeland and the Third Committee Loop, Somalia Echoes Congo

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 22 -- While in Somalia, Ethiopian troops now openly patrol the roads to Baidoa, and U.S. Special Forces are reported on the Somali border with Kenya, Inner City Press on Wednesday asked American Ambassador John Bolton for the U.S. position on the unfolding war in the Horn of Africa.

            "I don't have anything for you on that," Amb. Bolton said. Video here.

            But it's reported that the U.S. State Department has commissioned a report which warns that up to a dozen countries could be drawn into war in Somalia, echoing the Congo. And at the U.S. State Department's Wednesday briefing, Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey deflected DC-based reporters' questions by referring to a process at the UN -- "this is something that's under discussions and in consultation at the UN" -- a process on which the U.S. Ambassador to the UN was unwilling to comment. Passing the buck?

            Meanwhile at the UN, the Somalia Monitoring Group's four members, called experts, are apparently in hiding. Their recently-leaked report names violators of the sanctions, and says that 720 Somalis were in South Lebanon. Despite the spokesman saying they would briefing the press this week, they have not been seen. It is reported that the Security Council Sanctions Committee is arranging for the countries named in the report to be able to question the experts, at some unspecified time and place next week. Inner City Press asked the spokesman if Uganda has protested the report. The spokesman said this has happened in a meeting, verbally. When and where this meeting took place was not specified.

            The UN Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, on Wednesday announced 28 grants in 17 countries to counter domestic violence against women. Four are in Somalia, with one each in Somaliland and Puntland. Inner City Press asked UNIFEM director Noeleen Heyzer if her agency has had dealings with the Union of Islamic Courts. Mr. Heyzer said yes, and that details would be provided. We'll see. Inner City Press asked for UNIFEM comment on the trial in Utah for rape and polygamy. Ms. Heyzer said the case shows that there is domestic violence "without regard to income." Dog bites man -- or should.

            Tuesday John Bolton has been slated to speak at Syracuse University. Inner City Press asked a staff if it was being cancelled and was told no, Amb. Bolton would do it by video-conference. Subsequently it was reported that Amb. Bolton was canceling, because he was "unable to travel to Syracuse because of pressing negotiations over Iran in the U-N Security Council." But Tuesday's meetings were entirely about Lebanon.

            After Amb. Bolton bolted Wednesday morning, Jackie Sanders took over. She said that she "too want to thank Under Secretary-General Jan Egeland for his briefing on some of the continuing critical humanitarian challenges in Africa.  We're grateful for his first-hand report on the initiative mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan to bring an end to the mayhem perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army."

            Back in October, judge Richard Goldstone told Inner City Press that no one in the UN should be meeting with International Criminal Court indictees Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti of the LRA, unless and until the Security Council formally suspends the indictments.

            Wednesday Inner City Press asked Jan Egeland to explain how a UN Under Secretary General meeting with LRA leaders Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti while International Criminal Court arrest warrants for Kony and Otti are outstanding doesn't create at least the appearance of impunity. Egeland responded that there is no impunity, but that justice might be done in a national or "local" way.

            Bitter root ceremonies for war criminals?

   Inner City Press also asked Egeland to comment on rumors that he may remain in the UN system, while living in Norway, working for a new UN micro-agency charged with mediation support. Video here. Egeland shrugged and said he plans to write a book, and to sleep in his own bed after having lived like a guerrilla fighter. A reporter laughed, then asked what the lede should be, for Egeland's briefing. If he's going to write a book, he'll make his own ledes from now on.

            Wednesday morning, asked by Inner City Press about human rights resolutions pending in the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, Amb. Bolton said that his colleague "Ambassador Miller" would be in the Third Committee meetings down in Conference Room 1 in the basement. That would be Richard Terrence Miller, described by the mission as an "accomplished singer himself." 

            Inner City Press found Amb. Miller in Conference Room 1, his entourage sprawled out on a nearby table. While in the Security Council each country-representative has four seats behind him or her, in Conference Room 1 is only one assister's seat. So while Cameroon had a lone attendee, the U.S.'s team spread out.  Six countries voted to censure the U.S. on human rights: Belarus, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Myanmar, and Syria. Several more said they would have voted against the U.S., invoking Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, but they were principled in opposing all country-specific human rights resolutions. There was groaning in the audience, particularly when the chairman said that proceedings would continue on Friday. After a beat, he corrected himself and said Tuesday. The crowd broke into the cheer, and the meeting broke up. A journalist from the crux between Europe and Asia was heard to say, Turkey can't have a turkey. And again the groaning started...

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.

            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."

            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.

From the UN, Silence on War Crimes Enforcement and Conflicts of Interest on Complaint from Bahrain

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 16 -- "Sometimes you have to sleep with the Devil if it means getting kids out," UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told Inner City Press on Thursday, referring to the UN's Jan Egeland having recently met with Joseph Kony of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.

            The LRA for twenty years has fought both the Museveni government and people of northern Uganda. The LRA's leader Joseph Kony has been quoted: "You report us with your mouth, and we cut off your lips. Who is to blame? It is you! The Bible says that if you hand, eye or mouth is at fault, it should be cut off."

            On July 8, 2005, the UN's International Criminal Court issued a sealed indictment of Joseph Kony, his deputy Vincent Otti and three others. The indictments were supposed to remain confidential until the five men were apprehended. In late September 2005, however, the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, let slip that the five were indicted. Subsequently the ICC confirmed it.

            More than a year later, none of the five has been arrested. Last week the UN's head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, announced he would meet with Joseph Kony if, in advance of the meeting, the LRA released some of the children they have abducted. Although no release was made, Egeland met with Kony, and emerged to request that Museveni pull his troops further back from the LRA camps. There are peace talks going on, in which Kony and Otti are demanding that the ICC indictments be dropped.

            Thursday the UN Security Council met on the LRA. On the way in, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton stopped to talk with reporters. He did not, however, make any mention of Uganda. Peruvian Ambassador Voto-Bernales came out to the microphone and read a statement, about Haiti.

            Inner City Press asked Amb. Voto-Bernales about Haiti, whether the Council would send the reinforcement that UN envoy Edmond Mulet has requested, and about the LRA -- are the indictments being discussed? On Haiti, Amb. Voto-Bernales said that other than the death of two UN peacekeepers from Jordan, the news on Haiti  is "good." Video here. On the LRA, he said that a Presidential Statement was being finalized in the chamber, and he said he would come out to the microphone after the meeting. The Statement does not mention the ICC, or the indictments.

            After the meeting, and with Council President Voto-Bernales nowhere to be found, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Perry if the Presidential Statement the Council issued meant that the ICC indictments are on hold. "Not at all," Amb. Jones Parry answered.

            But what about the UN's Jan Egeland meeting with Joseph Kony?

            Amb. Jones Parry said that the meeting was held to get children released.  "Sometimes you have to sleep with the Devil if it means getting kids out," Ambassador Jones Parry said.

            Inner City Press then asked, "Do you think Jan Egeland will stay in the UN system?"

            "I'm sure he won't," said Ambassador Jones Parry.

            There have been rumors of the UN setting up a mediation unit, to be based in Norway, which Jan Egeland would head up, and that would be funded by Norway.  Others say that the idea is now being scrapped. Others say that Egeland's visit to Kony -- which some called "Jesse Jackson-like" -- was something of a try out for high profile mediation. If so, more doubts have been raised than questions answered. No prisoners were released, and Kony was given a platform upon which to deny having kidnapped  children. Impunity? Time will tell.

            Inner City Press ran from the Q&A with Amb. Jones Parry to ask Kofi Annan's spokesman a question. Opposition groups in Bahrain have asked Mr. Annan to investigate reports that the government of Bahrain's ruling al-Kalifa family has been "secretly planning to manipulate the demographic makeup of the country, through the selective granting of citizenship... under the guise of creating a Shiite-Sunni balance in the country but would in fact weaken the Shiite population, 70 per cent of Bahrainis."  Another report notes that "Bahrain will hold parliamentary elections Nov. 25. The elections could trigger a fresh wave of unrest, pitting the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family against the country's Shiite majority.

            The spokesman said he will look into the letter and Mr. Annan's response. Video here, from Minute 18.  Inner City Press then asked the spokeswoman for Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the General Assembly president and a member of Bahrain's al-Khalifa family, to get a comment. Video here, from Minute 25:13. The spokesman said that she didn't think there would be any comment, in the capacity of GA President. How about in another capacity? We'll see. One of the issues here is of structural conflict, wherein a UN Secretary-General is asked to investigate the family of the GA President, with whom the Secretary-General must work. Some have suggested that the GA President might publicly say something like, "Mr. Secretary-General, I will not be offended if you grant the request to investigate my family. In fact, it is better than you grant the request, to remove any appearance of conflict of interest." Other have suggested that the Secretary-General might recuse himself from the request. With USG Chris Burnham gone, who will provide guidance? Developing.

Nagorno-Karabakh President Disputes Fires and Numbers, Oil and UN, in Exclusive Interview with Inner City Press - Video here

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Correspondent at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- Of the so-called frozen conflicts in the world, the one in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, claimed by Armenia, heated up this Fall -- literally.

            In August and September 2006, Azerbaijan and Armenia traded volleys of draft resolutions in the UN General Assembly, about a series of fires in the Nagorno-Karabakh region which on most maps is Azerbaijan, but is not under Azeri control.

            The subtext of the fight was that Azerbaijan wants the dispute to be addressed in the UN General Assembly, while Armenia prefers the ten-year process before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE. In the UN General Assembly these frozen conflicts are often treated as footnotes, particularly to a press corps which covers the Security Council in the most minute detail, at the expense of most other activities undertaken by the world body.

            Last week Inner City Press sat down for an interview with the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkady Ghoukasyan, and asked him about the fires, about the UN and other matters. Click here for the video.

            "The fires were provoked by Azerbaijan firing," Mr. Ghoukasyan said. "They used special bullets that would ignite wheat fields."

            In the UN, "the countries of the Islamic Conference are present and Azerbaijan is hoping to use their support," said Mr. Ghoukasyan. He added that most countries in the UN know little of the Karabakh conflict, so "Azerbaijan can try propaganda in the United Nations," in a way that it can't with the OSCE "experts."

            By contrast, the situation in Abkhazia is routinely put on the UN Security Council agenda by Russia, with representative of Georgia often excluded from the meetings and resorting to sparsely-attended press conferences outside, most recently on October 12.

            On Nagorno-Karabakh, UN observers see Turkey backing Azerbaijan, while the NKR is represented, if one can call it that, by Armenia. The interview, originally scheduled for a hotel across from UN Headquarters, was moved six blocks south to the Armenian mission in a brownstone on 36th Street, to a second-story room with the Nagorno-Karabakh flag on the table. Through a translator, Mr. Ghoukasyan argued that no negotiations that do not involve representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh can solve the problem. "The prospects are diminishing, without Nagorno-Karabakh involvement, it's just impossible to come to a resolution," he said.

Hot Words From Frozen Conflicts

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Ghoukasyan to compare Nagorno-Karabakh to certain other so-called frozen conflicts, two of which are before the OSCE: Transnistria a/k/a Transdnestr, and South Ossetia, where a referendum was held on November 12, the results of which no country in the world recognized.

            "We already had our referendum," Mr. Ghoukasyan said, "back in 1991. We would only hold another one if Azerbaijan and the co-chairs of the OSCE group agreed in advance to recognize its results."

            Mr. Ghoukasyan said he had come to the U.S. less to build political support or to propose a referendum than to raise funds for infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh, mostly from "different circles of Armenians in the United States." He is on a whirlwind tour: "Detroit Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and maybe Fresno, we are still finalizing our West Coast program," he said. A highlight will be a telethon from Los Angeles on November 23.

            Speaking of funds, and of infrastructure, Inner City Press asked about the impact of the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline on the conflict.

            "Azerbaijan is trying to get maximum political dividends from fact of this pipeline," said Mr. Ghoukasyan. "Since the West is interested in undisruptible oil, Azerbaijan tries to beef up their price for this stability. This emboldens Azerbaijan, making it more aggressive and  less willing to come to agreement."

            What would an agreement look like?

            "In any resolution, we think that Karabakh should have physical land connection with Armenia," said Mr. Ghoukasyan.

            At a press conference about the BTC pipeline earlier this year, the Azeri Ambassador told Inner City Press that twenty percent of Azerbaijan's territory has been occupied by Armenia.

            On the disputed numbers of displaced people, Mr. Ghoukasyan quipped, "I always suspected they are bad in mathematics." He estimated it, "maximally," to be 13%, and put the number of displaced Azeris at "only" 650,000, rather than the one million figure used by Azerbaijan. Mr. Ghoukasyan admonished, "There is information in books."

            And so to the library went Inner City Press. Therein it is recounted that while "in 1989, the Armenian Supreme Council made Nagorno-Karabakh a part of Armenia, this decision was effectively annulled by NKR declaring its independence in 1991. Whether the decision to declare independence was made cooperatively with Yerevan is not yet known."

            The UN's role is dismissed: "with one exception the UN never condemned the capture of Lachin, the strategic link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The UN passed Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884... Each UN resolution reiterated the international body's support for the OSCE Minsk Group process."

            Going back, some pundits blame the conflict on Stalin: "he took a part of Armenia and gave it to Azerbaijan, and now so many people are dying while trying to correct his foolish mistake. Now redefining the borders is as painful as cutting someone's flesh when that person is alive."

            Fast forward to 1977, when the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast's first secretary from 1973 to 1988, Boris Kevorkov, told visiting journalists that Karabakh Armenians were happily separated from the Armenian republic, saying that "the history of Nagorny (Mountainous) Karabakh is closely interwoven with Azerbaijan's... By contrast, the region is close to Armenia geographically but is separated by high mountains, which were an insuperable barrier in the past for any extensive contacts." (Quoted in Claire Mouradian's "The Mountainouse Karabagh Question"). 

            Also found are rebuttals, including from Azeri poet Bakhtiyar Vahadzade in his 1988 Open Letter, that "since 1828, our people have been divided into two parts," and that both Azeris and Karabakh Armenians "emanate from the same ethnic stock: the Caucasian Albanians." Others say Turkey always takes the Azeri side.  There are references to the shoot-down of an Iranian C-130 aircraft in 1994 as it crossed the Azeri-Karabakh line on contact, and of Iran's demand for an apology.

            Going back, a volume by Mazda Publishers in Costa Mesa, California entitled "Two Chronicles on The History of Karabakh," contains the full texts of Tarikh-e Karabakh (History of Karabakh) by Mirza Jamal Javanshir and of Karabakh-name by Mariza Adigozal Beg. In the introduction, translator-from-Persian George A. Bournoutian reports that "Armenian historians maintain that all of Karabakh was, at one time, part of the Armenian kingdom and that the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has had an Armenian majority for several hundred years. Azeri historians assert that the region was never part of Armenia and that the Armenian population arrived there from Persia and the Ottoman empire after the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) when, thanks to the Russian policy that favored Christians over Muslims, the Armenians established a majority in what became Nagorno-Karabakh." In a footnote he addresses  nomenclature: "Nagorno-Karabakh is the Russian designation. The Armenians call is [sic] Artsakh or Gharabagh and the Azeris Karabag."

            Finally, on the question of numbers, Arif Yunosov in "The Migration Situation in CIS Countries" opines that the conflict has caused 353,000 Armenia refugees and 750,000 Azeris -- less than the one million figure used by Azeri President Aliev, but large, and 100,000 larger than acknowledged in the interview. And a more solid figure than Aliev's 20%, but more than was acknowledged, is 13.62 percent. The search for truth continues. If the comparison is to the original, Soviet-defined Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, it must be noted that NKR is claiming, beyond the Oblast, the territory of Shahumian.

            By the end of the interview, Mr. Ghoukasyan was focusing on two regions of the old Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast over which now Azerbaijan has de facto control: Martakert and Martuni. While Mr. Ghoukasyan's point was that these should be subtracted from the 13 percent, they raise a larger question, that of break-aways from break-aways.

            The analogy, to Inner City Press, is to the serially-opening or "nesting" Russian dolls. Inside one republic is another, but inside the breakaway is another smaller portion, that either wants to remain with the larger, or to itself be independent. Northern Kosovo comes to mind, and the portion of Abkhazia into which a Tbilisi-based government is trying to relocate.

            How small can these Russian dolls become? And how will the UN-debated status of Kosovo, now frozen into 2007, impact or defrost other frozen conflicts? Developing.

On Water, UNDP Talks Human Rights, While Enabling Violations in Africa and Asia, With Shell and Coca-Cola

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- In Chad, nine percent of people have access to improved sanitation, and 42% of people have access to not-unhealthy water. These represent increases from seven and 19 percent, respectively, in 1990. By the United Nations math, Chad is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for water, since it has doubled access.

            Inner City Press asked UN Development Program Associate Administrator Ad Melkert if UNDP shouldn't set some minimum percentage of a country's population with access to clear water and sanitation, then direct resources until the basis threshold is met.  Mr. Melkert answered that the lag, in Chad and elsewhere, is due to inequality, particularly but not only in the slums of cities.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Melkert to address, for example, the criticism by Zimbabwean opponents of the Robert Mugabe regime of UNDP's sponsorship of a Mugabe-led Human Rights Commission. The question has been put to UNDP Communications staff, resulting in generally boilerplate responses. The request that Administrator Kemal Dervis come and answer the question remains outstanding, although Monday his staff indicated that this will happen in December.

            On November 6, UNDP Associate Administrator Mr. Melkert said that he declined to address the "specific example of Zimbabwe," but that UNDP has an "interest in economic growth and development" and to "improve life for the poor."

            Reminded by Inner City Press of the Mugabe regime's mass eviction of 700,000 people, nearly all of them poor, Mr. Melkert said UNDP tries to make points how the poor could best be served. "Some environments are easier to make the point in," he said. "And in some places we are more successful than others."

            In Turkmenistan, which the UN has just named as a major human rights abuser, UNDP praises the government, including on UN Day. In Uzbekistan, UNDP has helped the Karimov regime to collect taxes, and with its Internet programs. While the UNDP report puts Uzbek internet usage at 36%, most web sites are blocked, and Uzbek's surfing and communications are systematically spied on.

            Speaking of communications, here are some recent responses from UNDP to questions from Inner City Press.

From: william.orme [at] undp.org

To: Inner City Press

Cc: kemal.dervis [at] undp.org; dujarric [at] undp.org

Sent: Mon, 23 Oct 2006 11:00 AM

Inner City Press question: On Turkmenistan, how does UNDP explain its participation in and statements in connection with Turkmenbashi's celebration earlier this month of partnership with UNDP while Turkmenistan's human rights record, including but not limited to the recent death in custody of a critical journalist, has led even the EU to take action and step back from a trade pact?

UNDP Answer: As you know, the United Nations Development Program is the coordinator of UN system activities in UN member-states in the developing world as well as the leader of long-term UN development efforts in all UN member-states in the developing world. UNDP a permanent presence in all these member-states, which are the sovereign hosts of the locally based projects and international staff of the UN funds, programs and agencies. UNDP's historic commitment over 50 years to its ongoing work in developing nations on the UN system's behalf has never been contingent upon nor construed as an endorsement of  the specific policies or practices of specific host governments. The UN agencies which have the mandate of reviewing and responding to reports and incidents of the kind you cite -- UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights-- have spoken out clearly forcefully on such cases on behalf of the Secretary-General and the entire UN system.

            Beyond excusing UNDP's praise of a massive human rights violator, this response calls into question UNDP's desired future, more powerful role, as proposed by the Coherence Panel on which UNDP's Administrator served, along with the ex-president of Tanzania, Ben Mkapa, Robert Mugabe's hand-picked mediator to deal with the UK.

            From another, more elaborated UNDP response, with emphasis added:

Question: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has just released a human development report in Nigeria that was funded by Shell.  Environmental groups have said it is a highly compromised report, given the issues that have surrounded Shell in Nigeria.  What standards does the UN have in terms of funding from corporations to fund something like a human development report?

[Belated] Response: UNDP is a development organization dedicated to poverty reduction. In recent years, we have learned that we can best achieve this objective by working in partnership with a broad array of stakeholders including government, communities, civil society and the private sector. This partnership builds on our experience working with extractive companies in China, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and most recently, in Angola.

Among the various development actors in Nigeria, our broad comparative advantages lies in our human development values and neutrality, both of which have translated into trusted relationships with governments, civil society, communities and increasingly, the private sector. Publication of National Human Development Reports as well as participation in national and state strategic planning processes to promote dialogue around human development priorities has reinforced our coordination and advocacy roles. We have also teamed up with donors to gain valuable experience in support of conflict prevention.

The partnership with Shell will allow us to greatly expand our activities in the Delta. Our focus will be on developing a human development agenda in consultation with all the stakeholders in the broad areas of governance, biodiversity, HIV/AIDs and sustainable livelihoods. We see these objectives as unrelated to Shell’s operations and we take no position on their activities. Our role in this partnership, as in any other, is the development, management and implementation of projects together with local governments, civil society and Delta communities, the transparent management of funds, and monitoring and evaluation against our objectives.

Leveraging Shell’s willingness to finance a partnership aligned with UNDP’s mission and core values gives UNDP the very real opportunity to make a tangible improvement in the conditions in the Delta. It will allow us to build a program that involves not just Shell, but all the important stakeholders – communities, civil society, government and the private sector. UNDP’s broad-based stakeholder approach both to defining priorities and to implementing the projects will help improve the development impact of the millions of dollars currently flowing into the Delta...

            UNDP's corporate partnerships, apparently overseen by no outside source, include deals with Coca-Cola, which is accused of rogue-like water usage in at least two continents. Human rights, anyone? There's something in the water...

Will UN's Revolving Door Keep Human Rights Lost, Like Bush's Call and WFP Confirmation Questions?

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 8 -- The UN's top ranks are clearing out, before any policy on post-employment restrictions are in place. This week Deutsche Bank announced it has hired outgoing UN Under Secretary of Management Chris Burnham.

   Wednesday Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman whether any post-employment restrictions apply to Mr. Burnham and now Deutsche Bank, and to address the issues raised by a senior UN official going to the main private banker of the leader of Turkmenistan, portrayed as a human rights abuser in a recent UN report. This report describes the "gross and systematic violations of human rights continu[ing] in the country." A/61/489. 

            Policies are being "elaborated on," the spokesman vaguely said. He was asked, will they not apply to those leaving? Will they apply to Mr. Annan?

            "The Secretary-General is not a staff member," the spokesman said. "There is currently no policy on post-employment restrictions at the UN. One is being elaborated."

            Inner City Press has obtained a copy of the draft post-employment policy. It proposes that "a former staff member of the [UN], at the Assistant Secretary-General level or above is prohibited from making, with the  intent to influence, a communication to or appearance before any staff member [for] two years."

            Strikingly, the only "sanction for violation" of  this proposed policy would be to "have a note placed in the individual's official status file indicating the nature of the violation and the recommendation against any future employment by the Organization."

            And this was the "gold standard" of post-employment restrictions? And as to Mr. Burnham new master, Deutsche Bank - Turkmenbashi, what about the "mainstreaming of human rights" which Kofi Annan has called for?

            And what of the transparency that Messrs. Annan and Burnham have called for? There is at the UN apparently a taboo on any questions related to religion, in service of hard ball. The day after Josette Sheeran Shiner's rubber stamp confirmation by the executive board of the World Food Program, Swiss newspapers report that U.S. President George W. Bush called and pressured Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization, threatening to cut U.S. funding unless Ms. Sheeran Shiner got the job.  Click here for English, here for original French.

            Wednesday Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman about this call, whether Jacques Diouf let Mr. Annan know of the U.S. interest to the highest levels. "Ask the White House or FAO," the spokesman advised, adding that Mr. Annan "has not had a conversation with the White House in the last two to three weeks." Transcript here. The Nov. 8 Washington Post reports that U.S. officials, presumably UN-based, asked it not to mention Ms. Sheeran Shiner's 20-year affiliation with Sun Myung Moon. Still the White House and FAO can and will be asked.

            Inner City Press also Wednesday asked the spokesman:

Inner City Press question: The Government of Serbia has called for Martti Ahtisaari to resign saying that he was engaged in secret negotiations with Albania about the future of Kosovo.  So, one, if the UN has responded in any way to that, and two, what is the status of his plan.  First one, and then the other.

Spokesman:  Mr. Ahtisaari is in charge of the process, he works for the Secretary-General.  It’s up to him, to the Secretary-General, to decide on his fate.  But it’s clear that the Secretary-General expects Mr. Ahtisaari to continue to lead this process until its conclusion.  We had said, and the Secretary-General said recently, that he did not exclude the possibility that these talks would not slip beyond the end of this year, but the discussions are continuing.

            Okay, then. Also continuing is the inquiry into the resolution by Belarus and Uzbekistan calling for more "respectful" dialogue on human rights. From Tuesday's noon briefing's transcript:

Spokeswoman:  I can check on the status of that, because I know that they have been talking.  I’m not sure if it’s been introduced, but I know it’s on the agenda.

Inner City Press question:  One part of the resolution says that the country-specific resolution should only be used in case of massive violations related to genocide and ethnic cleansing, and I think that the current GA practice is that there are human rights resolutions on these issues that fall short of that standard.  I think the current GA practically there are resolutions issues short of that.  I don’t know if the President herself has any view on this -- not necessarily this resolution but on country-specific resolutions that are brought up?

Spokeswoman:  I will check on that.

            Meanwhile, a senior UN official in a place to know has confirmed to Inner City Press that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is negotiating with "some of the richest nations on Earth" to make sure the UN doesn't get overcharged for the naval component of UNIFIL off Lebanon. Inner City Press has learned that some are demanding depreciation and other costs for their ships, which they earlier claimed they were contributing. Chief among the chiselers is Germany...

At the UN, Positions Are Up For the Grabbing, Sun's Silence on Censorship, Advisor Grabs for Gun

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- As the UN's Kofi Annan decade enters its final two months, some bail out, some try to sneak in, and some dig in to fight. Some of this is public, some is begrudgingly semi-public, and most is off the radar.

            Publicly, the Under-Secretaries-General for Management and for Humanitarian Affairs are both leaving, the former mid-November and the Egeland-er one month later. As Inner City Press has been reporting, Josette Sheeran Shiner is trying to get a five year term at the World Food Program on Kofi Annan's recommendation in his final two months. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, has said nothing about leaving.

            Friday Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman to confirm reports that the United States wants a U.S. general to get the UN peacekeeping post. The spokesman declined to answer. Video on UNTV. He also declined on-camera to speak of Washington's campaign to get Sheeran Shiner at WFP. This has reportedly involved reaching out to Ban Ki-Moon, a subject on which the spokesman declined another fine journalist's question.

            As to why Ms. Sheeran Shiner is even being considered for a five year term at this time, the spokesman answered Inner City Press' question about Jim Morris' decision to leave. About six months ago, he said, Jim Morris told the UN he would not seek reappointment, and that he would prefer to leave at year's end, and not his full term to April 2007. That at least is the story.

    While Amb. Sheeran Shiner was slated to take questions from the press on November 6, as she announces awards to three corporations, Inner City Press was told by the State Department on Friday that now Amb. Sheeran Shiner will not be taking questions at the events, which she will be leaving to attend a "very important meeting." Inner City Press asked if questions could be posed to Amb. Sheeran Shiner after the event (and the important meeting). The State Department assistant spokesman asked, "What would the question be?" Inner City Press declined to be screened in this way.

            One intrigue around UN peacekeeping is that if the U.S. gets it, and Japan gets its desired post, Management, then the UK is left out in the cold. Giving the UK the Department of Political Affairs, held by Sir Kieran Prendergast before Ibrahim Gambari, wouldn't wash, with the U.S. holding peacekeeping. Some speculate the UK would the get the humanitarian post. The French, who got peacekeeping in exchange for putting Kofi Annan in, have less leverage now, as evidenced by this week's Ivory Coast resolution.

            Another real-world peacekeeping intrigue involves the money being demanded by countries which make up the UNIFIL navy off Lebanon. Inner City Press has been told that some of these countries, including but not limited to Germany, are asking to be paid even depreciation costs for their ships. This would drive the cost of UNIFIL above that of the larger MONUC, the mission in the Congo. It may also explain UN Controller Warren Sach's cryptic comment this week to the GA's Fifth Committee about "the unwelcome likely increase in the Organization's outstanding obligations to Member States that contribute troops and equipment to peacekeeping operations." GA/AB/3767, Nov. 2. Inner City Press asked two UN spokespeople about this on Friday. Video on UNTV. The GA President's Spokeswoman is trying to track this down: increasing obligations for "contribution" of equipment by whom?

            UN language that was more inaccurate than cryptic has been identified in the Secretariat's September 1 response to the U.S. Mission on the question of housing subsidies paid by governments to UN officials. The letter, signed by Kofi Annan's chef de cabinet Alicia Barcena, stated that

"as a general rule, no staff member shall accept any honor, decoration, favor, gift or remuneration from any Government. Nevertheless, our rules acknowledge the reality that in certain cases, housing is sometimes provide to United Nations staff by governments or institutions either free or charge or at rents substantially lower than the market rates. In such cases, the staff members concerned are required to disclose this to the Organization and are normally subject to payroll deductions from their salaries, unless an exception is granted by the Secretary-General in very rare instances."

   This not accurate. UN Staff Regulation 1.2(j) states unequivocally that "No staff member may accept any honor, decoration, favor, gift, or remuneration from any Government."  Staff Regulation 1.2(L) prohibits acceptance of any "favor, gift or remuneration from any non-governmental source."  Another less formal UN authority allows subsidies from non-governmental organization only if the Secretary-General grants an exception in writing. And in all of these NGO cases, payroll deductions must be made; there can be no waiver.

            On final intrigue, in the nature of a blind item: in the quiet race to be the next S-G's chef de cabinet, which conceding candidate for S-G has his eye on the post?

            In a lighter UN moment, on Friday Adolf Ogi, "Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sports for Development and Peace and former President of Switzerland," leapt to his feet at a press conference and demonstrated sports. He said repeatedly, we could take the seats out of this room and play soccer right here! Inner City Press asked him about government subsidies for stadiums -- a question he dodged -- and for his position on the proliferation of rifles in Switzerland, a question he didn't dodge at all. He declared, If you are asking if I think all Swiss men should keep their rifles, I do! Video on UNTV. One wondered if the NRA, which has come to the U.S. to lobby against the control of arms large and small, took note of this Special Adviser's exuberant embrace of his rifle.

            At week's end we must report that Sun Microsystems, which the UN Office of Sports and Development so lavishly praised in connection with the recent Youth Summit, has yet to answer Inner City Press' written question to explain Sun's position on enabling Internet censorship and surveillance in China and elsewhere. The question was first asked of the UN, back on October 13, given Sun Microsystems' logo in the UN's press materials. Inner City Press was referred to Sun's spokeswoman, and there the matter stands, or sits...

In WFP Race, Josette Sheeran Shiner Praises Mega Corporations from Cornfield While State Spins

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 2 -- With the race to head the World Food Program entering at most its final fortnight, the official U.S. candidate Josette Sheeran Shiner has lauded praise on 12 global corporations from Chevron through Coca-Cola.

   Those praised include APCO in China, Chevron in Indonesia, Coca-Cola in Mexico, Delta Construction in Vietnam, General Motors in Colombia, Goldman Sachs in Chile, Kerr McGee in Benin, McDonald's in Guatemala, Microsoft in Egypt, Motorola in Iraq, Pfizer in Pakistan, and Sambazon in Brazil.

            These twelve companies are the finalists, whittled from 55 nominations, for the U.S. State Department's Award for Corporate Excellence. While all 12 finalists are named in a press release, the four finalists to head the WFP have not been. Whether the WFP race's lack of transparency to date ends up benefiting Ms. Sheeran Shiner is still not known.

            On Monday November 6, Amb. Sheeran Shiner will name three winners and presumably take questions. Since it says "interactive," one assumes there'll be a link-up with the Foreign Press Center in New York, as for another Assistant Secretary of State, Jendayi Frazer. It is said that transparency and inter-activity are important.

            Part of Ms. Sheeran Shiner's campaign to head WFP has been a four-page brochure, now online (though not inter-active). The first page shows a smiling Josette Sheeran, with a wide field behind here, evocative of the American Midwest. In food security circles, many question the U.S. strategy of placing surplus crops with WFP. Many European nations say it is better to give money. Many developing nations say that the inflow of U.S. crops destroys local production and markets, which the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is supposed to support. There is also the controversy about genetically-modified foods. These are all topics on which the four WFP finalists would face questions, and answer publicly, in a more transparent process.

            As to why a five year term's being given, in Kofi Annan's last months, the spokesman on Wednesday said the current WFP head, Jim Morris, is leaving at the end of the year. Since Mr. Morris' term runs through April, Thursday Inner City Press asked when Mr. Morris made known his early departure. Despite a promise of a fast answer to this factual question, as of press time no answer was forthcoming.

            L'affaire Shiner was raised in Washington at Wednesday's U.S. State Department press conference. From the transcript:

QUESTION: While we're up in New York, can you deal with (inaudible) with Josette Shiner seeking the World Food slot?
(Another question asked, discussed Iran…)  

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Shiner?       

MR. MCCORMACK: We can go back to the Shiner question.             

QUESTION: I'm not sure of the issues. No, they -- she wants the job. Another American is a candidate --   

MR. MCCORMACK: And we want her to have the job.       

QUESTION: What about the other American who's --                               
MR. MCCORMACK: Tony Banbury?     

QUESTION: -- does the program in Asia? Yeah.  
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think he has put himself forward as an independent candidate. Usually the way this happens for these kinds of jobs is that a state will back one candidate. And our candidate for the job, as the Secretary has said, and she has made phone calls in support of Josette's candidacy, is Josette Shereen Shiner. And we think she's the right person for the job. It's not our decision. Secretary General Annan as well as I think head of the World Food Organization has a say in this. So it's out of our hands as to who gets selected, but we very strongly support her candidacy. Tony's a very capable person, a very capable person. He actually was a colleague of mine over at the NSC over at the White House previously before he took this job as, I think, Asia -- Director for Asia in the World Food Program. But the United States Government is backing Josette for the job.

QUESTION: Is there anything peculiar about funding brochures and such or is that part of the support process?    

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, this is very typical in the world of the UN and these kind of UN types of jobs. I think you will find that nominees, candidates for these jobs, will go around and do courtesy calls with every country that they possibly can, a variety of different people, and very often, very often times, more often than not, they'll leave a brochure because essentially it makes the case of this person's qualifications. We have done this before. It's certainly regular practice with us. And it's certainly standard practice within the confines of this UN process.                      

            It should be noted that the UN advertised the WFP opening in The Economist magazine, trolling, it would seem, for "independent candidates." In such a process, one might expect experience, resume and education to prevail. On the latter, it has been pointed out that while for example Mr. Banbury has a graduate degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts and another from Geneva, Ms. Sheeran Shiner lists a B.A.. At WFP, a masters degree is required for any P-1 position.

            Others argue that a major job of the head of WFP is fundraising. If so, a transparent process would allow for the question, how successful was Ms. Sheeran Shiner's fundraising at William Bennett's "Empower America" organization? Developing.

A Tale of Two Americans Vying to Head the World Food Program, Banbury and Sheeran Shiner

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- The four-person short list to replace Jim Morris as head of the UN World Food Program includes Tony Banbury, a Democrat who worked in the Bush Administration for a year before rejoining the UN system and the current head of WFP's Asia operation, Inner City Press has learned.

   As first reported by Inner City Press on September 29, the Bush Administration's nominee for the WFP post is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), formerly an editor of the Washington Times and a 20-year member, until 1998, of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The two other short listers are Canada's Robert Fowler and Walter Fust. Sources say that many senior figures in the Bush Administration could live with Tony Banbury getting the job, given his strong credentials earned in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan. They simply couldn't or didn't choose to nominate a Democrat instead of a Republican, particularly a Republican with a history with the Unification Church, a sub-constituency.

            Friday, a senior UN official confirmed to Inner City Press that Tony Banbury is on the WFP short list. The list was whittled from eight candidates to four by a five-person panel that included the UN's Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland and  UNFPA's Thoraya Obaid, and well as two representatives from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Now the finalists will be interviewed by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who is currently in New York. It is widely known that Dr. Diouf does not get along with finalist Robert Fowler who has been serving as Canada's ambassador to the FAO in Rome. Dr. Diouf's views on Walter Fust, are not known. Nor are Dr. Diouf's connections with the Bush Administration although regarding these, the coming decision may speak loudly.

            On October 25, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, as transcribed by the UN:

Question:  On the World Food Program (WFP) process, we have heard that there is a shortlist.  Is that true?  Who is on it?

Spokesman:  I have said all I have to say on that, and we expect an announcement in the next couple of weeks.

Inner City Press question:  When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) selected Mr. Guterres they did actually say who was on the shortlist.  Is that not going to be done in this case?

Spokesman:  The process here is slightly different because as opposed to UNHCR this is not an appointment that goes to the General Assembly.  This is an appointment that is made jointly by the Secretary-General and the Director General of the FAO.

Inner City Press question: Will it be a five-year appointment?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that it will be.

            Concerns have been raised about Kofi Annan making five year appointments now that he remains Secretary-General for only nine more weeks. On September 27 at the UN, before the WFP nomination had become public, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that Kofi Annan's appointment of new UN officials would only be okay if these officials' contracts ended "soon after January 1." Video here, at Minute 4:43.

            September 29 at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if the U.S.'s position is that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) could be given a five-year WFP term even before Kofi Annan leaves the UN in three month. Ambassador Bolton answered that the appointment could be made before January 1, that "the precedents have differed." Video here, from Minute 8:15, the US mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: On the secretary-general transition and the World Food Program looking for a new executive director, I've heard that the U.S. put forward Josette Sheeran Shiner. Is it your position that this should not be done until January 1st or that she could be appointed and given a five-year term prior to that?

Ambassador Bolton: She could be appointed prior to January 1 or thereafter. And the precedent has differed from reappointment to reappointment.

U.S. Ambassador Bolton added that Josette Sheeran Shiner was "the most qualified candidate."

   As Inner City Press reported on September 29, open-source research reflects that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) was an active member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church from 1975 through at least 1996. After that date, it is reported that she went "into the world," including into William Bennett's Empower America organization and then the U.S. State Department, in order to spread the Unification Church's message and position. Beyond controversial views on abstinence, mass-marriage and other matters, including the UN, these include business ties with and praise of North Korea.

            The internal U.S. State Department memo obtained by Inner City Press stated that

"For the past several weeks, we have been working with the White House to search for a highly qualified candidate to succeed Jim Morris as Executive Director of the World Food Programme. We now have an excellent candidate in Ambassador Josette Sheeran (Shiner)... Through the course of a distinguished career in government, business and journalism, Ambassador Sheeran has excelled as a diplomat, humanitarian, business leader and development policy leader."

            The reference to journalism is to Ms. Sheeran's tenure as managing editor of the Moon-owned Washington Times.

            In that capacity, in 1992 Ms. Sheeran went on an 11-day visit to North Korea, leading up a feature article commemorating the 80th birthday of Kim Il-Sung's 80th birthday. "Even if the sky is falling down on us, there will always be a hole for me to rise up through," said Kim -- a sentence Sheeran-Shiner later recollected, as recounted by the American Prospect, as "this wonderful thing which I printed in the paper."

            Sheeran-Shiner's interview with Kim Il-Sung painted him as a "self-confident, reflective elder statesman rather than the reclusive, dogmatic dictator he is usually portrayed as in the West."

            Now Kim Il-Sung's son is being portrayed by Ms. Sheeran-Shiner's nominator as a threat to international peace and security. More documents on the North Korea - Moon connection are online here.

            Josette Sheeran's first appearance in the media was in Time magazine of November 10, 1975, in an article entitled "Mad About Moon" --

"One typical worried parent is New Jersey's state insurance commissioner James Sheeran, three of whose daughters—Vicki, 25, Jaime, 24, and Josette, 21—are Moon converts. He wants laws to protect people from 'cruel and exotic entrapment of their minds, souls and bodies.' Late one night last August, Sheeran decided to act when Josette, normally compassionate, showed little interest upon learning that her grandmother was in the hospital. He, his wife and a son drove to Moon's school to seek Josette. Fifteen Moon men materialized, a scuffle ensued, and state police arrived amid mutual charges of assault."

           In fairness or under the doctrine of equal time, Inner City Press has heard a person who states that she "worked with Ms. Sheeran at the Office of the Untied States Trade Representative" and that "she severed her ties with the Unification Church... do you actually think the State Department's security clearance process" who have passed a Unification Church member?

   Well, yes. George H.W. Bush has given speeches extensively praising Sun Myung Moon. But it's duly noted here, this missive from a person who worked with Ms. Sheeran also at the Washington Times, that after 20 years of membership in the Unification Church, it's stated that all ties were then severed. It remains newsworthy, also on the shifting positions on whether Kofi Annnan should be allowed to hand out five-year appointments in the less than three months he has remaining in office. U.S. Amb. Bolton said Annan shouldn't make appointments beyond the end of 2006, then receiving new instructions, said there'd be precedent to give Ms. Sheeran five years right now. Would he and the Bush Administration take the same position on Tony Banbury? We'll see.

 WFP insiders have pointed out to Inner City Press that within the U.S. State Department, of Josette Sheeran (Shiner) it is said, "She is no Al Larson," her predessesor as Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs. These WFP sources note that Ms. Sheeran Shiner has no experience in humanitarian operations, or in emergency relief work, in international affairs, or in managing a large, complex, multi-billion dollar agency.  One argues, "it would still be possible for Kofi Annan to retain an American for the WFP post and to not agree to the Bush Administration's rather unqualified candidate. After the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, America learned a lesson: Don't place unqualified political appointees in charge of critical emergency response agencies.  The same lesson applies to leadership considerations for the WFP, the global 'first responder' for floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis the world over."

Yer doin' a heckuva job, Shinie!   Developing.

At the UN, the Unrepentant Blogger Pronk, a Wink on 14 North Korean Days and Silence on Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- Jan Pronk, the UN's envoy to Sudan who has been declared persona non grata by Sudanese president al-Bashir, was defended Friday by the UN Security Council and Kofi Annan's head of peacekeeper Jean-Marie Guehenno. Inner City Press asked Mr. Pronk to explain his statement that his blog posting about the low morale of the Sudanese army was meant to tell the rebel not to attack the army. Video on UNTV. Mr. Pronk explained that his point was that because of low morale, reinforcement were being called, including the janjaweed.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Guehenno is he is aware of such blogging by the chiefs of any other UN peacekeeping missions. Mr. Guehenno did not directly respond, except to repeat the Secretariat's line, that "blogs are personal." Asked about the al-Bashir government sabotaging and delaying the delivery of armored personnel carriers meant for the African Union force in Darfur, Mr. Pronk said yes, APC are delayed, leading to death. Inner City Press asked Mr. Pronk why he didn't post his views on the official website of the UN Mission to Sudan, UNMIS.org. Mr. Pronk said that the UN has never told him to be quiet.  But when Inner City Press earlier asked this same APC question, the response was to "look at Pronk's blog" -- in UN parlance, a link verbale.

            The president of the Security Council, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, defended Mr. Pronk. Inner City Press asked if any Council members inquired into the envoy-blogging phenomenon. Amb. Oshima answered, no. Video here.

            Earlier on Friday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN has any comment on its own leaked report that in Somalia, in violation of the UN embargo, there are up to 8000 Ethiopian troops, and 2000 from Eritrea.  Video here. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: there are between 6,000 and 8,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia and 2,000 Eritrean troops.  It is a report that has some length, and I was wondering if you can now, after all these months of the United Nations saying it had no idea of what was going on, can you confirm those numbers and what is the United Nations, what does the Secretary-General say given the arms embargo on Somalia?

Spokesman:  No, I cannot confirm those; I am sorry, as a matter of policy, I was about to say, we do not comment on leaked or reportedly leaked documents, which we can’t authenticate.  We do, however, receive second-hand reports from the parties and the press, and as we've said repeatedly, we are not in a position to verify these reports or comment on any presence of foreign troops in Somalia.  The Secretary-General stresses that the solution in Somalia is political and not military, he urges the Somali parties to settle their differences through dialogue and he calls on the international community, especially Somalia's neighbors, to avoid any action that could further aggravate the situation... The issue is that it is not in the mandate of -- the current mandate of the United Nations is given to it by, as it stands now, with this political office, to verify these numbers.  The message to all the neighbors is to avoid any action that would further aggravate the solution. And, obviously, furthermore, I would add, the message is also for all countries to respect and abide by the embargo currently in place.

Question:  There is a United Nations group of four experts who are supposed to report...

Spokesman:  Those experts, I am talking about the political mission led by Mr. Fall, the experts work and report for the Security Council.  They come out with the regular reports.  You may want to see if you can get in touch with them, to see if they have anything to say.

 But these four Somalia experts have already declined to speak, at least until they brief the Security Council. When this will happen, no one is saying.

            Inner City Press also asked why the UN has said nothing about Morocco's barring of journalists from Western Sahara, and similar crackdowns on press freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the run-up to Sunday's election. The spokesman had nothing on either topic. By contrast, the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president had an answer to a previous Inner City Press question:

"The Peacebuilding Commission has only one reporting structure. It submits an annual report to the General Assembly and the Assembly is expected to hold an annual debate to review that report. And, that's the only real structure. What I think might have been a concern was the fact that the resolution which established it does, in fact, say that, on issues of relevance to the Security Council or to ECOSOC, that information should be shared. It says, for example, that the Commission would provide advice to the Council at its request. It's the same for ECOSOC -- the Commission would provide advice, particularly on countries in transitional recovery towards development and anything that would be of relevance to that issue. So, it's not that it sets up extra layers of bureaucracy, which I think was Sierra Leone's concern."

            On the sidelines outside the Security Council, the chairman of the North Korea sanctions committee, Slovakian Amb. Burian, said that although the deadline to agree on one of the sanctions list is October 28, agreement by Monday, October 30 at noon will be considered compliant. Since there is no court to oversee or review the Security Council's work, anything goes, apparently...

At the UN, Literacy Losses in Chad, Blogless Pronk and Toothless Iran Resolution, How Our World Turns

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- On the topic of literacy, a 390-page study was released at the UN on Thursday. On page 201, it is reported that in the African nation of Chad, adult literacy stands at 25.7%. The figure has declined from 1990. Inner City Press asked two officials of UNESCO to explain this Chadian tragedy. "Increases in population," said UNESCO's Nicholas Burnett. "And not enough schools opening."

            Earlier in Thursday's briefing, Inner City Press asked what the UN is doing about Niger's move to expel tens of thousands from Diffa Province back to Chad. Click here for one report. "It is something UNHCR is aware of," the spokesman answered.

            "But has the UN told Niger not to do it?"

            "They're trying to gather more information," the spokesman answered. "I can't go beyond that."

            UNHCR has been aware for some time of the shooting of Tibetans trying to flee into Nepal. Publicly, however, UNHCR has said little. Inner City Press has asked UNHCR in Geneva to explain its position.

            Another topic the UN says it will now consider is the opposition to UNESCO's plan to name Sri Lanka's former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to a 14-month term of a Special Consultant to UNESCO on Education for All, the topic of Thursday briefing at UN Headquarters. Opposition has arisen given Mrs. Kumaratunga's human rights record. Click here for more.

   Inner City Press' question to Kofi Annan's spokesman about how Special Consultants are selected was referred to the two UNESCO officials in attendance. They indicated that UNESCO's executive director Koichiro Matsuura may not have been aware of these issues and that they will not look into it. One of them said wistfully, "And I thought it would be a quiet weekend." Not in Chad.

            Nor in the Congo. Days before the run-off election, the UN's apparently non-blogging envoy to the DR Congo, William Lacy Swing, met with Jean-Pierre Bemba about an upcoming campaign rally. Front-runner Joseph Kabila has denied the UN access to one of his camps to check for weapons. Not a good sign.

            While many correspondents, including that of Inner City Press, took as a sign of Jan Pronk imminent defenestration -- figurative, of course -- the comments of Kofi Annan Wednesday late afternoon, that he would make his decision only after speaking with Mr. Pronk, as of 4 p.m. Thursday it appears Pronk will live to blog another day. At least one additional day. Japanese Ambassador Oshima let it be known that the Security Council will meet Friday on Sudan. Head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno will be there. One assumes that Mr. Pronk might make an appearance as well. He was seen entering the UN at 10:30 on Thursday and heading to the basement. One wag joked that he might well be blogging from the public access computers, a sort of Stations of the Cross, the 12 steps by which he may be forced or eased out.

            Inner City Press posed the riddle of Jan Pronk to UN lightening rod Jean Ziegler -- who is special rapporteur on food but also  punching bag for the right wing, not without reason, for his role in the Gaddafi Human Rights Prize -- at Prof. Ziegler's press conference on Thursday afternoon. Ziegler's first response was that Pronk is a socialist, then a good man, only doing his job. Video on UNTV. Ziegler had previously called for UN intervention into Darfur without Sudanese consent, a position which ironically the detractors of his Lebanon report would otherwise embrace. He cannot be pigeonholed, this Jean Ziegler. He denounced Sudan's al-Bashir government as well as Israel's use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

            Inner City Press ended with a legal question, on whether Mr. Ziegler believes that the Geneva Conventions require that victims of conflict be provided adequate food resources, and if so, by whom. Mr. Ziegler ignored this question, choosing instead to explain how the UN Human Rights Council rejected Israel's argument that the Geneva Convention protocols did not apply to this summer's conflict, since the non-state actor, Hezbollah, was in another state. For its rejection of Israel's position, Ziegler praised the Human Rights Council, a plaudit which is strikingly rare.

            Also on the legal beat, but in Liberia and not Wall Street, Ms. Leymah Gbowee on Thursday explained the recent improvements in the Liberian law of rape. Video on UNTV. Inner City Press asked about an UNMIL report chiding the country for not prosecuting rape. Ms. Gbowee said the commitment is there, just not the resources. She also called for the lifting of the UN's diamond sanctions.

            On the beat of most pressing interest to the neo-liberal press (we're channeling Jean Ziegler here), the draft resolution on Iran leaked to some of the media on Thursday.  It is sure to be subject to fuller exegesis elsewhere. What leaps out as unique is the carve out in Paragraph 14 for sales, mostly by Russia, to the Bushehr I Civil Nuclear Power Plant. Even with this, Russia is chafing. Where now is the American firebrand John Bolton? Why does Sudan, as Inner City Press reported yesterday and got on camera today, lavish praise on U.S. envoy Andrew Natsios? Tune in tomorrow, for the next episode in this Inner City Press series, How Our World Turns...

 

At the UN, Silence from UNDP on Cyprus, from France on the Chad-Bomb, Jan Pronk's Sudan Blog

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- What is the UN's policy on free speech? The policies differ in the UN Development Program, which praises repressive regimes in Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe while criticizing the legislature of Cyprus, and in the Secretariat, which has discussed but not acted as its envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk has run a "personal" blog about events in Darfur.

            Jan Pronk's blog hit the world news on Friday, as the al-Bashir government has declared him persona non grata for a mid-October post, still available online, reporting two losses by the Sudanese army to the rebels of the National Redemption Front, NRF, who are not signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement.

            Pronk's blog has been an open secret within UN Headquarters; UN staff have referred reporters to the site for information not available on the UN Mission to Sudan website. As senior peacekeeping officials at the UN have said privately that more international criticism is needed of the rebels, and not only of the government, for atrocities in Darfur, the UN has not made this point overly public, perhaps concerned of falling afoul of the mobilized concern symbolized by George Clooney's recent UN appearance. As Inner City Press reported on October 18, nuanced or contrarian voices on Darfur are found among those above or outside the fray, like 92 year old, long-time UN hand Sir Brian Urquhart, or for example on Jan Pronk's blog.

            On the topic of blogs, Inner City Press on Friday asked Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked at his regular press conference whether the UN has a policy on blogs, given that UN employees have been fired for writing unauthorized books about such topics as romance amid humanitarian missions. "We have not kept up with technology," the spokesman acknowledged. Pressed by other reporters to stand behind or renounce the content of Jan Pronk's blog, the spokesman repeated again and again, "it is a personal blog." He was asked for a more definitely answer; we'll see.

S-G & Pronk

            Also still unanswered are a series of questions Inner City Press has put to the UN Development Program, UNDP. Two weeks ago, Inner City Press asked UNDP's main spokesman William Orme for an update on a UNDP-funded involuntary disarmament program in Uganda which, after Inner City Press' reporting, was suspended earlier this year, see www.InnerCityPress.com/ungc062906.html. In two weeks, UNDP has not provide an answer, despite cajoling from Kofi Annan's spokesman's office, which has repeatedly told Inner City Press that answers would be forthcoming and the delays would be "ironed out."

            On October 18, the spokesman said, "I don’t have any of the details of this event involving UNDP and Turkmenistan.  I know that you and UNDP have had some issues and you’ve had some trouble talking to them.  We will try to negotiate some sort of communication channel between you and UNDP, so you can get your answers to your questions."

            For the record, Inner City Press has taken the same approach to UNDP as other agencies of the UN and of governments, and even corporations: questions about issues, and a request that answers be provided in less than two weeks, and without agita or insults.

            The questions about UNDP has Inner City Press has asked in the past months have included UNDP's public praise of repressive governments in Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and Turkmenistan, UNDP's funding to the judiciary of Sudan's al-Bashir government, and UNDP's acceptance of funding from Shell to produce a report about the Niger Delta. UNDP's spokesman has expressed outrage that certain questions have been asked, and has then refused to answer any more questions. Meanwhile UNDP's director Kemal Dervis has not appeared for a press conference in the UN Headquarters building for fourteen months.

UNDP / UNPOS Controversial Funding in Cyprus: Issue Raised

            Friday the issue of UNDP's controversial funding of materials in Cyprus supporting "the Annan plan" was raised to Mr. Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Video's on UNTV, and for a pro-UNDP narration of the Cyprus issue, click here. There are check stubs reflecting payment to journalists, and requests in to the U.S. State Department. Inner City Press will be following these documents where they lead and, wider, the UN Office of Project Services.

   In the Cyprus controversy, the activity was undertaken by the UNDP-administered UN Office of Project Services, UNOPS, with money provided directly to UNOPS by USAID, an arm of the U.S. State Department. A wider question raised is what standards this UNDP-administered UNOPS has.

 Friday at the UN on these UNDP-Cyprus issues, Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that "Bill Orme will get back to you." Skepticism was expressed by another reporter covering the Cyprus issue -- "UNDP never answers questions," he told Inner City Press -- and later by another longtime UN correspondent, who recounts a vituperative response by the same Bill Orme, which he told Kofi Annan's spokesman about. If there are special issues, they are UNDP's lack of standards, and lack of accountability and transparency.

   At dusk fell Friday on Turtle Bay, UNDP's Bill Orme was seen inside the UN Spokesman's glass-walled office. Despite this time spent trying to excuse, explain or mischaracterize UNDP's delay in providing answers and basic information, not even an answer to the Uganda disarmament question posted two weeks ago in writing was provided. There is something wrong at UNDP, and it is noteworthy that the Secretariat purports to be unable to address it. This is a developing story.

Diamond Sanctions in Liberia - and Ivory Coast?

            The Security Council on Friday issued a presidential statement on diamond sanctions on Liberia, urging the Liberian Government to take steps so as to join the Kimberly Process. Inner City Press asked Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima if the Council will act on reports of blood diamonds from Ivory Coast; Amb. Oshima said they will, at some unspecified future date.

            Also Friday at the UN, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie took a half-dozen questions from reporters. Video's on UNTV. Inner City Press asked two questions: for France's view on the European Union force's plan to pull out of the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 30, even before the president to be elected on October 29 is sworn in, and for an explanation of the legality of the bomb France dropped in Chad earlier this year.  Minister Alliot-Marie answered only the Congo question, implying that while the pull-out could start on November 30, it could take a month, and thus not be completed before the presidential swearing-in.  She did not answer the Chad question, although a French general who accompanied her smiled at Inner City Press for the rest of the press conference. Perhaps that was the answer: we did it because we could. Minister Alliot-Marie also said, about Ivory Coast, that France has few economic ties remaining with its former colony. One wag in the audience muttered, "Not by choice," and noted that China has largely replaced France as economic partner in Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa, including Chad.

            Finally for this end-of-week report, Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons briefed both the General Assembly and reporters on Friday.  The materials he passed out stated that six countries have declared they have chemical weapons: Russia, the U.S., Albania, Libya, India and "an unidentified State party." Inner City Press asked Mr. Pfirter to explain the process for a State holding chemical weapons to have its identity concealed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Mr. Pfirter said it was agreed to, and that this unnamed state is performing well. Mr. Pfirter went on to denounce North Korea, and to dodge a question about Paragraph 8 of the UN Security Council's recent Resolution 1718. More to follow, we're sure, in coming days.

Russia's Vostok Battalion in Lebanon Despite Resolution 1701, Assembly Stays Deadlocked and UNDP Stays Missing

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 19 -- In South Lebanon there are only Lebanese and UN troops, said Major-General Alain Pellegrini, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday. While reporters questioned him about still-alleged weapons smuggling, incursions by Israel and possible anti-aircraft responses by UNIFIL, another question arose. Inner City Press asked, do the soldiers who Russian army engineers brought with them to Lebanon as security comply with Resolution 1701?

            No, said Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini, not if they are in South Lebanon.

            On October 4, Russian Defense Minister  Sergei Ivanov announced that "Security will be provided by two protection units... composed of experienced professional soldiers from two battalions, Vostok and Zapad, that belong to the 42nd division in the republic of Chechnya."

            The Vostok battalion, beyond being implicated in human rights abuses in the Avar village of Borozdinovskaya, in September 2006 in St. Petersburg operated as a shakedown squad for one party to a dispute about a meat packing plant and the land beneath. Now they are in Lebanon. But where?

            On October 12, Inner City Press had asked Kofi Annan's spokesman, as transcribed by the UN:

Inner City Press question: Russia sent to Lebanon troops it used in Chechnya for something called the (inaudible) Battalion.  Various human rights groups have said they are widely accused of human rights abuses and should not be part of the multinational force in Lebanon.  I don't know if the United Nations has any comment on that.  And also on Anna Politkovskaya's report, which since her assassination has been published and acknowledges torture in Chechnya, whether Louise Arbour [High Commissioner for Human Rights] is going to look at that report or do anything about it.

Spokesman: You have to ask Louise Arbour on the journalist who was killed; I think we already spoke from here.  And on the issue of the Russian troops I don't have any specific information, and of course as a matter of rule, we do expect any troops that participate in United Nations operations to uphold the highest standards.
Question: (inaudible).
Spokesman: That is something I would have to talk to Department of Peacekeeping Operations about.  But that would be the responsibility of Member States to provide us with that information.  [The Spokesman later clarified that Russian troops were not part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.  Their presence is part of a bilateral agreement between Russia and Lebanon.]

            But can, via a bilateral agreement, troops be introduced into South Lebanon? Maj.-Gen. Pellegrini on Thursday said "no." Developing.

            Also at Thursday's briefing by Kofi Annan's spokesman, Inner City Press asked if the Secretariat has any response to the Ethiopian Prime Minister's public acknowledgement that there are Ethiopian troops in Somalia. The spokesman repeated a previous, generic call for all parties to respect the UN arms embargo. But while there are certainly other violators, when a head of state says publicly, to his country's parliament, that he is violating a UN arms embargo, shouldn't more than the usual platitudes be deployed?

            The UN General Assembly, meanwhile, continued Thursday morning with round after round of voting between Venezuela and Guatemala for a single two-year seat on the Security Council. The results are barely changing, and reporters and diplomats have started asking what the president of the General Assembly will do, or asking what her predecessor Jan Eliason might have done. The current president of the GA left Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday gave a speech in Toronto. In New York, the GA is being portrayed as a "theater of the absurd." In the stakeout area outside the GA, Guatemala's representative said he would prefer a single vote in the morning, and one in the afternoon, and that he'll welcome two days without voting next Monday and Tuesday. He'd previously echoed U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is saying that if Venezuela was "honorable" and followed past practice, Venezuela would drop out, since it is behind 105 to 78.

            But at the noon briefing, two other precedents were raised. In 1960, Poland and Turkey resolved a similar stand-off by agreeing to each take one year of the two-year term. And in 2003, Brazil took two years, followed by Argentina for two years. Neither party in these two cases stood down. Whether the vote tally was closer has been asked of the GA President's spokesperson. We'll see.

            At Wednesday's noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman called it "unfair" to say that UNDP director Kemal Dervis had dodged the press:

Inner City Press question:  About Turkmenistan.  There was a conference this week with UNDP and Turkmenistan.  UNDP praised the country and its Government.  There's an SG report out, on human rights, and the EU has just refused to ratify a trade agreement on human rights grounds and there's a new law prohibiting marriages with foreigners and the killing of journalists.  My question is, what is the connection?  The SG's report on Turkmenistan, is this communicated to UNDP?  How is it decided with agencies engage with...?  UNDP on its web site said they advise Turkmenistan Government agencies.  If you have something to say, I'd like to hear it, or at long last have UNDP come to this room.

Spokesman:  I don't have any of the details of this event involving UNDP and Turkmenistan.  I know that you and UNDP have had some issues and you've had some trouble talking to them.  We will try to negotiate some sort of communication channel between you and UNDP, so you can get your answers to your questions.  The reports of the Secretary-General are obviously public documents and, of course, available and known to all agencies and UN country teams.  But I don't have the details of this specific event you are talking about.

Inner City Press question:  Shashi Tharoor, in this room, said that Kemal Dervis, Head of the UNDP, was going to appear by video, but something happened and he was in Rome.  I've never actually seen a UNDP person come and brief anyone here.

Spokesman:  That would be unfair, because there have been people here.  Mr. Dervis has been here and briefed the press.  That is a bit of an unfair assessment.

            On Thursday Inner City Press posited that Mr. Dervis has not appeared for a press conference in Secretariat Room 226 since August 2005, fourteen months ago. Giving the questions that are building up, about UNDP's engagement with repressive regimes from Turkmenistan to Zimbabwe to Sudan, isn't it time for Mr. Dervis to take questions? Or for his spokesman William Orme to answer simple written questions in less than two weeks? We'll see.

As Turkmenistan Cracks Down on Journalists, Hospitals and Romance, UNDP Works With the Niyazov Regime

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- The European Union reacted  to the torture murder of Turkmen journalist Ogulsapar Muradova while in state custody, and other excesses by Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, by declining the invitation to enter a trade agreement with the Central Asian coungtry.  The UN Development Program has taken a different approach, and recently offered praise of Niyazov's government.

            Today's Turkish Daily News quotes Niyazov that "for some years the state structures and public organizations of Turkmenistan have successfully realized joint programs and projects in collaboration with such organizations as the UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO and many others."

            UNESCO, it should be noted, recently "voiced grave concern at the death of Ogulsapar Muradova in jail in Ashgabat," the capital of Turkmenistan. The UN agency's press release, No. 2006-116, cited Reporters Without Borders that "Ms Muradova's children identified Ms Muradova's body in the morgue of Ashgabat on 14 September. Witnesses are reported to have seen a head wound and many other marks on the rest of her body."

            A month after Ms. Muradova's body was identified in the morgue, UNDP's resident coordinator in Turkmenistan Mr. Richard Young told two hundred people at a conference on UN - Government of Turkmenistan cooperation that "as a member of the United Nations, Turkmenistan recognizes the importance of working together to meet concrete targets for advancing development. National ownership is a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and adhering to global human rights values." The quote is from a write-up provided by the UN System in Turkmenistan. The write-up contained no criticism of Niyazov or his regime.

            It is not clear what "national ownership" the UN's Richard Young was referring to. In recent years, Niyazov has closed all hospitals outside of the capital, telling the BBC, "Why do we need such hospitals? If people are ill, they can come to Ashgabat."

   Niyazov, who has called himself Turkmenbashi, Father of All Turkmen, has also closed all libraries, including those in the capital, on the grounds that "nobody reads books or go to libraries".  

            In fact, the main book taught in schools in Turkmenistan is one written by Niyazov himself, called Ruhknama. Niyavoz has said Ruhknama, sometimes spelled Ruhnama, "was issued to eliminate all shortcomings." It is available in 22 languages on the Turkmenistan government website, here.  A UN staffer who has worked for the UN system in Turkmenistan (and who has read Rukhnama) tells Inner City Press that many of the UN offices in Ashkabat use the government's web servers, which block content objectionable to Niyazov and presumably record and register the communications traveling through them. (The UN staff asked not to be named, as for now still a UN employee.)

            Like the Karimov government in Uzbekistan, which UNDP also assists in a range of ways from tax collection to help with open source software, Niyazov is cracking down on and thinning the ranks of non-governmental organizations. Reportedly the human rights group Arkadag "has files full of the most diverse explanations they have received about why they are being turned down – a misplaced comma here, a wrongly ordered paragraph there, or a demand for details of all rank-and-file members even though the law stipulates that only the board members need to be named...Re-registration is also a problem for existing NGOs, in the wake of the Law on Public Associations passed in 2003." A more recent law restricts the ability of citizens of Turkmenistan to marry foreigners.

            At UN headquarters on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about these laws, and to explain the contradiction between UNESCO's and even the Secretary-General's own denunciations of the Turkmenistan government's human rights record and UNDP's statement, on its dedicated Turkmenistan website, www.undptkm.org, that "UNDP provides advisory services to selected government agencies in improvement of institutional and legal frameworks for economic and financial management and social protection, statistical capacity development."  Video here

   The spokesman has indicated that while this is a good question, it should be answered by UNDP, rather than the Secretariat. The question was asked at noon, but as of six p.m. no response of any kind had been received. We note that UNDP has now delayed two weeks in providing an update on its previously announced de-funding of violent disarmament in the Karamoja region of Eastern Uganda, and has also delayed in responding to Inner City Press' written request for comment on recent testimony to the Fifth Committee on A/61/5 Add.1, on "UNDP's failure to complete monthly bank account reconciliations," "internal control weaknesses present in the implementation process of UNDP's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system" and "the adverse and qualified opinions on project auditors on the implementation of UNDP program expenditures executed by governments." 

            To be fair to UNDP, here is another UN agency providing unexplained funding to Turkmenistan's government -- UN/DESA Division for Social Policy and Development providing technical cooperation funds to the Niyazov regime. Other supporters include Deutsche Bank, Turkmenbashi's private banker, and the French construction firm Bouygues, to build another palace. Thus is Turkmenbashi provided UN technical assistance to further the Millennium Development Goals. Developing...

 

At the UN, North Korea Sanctions Agreed On, Naval Searches and Murky Weapons Sales

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 14, 3:20 p.m. -- "Six days after the North Korean test, the passage of a Security Council resolution is imminent," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters just after noon on Saturday. By one o'clock Amb. Bolton emerged with Chinese Ambassador Wang to announce a vote by 1:30. "What led to the deal?" a reporter shouted.

            "Good diplomacy," Amb. Bolton deadpanned. Then he and Amb. Wang ambled north along the UN's second story hallway, surrounded by security guards.

Update of 3:15 p.m. -- in serial stakeout interviews following the Council's 15-0 vote, North Korea's Ambassador called the resolution "gangster-like," then strode down the hall, ignoring the questions shouted after him. Chinese Amb. Wang called the cargo inspection language "watered down." Amb. Bolton deadpanned that resolutions are binding.

  Inner City Press asked Argentine Ambassador Mayoral if this can really be called a resolution -- if it has been resuelto, in Spanish -- since it leaves a 14 day window to make final decisions.  Video here. Amb. Mayoral said Council President Oshima will decide how to use the 14 days. On this question of putting off finalizing what can and cannot be transferred to North Korea for 14 days, Russian Ambassador Churkin explained that even earlier today, he was pointing out to other delegations some unintended consequences of the proposed lists. After declining to answer Inner City Press' question about Georgia, Amb. Churkin also panned recent U.S. legislation which purports to cover other countries on transfers to both Iran and North Korea. Video here. He quickly added that he was not connecting those two countries. The scuttlebutt is that the U.S. will try to make the coming week all about Iran. Others are focused on the Venezuela - Guatemala vote(s) for Security Council membership, slated of Monday. Watch this space.

Update of 1:59 p.m. -- Chinese Amb. Wang, speaking after the 15-0 adoption of the resolution, now named Resolution 1718, said that China does not approve of cargo inspection and urges nations to avoid provoking North Korea. Apparently, the phrase "as necessary" in the resolution can be read any number of ways.

1:37 p.m. update -- The new Paragraph 8(a)(ii) puts off for 14 days a decision on the range of "items, materials, equipment, good and technology" which can't be transferred the North Korea. A UN diplomat explained that "Russia is not a party to the Australia list" [in the resolution, referred to via document S/2006/816] and so "we had to cut them a break." The scope of this loophole is in the process of being explored -- watch this space.

   Another U.S. diplomat provided further details: the most recent sticking point has been cargo inspections. The diplomat emphasized that "as necessary" would mean to nearly always inspect at this point, given the grounds for suspicious that North Korea is seeking imports to further its nuclear weapons program.

            "What about the annex?" a reporter shouted out.

            "There is no annex," the U.S. diplomat replied. Rather, the draft resolution refers to other UN documents that list the prohibited materials.

            The run-up to the vote demonstrated again that it is a five-member Council. The Tanzanian Ambassador spoke with reporters about a draft he'd seen at 7 p.m. on Friday, before the Permanent Five members' two-hour meeting on Saturday morning.

            The Ambassador of Ghana was stopped by reporters but said, "I don't know anything, they haven't told me anything."

   Greel Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, meanwhile, lost $5.10 in the automated food machine in the Security Council foyer by choosing, after paying, to open a box that was empty. Next to it, in a still-locked box, was the sandwich the Ambassador wanted. Amb. Vassilakis did a full rotation and tried to get at the sandwich. But for $5.10 you only get to open one box -- even if it's empty. And so it goes at the UN.

At the UN, Georgia Speaks of Ethnic Cleansing While Russia Complains of Visas Denied by the U.S.

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- In the blizzard of words accompanying Friday's six-month extension of the UN's observer mission to Georgia, several strange factual disputes, some of them surreal, were left unresolved. Before the passage of the resolution, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had said that a person he called the foreign minister of Abkhazia had been denied a visa to come to New York, and that the U.S. embassy in Moscow had tried to link granting the visa with Russia accepting changes to the draft resolution it had put forward.

            Inner City Press asked Ambassador Churkin, after the resolution's passage, if this individual might still be coming to New York to brief the Security Council in a so-called Arria formula meeting. No, Amb. Churkin said.

            Then will Russia complain to the Host County Committee of the UN General Assembly?

            Amb. Churkin said that yes, Russia would be filing such a complaint. Video here. Venezuela recently complained about the detention of its foreign minister at JFK airport, a complaint echoed by Sudan and supported by such countries as Mali and Belarus. Click here for Inner City Press' story, Axis of Airport.

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador John Bolton to address Amb. Churkin's statement about this gambit by the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Video here. From the transcript provided by the U.S. mission:

Inner City Press: On Georgia, Ambassador Churkin said that the Abkhaz foreign ministry called him, a person from Abkhazia.  Was the U.S. embassy in Moscow didn't give him a visa in exchange for somehow changing the language of the resolution on Georgia -- is that your understanding of what happened? He said it right here.
Ambassador Bolton: I have -- yeah, you know, I have no idea what that's about.

            Sources tell Inner City Press, however, that not only had Amb. Churkin made his statement about the visa in a televised interview which the U.S. State Department presumably monitors, but also that the visa issue had been discussed in the Security Council consultations prior to Amb. Bolton's above-quoted answer.  This followed:

Inner City Press: And was there any linkage between the two issues, you think, for the U.S. or Russia, between the language of today's Georgia resolution and the North Korea resolution?

Ambassador Bolton: Certainly not for the United States.  I'll let others speak for themselves.

            Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN had any reaction to Russia's allegation that the U.S. blocked this visa and tried to gain negotiating advantage in the Security Council. That sounds like a bilateral issue between the two countries, the spokesman answered. Video here.

            Inner City Press asked the spokeswoman for the General Assembly president what action has been taken on Venezuela's complaint, and to be told if and when Russia files a complaint. We'll see.

            On the Georgian side, the country's ambassador Irakli Alasania answered a half-dozen questions from Inner City Press, video here. Among other things Amb. Alasania said that attempts by a Permanent Five members whom he left unnamed to link the move toward independence of Kosovo to a similar status for Abkhazia are "troubling." He acknowledged that Javier Solana has spoken publicly about the linkage. Amb. Alasania repeated his call that the peacekeeping force in Georgia by transitioned from Russian troops to UN blue helmets.

            Amb. Alasania said that Georgia has raised the issue of the treatment of Georgian in Russia to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. (Inner City Press has asked the spokeswoman for the GA President for an update on this.) He spoke of ethnic cleansing and military provocation, and disputed Russian Amb. Churkin's statement that the UN has found impermissible Georgian artillery in the Kodori Gorge.

            Amb. Alasania brought with him an individual he called the "Head of Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia," Malkhaz Akishbaia. Inner City Press asked Mr. Akishbaia how he had gotten his visa to come. Amb. Alasania cut in to answer the question, that they hadn't had any problems. Mr. Akishbaia told Inner City Press that his government has relocated from Tblisi to the Kodori Gorge, with a staff of some 20 people. A Georgian mission staffer promised again to provide Inner City Press with evidence of the money laundering in the parts of Abkhazia over which Georgia has no control; we'll see.

At the UN, Deference to the Congo's Kabila and Tank-Sales to North Korea, of Slippery Eels and Sun Microsystems

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- "If it's all night, it's all right." U.S. Ambassador Bolton said this phrase with relish to a gaggle of reporters at 6 p.m. on Friday.  While the reference was to the still-pending Security Council resolution response to North Korea's nuclear test six days ago, the night-right rhyme is from a lyric sung by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

            Heard on the grapevine is that Russia's opposition or delay springs from the inclusion of tanks in the list of weapons it could not sell to North Korea. A U.S. diplomat said Russia's opposition on Friday afternoon started out as technical, then became more substantive and intransigent. Amid reporters' questions about the draft resolution's provisions for searching North Korean ships and barring the sale to North Korea of armaments listed in the resolution's still not firm annex, no one asked for John Bolton's view on another James Brown lyric, "Say it loud, I'm black, I'm proud."

            A hour after being confirmed by the General Assembly as the next Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon held a 20-minute press conference. He took only six questions; it was not clear if any of the questions were answered. A question about Africa was left entirely unresponded-to. (See below in this Report.)

            So to at Kofi Annan's spokesman's noon briefing. In response to two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the spokesman said that the DRC is a sovereign nation, not run by the UN. From the transcript:

Inner City Press question:  There is criticism of the Kabila Government replacing two ministers with military personnel, the Minister of the Interior and the Governor of Kinshasa.  I know Mr. Gambari is there.  On that or the previous things I’ve asked you on Mr. Bemba’s helicopter, has he spoken on these issues?

 Spokesman:  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a sovereign Government.  The helicopter is for the Congolese Government to settle.  It is my understanding that the helicopter was provided to Mr. Bemba in his capacity of Vice-President.  Obviously, Mr. [William Lacy] Swing has been trying to smooth the relations between Mr. Bemba and Mr. Kabila, but the issue of the helicopter is not one, as far as I understand, that we are getting directly involved in.  On the issue of ministers, once again, it is the prerogative of the Government to appoint its ministers.  The Congo is not a UN-administered territory. 

            This hasn't stopped the UN Secretariat and its envoy from routinely exhorting the Congolese to remain calm, to disarm, to eschew hate speech and the like. But when Joseph Kabila, three weeks before the run-off election, puts his military staffers in control of the Ministry of the Interior and the governorship of Kinshasa, the UN then has no comment, out of respect for sovereignty. Even on the open question of Mr. Kabila not having fulfilled his previous pledge to replace his opponent's destroyed helicopter, the UN has no comment. Thus even in a disarmed Kinshasa is ammunition given to those Congolese who allege that the UN has spent half a billion dollar merely to re-anoint Joseph Kabila.

            Speaking of money's ability to talk, Friday afternoon as part of a briefing about the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit, the high-tech company Sun Microsystem was presented as a UN partner, for sponsoring a web site for the summit. Inner City Press asked how Sun Microsystems was selected to partner with the UN, and whether Sun was asked, as Intel was recently asked by Inner City Press, what safeguards it has in place not to use conflict coltan from the Congo. Video here, from Minute 31:24.  Sun was described as a long-term UN partner. But there are more questions: Sun is known to have assisted for Internet blocking and surveillance both China and Myanmar. Global Compact, anyone?

UN Envoy Makes Excuses for Gambian Strongman, Whitewashing Fraud- and Threat-Filled Election

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 7 -- In the Gambian election last month, thousands of non-Gambians from Senegal were brought in to vote by President Yahya Jammeh, it was admitted Friday by Kofi Annan's envoy to the election, former Nigerian General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

          Jammeh recently said, "If I want to ban any newspaper, I will."  Interviewed by Inner City Press on the 35th floor of the UN Headquarters on Friday, just after he briefed Kofi Annan, Gen. Abubakar was dismissive of reports of Jammeh's crackdown on the press, including his reported involvement in the killing of the editor of The Point newspaper. Jammeh's denial in that case was that "I don't believe in killing people, I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life."

            Asked by Inner City Press about these and other Jammeh quotes, Gen. Abubaker was dismissive. "Jammeh can say he'll rule for the next thirty or forty years, but he could be voted out," Gen. Abubaker said.

      Gen. Abubakar acknowledged the criticism by Gambian opposition groups and the Commonwealth observers of security personnel voting while in uniform, but stated that this is permitted by the Gambian Constitution.

      Asked by Inner City Press about Yahya Jammeh's changes to the constitution, Gen. Abubakar said that people are entitled to their own opinions. Democracy, he said, is in the developing world a "sensitive matter" that must be "done with caution."  He stated that the elections had gone "very well... I was there on election day and from what I saw it was peaceful."

            Yahya Jammeh took power in 1994 in The Gambia, a country of 1.5 million people surrounded on three sides by Senegal. Industries include peanut farming and some tourism. In an interview with Inner City Press on September 21, 2006, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Frazer said that the Jammeh regime is reaching out for help to China, Iran and Venezuela. Friday Inner City Press asked UN Envoy Gen. Abubaker about this. Gen. Abubaker responded by quoting Jammeh, if you don't have to be my friend, you can't stop me from having other friends.

            Asked by Inner City Press what his recommendations are, and what the UN will do, Gen. Abubaker first listed the need for better training of journalists. Perhaps a stop to the killing of journalists and editors would help. One wonders why Kofi Annan selected this Nigerian general, who ruled after Sani Abacha, as the UN envoy to the preordained re-election of Yahya Jammeh. One wonders what instructions Gen. Abubaker was given. After changing the constitution to allow himself to run for a third term, and after threatening districts that voted against him with losing development aid, he won garnered 67% of votes, to Oussainou Darboe's 27%, with voter turnout below 60%. This includes the votes of non-Gambians brought in from Senegal's still-troubled Casamance region, an influx that Gen. Abubaker put at "only" four thousand.

            When asked if there was outside influence on the Gambian election, Gen. Abubaker said no, despite his statement about thousands of non-Gambians voting. "It wouldn't have changed the result," Gen. Abubaker said. Apparently, nothing would have.

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Sudan's UN Envoy Admits Right to Intervene in Rwanda, UNICEF Response on Terrorist Groups in Pakistan

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

  UNITED NATIONS, October 6 -- Sudan's ambassador to the UN on Friday acknowledged the right of the international community to intervene without governmental consent in a situation like Rwanda in 1994. In response to a question from Inner City Press about Darfur, Rwanda and Cambodia under Pol Pot, Sudanese Amb. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem mentioned the UN Millennium Declaration and the duty "to protect," while seeking to distinguish "orderly" Sudan from Rwanda. Video on UNTV from Minute 10:12, http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/sc/so061006pm1.rm

            Inner City Press also asked the Sudanese Ambassador about reports of his government sabotaging military equipment en route to the African Union force in Darfur, including the statements of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Frazer about bolts being removed from armored personnel carriers and the AMIS force commander having to wait in Ethiopia while a visa to enter Sudan was delayed.

            Amb. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem called these "minor matters" and said that "bureaucratic delay is bureaucratic delay." He said that Inner City Press and the other media present could get visas for Sudan and Darfur anytime. Since journalists have been locked up by Sudan, and many have their computers' hard drives scanned and copies as they enter or leave Sudan, the invitation may mean less than it sounded like at the stakeout. Video on UNTV from Minutes 7:43.

            Also at the UN on Friday, following an upbeat press conference by George H.W. Bush and a minister from Pakistan to mark the one year anniversary of the South Asia earthquake, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesman about a BBC expose of aid money going to terrorists groups -- click here to view. BBC has reported that the Al Rashid Trust and Jamaat ud-Dawa were not strong in the area before the quake hit, but set up camps and were inflated by the flowing of aid to those in "their" camps.  Inner City Press asked (video on UNTV from Minute 13:50), what safeguards do UN agencies have to avoid such consequences while seeking to deliver clearly-needed aid? While Inner City Press' questions remaining pending about Somalia, UNICEF on Friday responded about Pakistan:

Is UNICEF cooperating with Al Rashid?

No. UNICEF does not cooperate with Al Rashid, and nor is UNICEF money or material supplied to Al Rashid. Children have a right to education, no matter where they live, just as they have a right to immunization no matter where they live. The NGO DOSTI is an NGO which had the capacity to deliver educational services to 5300 children affected by the earthquake. Some of these children live in Al Rashid camps, through no fault of their own. DOSTI fulfilled its obligation by establishing a school in three such camps. The use of UNICEF material and the educational activities it supports are carefully monitored  by UNICEF. To suggest that the rights of children who have lost their homes and schools should be ignored because by chance they are living in a particular location, would contravene the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which the Netherlands is  signatory. (FYI information the schools and the camp we referred to doesn't exist anymore. The only camp remaining in Mansehra is Jaba camp) The organization Jamaat [u]d Dawa is running 2 schools in Mansehra and UNICEF is not providing any support to this organization. Another question you might have is whether UNICEF cooperating with any individual/organization included in the UN  list of banned individual / organizations. The answer is: No. UNICEF has no contract/agreement  with individuals or organization included in this list and nor is UNICEF money or material supplied to these organizations / individuals.

            We report, ask and get answers, you decide. UNICEF has been asked about its Somali operations, developing.

Also on Friday at the UN:

U.S. Calls for Annan and Ban Ki-moon to Publicly Disclose Finances, As U.S. Angles for 5-Year WFP Appointment

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

  UNITED NATIONS, October 6 -- Secretary General Kofi Annan, who only after delay and indecision filed a financial disclosure form on September 22, is now being asked to make the financial contents public. Mr. Annan's spokesman Friday at noon said that since the UN is an "inter-governmental organization" rather than a government, the Secretary-General's disclosure should remain private, until the General Assembly requires otherwise.  Video on UNTV from Minute 10:35.

            An hour later, Inner City Press asked Ambassador John Bolton for the U.S. position. "I'm sure Congress will be interested in that response," Amb. Bolton said. Video on UNTV from Minute 7:45.

            In response to an Inner City Press question Friday morning on whether the incoming Secretary-General, presumptively Ban Ki-moon, should disclosure his finances on the way in -- possibly before the General Assembly vote -- Ambassador Bolton signaled agreement, saying that "transparency" is good, that as with preventive diplomacy, the UN system does not engage enough in transparency. Video on UNTV from Minutes 7:15.

            Beyond the U.S. Mission's continued withholding of information in its possession about UN officials receiving free housing from governments -- the U.S. spokesman says there are eight such UN officials while Kofi Annan's spokesman has said there is only one, without providing the name -- there is a emerging issue on which neither the UN nor the U.S. is practicing transparency.  As first reported by Inner City Press, the U.S. has put forward Josette Sheeran (Shiner) for a five year term as executive director of the UN's World Food Program. While Amb. Bolton has previously said that Kofi Annan should not appoint any new official past the end of the year, when asked by Inner City Press if the U.S. wants Josette Sheeran (Shiner) to be given a five year term right away, Amb. Bolton responded that "there is precedent for that."

            Friday the UN spokesman told Inner City Press that the selection process, and giving of a five year terms, is now expected to be completed in "early November," less than two months before Mr. Annan's term ends. Despite U.S. Amb. Bolton's previous statements about lame duck appointment, presumably the U.S. would not object if the American Josette Sheeran (Shiner) is the beneficiary of a five year lame duck appointment. In terms of transparency, Inner City Press on October 3 asked the UN spokesman's office:

Yesterday you confirmed that Secretary-General will be making the selection
of the next WFP executive director, in conjunction with the head of FAO. You stated that the "normal procedures" would be followed. Please elaborate on the "normal procedures." Specifically, Is there a selection panel?  Who is on the selection panel?  Is there a shortlist? How many names are on the shortlist?  Did the selection panel develop the shortlist, or are they only interviewing candidates on the shortlist? What is the timeframe for the selection?  Will this process be completed within October, November, or December? In previous cases of senior appointments (such as the chief of UNHCR), the  UN announced the shortlist prior to the actual selection of Mr. Guterres.  Was that "normal procedure"?  In this case will the UN announce the shortlist?  When?

            Three days later on October 6, the spokesman handed Inner City Press a page with a paragraph on it:

"Nominations were solicited from Member States and an advertisement was placed in The Economist. The deadline for the submission of nominations was 15 September 2006. A joint UN/FAO Panel met in Rome on 28 and 29 September to review the applications received with a view to drawing up a short list of candidates for the consideration of the Secretary-General and Director-General of FAO. The short-listed candidates will be interviewed in New York in the near future by a join UN/FAO panel comprising representatives from each side. The Panel is expected to identify two or three finalists for the Secretary-General's the Director-General's consideration. The Secretary-General and the Director-General would thereafter interview the candidates and jointly make a decision on the individual they would wish to appoint to the post. They would then jointly inform the WFP Executive Board accordingly and await their response before making the appointment public. The process should normally be completed by early November."

    Among other things, this does not answer whether the identities of the candidates on the shortlist will be made public. On Thursday, the Canadian government through an individual who because he is not a spokesman asked not to be named told Inner City Press that while Canada has not nominated its WFP Ambassador Robert Fowler, he is in fact a candidate. As to who will conduct the interviews, as early as next week, Inner City Press' sources indicate that it will be Mark Malloch-Brown. The propriety of the Annan administration considering a five-year appointment with only two months left in office has not been addressed. Developing.

U.S. Candidate for UN's World Food Program May Get Lame Duck Appointment, Despite Korean Issues

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

  UNITED NATIONS, September 29, 3:05 p.m. -- With three months remaining in the term of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a search is on to pick the next executive director of the UN's World Food Program. A memo circulated by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, obtained by Inner City Press, names the U.S. candidate for the position. She is Josette Sheeran (Shiner), with perhaps notable ties to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church including praise for North Korea.

            Tuesday at the UN, before the WFP nomination had become public, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that Kofi Annan's appointment of new UN officials would only be okay if these officials' contracts ended "soon after January 1." Video here, at Minute 4:43.

            Friday at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if the U.S.'s position is that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) could be given a five-year WFP term even before Kofi Annan leaves the UN in three month. Ambassador Bolton answered that the appointment could be made before January 1, that "the precedents have differed." Video here, from Minute 8:15, the US mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: On the secretary-general transition and the World Food Program looking for a new executive director, I've heard that the U.S. put forward Josette Sheeran Shiner. Is it your position that this should not be done until January 1st or that she could be appointed and given a five-year term prior to that?

Ambassador Bolton: She could be appointed prior to January 1 or thereafter. And the precedent has differed from reappointment to reappointment.

    While there has reportedly been some dissention within the Bush administration regarding the nomination, open-source research finds that Josette Sheeran (Shiner) was an active member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church from 1975 through at least 1996. After that date, it is reported that she went "into the world," including into William Bennett's Empower America organization and then the U.S. State Department, in order to spread the Unification Church's message and position. Beyond controversial views on abstinence, mass-marriage and other matters, including the UN, these include business ties with and praise of North Korea.

            The internal U.S. State Department memo obtained by Inner City Press states that

"For the past several weeks, we have been working with the White House to search for a highly qualified candidate to succeed Jim Morris as Executive Director of the World Food Programme. We now have an excellent candidate in Ambassador Josette Sheeran (Shiner)... Through the course of a distinguished career in government, business and journalism, Ambassador Sheeran has excelled as a diplomat, humanitarian, business leader and development policy leader."

            The reference to journalism is to Ms. Sheeran's tenure as managing editor of the Moon-owned Washington Times.

            In that capacity, in 1992 Ms. Sheeran went on an 11-day visit to North Korea, leading up a feature article commemorating the 80th birthday of Kim Il-Sung's 80th birthday. "Even if the sky is falling down on us, there will always be a hole for me to rise up through," said Kim -- a sentence Sheeran-Shiner later recollected, as recounted by the American Prospect, as "this wonderful thing which I printed in the paper."

            Sheeran-Shiner's interview with Kim Il-Sung painted him as a "self-confident, reflective elder statesman rather than the reclusive, dogmatic dictator he is usually portrayed as in the West."

            Now Kim Il-Sung's son is being portrayed by Ms. Sheeran-Shiner's nominator as a threat to international peace and security. More documents on the North Korea - Moon connection are online here.

            Josette Sheeran's first appearance in the media was in Time magazine of November 10, 1975, in an article entitled "Mad About Moon" --

"One typical worried parent is New Jersey's state insurance commissioner James Sheeran, three of whose daughters—Vicki, 25, Jaime, 24, and Josette, 21—are Moon converts. He wants laws to protect people from 'cruel and exotic entrapment of their minds, souls and bodies.' Late one night last August, Sheeran decided to act when Josette, normally compassionate, showed little interest upon learning that her grandmother was in the hospital. He, his wife and a son drove to Moon's school to seek Josette. Fifteen Moon men materialized, a scuffle ensued, and state police arrived amid mutual charges of assault."

            Inner City Press' sources say that also in the running to lead WFP are Canada's ambassador to the WFP in Rome, Robert Fowler, as well as senior foreign aid officials from Switzerland and Norway. Given that the latter two countries already have nationals in Under-Secretary General positions, these sources say, the WFP competition for now is between the U.S. and its neighbor to the North. Friday Amb. Bolton expressed his view that the U.S. has the best candidate so "I'm sure we're going to prevail."

   But whether either should be considered for a five-year term before the next Secretary-General is in office is an open question. At deadline, a UN official -- who has asked to be identified as such -- indicated that while Mr. Annan may want to make a five-year appointment as a "lame duck," the incoming Secretary-General would also have to assent.

   On that, speculation at the UN concerns whether the "discourage" and "no opinion" ballots for yesterday's South Korean front-runner Ban Ki-Moon ("no relation," the UN diplomat joked) involve France and/or the U.K... "Japan is not a fan," the UN diplomat notes. An unrelated update: the U.S. Mission has yet to release to the public and press a copy of the Secretary-General's response about housing subsidies from governments by UN officials. The wait continues. Developing...

Exclusion from Water Is Sometimes Called Progress, of Straw Polls and WFP Succession

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- In rural Chad, less then five percent of people have access to acceptable sanitation systems. Chad is a country with oil resources, much courted by China. In rural Ethiopia, only seven percent of people have improved sanitation. Ethiopia, recipient of substantial military aid from the United States, has most recently sent troops into Somalia, where fourteen percent of rural residents have improved sanitation.

   On Thursday UNICEF released a report card on sanitation and access to clean water. After a briefing by UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman and Ugandan minister Maria Mutagamba, Inner City Press asked how it could be that Chad was reported as on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal. The answer was that Chad is to be commended for reducing the gap between rural and urban availability, even if it is still the case that 43 percent of rural residents, and only 41 percent of urban residents, have access to clean water. Video here, from minute 24:05.

            While the focus appears to be on congratulating governments for any relative improvements, as the UNDP has done in praising Uzbekistan, one wonders if congratulating such condition is not enshrining a lower standards for Africa and countries like Cambodia, where only eight percent of rural residents have access to improved sanitation.

            After the press conference, Inner City Press asked Ms. Veneman if she could confirm the identify of the United States' candidate to replace James Morris as head of the UN World Food Program. Ms. Veneman had testified Tuesday to the U.S. Congress, along with Mr. Morris. Ms. Veneman said, however, advised Inner City Press to "ask the U.S. government, I can't speak for them, I don't know if its public yet." As to the process, she said that an advertisement for the new WFP director has run in The Economist magazine and that some countries have forwarded candidates. Inner City Press will have more after, as Ms. Veneman suggested, asking the U.S. government. Ms. Veneman added that on Tuesday her and Mr. Morris' briefing was more detailed than usual, as mostly only Senator Lugar asked questions. She mentioned that a friend had seen the Senate hearing on C-SPAN, rebroadcast at 11 p.m., and had stayed up to 1 a.m. to watch it.

            Inner City Press also asked the Secretary-General's Spokesman's Office about the process to select a new WFP executive director, in an exchange transcribed by the UN:

Question:  I think that World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director James Morris has said he is going to leave.  Is the Secretary-General, before he leaves here, going to appoint a successor and what is the process due to appoint a successor at WFP?

Associate Spokesman:  Well, I don’t have information on that and I haven’t seen the report that you are referring to in which the Director of WFP said he was leaving.

Question:  The US is circulating a new candidate that is why I’m raising it to you?  If you could, later today, confirm it?

Associate Spokesman:  I will look into that, but I don’t have information on that right now.

[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that the process to find a successor to the current Executive Director of the WFP was under way and that they expected a shortlist of candidates to be made available soon.]

            While Inner City Press already has a good sense of who and from where these candidates are, further reporting will wait until Ms. Veneman's advice, to asked the U.S. government, has been followed. Inner City Press also asked about Ivory Coast:

Question:  On the Ivory Coast, since the meeting here that President Gbagbo didn’t attend, there’s this attempt to mediate by the President of South Africa.  The rebels or the opposition in Côte d’Ivoire said he shouldn’t be the mediator.  Has the UN taken any position on that, and, what is the UN’s continuing involvement now that the meeting here did not result in any solution?  What are the next steps?  Does the Secretary-General view the South African President as a fair mediator in this?

Associate Spokesman:  The Secretary-General supports the work of Mr. Mbeki, who was appointed by the African Union to mediate the conflict in the Ivory Coast and I believe that as far as the UN is concerned, the peace process there and the negotiations towards a resolutions of the conflict are proceeding fairly well.  And we have, as I told you, I believe last week, we have a series of regional meetings planned.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be holding a meeting in the next 10 days or so, which will be followed by an African Union meeting, and we hope to have, sometime towards the end of October here, another formal meeting of the Security Council to address the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  But, the negotiations for achieving peace in Côte d’Ivoire are proceeding well.

            We'll see. So far the initiative of Mbeki, a personal friend of Gbagbo just as Mkapa is a friend of Zimbabwe's Mugabe, has been criticized by the Ivorian opposition and the president of Senegal, among others. Meanwhile at the UN, most of the media's focus was on the Security Council's straw poll leading to the selection of the next Secretary General. The focus was on how many "discouragement" votes each of the seven candidates got. The South Korean front runner received only one discouragement, and one "no opinion." There was speculation that this "no opinion" was from France. A French diplomat told reporters that France was not the "discouragement" vote. The plot, like a sauce, thickens, leading to Monday's straw poll with colored ballots, to show if the discouragement comes from one of the veto-wielding Permanent Five members of the Council.

            At the Security Council stakeout, video here, Inner City Press asked Venezuela's foreign minister Nicolas Maduro for Venezuela's position on Darfur.  We'll speak when the debate starts, Mr. Maduro answered. But the debate is already far advanced...

            Finally, on openness, Inner City Press asked the General Assembly president's gracious spokeswoman:

Question:  It’s sort of a general question, having seen that 15 out of the 16 meetings held today are closed -- at least the ones listed.  If you could, who decides what General Assembly meetings are closed to the press and public?

Spokeswoman:  That depends on the Member States in large measure, whether the meeting is open or closed because it would depend on the item on the agenda.  And, at this point in time, most of it is organizational, and I think that’s probably the reason why it’s closed to you -- because they are looking at organizing their agenda, in each committee, getting everything in order.  Once that’s finished, I don’t think that you will be precluded from most of them.

Question:  Would the President of the Assembly consider giving some guidance at the start of this session?  Even in the last one, I remember, there were meetings that were sometimes closed and then you go in and nobody cared that you went in.  I guess I’m just raising it, maybe at some point, when she has a position on it, if more things should be open under her tenure.  At some later date, you could maybe address it?

Spokeswoman:  I will certainly raise it with her -- that there is a concern.

  Time will tell...

William Swing Sings Songs of Congo's Crisis, No Safeguards on Coltan Says Chairman of Intel

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

   UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- The run-off election in the Congo, the United Nations' focus in that country, is on schedule for October 29 and looking good, UN envoy William Lacy Swing said Wednesday.

   Swing briefed the UN Security Council, whose president emerged to say he hopes the second round goes at smoothly as the first. Since the first round was followed by clashing militias in the capital, and since even Swing acknowledged the recent arrest of hundreds of street children, either the UN has low standards for the Congo, or Swing is behind the closed Council doors painting a decidedly rosy picture.

   In front of the TV camera outside the Council chamber, Inner City Press asked Swing about the UN's changing story on an incident at Kazana in Eastern Congo's Ituri region in which a village was burned down.

   "The huts that were burned down were militia huts," Mr. Swing said. But Inner City Press' sources, including eyewitnesses in Kazana that day, state that the burned huts had well-tended gardens, swept walkways and household utensils not associated with militia, in Congo or anywhere else.

            "We have never declared an intention to do an investigation as such" of Kazana, William Swing said into the camera, click here to view from Minute 5 of 9. But the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno answered an Inner City Press question in late July of this year by saying he was "studying" the Kazana investigation carried out by the UN's mission in Congo, MONUC.

  Since then, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has had to change the date they had ascribed to the Kazana incident, and has had to admit that huts were burned down. The claim by Swing that all huts belonged to militia, and that there will be -- and has been -- no investigation is questions unanswered that must continue to be asked.

            So too with question surrounding the Congo warlord who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers for a month this past July. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said, on camera, that Peter Karim would face "personal accountability." But Wednesday Mr. Annan's envoy William Swing said that from "early on" in the negotiations leading to the peacekeepers' released, there was an intention to offer Karim a rank on the Congolese army. That has not been "fully consummated," Swing said. There are reports that Karim is conscripting more fighters, including children, to order to gain the title of general.

            Inner City Press has been told that during the month-long negotiation with Peter Karim, that Karim was a Muslim and a member of Al Qaeda floated through one or more agencies of the U.S. government, and the U.S. quickly got involved in the negotiations. Wednesday Inner City Press asked Mr. Swing about this. Swing responded that in and around Ituti there are many "Muslim adherents" and mosques, but that he was not "aware of that."

            Aware of Peter Karim's status, or if the U.S. had gotten interested? Neither, Mr. Swing said, on camera. Video here, from Minute 8:15. That question will continue to be explored. After the ten minute Q&A, Inner City Press showed Mr. Swing an article which had come up -- click here -- and on which comment should be forthcoming.

            At an earlier briefing on the digital divide, Inner City Press asked Intel's chairman Craig Barrett about any safeguards in place to ensure that the used coltan does not come from conflict zones in the Congo. Are there any safeguards? "Not that I'm aware of," Mr Barrett answered. Click here to view, at Minute 27:14.

            The UN Spokesman's office provided two post-briefing answers. Inner City Press has asked about reports that Sudan's Al-Bashir government sabotages military equipment that comes in bound for Darfur, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Frazer told Inner City Press last week. The UN's responses on Wednesday were not entirely consistent: that UNMIS in Khartoum has not received complaints, but that UN envoy Jan Pronk spoke about this issue before Ms. Frazer did. Which is it?

            Asked about a request by the opposition in Zimbabwe that the UN cease for now accepting Zimbabwean troops as peacekeepers, given the issues in Harare, the UN responded that it will only act on such requests when they come from governments. On a related report that at least one Zimbabwean soldier was involuntarily returned from a UN peacekeeping mission after reports of abuse, the UN responded that its personnel actions are generally confidential. An exception was made for a list on sexual exploitation and abuse recently provided to Inner City Press because these "are crimes," the UN said Wednesday. These issues and the situation in Zimbabwe, in which Mr. Annan stepped back from mediating due to the now-questionable involvement of Ben Mkapa, will continue to be followed closely.

            Among the closest followers of speeches and resulting online news articles in the latter stages of the UN's General Debate must be Azerbaijan. Reacting to a UN News headline, "Armenia Azerbaijan and Armenia Exchange Accusations on Nagorno-Karabakh During UN Debate," which was sent out by email at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Inner City Press and others, Azerbaijan complained and the story was unceremoniously taken down, the headline's "trade accusation" switched to "address issue" and the article substantially edited. But the two countries did trade barbs, as Inner City Press recently reported after dueling statements in the General Assembly about even jointly putting out fires in the disputed region. Or shouldn't we use the word "disputed"? To paraphrase New York tabloid columnist Cindy Adams, "Only at the UN, kids, only at the UN."

On Darfur, Hugo Chavez Asks for More Time to Study, While Planning West Africa Oil Refinery

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

  UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela who is vying for a seat on the Security Council, said on Wednesday that he would need more time to study the question of Darfur before recommending sending UN peacekeepers or not. As a response to a question on Darfur from Inner City Press, he rattled off the names of African counties he has visited, and those to which he has been invited, including Zimbabwe.

  Chavez spoke of opening an oil refinery in West Africa, presumably through Venezuelan-controlled Citgo. He noted that Venezuela is an observer at the African Union, and said "we are observers, not players, in Africa... we do not want to act like we own the world." He said of Africa, as he said of Mexico and Colombia, that he loves  it. But he did not answer on Darfur. Video here, Minutes 39 to 43.

   Chavez did, however, predict that the price of oil would hit $200 a barrel if the U.S. tried to invade Venezuela, a possibility he ascribed to "your Devil President" (in Spanish, "su presidente diablo"). Perhaps for this reason, one correspondent for Japanese television, himself not Japanese, declined to answer Chavez as to where he was from. "This is not about nationality," the reporter answered. Chavez made light of it, saying don't be ashamed. He explicitly praised other Americans, naming Muhammad Ali, Abraham Lincoln, and Pete Rose, of whom he noted the disgrace of betting on baseball but "who could deny his talent." He held up a copy of Noam Chomsky's latest book, as he had in his speech earlier in the day to the General Assembly. (Click here for the speech, so far only in Spanish.) He listed American communities to which Venezuela has provided cut-rate heating oil, from Boston and Chicago to Harlem and The Bronx. He spoke again of baseball and the many home runs there.

   One correspondent recollected a past visit to the UN General Assembly in the late 1980s of a somewhat similar figure, then-Nicaraguan head of state Daniel Ortega. Ortega went to Brooklyn, lead the U.S. to limit the number and scope of visas given to Nicaragua the next year. This year, Venezuela like Iran has raised issues about the U.S.'s processing of visa applications. The UN Secretariat confirms receiving the complaints, but not what's been done about them. Fox News Wednesday morning lamented the UN allowing the presidents of Venezuela and Iran, to which it could have added Bolivia, to "spew their views" with the UN's megaphone. But this is the UN, and questions should be asked -- and answered.

US's Frazer Accuses Al-Bashir of Sabotage, Arab League of Stinginess, Chavez of Buying Leaders

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 -- The Al-Bashir government has sabotaged the African Union's Mission in Sudan, AMIS, by delaying visas and dismantling and removing bolts from AMIS armored personnel carriers when they arrive in Port Sudan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer told a small group of reporters on Thursday. Speaking at the Foreign Press Center in New York, Ms. Frazer said that African leaders will have to answer for inaction on Darfur, and the Arab League for not having given funding. She stated that only Qatar has made a pledge, and that Qatar's is only a reiteration and repackaging of a previous March 2006 pledge. Click here for video file by Inner City Press.

            Ms. Frazer said that the commander of AMIS is waiting in Ethiopia to receive an already-delayed visa from Sudan.  She questioned why the UN could get 5000 peacekeepers to Lebanon in weeks, but has said it could not be in Darfur until a year after the need became clear, not until January 2007 -- when the newly extended African Union mandate expires. Ms. Frazer stressed that the world must act, because Al-Bashir is openly claiming he should be allowed impunity.

            Asked by Inner City Press for the U.S. position on Uganda's Museveni government's offer of amnesty to Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and two other leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, Ms. Frazer said the first priority is peace. She added that Museveni and Uganda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa are suggesting a more local, Acholi process for the LRA Four, and that the U.S. likes to leave solutions local.

   As another example, Ms. Frazer said it's up to the Congolese, which would be current President Joseph Kabila with whom Condoleeza Rice met this week, to agree to put ex-militia leaders like Peter Karim into the Congolese Army. On other Peter Karim issues raised -- click here for some of the issues -- Ms. Frazer said that she was not aware. She said the same of the April 21, 2006, torching of the village of Kazana by the Congolese Army, with the UN's MONUC present. Just because it's reported doesn't mean it's true, Ms. Frazer said. But the UN has already acknowledged that the huts of Kazana were burned by the Congolese Army.

            Ms. Frazer stated that a major U.S. initiative on the Congo are the "Tripartate Plus One" meetings, the next of which will occur September 22, with representatives of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. Whether Uganda's UN-documented lack of cooperation with the UN's attempt to crack down on the exploitation and export of the natural resources of Eastern Congo will be raised by the U.S. remains to be seen.

            Ms. Frazer also denounced the African gambits of both Iran and Venezuela. Wednesday, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez answered Inner City Press' question about Darfur by referring to Venezuela's plans to build an oil refinery in West Africa. 

            Thursday, Ms. Frazer said, "They can buy off a few leaders but it will not last," that "it is just hot promises, hot rhetoric." Ms. Frazer opined that Gambia is reaching out to Venezuela and Iran "and others" because it is not implementing good government initiatives that would be required to receive similar funding from the United States.

            On Somalia, Ms. Frazer rattled off a list of leaders with whom she has met, including the foreign ministers of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. On substantive questions of the involvements of the U.S. and UN in the current Somali chaos, Inner City Press was told that time did not remain for any answers by Ms. Frazer, but that some would be provided by phone. Developing.

Musharraf Says Unrest in Baluchistan Is Waning, While Dodging Question on Restoring Civilian Rule

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday claimed that unrest in the Baluchistan region is on the wane and "has already died." He called the region peaceful, as well as being "feudal and tribal" and needing more democracy. He said the situation in Baluchistan is a result of a "political game" set off by people trying to capitalize on the death of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, longtime leader of the Baluch Liberation Movement. Musharraf answered Inner City Press' question by stating that "incidents" elsewhere in Pakistan that cited to Bugti have, in fact, "no relation to that person."

            Since Bugti's death on August 26, at least ten people have been killed " in bomb blasts, attacks and clashes with police," according to AFP, which on September 19 reported that "a time bomb exploded in a crowded bazaar in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta yesterday, injuring two policemen and three civilians...The blast could be heard from a public meeting organized by opposition parties to protest the killing of key tribal insurgent leader Nawab Akbar Bugti."  

            In his response to Inner City Press asking when civilian rule might be restored, to Pakistan as a whole, Musharraf limited his answer to Baluchistan, where he pointed out that the administrator now in charge "is not a man in a uniform." But Musharraf earlier in the press conference had called himself a man in a uniform, who can get things done for that reason.  Video here, from Minute 33:42.

            News analysis: Musharraf's UN press conference appeared stacked with ringers, who asked questions along the line of, "Why are you so unfairly criticized in the Western media, and what can you do about it?" In gleeful response, Musharraf said that tribal elders are people of their word, who recently captured 10 Taliban. No one asked about nuclear proliferation, much less about military dictatorship. There were softball questions about whom Musharraf would like as next Secretary-General, and whether he thought the Pope's comments on Islam were outrageous (he did). He blamed the situation in Afghanistan on Hamid  Karzai, stating that Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, still lives in Kandahar. He said again and again, we have not made peace with the Taliban. That seemed to be the point of the press conference.

As UN's Annan Now Says He Will Disclose, When and Whether It Will Be to the Public and Why It Took So Long Go Unasked

  UNITED NATIONS News Analysis, Sept. 16-17 -- The UN's number two Mark Malloch-Brown called the global Paper of Record on Friday after most other media's deadline and spun the decision by Kofi Annan to say he would file financial disclosure. How this decision was made and reported provides a snapshot of the small world of power and the press inside the UN Organization. Avoided so far are questions ranging from why Mr. Annan has resisted filing, to when he will filed and whether any part of the filing now promised will be available to the public.

[Ed.'s update Sept. 17: The delayed Friday night response by the Annan administration to questions asked by Inner City Press at a press conference Wednesday morning seem not dissimilar to White House "document dumps" just before the weekend. Similarly resonant is further delayed formal statement by Annan's spokesman's office yet 24 hours later on Saturday night, issued by email to Inner City Press and presumably other correspondents, that

"On advice of lawyers, the Secretary-General had not filled out a financial disclosure form, which he was not required to, so as not tie the hands of his successor. However, in order to avoid any embarrassment to the Organization, the Secretary-General has decided to voluntarily submit a financial disclosure form."

   Since in May of this year, this same Spokesman's office had unequivocally that Mr. Annan would fill out and file the financial disclosure form, the advice of unnamed lawyer must have come more recently. Was it Nicolas Michel, who at a September 12 press conference responded to a question from Inner City Press about housing subsidies to UN official by government by reading a scripted answer from notes? Or was it an Annan family lawyer from outside the UN system, like Michael Wilson who shows up in the page of the Volcker report provided on Friday, and more recently in press reports about payments to Kojo Annan by Trafigura, which dumped toxic waste in Abidjan only last month? (See Inner City Press' September 12 story, click here). Inquiring minds will want to know. And we hope not relatedly, note that while our reporter genuinely likes the colleagues and even spokespeople herein described, we cannot let his conflict of interest allow us or him to pull too many punches.

  While at the September 15 noon briefing Mr. Annan's spokesman refused to respond to articles quoting unnamed UN sources, Mr. Annan's spokesman's office has recently insisted to Inner City Press that what is said outside of the briefing room is all not for attribution -- that is, to be sources to unnamed "UN officials." To not response, timely or at all, to media such as Inner City Press is one thing. But to contrive a theory to not respond to yourself requires even greater gymnastics.]

            Kofi Annan at his September 13 press conference was asked by Inner City Press if he'd filed the UN Financial Disclosure form. His response was a carefully-crafted phrase, "I honor all my obligations to the UN, and I think that is as I've always done." Video here, at Minute 45:25.

   While technically the UN Financial Disclosure form must be filled out by all senior UN officials except the Secretary General, spokesman Stephane Dujarric had said Mr. Annan would file, in at least two press conferences this year. The Paper of Record in its article today quotes one of the statements, that Mr. Annan would file "to show an example, to be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out." Click here for full transcript.

            Following the September 13 interchange and Inner City Press' article analyzing Mr. Annan's answer, on September 14 the bigger guns came out. At a sparsely attended press conference by UN Management's Chris Burnham, the AP's crack reporter raised his hand to be given the first question -- and asked about the Annan financial disclosure. On the podium was a visibly uncomfortable Stephane Dujarric. Video here. Mr. Burnham replied that "I believe that we all should fill out annual financial reports and I encourage everyone to do so in a timely fashion."

            Mr. Burnham stayed in the hallway outside the briefing room long after the conference was over, speaking with American reporters with whom he joked easily by name. Mr. Dujarric left the scene, to head to Cuba with Mr. Annan. Associate Spokesman Yves Sorokobi was put on the noon briefing hot seat, left to claim that Mr. Annan had in fact already filed his disclosure. That this is now shown to be false raises questions about other answers given.

            Later September 14, both AP and Reuters quoted unnamed UN sources that Messrs. Burnham and Malloch-Brown had encouraged Mr. Annan to file the disclosure. Inner City Press now cites other unnamed sources that Mr. Burnham himself, through selective disclosure, spun to the wires his role in the reform. Notably, the report Mr. Burnham released, which is much less detailed and transparent than for example the NYC Management report with its breakdowns on everything from recycling to 311 calls, has yet to be critiqued in other than this media.

            At Friday's noon press conference, another spokesperson was thrown to the dogs. Marie Okabe was left to repeat, again and again, that "I have nothing beyond what we've said." Transcript here --

Deputy Spokesman:  "Matthew, I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General said, okay?"
 
Question:  And have you spoken to the Secretary-General or Stephane since it arose yesterday?  Has there been a request made to clarify the statement?
 
Deputy Spokesman:  "Matthew, I have nothing beyond what I said."

            [Editors' insider note: in the UN briefing room, things are on a first-name basis. The exceptions are for the long-serving, like the former Gambari and for others on their way to being excluded, named after Reservoir Dogs or the murder suspects in Clue. But when there's real news to be made, the calculations get more cold. Through the paper of record, far more people can be reached. But since the reversal of Annan was not news they wanted covered, why take the elite route? One wag, not our reporter, notes that the resulting article does not question why Mr. Annan may have changed his mind about filing after May, nor does it propose (as is being done here) that given the issues, Mr. Annan make most or all of its disclosure public.]

            The paper of record had not covered the issue for its Friday edition. The UN's spin machine was already at work, asking for more time, promising reform. Inner City Press asked multiple staffers in the Spokesman's office to be sure, when something was released, to distribute even-handedly. Friday at 5 there was a distribution -- but only of one page from the report of Paul A. Volcker, to the effects that Mr. Annan's finances had been reviewed. This quote made its way into the Gray Lady's story, but the page was also given to the other elite press. The Spokesman's office made a point of leaving a message at Inner City Press of the availability of an already-public page. But when the decision was made to have Mark Malloch-Brown give his much sought-after quotes, there was no such notice. Mr. Brown's right hand man was a Financial Times reporter, as is Mr. Annan's speechwriter. The leadership team is small and feels itself always in a velvet-shrouded Foxhole. They will prevail through selective disclosure. But maybe not this time.

            Friday after deadline in the high-ceilinged Delegates' Lounge, as upstairs Mr. Brown made his targeted disclosure, a twenty-year UN employee settled back sighing with a drink. "Kofi Annan is a fraud," he finally said. He recounted speaking with Mr. Annan, before he was Secretary-General, about the problems of the staff. "He didn't care," the source continued. "He doesn't care a hoot about justice."

   Inner City Press asked, perhaps defensively, What about human rights and freedom of speech, issues on which Mr. Annan visibly speaks out?

    "Kofi talks a good game," the source sourly replied. "But the reality is different."

            How about the new Management man?

            "I've sent them some detailed complaints," the Friday drinker said. "And they're never gotten back."

            "Even the staff?"

            "Nothing. You come here to help the world, and you're left feeling sick and embarrassed."

            Tugboats moved past out on the darkness of the river. There was the faint humming sound of the spin machine at work.

            A more pro-UN source, also three sheets to the wind, critiqued the few reporters who press the noon briefing spokesmen. "They just try to embarrass them," this media staffer complained. But if questions by some are only answered if they're raised in public briefings, there can and will only be more.

   [Editors' insider note: And even then the answers are fed to the few, the proud, the elite.  The goal is to put an end to questions. It happened with UNDP in Uganda, finally calling the wires and saying "we're cleaning up the army." But the forced disarmament was known for months to the UN. Click here for more on that story. And note that while our reporter genuinely likes the colleagues and even spokespeople herein described, we cannot let his conflict of interest make us pull too many punches.

   It has happened with Kazana, about which the Department of Peacekeeping misspoke. Click here for more. In that case a Kenya-based journalist is bad-mouthed to more comfortable reporters, as nothing but a spoiler. But it was the Paper of Record itself which held the expose until the eve of election. And still Mark Malloch-Brown seeks all the spin that's fit to print.

  How and by whom is the UN decision made, to respond to questions of scandal? Inner City Press has asked the UN for weeks about Annan's financial disclosure. Finally, Inner City Press asked Annan the question at his briefing September 13. Annan dissembled, and for two more days Inner City Press was told the answer stood. Then the UN's number two called the world's paper of record to confess to a venue deemed friendly. The news then went out the Annan has nothing to hide.

But when will it be filed?

 Why after May 3, 2006, did Annan decide not to file?

Will the public have access to any portions of the filing?

  The questions will continue. It is not bad for the world, nor for the wider UN. The circle at the top are soon to go cash in. The time for disclosure is now, and it will be pursued. Nice guys finish last, Leo the Lip Durocher once said. Or, fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on we [sic]. The senior UN official who takes free housing from his state -- to whom will he disclose? There are plenty for friendly reporters. But in this small world there are now fewer places to hide.]

At the UN, Stonewalling Continues on Financial Disclosure and Letter(s) U.S. Mission Has, While Zimbabwe Goes Ignored

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- "I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General told you on Wednesday," UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Friday, responding to Inner City Press' continued questions on whether Mr. Kofi Annan has filed the financial disclosure form his main spokesman said he would. When Inner City Press directed Ms. Okabe to two wire service stories quoting separate UN sources that Mr. Annan has not, in fact, filed the form, Ms. Okabe said "those are press reports we cannot comment on."

   Minutes later, asked about recent reporting on the turmoil in Ivory Coast and Laurent Gbagbo's bid to stay in power, Ms. Okabe said, "we're seen that in the press, we may have a statement later in the day." Asked then to explain why the UN responds to some press reports but not, in this case the wires on the financial disclosure form, Ms. Okabe told Inner City Press, "I have nothing beyond what the Secretary-General said."

    Kofi Annan once castigated some in the press corps for spending time on improprieties and inconsistencies within the UN rather than on the wider world. But in this case, it was Mr. Annan's own intentionally vague answer which has given rise to two additional days of questions, from outlets from AP and Reuters to the New York Times and Sun. Note to Kofi: we want to cover the wider world, but you need to file that financial disclosure, as your spokesman said you would to serve as an example to other UN staff. And the name of the senior UN official who receives free housing from his government should also be released. And by the same token, the U.S. Mission should, in the spirit of the transparency they discuss, release the letter(s) they received on the issue of housing subsidies by governments.

   At a stakeout interview of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton following the Security Council 10-4-1 vote to put Myanmar on the agenda, Inner City Press asked Amb. Bolton when the U.S. will release a copy of the letter it has received on the question of housing subsidies by governments to UN officials.

            "I have the letter," Amb. Bolton confirmed, "I'm still considering what to do. I'll let you know when I've thought about it some more." Video here, from Minute 12:10.  We'll be here -- passing the time reading the UN annual report issued September 14 by UN Management's Chris Burnham. On an interim basis the report is spotty, offering for example under the heading "Areas of challenge" mostly bullet points blaming the member states for any shortfalls. An honest "challenge" appears on page 15, noting that Kofi Annan's envoys "were not able to significantly affect negotiations in Western Sahara and Myanmar." Myanmar was discussed in the Council on Friday; Western Sahara was raised to Kofi Annan at his Wednesday press conference, where he responded, "they are probably thinking about it, they're probably going to come up with a creative solution." We'll wait for that, too.

            Earlier Friday in the Council, the UN's Jan Egeland provided a briefing on the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he said rape by the army continues, and on Northern Uganda, where he confirmed speaking  with the Lord's Resistance Army's Vincent Otti, but did not mention meeting Otti face-to-face, as the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General as told Inner City Press that Mr. Egeland did.

            Mr. Egeland was asked about the UN's man in Congo, William Lacy Swing. Following Mr. Egeland's savvy praise, Inner City Press asked about MONUC's now-amended self-exoneration of having been present when the Congolese Army burned down the village of Kazana on April 21, 2006. Mr. Egeland responded that yes, the Army is a problem. He said they need more training -- which is what the UN's Jean-Marie Guehenno said about Peter Karim, who after kidnapping UN peacekeepers for a month was offered a colonel's post in the Congolese army. Friday Jan Egeland said it takes two minutes to fire a colonel. And apparently less than a minute of serious thought to hire one.

            Four Security Council  members brought up the issue of Zimbabwe, the mass eviction and the flow of Zimbabweans fleeing. Mr. Egeland reported that the Mugabe government demolished 92,000 housing units as part of Operation Take Out the Trash, and has since built a mere 3,325 units, many of which have been given to people not evicted at all, but Mugabe cronies. UN-Habitat's Anna Tibaijuka issued a detailed report on the eviction (and was Friday named head of the UN in Nairobi, where one hopes she can bring sanity to UNPOS and clean up shenanigans about Somalia by former and present UN staff in Nairobi).

  On Zimbabwe, one wondered why Kofi Annan backed off in Banjul on his stated plan to mediate, in favor of Ben Mkapa, who has since been shown to not be the mediator at all. ("Those are just press reports," Ms. Okabe said Friday.) One wonders why the Council is not turning to Zimbabwe at least as it now will on Myanmar. Inner City Press asked Mr. Egeland if UNHCR should not at least for now treat those fleeing Zimbabwe as refugees, Mr. Egeland did not directly answer. And to his staff, Inner City Press has in outstanding questions about OCHA and UNDP in Somalia, more on which anon -- or Annan, as one wag joked.

Update at 5 p.m. deadline, UN Spokeswoman Marie Okabe provided page 233 of 277 of Paul Volcker's September 25 report, for the proposition that there might be nothing untoward in Mr. Annan's financial disclosure form, which he has not filed despite his spokesman's statement that he would, as an example to other staff. While always appreciating a response, especially a document, one wonders if the UN would accept from other senior officials an extraneous document rather than the financial disclosure form. It also can't be missed that the page provided refers to Kojo Annan's faxes to family lawyer Michael Wilson -- both are connected in the public record with Trafigura, whose toxic waste was dumped in Ivory Coast. Just file already - or explain why not. [See above.]

The UN and Nagorno-Karabakh: Flurries of Activity Leave Frozen Conflicts Unchanged; Updates on Gaza, Gavels and Gbagbo

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, September 7 -- The UN General Assembly met past 6 p.m. Thursday to approve by consensus a resolution entitled "The situation in the occupied territories"... of Azerbaijan. Armenia disassociated itself from the consensus, expressing its displeasure at the title and at the notion of its dispute with Azerbaijan being considered in the UN. Other self-declared stakeholders in this frozen conflict by proxy spoke before the resolution passed. The United States, which considers itself an interested party with respect to every disagreement and territory, spoke in favor of the resolution. So did Ukraine, on behalf of "the GUAM states" -- Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Turkey spoke in favor, as did Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

            All this diplomatic firepower was brought to bear on a final resolution consisting of five paragraphs, primarily directing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to assess fires in the affected territories, to involve the UN Environment Program in rehabilitation and to report back to the UN General Assembly by April 30, 2007.

            What were the two days of negotiations about? asked an observer in the General Assembly's cheap seats, where few of the headphones are working.

            Armenia does not want to the issue before the UN, and objects to the phrase "occupied territories of Azerbaijan" when referring to Nagorno-Karabakh and environs.

            If the UN is involved in the Palestinian occupied territories, about which an UN agency gave a briefing on Thursday, and in similar issues in Abkhazia, why has it not been involved in Nagorno - Karabakh? What is the UN's involvement in Nagorno - Karabakh?

            The UN Security Council passed four resolutions on Nagorno - Karabakh between April and November of 1993. Resolution 822 called for a cessation of hostilities. Resolutions 853, 874 and 884 continued in that vein. The ceasefire, such as it was and is, was negotiated by Russia in May 1994. Since then the main venue of action, or inaction, has been the 11-nation Minsk Group of the OSCE, with Russia, France and the U.S. as co-chairs. Since all three are members of the UN Security Council's Permanent Five, with veto rights, one might wonder why they prefer this other venue. To assess UN involvement in the territories in 2006, Inner City Press on Wednesday asked the UN Spokesman's Office. The oral answer was that even the UN Development Program has no operations in Nagorno - Karabakh, only the World Food Program. Then on Thursday the following was provided:

The Joint UNEP / OCHA Environment Unit has been working in close collaboration with colleagues in UNEP, who have been in direct contact with representatives from Azerbaijan and Armenia and the OSCE, which sent a mission to the region in July of this year. The Joint Unit, through our relationship with the Global Fire Monitoring Centre, which is our partner on forest fire-related matters, identified experts last month who could, potentially, go on an assessment mission. The OSCE has been requested to undertake another mission and is considering it. It sought UNEP's advice on experts, which in turn contacted the Joint Unit. We have, therefore, brokered a relationship between the Global Fire Monitoring Centre and the OSCE. So our identified experts are speaking with staff from OSCE. The Joint Unit will continue to support all those involved in this issue.

            There are areas in the world which the UN does not impact via Security Council resolutions, but in which it is a major humanitarian player. Nagorno-Karabakh, like for another example Casamance in Senegal, is not one of those regions. It is sometimes said that if you live in a region in the clutches of one of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council, you're out of luck at the UN. But the list of those out of luck at the UN is longer than that. And Nagorno - Karabakh... is on that list.

            In the General Assembly chamber, the scaffolding is now done, so the meeting was held there. The first part of the meeting, headlined by Jan Eliasson and Mark Malloch Brown, concerned conflict prevention. Sitting in the lower audience seats, few of the headphones worked or provided sound. Sitting behind the S's, one could see that among those nations not attending the GA session on conflict prevention was... Sierra Leone, regarding which Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently issued a report, S/2006/695, stating in part that "the continued border dispute between Sierra Leone and Guinea remains a source of serious concern." While the report does not name it, the dispute surrounds the diamond-rich town of Yenga. As usual, follow the money.

            Regarding another, higher profile occupied territory, Thursday at noon the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) briefing on Gaza revealed among other things that while the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation says it will pay on its insurance policy on the Gaza power station, rebuilding will take 18 months and power is for now sporadic.

            At UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked three questions, one of which, concerning housing subsidies by governments to UN employees, was summarily preempted with the statement that an answer will come in the near future. On Cote D'Ivoire, where a toxic dumping has resulted in the disbanding of the cabinet, the UN Spokesman responded that the Ivorian prime minister called the UN's head of peacekeeping and, as usually, everyone should stay calm. The benefits of this chaos to still-in-power Laurent Gbagbo are apparent to some. On whether the UN's envoy on extra-judicial killings will as requested visit Nigeria as well as Lebanon, a response one supposes will come.

  Mr. Dujarric's sometimes-fellow briefer at noon, Pragati Pascale, gave a preview of the afternoon's General Assembly action including on Nagorno - Karabakh, then fielded following her statement about a gavel passing, fielded a strange but concrete question about whether it was the same unique gavel, with wood looking like flame, used when the budget cap was lifted. Even before 5 p.m. she responded: " President Eliasson will, indeed, pass the fancy ceremonial gavel to the incoming President.  This was a gift to the General Assembly from Iceland.  President Eliasson did receive a copy of the gavel from the Secretary-General at the end of the main part of  the session last December, so he can take that home as a remembrance of his time here." Speak, memory! So to their detriment say those of Karabakh...

At the UN, Micro-States Simmer Under the Assembly's Surface, While Incoming Council President Dodges Most Questions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- Nagorno Karabakh, one of the world most frozen and forgotten conflicts, surfaced at the UN on Tuesday, if only for ten minutes. The General Assembly was scheduled to vote on a resolution concerning fires in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The diplomats assembled, or began to assemble, at 4 p.m.. At 4:15 it was announced that in light of ongoing negotiations, the meeting was cancelled, perhaps to reconvene Wednesday at 11:30.

            Sources close to the negotiations told Inner City Press that the rub is paragraph 4 of the draft resolution, which requests that the Secretary-General report to the UN General Assembly on the conflict. Armenia wants the matter to remain before the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has presided over the problem for more than a decade. Leading the OSCE's Minsk Group are Russia, France and the United States, members of the veto-wielding Permanent Five on the UN Security Council, nations which Azerbaijan claims have ignored its sovereignty as well as blocking Security Council action, as for example Russia has on Chechnya.

            Of the fires, Azerbaijan has characterized them as Armenian arson, and has asked for international pressure to allow it to reach the disputed territories where the fires have been.

            At a July 13, 2006 briefing on the BTC pipeline, Inner City Press asked the Ambassador of Azerbaijan Yashar Aliyev about the pipeline's avoidance of Armenia. We cannot deal with them until they stop occupying our territory, Ambassador Aliyev said. "You mean Nagorno - Karabakh?" Not only that, Amb. Aliyev answered. That's only four percent. Few people know this, but Armenia has occupied twenty percent of our territory.

            Both Amenia's Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and UN Ambassador Armen Martirosian have said publicly in the past month that if Azerbaijan continues pushing the issue before the United Nations, the existing peace talks will stop. Armenian sources privately speak more darkly of an alliance of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, collectively intent on involving the UN in reigning in their breakaway regions including South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria -- examples of what some call the micro-states. Armenia is concerned that in the UN as opposed to OSCE, Azerbaijan might be able to rally Islamic nations to its side.

            It is not only to predominantly Muslim nations that the Azeri's are reaching out. The nation's foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov met recently with this Swedish counterpart Jan Eliasson, the outgoing president of the General Assembly.

            Following Tuesday's General Assembly postponement, Inner City Press asked Mr. Eliasson if, in light of his involvement in reaching the 1994 cease-fire, he thinks the GA might have more luck solving the Nagorno-Karabakh than the OSCE has.

            "I hope so," he said. "I'm in favor of an active General Assembly." He recounted his shuttle diplomacy to Baku in the early 90s. And then he was gone.

            Elsewhere in the UN at Tuesday, the income president of the Security Council, Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis held a press conference on the Council's plan of work for September. Inner City Press asked when the Council will get the long-awaited briefing on violations of the arms embargo on Somalia. Amb. Vassilakis responded about a meeting on September 25, at Kenya's request, on the idea of the IGAD force in Somalia. Inner City Press asked what has happened with the resolution on the Lord's Resistance Army of which the UK has spoken so much. It will be up to them to introduce the motion," Amb. Vassilakis replied. He did not reply on the issue of the outstanding International Criminal Court indictments against LRA leaders including Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti.

            Inner City Press asked why, on Ivory Coast, the long-delayed report by the Secretary-General's expert on the prevention of genocide has not been released. In this response, Amb. Vassilakis grew animated, saying that one has to choose between justice and peace.  This implies that the finished report identifies alleged perpetrators, as pertains to genocide, but is being withheld either to facilitate peace, which has not come, or as negotiating leverage over some of the perpetrators. To be continued, throughout the month.

 

"Horror Struck" is How UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments Would Leave U.S., Referral on Burma But Not Uzbekistan

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- Describing housing subsidies by governments to UN employees as a "longstanding practice" that is contrary to the UN Charter, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton on Friday called the issue "fundamental" to efforts to reform the UN. Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric informed Inner City Press just before his Friday press briefing that a meeting has been arranged Tuesday to answer the outstanding questions, including the incongruity between his statement that such housing subsidies are paid and are acceptable versus UN regulations and financial disclosure forms which prohibit them.

            Ambassador Bolton, in a response to questions from Inner City Press, expanded the scope of inquiry of the sources of housing subsidies to UN employees from governments to private entities as well. "The notion that if I took, let's say, fifty percent of my salary from an American corporation that somehow that's okay, if the U.S. government were to reduce my salary by fifty percent, I think people in Washington would be horror-struck." Video here, from Minute 6:25.

            The current UN position, as articulated by spokesman Stephane Dujarric in response to Inner City Press' questions for more than a week, is that it is permissible for governments to provide free or cut-rate housing to UN employees, as long as those employees report it to the UN and have their UN compensation reduced.  A UN Staff Regulation, 1.2(j), provides that "No staff member may accept any honor, decoration, favor, gift, or remuneration from any Government." 

   The UN's position, according to its spokesman, is that free or cut-rate housing is somehow not a gift or remuneration.  Thursday the president of the Security Council Nana Effah-Apenteng responded to this logic, "Oh come on, give me a break... You're supposed to be an international civil servant, you're supposed to have neutrality and loyalty to the organization. I don't think it's good."

            Thursday afternoon Inner City Press asked Mr. Dujarric to address footnote six of the UN's Financial Disclosure form, which prohibits housing subsidies from governments unless "expressly authorized by the Secretary-General." Since Mr. Dujarric has conceded that such housing subsidies are taking place, Inner City Press asked if the Secretary-General has expressly authorized any housing subsidies. Faced with the inconsistency between stated practice, and written rules, Inner City Press said we don't understand.

            "Neither do I," said the spokesman. Eighteen hours later he informed Inner City Press of the meeting the next business day to address the questions. Amb. Bolton Friday said "we hope we'll get an answer" to the long-pending question, including asking the Secretary-General what the policy is.

            "The fact that the practices may be longstanding, the fact that governments or even private entities may be providing the housing subsidy, doesn’t mean that it's justifiable going forward."

            Inner City Press asked if the U.S. will be making public the UN's list of names of high UN officials receiving free or cut-rate housing from their governments. "Probably," Ambassador Bolton responded, without yet explaining why such information would be withheld.

            The fundamental question here is of conflict of interest. As Ambassador Bolton put it on Friday, "If you have a situation where a government is providing a housing subsidy, or some other form of subsidy, you have to ask how independent that person is," referring to the UN official receiving the outside subsidy.

   While some observers now predict that such subsidies may finally be prohibited going forward, despite the UN spokesman's admission that they take place today, that would not clear the taint of past and recent conflict of interest. What senior UN officials may have received housing subsidies from governments while acting on their issues? Inquiring minds want to know, and will continue to pursue.

            Friday evening at the UN a senior Western diplomat, asking to be described as such due to administrative rules, boldly offered a defense of housing subsidies. "To get the top people as Under Secretary Generals, they can't live in Manhattan in the style they're accustomed to. So if their governments help them, and it's against the rules, isn't that just a creative way around red tape?" While not agreeing, Inner City Press asked the shy or constrained diplomat what possible objection there could be to the disclosure of the names and specifics of senior UN officials who have been receiving free or cut-rate housing from governments. It was agreed that no reason exists, and that the names should be disclosed. And so questions will continue.

Linked Items on Burma / Myanmar, Uzbekistan and the Congo

            Other pursuits on a relatively slow Friday at UN headquarters included the announcement that the incoming Security Council president has received an American request that Myanmar f/k/a Burma be put on the Council's agenda, as a threat to international peace and security. Asked by Inner City Press to summarize the threat, Amb. Bolton listed drug trafficking, military policies, outgoing refugee flows and violations of human rights whose consequences have international implications. Video here, from Minute 5:35.

            The last two, rights violations leads to refugee issues, apply at least as much to Uzbekistan. Regional news is full of controversies about the return or non-return to Uzbekistan of political dissidents and anyone accused of involvement in the events at Andijan in May 2005. The Uzbekistan government of Islam Karimov and his daughter Gulnora Karimova, active in telecommunications, have managed to block Internet access from within Uzbekistan to outside news sources which raise these issues.

            Friday Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman why the United Nations Development Agency is bragging about providing free / open source software information to Uzbek government officials, and whether UNDP will use its increasingly closeness with the Karimov regime, which UNDP helps to collect taxes, to urge reforms and an end, for example, to torture of dissidents. "I am not aware of the program," Mr. Dujarric said. Video here, from Minute 14:35. No response has yet been provided to Monday's question about UNDP accepting funds from Shell Petroleum to compile and release a study about human development in the Niger Delta.

            In the eastern Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, aid workers have fled a refugee camp of 40,000 internally displaced person in Gedi and have been quoted that the UN's MONUC is nowhere to be found. Friday Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman about this. Stephane Dujarric said, "Obviously MONUC is continuing to patrol... there is no question." But the militias listed as surrounding and attacking the IDP camp are among those MONUC previously bragged about disarming. Inner City Press asked, "Does MONUC give you all news, or only good news?" Mr. Dujarric noted that he has also made announcements about the kidnapping and death of peacekeepers, and about UN sexual abuse. So there. More on which anon, after the Day of Labor.

Security Council President Condemns UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments, While UK "Doesn't Do It Any More"

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- "Give me a break." That was the response of the permanent representative of Ghana Nana Effah-Apenteng to the UN Secretariat's argument that free housing provided by a government to a UN employee is not remuneration or a gift and is therefore allowed.

   "That's problematic," Ambassador Effah-Apenteng told Inner City Press on the last day of his month as president of the Security Council. "You're supposed to be an international civil servant, you're supposed to have neutrality and loyalty to the organization. I don't think it's good."

    The Security Council president's statement came less than a day after Kofi Annan's spokesman conceded, "I'm not saying there are not people that do get some benefits and have declared them, because there are... These are issues that are being discussed."

    Thursday Inner City Press asked officials at the United Kingdom mission to disclose as quickly as possible whether the UK pays or has paid housing subsidies, including but not limited to the just-previous Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, about whom Inner City Press specifically inquired by name.

            At 4:58 p.m. Thursday, two minutes before 5 p.m. deadline, Inner City Press received a phone message from the UK Mission's Second Secretary Michael Hoare:

"Getting back to you on the housing question. You asked two questions. First, does the UK do it? The answer is, not anymore. The second was what do we think of it.  On that, Stephane [Dujarric]'s views will be crucial. It's a question for the Secretariat, really."

   Inner City Press immediately telephoned the number left by Mr. Hoare, but got only a voice mail box. Inner City Press left a message requesting clarification and amplification and response to the questions asked, as quickly as possible.

            Thursday Inner City Press was told by a U.S. diplomat, who for now asked to be identified as such, that in response to his mission's June 27 letter, "someone in the Secretariat created a draft response and sent it around. Some didn't like it didn't like it, this is not acceptable. So it's gone through another draft and we're still waiting for that response. There is a debate within the secretariat right now as to how forceful do they need to be. There are now a lot of people watching this story."

            Kofi Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked, at his noon briefing on Thursday, whether and when the Secretariat will publicly disclose the names of UN officials accepting free or cut-rate housing from their governments. Mr. Dujarric did not answer the question directly, saying rather that

"This issue is being looked at through the financial disclosure form and those are being reviewed by the Ethics Office. I'll see if I can get you anything more."

Follow-up: Since the financial disclosure form is only for employees at level D1 and above, and since yesterday you told me that housing subsidies from governments to UN employees are fine as long as they are disclosed, where to employees below the D1 level disclose to?

Mr. Dujarric: They are meant to disclose to the office of human resources.

Video here at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060831.rm, from Minute 12:25.

   Another question that needs to be asked and answered: You said yesterday that the UN does not consider a housing subsidy is a "gift, favor or remuneration."  By that logic, would it be OK for a staff member to receive subsidized housing from a vendor?  Staff Regulation 1.2(L) prohibits acceptance of any "favour, gift or remuneration from any non-governmental source."  It would appear that the Secretariat is saying that since a housing subsidy is not a "favor, gift or remuneration," it would not be covered by Staff Regulation 1.2(L).  Please clarify, and square with statement on procurement reform.

            More fundamentally, while Kofi Annan's spokesman said Thursday that the issue of governmental housing subsidies to UN employee, which he acknowledges is taking place is being looked at through the financial disclosure form," the UN's Financial Disclosure Form states that

"Acceptance of residential housing provided directly to a staff member by any Government or related institution, either free of charge or at rates substantially lower than the market rents used in calculating the post-adjustment index for the duty station, is prohibited except as may be expressly authorized by the Secretary-General."

   Given the Secretary-General's spokesman's admission to Inner City Press that "I'm not saying there are not people that do get some benefits and have declared them, because there are," it would appear that the Secretary-General has "expressly authorized" housing subsidies by governmental to UN employees, a practice that is not only counter to the UN Charter's Article 100.1 but which the president of the UN's Security Council has denounced as a conflict of interest, "problematic" and plain "bad."

            A U.S. official told Inner City Press Thursday, about Wednesday's report on the Secretariat's position on the issue, "They just don't get it. If governments are allowed to buy loyalty, is that individual loyal to the government or the United Nations? It's not just a matter of deducting or disclosing." And the so-called disclosures, whether to Human Resources or the financial disclosure and declaration of interest forms, are to date not made public. When the U.S. mission receives the re-drafted response, will it move to release the information?  Developing. 

* * *

            At the Security Council stakeout on Thursday, the Darfur resolution votes were discussed and spun by the  U.S. and UK. While China abstained, along with Russia and Qatar, Ambassador Wang did not come to the mike. His spokesman Yan Jarong was back from vacation, and took the time to praise Inner City Press. Asked if her mission has a list serv, she said no, they have only two people. These are the big leagues, she was reminding, and China's a big country.

    Inner City Press asked UK Deputy Ambassador Karen Pierce about the UK's position on amnesty for the Lord's Resistance Army's officials including Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti. "We are strong supports of the ICC," she said. Asked about Amb. Jones Parry's statement Tuesday that the UK is working on a resolution concerning developments in Somalia, the Dep Amb said very little. Video here. Subsequently a staffer of her mission provided somewhat more information, while using the word "background." Given previous lack of clarity from this mission concerning how the information it provides can be used, reporting will have to wait. As will analysis of the short IAEA report and another Secretariat statement at Thursday's noon briefing, including in light of a UN Headquarters evacuation at or expediting deadline.

  After deadline an end-of-month reception was held on the fourth floor. Canapes floated through, among Ambassadors from Churkin to Bolton to Mayoral and more. There was discussion of Don King, there was salmon on potato cakes. The prediction for Friday was primarily silence, with no Council meeting. Across the world wars simmer, and in New York it grows colder by the day. Outside the East River flows, or rather moves back and forth. And so it is within.

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 (updated Aug. 25, 5 pm) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has let eight weeks pass without responding to a request for information about senior UN officials receiving housing subsidies from their country of nationality, it emerged on Thursday.  Former Deputy Secretary Louise Frechette was asked if she received such subsidies and said no, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Despite a specific request from Inner City Press at 5 p.m. Thursday for a similar response from Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of UN peacekeeping, five hours later by 10 p.m. deadline no response was received. Deputy UN peacekeeping spokesman Hernan Vales said that since Mr. Guehenno is out of the country, no response will be possible until next week.

            High-placed sources within UN Headquarters showed Inner City Press a copy of a letter from U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, dated June 27, 2006, to Secretary-General. Kofi Annan. The letter asked Mr. Annan for information about UN officials who receive housing subsidies from their countries of nationality in contravention of their duties, under Article 100.1 of the UN Charter, to "refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization" of the UN.

            One week ago, Inner City Press asked the deputy spokesman of the U.S. Mission, Benjamin Chang, if any response to the letter, whose existence had yet to be publicly disclosed, had been received. Inner City Press also asked if the U.S. Mission was aware if the Secretary-General has filed his required financial disclosure.  While the latter question has yet to be answered, Mr. Chang stated that while he was unaware of Ambassador Bolton's letter he would check.

            Late on the afternoon of August 24, the lead spokesman of the U.S. Mission Richard A. Grenell called Inner City Press offering to fax a copy of John Bolton's letter. His office told Inner City Press that no response has been received, eight weeks after the letter was sent to Kofi Annan.

            Inner City Press then immediately provided a copy of the letter to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, and asked if and why not response had been provided, and for responses specifically on Louise Frechette and Jean-Marie Guehenno. These two individuals were named to Inner City Press by the sources who first showed glimpses of the letter.

            Mr. Dujarric responded, as to Canadian Ms. Frechette, that "I asked her and she said no."  As to Jean-Marie Guehenno, Annan's spokesman's office did not provide a denial, nor any other response for the following five hours.

            On August 22, at the UN's formal noon press conference, Inner City Press had inquired into the location and activities of Mr. Guehenno, whose deputy Hedi Annabi had been conducting the UN peacekeeping work of meeting with potential troop contributors to the UN's Lebanon force. The spokesman said that Mr. "Guehenno is in France on personal business." Video here, from Minute 42:23.

            In the spirit of disclosure, Inner City Press has previously interviewed Jean-Marie Guehenno concerning this year's loss of focus, at least in Africa,on peacekeeping and concerning the offer of a colonel's position in the Congolese Army to Peter Karim, whose militia took hostage seven UN peacekeepers earlier until early last month. Mr. Guehenno, who had previously told Inner City Press that Peter Karim "is on drugs," more recently explained the negotiations as solved because the hostage takers "just wanted jobs." Mr. Guehenno also responded to questions about the UN's Congo Mission's self-exoneration regarding reported abuse at Kazana in Eastern Congo by saying the report was still being considered, a statement yet to be followed up. Video here, Minutes 23:50 to 30:30.

            Thursday afternoon, less than an hour after the U.S. Mission provided a copy of John Bolton's letter, Inner City Press sought out lead UN Peacekeeping spokesman Nick Birnback but was told that he is out until August 29. Deputy spokesman for peacekeeping Hernan Vales said that "all of these issues are personal and confidential" and are "not really work related."

            As Inner City Press, and the letter, pointed out to Mr. Vales, the UN's bulletin on financial disclosure and declaration of interest statements, Document ST/SGB/2006/6, requires the disclosure of "any form of supplement, direct or indirect, to the United Nations emoluments, including provisions of housing or subsidized housing or any... benefit, remuneration or in kind contribution from any government, governmental agency or other non United Nations source aggregating $250 or more...".  Article 100.1 of the UN Charter requires that Secretariat staff "refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization" of the UN.

            Asked to respond to this logic, that senior UN official need to have their allegiance be, and to seen to be, only to the UN, and not their country of nationality, Mr. Vales asked Inner City Press to hold off publishing this story. When Mr. Vales then said that no response would be possible until next week, Inner City Press decided to wait four more hours for any written responses, and then publish.

Update of August 25, 5 p.m. -- Just prior to the UN noon press briefing on Friday, Kofi Annan's spokesman called Inner City Press aside and said, "I have answers for you, if you'll wait until after the briefing."

 "What are the answers?"

  "We're aware of the letter and we're responding to it. These are obviously issues we are looking at through the financial disclosures."

  The spokesman issued an off-the-record, then subsequently on-the-record, denial as to Jean-Marie Guehenno. On other issues he has promised to response, or revert as is often said in UN-land. Developing.

 For or with more information: editorial [at] innercitypress.com

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

           

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- Across from UN on Manhattan's East Side on Tuesday there was a protest of the use of Agent Orange in Southeast Asia. A manufacturer and distributor of Agent Orange, Dow Chemical, was celebrated at UN Headquarters less than a month ago, in a luncheon addressed by Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown and Mr. Amir A. Dossal, the head of the UN Foundation for International Partnerships. Inner City Press covered and questioned the luncheon on July 25, inquiring into how the UN screens and even tries to reform the corporations with which it interacts.

     Tuesday at a noon press conference Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked this question, and he said that "it's clear that the Secretary-General has made an effort to reach out to transnational corporations, who have a role to play in the world we live in." Asked by Inner City Press how the UN's "bully pulpit" is used to improve these corporations, the spokesman said that's what the Global Compact is for.  Video at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060822.rm, Minutes 21:10 to 23:15.

            Later on Tuesday the spokesman's office sent Inner City Press a copy of Dow Chemical's May 25, 2006 letter to Kofi Annan, asking him to attend the luncheon at that time two months out. The luncheon and the partnership with the UN are presented as fait accompli. Only the luncheon's date is in question, to accommodate the Secretary-General's schedule. As it turned out, due to intervening world events, Mr. Malloch Brown attended in Kofi Annan's stead. At the luncheon, the Deputy Secretary General said of Dow, "we endorse it."

   Since the May 25 letter does not refer to any review of Dow Chemical's record, or any discussions for example with Amnesty International, which is on record questioning Dow's ethics, the question of question of oversight and safeguards remains unanswered. Email inquiries on Tuesday resulted in a call back from Mr. Dossal's office in New York, saying that he is in London but would call at or just after 5 p.m.. 6 p.m. his office called to say Mr. Dossal had dictated an email, which subsequently arrived. Given the proximity between its receipt and deadline, it is presented in full without comment:

From: dossal [at] un.org

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Cc: OSSG, ODSG

Sent: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 6:02 PM

Subject: Re: Request for your comment on 7/25/06 Dow Chemical lunch, in light of today's Agent Orange protest on 1st Avenue

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you very much for the follow-up regarding the Dow/Blue Planet Run event.  I am currently out of the country, but I wanted to provide you with some background information below. As you may know, over 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean water.  Dow Chemical is part of a global water challenge to work on raising our awareness and mobilizing new resources to bring safe drinking water to people in developing countries.  The CEO of Dow is personally committed to this effort, working with the Blue Planet Run Foundation.  The intention is to attract new funders who will contribute towards the achievement of this pressing Millennium Development Goal.

As you might be aware, it has been this Secretary-General's stated commitment to engage all actors, especially to harness the leadership of companies, foundations and NGOs to find creative solutions in addressing problems in the developing world. We feel that encouraging Dow Chemical and other multi-nationals to support the MDGs will make them more sensitive and more aware of their responsibility to be good corporate citizens.  FYI, the Global Water Challenge includes a number of companies and foundations, including the UN Foundation, and NGOs, who are committed to finding solutions. I hope this information is helpful.

Amir A. Dossal, Executive Director

UN Office for International Partnerships

http://www.un.org/unfip/

http://www.un.org/democracyfund/

            For now, Inner City Press' previous description of the July 25 Dow luncheon is at http://www.innercitypress.com/unhq072506.html with links to other perspectives on Dow Chemical's performance, not mentioned at the lunch or in the lead-up, it appears.

 

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 18 -- Along the beaches of southern Bangladesh, decaying and asbestos-filled ships no longer useful to the West are disassembled for scrap metal by Bangladeshi workers with little to no safety equipment, sometimes without even shoes.

            To address or obscure this potentially photogenic flashpoint of globalization, the UN Development Programme three years ago committed to fund a project ostensibly improving the treatment of ship-breaking workers in Bangladesh. There have been allegations, however, of waste and over-paid consultants, about which Inner City Press has asked UNDP, see below.

   The UN's relations with Bangladesh are hardly one-way. Earlier this week, Bangladesh offers 2000 of its soldiers, two mechanized divisions, to the UN Lebanon mission called UNIFIL. Bangladesh's is the largest commitment to date.

            To get response from UNDP, Inner City Press forwarded to Dhaka this quote from ship-breaker Zafar Alam, about UNDP's use of funds: "We wanted them to spend the money on training, development of sanitation, building a hospital, buying ambulances and installation of tube-wells but they never bothered to listen to us. Instead, they spent more than Tk 4 crore on consultancy, foreign trips, well-furnished offices, vehicles and conferences in expensive hotels."

            In a two-page response sent to Inner City Press, UNDP's Najmus Sahar sadiq disclosed the following budget:

"The Safe and Environment Friendly Ship Recycling Project has a total budget of Taka 8 crore. This amount includes also salaries of project staff for the period of 2003-2007. Out of this budget, the following expenditures have been made (all amounts are in Bangladesh Taka):

Consultancy: 8 lakh taka;

Study tour: 18 lakh; a total of 11 persons went on the study tour, two representatives from BSBA (yard owners) and two worker representatives nominated through BSBA.

Office: 16 lakh for renovation; office space has been provided by the Government.

Vehicles: 30 lakh; one car and one motor cycle.

Training: so far 6 lakh, totally planned around 30 lakh

Baseline Survey: 12 lakh."

            As simply one example, this UNDP project has spent five times less on training, one of the stated substantive goals, than on vehicles, and only aspires to equal with training its vehicle spending.  These same issues surfaced in Inner City Press' inquiry earlier this year into UNDP's controversy-plagued and still-suspended disarmament programs in Eastern Uganda's Karamoja region. UNDP-Bangladesh's non-budgetary response included that it is

"not in the project’s mandate to provide facilities such as sanitation and tube wells as mentioned by Zafar Alam... The infrastructural changes involve a far higher investment for which the 3-year budget provided for the project is far from capable of covering. A total of 13 staff is involved in setting up a method of reaching out to 20,000 to 30,000 often illiterate workers. The difficulty of developing a method by which safer working habits can be taught to these persons is never to be taken lightly. To be able to reach out to them it was essential to 67find out how the ship yard workers are actually carrying out their respective jobs. For this a thorough baseline survey was held...developing a one-day training programme for all yard-nominated workers where all aspects of unsafe and occupational health matters can be addressed. The sessions are now being held, and to date (1st August) we have been able to provide training to close to 900 persons...Another aspect with which this project will deal is to raise awareness regarding international concern over the way in which ships are demolished here in Bangladesh, as well as inform the important stakeholders about the international guidelines that have been developed by ILO, IMO and Basel Convention (UNEP)."

            A recent visit to the UNEP / Basel convention web site find a notice that "The Treaty Section of the United Nations web site is now a pay site, to subscribe, please e-mail your request to treaty [at] un.org." One wonders how many ship-breaking workers in Bangladesh can or would pay to subscribe to get information about the Basel Conventional (UNEP).  At another UN level, Friday at the Security Council stakeout a UN guard from Pakistan, on the topic of ship-breaking, said that those who make the money should devote more of it to worker safety.

            Ship-breaking, considered too dangerous and polluting to be performed in Europe or the United States, and now even in South Korea and Taiwan where the industry first moved, is concentrated in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Lloyd's List of August 14, 2006, reported for example that

"Bangladeshi recyclers walked away with the two best deals of the week, picking up two tankers, Ocean Tankers' 88,396 dwt, 1979 Ocean Star and the Prisco-controlled, 17,725 dwt, 1977 Kamensk-Uralskiy. Chittagong operators revealed they were willing to dig deep when the tonnage was exactly what they desired and forked out $385 per ldt for the 18,592 ldt of the Ocean Star and $382 per ldt for the 7,445 ldt of the Prisco vessel. These were offers which could not be matched by their competitors. Ocean Star happened to be the fifth in a series of sister vessels sold to Bangladesh and GMS reported that the swift decision-taking ability of that country's scrappers allowed the deal to be concluded in less than 24 hours. Unidentified buyers picked up the 53,439 dwt, 1973 Spain-built bulk carrier Peng Yang, whose 10.561 ldt were sold on 'as is China region' basis for $315per ldt."

     The flow of junk ships is slated to increase, with the replacement by 2010 of one layer hull oil tankers. Recent reporting about the scrapping of the old SS France ocean liner shows the economics of ship-breaking. The SS France, since renamed SS Norway and then at last the Blue Lady, is worth some $12 million as scrap, which is less than it would cost to remove the asbestos if one followed European environmental laws.  So tow it to Alang beach in India's Gujurat, and let the ship-breaking begin. Then to fend off controversy, as a band aid on a cancer, fund a few consultant in brand new cars.

            A more fundamental approach may be needed.  For now, this analysis is provided, from a Georgetown law review:

"The towing of old rusted vessels contaminated with hazardous wastes across the Atlantic Ocean may fall within one of the prohibited acts set out in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea...Article 19 states that a 'passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in . . . any act of willful and serious pollution contrary to [the] Convention.' United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, opened for signature Dec. 10, 1982, art. 19, 1833 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force Nov. 16, 1994)."

While the UN's Bangladesh account may not balance, the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea may be of use.

Disclosure: Georgetown Law School's Institute for Public Representation has provided legal help to Inner City Press, most recently in overturning Delaware's citizen-only Freedom of Information Act, 3d Circuit Court of Appeals decision here, also in NY Times of August 17, 2006, Page C7, and here.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 16 -- With the Horn of Africa teetering on the brink of a region-wide war, the widely reported incursion of Ethiopian troops into Somalia is either too inconvenient, too controversial or too unimportant to be inquired into by the United Nations. Kofi Annan’s envoy for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, came to New York on Wednesday to brief the Security Council and then the UN press corps. In response to one of five questions from Inner City Press, Francois Lonseny Fall said that during the morning’s Security Council consultations, the issue of Ethiopian troops in Somalia "didn't come up." He added that no member of the Security Council asked about the issue. Video is at http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/pressbriefing/brief060816.rm

            In two interviews Wednesday with Inner City Press, Ghana's ambassador who is the president of the Security Council emphasized that Ethiopia is not the only state violating the Somalia arms embargo. While true, that does not explain why the UN cannot or will not address or even inquire into the issue of the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

            Francois Lonseny Fall acknowledged that the UN has staff in Baidoa, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government where numerous eye witnesses and journalists have spotted Ethiopian troops. He insisted however, that his "office has no monitoring capability on the ground to confirm these reports."

            Separately, Inner City Press Wednesday asked the UN's humanitarian arm, OCHA, for a read-out on its assessment mission to Somalia earlier this month. A spokeswoman for OCHA confirmed the mission, saying it was the first UN airplane to land in Mogadishu in fourteen years. Asked if assessment mission have been made to Baidoa she said yes, some months ago.

            In May, the UN issued a report naming as violators of the Somalia arms embargo six countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen, Italy and Saudi Arabia. Eritrea and Ethiopia are engaged in a border dispute for which Somalia threatens to become a second front. Since Eritrea has tried to tell the UN which nationalities must be excluded from its UNMEE peacekeeping force, some wonder if that is not a partial explanation of the UN's seeming siding with Ethiopia, or equating Ethiopia's incursion with troops to Eritrea's reported delivery of weapons, into Mogadishu airport.

            On factual matters, Francois Lonseny Fall confirmed the defection of soldiers from the TFG to the Islamic Courts, last month and as recently as yesterday. Nevertheless he said he supports lifting the arms embargo against the TFG.  Who would use the weapons, one wag was heard to wonder: mercenaries? He also confirmed the opening of an Islamic court in Puntland, an area that has claimed independence and has endeavored to sell its mineral rights to Australia-based Range Resources, Ltd.

            Inner City Press asked for a response to the theory that the UN is so committed to the Transitional Federal Government that it is turning a blind eye to violations of the arms embargo on Somalia. Francois Lonseny Fall replied that it is not only the UN that supports the TFG, but also "others in the international community." This is not, he said, a green light for meddling in Somalia. But to many, it seems like a green light has been given.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

  UNITED NATIONS, August 14 -- Two UN agencies last week denounced the return of four refugees to Uzbekistan from the neighboring Kyrgyz Republic, in light of the Karimov regime's persecution and torture of political opponents.

  At precisely the same time the chief of the UN Development Programme in Uzbekistan, Fikrek Okcura, expressed gratitude for being able to train the Uzbek legislature. Monday Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked by Inner City Press to explain his position on Uzbekistan's Karimov regime: practitioner of torture and persecution as stated by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, or government to be helped collect taxes, as practiced by UNDP?

            The spokesman replied that "on the return of refugees to face grave danger of torture, the Secretary-General wholeheartedly agrees with what Louise Arbour said last week." Video here, at Minute 24.

            What Ms. Arbour said on August 10 was that Uzbekistan is a country "where there are substantial grounds to believe that [returning refugees and asylum seekers] would face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture." Ms. Arbour also called "upon the authorities of the Uzbek Republic to treat those extradited in accordance with its human rights obligations."

            In response, the Uzbek government has accused the UN itself of having violated the law, and of being "used as the cover of forces of international terrorism."

            As if in a parallel universe, the same pro-Karimov website which on August 10 had the UN being "used as the cover of forces of international terrorism" on August 11 carried the quote of UNDP country representative Fikret Akcura, that "UNDP is very happy to support the Parliament, the highest legislative organ of state in the Republic of Uzbekistan."

            UNDP is also funding the Karimov regime's collection of taxes, Inner City Press' questions regarding which were responded to in writing:

"in Uzbekistan and most of the 140 developing nations where UNDP operates, UNDP works with government and civil society on a broad range of governance projects, including economic reforms, of which tax administration and fiscal policy are a significant component. Other governance projects in Uzbekistan focus on gender equality, internet access, and public administration reform."

            On gender, Uzbekistan reported to the UN on August 10, on issues ranging from forced marriage to a unique definition of polygamy, limited to a man having two wives in the same home. On internet access, the Karimov regime blocks access to critical web sites. On public administration, one wonders if UNDP's programs in Uzbekistan might involve technical assistance on not putting political dissidents in boiling water, as the U.K.'s former ambassador in Tashkent has testified takes place.

            But the above email response, and another below from Fikrek Okcura, are more than Uzbek citizens get. The Karimov regime blocks access to critical websites, and is in the process of expelling from the country such elsewhere-uncontroversial non-government organizations as Mercy Corps and Winrock International.

     If the UN system's contradictory messages in the face of Uzbekistan's repression are confusing to human rights observers, they are welcomed by the Karimov regime. On August 10, the head of Karimov's National Human Rights Centre, Akmal Saidov, presented the country's report under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW. He stated without irony that Uzbekistan "has a good relationship with the High Commissioner on Human Rights." In Mr. Saidov's prepared testimony, he bragged that "nine specialized UN agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO, WB, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNODK, UNHCR underlines, I quote, 'Uzbekistan was more successful than most CIS countries in maintaining human development indicators, especially, from second half of 1990s.'"

            While Inner City Press has gotten explanations, such as they are, from UNDP and the World Bank, the other agencies have not spoken, and UNHCR in fact has indirectly criticized Uzbekistan in the context of repatriation of dissidents from Ukraine, the Kyrgyz Republic, but not yet the pending refoulements from Russia.

            During his presentation, Mr. Saidov acknowledged that the definition of polygamy under Uzbek law is limited to a man keeping two or more women in the same household.  One observer noted, for viewers of HBO's current series "Big Love," that arrangement would pass muster in Tashkent. Mr. Saidov's testimony included a "list of more than 40 books and brochures on gender issues which are displayed in this room... These informational materials have been prepared not only by government bodies but also non-governmental organizations."

            Among the publications brought by the Uzbek delegation was a 150-page book entitled "Women of Independent Uzbekistan (findings of a sociological survey) which concludes, "The political activity of Uzbekistan woman has a stable tendency to increase, caused by the realities of interdependence, which intensively assists in the development of personal potential, including the stimulating effects of public life." Unless, one notes, one is tortured in boiling water. There were also four glossy but untranslated pamphlets paid for by UNDP with the UN's blue logo on them.      

            Much of the question and answer in the CEDAW process never joined issue. For example, the CEDAW committee asked in writing about a report that "20 to 30 percent of the girls in the Kokand Detention Center are prostitutes."

            Uzbekistan responded that "Clients of prostitutes are no held criminally liable under Uzbek law... Where women are prosecuted for engaging in prosecution under article 190 of the Code on Administrative Responsibility, they may not be placed in detention, since that article does not provide for an administrative penalty involving deprivation of liberty." CEDAW / C / UZB/ Q/ 3 / Add.1 at page 20.

            So what are those held in Kokand Detention Centre in for? On the failure of the UN's CEDAW committee to ask about torture, one observer joked that as long as women are not boiled alive more frequently than men, there is no problem under CEDAW.

            More seriously, the UN system's contradictory approaches to Uzbekistan shows the conflict between trying to go-along-to-get-along versus a more forthright advocacy of the human rights standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conflict need not be this bleak. It is one thing to, for example, distribute condoms or provide humanitarian relief in a repressive state, on the theory that its residents shouldn't be abandoned due to their ruler's misdeeds. But to help the ruler collect taxes to boil his opponent alive is something different and unseemly.

            To in fairness present the position of those in the UN system who engage with the Karimov regime and banks in Uzbekistan, herebelow are two detailed explanations. Inner City Press earlier this year asked UNDP's Fikret Akcura how he could publicly praised the Karimov regime despite its torture and expulsion of UNHCR. Mr. Akcura responded at some length:

From: Fikret Akcura

To: Matthew.Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com

Sent: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 19:00:44 +0500 (Ekaterinburg Standard Time)

Subject: Re: Question re your 4/11 statement re Uzbek progress toward MDGs, relation to expulsion of UNHCR, etc.

Dear Mr. Lee,

Yes, strictly speaking, the MDGs do not include the good governance dimension. I guess this was by design in order to reach consensus and be able to hold the Millennium Summit in September 2000. Otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult to agree to a set of goals so clearly described. For many of the MDGs, Uzbekistan is indeed in a good position if one considers that this is a country with no more than $500 per capita. For an as-if least developed country, the absence of hunger, the equal access to schooling for boys and girls, a literacy rate around 97%, the relatively wide availability of electricity & gas & water, wide availability of primary health care are all very impressive indeed. If we compared the MDG indicators of Uzbekistan with those of many African and Asian countries of similar GDP per capita, the favorable situation in this country becomes most evident. Much of this owes to the Soviet infrastructure inherited by the CIS countries. However, the dislocations of transition has made it very difficult for them to maintain let alone build on that inheritance. In the case of environmental indicators, we should mention the terrible legacy that was also inherited - such as the Aral Sea disaster that affects both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan deeply. Another disadvantage for these countries is the base year of MDGs (1990) which coincides with the breakup of the USSR and their involuntary birth. As a result, they faced many problems that detracted from moving steadily up to better indicators by the MDG target year of 2015. A byproduct of the slower transition path taken by Uzbekistan is reflected in the better MDG performance compared to some of the faster reformers. However, MDGs have to be fed by sustained high economic growth and the faster reformers may start showing higher MDG returns soon. The international community is formulating a PRSP process with the Government in order to ensure steady reforms, sustained economic growth and the meeting of the MDGs by 2015. I hope the above is somewhat helpful to your article. I am sorry I could not respond more broadly or earlier - I was busy with arranging for UNDP's take over of UNHCR's work with the almost 1,800 refugees who will be looked after by UNDP once UNHCR closes on 17 April.

   But it was that incongruity -- UNDP praise while UNHCR is being thrown out of the country that led to the initial inquiry. Inner City Press said there would be further questions, and there have been. The World Bank's International Financial Corporation, another part of the UN system, recently approved a line of credit to a bank in Andijan. Inner City Press asked why, and a week later was told:

From:  [Spokesperson at] ifc.org

To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 2:21 PM

Subject: Fw: Request for comment on WB's IFC's consideration of loan to Uzbek bank

Mr. Lee

Thank you very much for your inquiry, and for our subsequent chat on Monday. 

The proposed investment of up US$3 million in Hamkor Bank has passed board approval and is now pending commitment. This line of credit extended to Hamkor Bank will allow it to broaden its funding base and support the extension of its lending operations to small and medium sized enterprises, (SMEs). Hamkorbank is the largest privately owned bank in Uzbekistan, headquartered in Andijon, one of the poorest and mostly densely populated areas in the country. Hamkor focuses its activities on supporting private sector micro and SME borrowers, particularly in those in the rural areas, and supporting those with limited access to finance.

IFC has worked with Hamkor Bank for over 4 years, providing credit for on- lending to small private sector borrowers as well as providing technical assistance to the bank to improve its corporate governance including management and operational structure, so that it can more effectively compete with the large,and mainly state owned banks in the country. We believe that IFC support for a private sector institution in Uzbekistan, such as Hamkor Bank, helps create stronger 'best practice' institutions that can serve as benchmarks for other financial institutions in the country, while at the same time providing much needed financing for private sector enterprises in the country. This we believe is another way to create both jobs and income for the people of Uzbekistan.

With a population of 26 million, Uzbekistan is one of the poorest countries in the Central Asia  region. In 2004, the gross national income per capita was estimated at US$460 and close to 46 percent of the population live on less than US$2 per day. ( Click here for more country data). Further, the Uzbek economy as a whole is still largely government-controlled with minimal private sector participation. Larger government-backed businesses 'crowd- out' private sector when competing for scarce long-term resources and in addition, banks in Uzbekistan have traditionally only lent to businesses backed by the government, despite better repayment record of private sector entities.

            This expansive if evasive response is at least better than UNDP's two-line, two weeks-late response to the tax collection question sent to lead UNDP spokesman William Orme. UNDP country representative Fikret Okcura, who previously answered Inner City Press' emailed questions in full paragraphs, did not response to the tax collection question. Like the Karimov regime, perhaps, UNDP hopes to weather the storm, the wait-out the period of scrutiny which if the past is any guide will be ended by another crisis, somewhere else, leaving Karimov still torturing in power, and UNDP and now to a lesser degree the World Bank cravenly supporting his regime, with tax collection help and loans. And so, for now, it goes.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, August 9 -- Africa is or should be able to solve its own problems, Ghana's Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Wednesday in New York. Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, currently in The Hague on charges of war crimes, should have been tried in Africa, according to Minister Nana, who noted that "it would be anomalous for Milosevic to have been tried in Freetown." He added that the indictments by the Hague-based International Criminal Court of the top five officials of the Lord's Resistance Army rebels from Uganda should be put on hold pending peace and amnesty talks being held in Juba in South Sudan between the LRA and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni government.

              Ghana, which holds the presidency of the UN Security Council this month, had scheduled a full day open session on West Africa peace consolidation.   Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana began by noting that while "events in the Middle East are important, there are other important events in other parts of the world. I think it is just as well that a balance is established to show that the concerns of humanity are not just focused on one region but focused on all parts of the world that need consideration and discussion."

            In responding to seven questions from Inner City Press at the conclusion of the afternoon session, ranging from Ivory Coast through Liberia to Uganda and Zimbabwe, Minister Nana sketched out an Afro-centric vision of justice and "peace on the Continent."  He expressed hope that diplomatic relations between the world community, specifically the United Kingdom, and the Robert Mugabe government in Zimbabwe can be improved.

            Responding to concerns that Mr. Mugabe's appointed mediator and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa is too close to Mugabe to be seen as independent, and that Kofi Annan erred in deferring to Mr. Mkapa, Minister Nana said, "I prefer to wait and see." He responded similarly when asked about the peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army. "Talks for peace? That has to be good, right? We must wait to see what happens."

            Thursday Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked by Inner City Press to respond to these "wait and see" views. At the televised noon briefing, the spokesman said that the indictments are for the ICC to comment on, but that "the Secretary-General and the UN system do not condone impunity." He stated that countries which are signatories to the ICC's Rome Statute, which included Uganda, must arrest and turn over indictees to the ICC in The Hague. More generally, he stated that "each post-war situation calls for a different solution, drawn up by governments themselves."  This appears to apply to the UN's silence on the offer of a colonel's position in the Congolese army to Peter Karim, who took seven UN peacekeepers hostage for over forty days. The spokesman closed with a reference to the UN's new Peacebuilding Commission, which is focused in part on Burundi.

            Turning to The Hague, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno-Ocampo has repeatedly reminded Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where LRA leaders Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti are reportedly staying, of their duties to enforce the ICC's arrest warrants for both men and three other LRA leaders. From Wednesday's statements by Ghanaian minister Nana, it appears clear that Ghana, or its foreign minister at least, has doubts about the indictments. In the sphere of lobbying, some have begun to call for the ICC "to employ Article 53(4) of the Rome Statute, under which the Prosecutor can reconsider a decision at any time based on new facts or information.'"

            Of Charles Taylor, Minister Nana complained that too many "are talking as if he has already been convicted."

            In a separate interview Tuesday with the United Kingdom's permanent representative to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry, Inner City Press inquired into reports that the UK is promoting a draft security council resolution to allow the use of force and crossing of borders into the Congo to pursue the LRA and its leadership. Ambassador Jones Parry confirmed that the UK is drafting such a resolution.

            On another matter before the Security Council, the request to remove the sanction on the trade in Liberian diamonds, Minister Nana noted that ECOWAS has called for a lifting of all sanctions with economic impacts, by implication including the diamond sanctions. Mr. Nana said, " if as we see a responsible and accountable government is beginning to put its feet down in Monrovia, there's every reason to assist that process by enabling them to have access to more and more money to do the work they need to do to consolidate peace in their country."

            The Security Council is also actively seized of the situation in Ivory Coast in the run-up to the elections now scheduled for October 31. Inner City Press asked Minister Nana if he expects that deadline to be met. Mr. Nana responded that "increasingly most of us have recognized that may not be feasible," but that the need to maintain momentum should "guide all actors in the Ivorian drama." Asked to respond to Laurent Gbagbo's recent statement that he will remain in power even if elections are further delayed, Minister Nana said he is "not in a position to comment on the Constitutional propriety either way."

            During Wednesday's open Council session, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke of the competing needs for reconciliation and for strengthening the rule of law. Wednesday Inner City Press asked Mr. Annan's spokesman to prioritize these two. The spokesman's response noted that "the Secretary-General and the UN system do not condone impunity" and that "justice must be served without delay." In the tinted glass building on Manhattan's East River bank, the statements are straight-forward. Out in zones of conflict, particularly out of the media's spotlight like the deal in East Congo with Peter Karim, the messages get lost. Nor, some note, has peace as yet resulted.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 11 -- At the UN, as of 5:20 p.m., the fix was already in for a unanimous, vote on the new Franco-American resolution on Lebanon. French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere told reporters, "There's no enforcement," since it is not under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. "You have to trust," said Amb. de La Sabliere. But  a question left open is the definition of "offense military operations," which are to be ceased. This is explored below, following these micro-updates in reverse chronological order.

Update 9:35 p.m. -- As the Security Council meeting broke up, Condi Rice spoke without taking questions. The Ghanaian Foreign Minister stepped to the microphone and took questions. Inner City Press asked him if the phrase "cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations" might not be a loophole. He replied that it is his understanding of the resolution that it requires the cessation of ALL military operations.

  Later in the hallway, Israeli Amb. Gillerman was asked about the phrase, and he stated that everything Israel has done in Lebanon has been defensive.

  The loophole was known before the vote, and may only grow afterwards. 10-4.

Update of 8:55 p.m. -- As inside the Council chamber the speeches continue, at the stakeout French Foreign Minister Philippe Douzy-Blazy made four points, then headed down the hall. Merci for nothing, one journalist muttered. Russian Ambassador Churkin took questions on the side, from RT Russia Today. "I am just a poor diplomat in New York," he said. "Please don't ask me to write any dictionaries." Every electrical outlet at the stakeout was taken, and still the speeches continued...

Update of 8:10 p.m. -- the UK's Margaret Beckett, before "offering condolences" in view of the rapt Condoleeza to certain Palestinians, specifically condemned, without quoting, Iran's president's comments about Israel. She announced the Tony Blair will travel to the region. Her speech ended with a whimper, with the audience unclear what would come next. Time to get a punch line...

Update of 7:52 p.m. --  Following a speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, on whose website the most recent speech is from 2004, the Draft Resolution, 1701/2006, has been adopted unanimously, 15-0. And the post-vote speeches begin, the roster so far running Greece, UK, Denmark China, Slovakia, Russia and Argentina...

Update of 7:40 p.m. -- Condoleeza Rice at 7:28, prior to any vote, said that the Council, "with the passage of this resolution," puts in place "a full cessation of hostilities." She continued to 7:37, followed by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douzy-Blazy, speaking of a "sortie de crise," as had Ghana's Foreign Minister at the stakeout on Wednesday, click here to view and see below.

Update of 7:20 p.m. --The debate has begun, chaired by the Foreign Minister of Ghana, which holds the Security Council presidency this month. As Kofi Annan sings the praises of UNIFIL, even P5 Ambassadors are excluded from the table, in favor of their bosses, led by Condoleeza Rice (who, reporters snarked at the stakeout, had changed outfits and looked troublingly doll-like as she entered).

Update of 6:25 pm -- Photographers have been allowed in above the Council chamber, the stakeout has been searched by bomb smelling dogs. The full text of the draft resolution is now pasted below.

  On the lighter side, an Inner City Press stringer noted the Permanent Observer of Palestine stop Denmark's Ambassador, then kiss her on both cheeks. Inner City Press asked him, at the elevator, for the substance of the exchange. "I told her she deserves to enjoy a round of golf," he answered...

            A question left open is the definition of "offense military operations," which are to be ceased.  More specifically, OP1 of the new draft resolution "calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."  In what circumstances would Israel be entitled to deem its renewed military operations as "defensive"?

            Amb. de la Sabliere left the stakeout before this question could be asked, and Amb. Bolton took no questions at all, saying that Condoleeza Rice will explain the U.S. position. In the stakeout half-light at 4:45 p.m., Inner City Press asked one of Lebanon's counselors, who asked to remain unnamed, who defines "offensive military operations."

            "That's it," he replied. "We have a problem with OP1, because it would allow Israel to continue military operations. As long as Israel is in Lebanon, they are an occupying power, and Hizbollah has the right to oppose them. But OP1 prohibits Hizbollah from any attacks. We have a problem."

  As 5:10 p.m., television news reported increased Israel incursions. Yes there may be a problem...

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 4 -- As in the Congo vote counting continues, now with reports of the burning of ballots both used and unused, further information has emerged about the UN system's knowledge of the use of child soldiers by at least two militia leaders offered positions in the Congolese army. Earlier in the week, Kofi Annan's envoy to the Congo, William Lacy Swing, disclaimed his previously UN-reported "welcoming" of the entry into the army of Mathieu Ngudjolo of the Congolese Revolutionary or MRC.

            The UN's own June 13 report on children and armed conflict in the DR Congo alludes to the recruitment of child soldiers by the MRC. In an interview Friday, a well-placed UN official told Inner City Press that Mathieu Ngudjolo will be identified by name as a child soldier user in the follow up to the June 13 report, as will Peter Karim, who after holding seven UN peacekeepers hostage for over 40 days has been offered a colonel's position in the Congolese army. The follow up report name these two individuals will, Inner City Press has been told, be confidential, adding to the scope of impunity.

            Last week UN peacekeeping's Dmitry Titov answered Inner City Press' questions about Karim by saying that "justice will come, eventually." The official interviewed Friday similarly implied that as with Thomas Lubanga and Jean Pierre Biyoyo, respectively charged by the International Criminal Court and convicted by a Congolese military court in Bukavu, Ngudjolo and Karim might one day face justice. It is hard to believe that neither warlord brought up issues of amnesty during negotiations. No one yet has wanted to detail the specifics of the negotiations, particularly the degree of UN involvement. Developing.

Zimbabwe Fog, Laws of War Clarified, Tips in the Half-Light (on Lebanon)

            While Kofi Annan is on the island of Hispanola, at his spokesman's noon briefing Inner City Press again asked for the UN's and Mr. Annan's response to the hundreds of Zimbabwean protesters demanding UN action on the UN's report on Operation Murambatsvina or "Clean Out the Trash," in which the Mugabe government evicted at least 700,000 perceived political opponents. Rather than yesterday's cursory reference to Zimbabwe's sovereignty, on Friday UN spokesman Farhan Haq stated that Ben Mkapa, Mugabe's selected envoy, particularly to the UK, will be in charge of addressing and asking on Operation Murambatsvina as detailed in the UN report.  We'll see.

            Also at the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if the UN agrees with Israel that placing telephone calls to civilians before bombing the neighborhoods they live in brings the bombing in compliance with the laws of war.  After the briefing, the spokesman referred the press corps to a statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour that "while effective advance warning of attacks which may affect the civilian population must be given, this legal obligation does not absolve the parties to the conflict of their other obligations under international law regarding the protection of civilians" and "that international humanitarian law requires all parties to avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas."

            In the half-light of the Security Council stakeout at 2:50 p.m., the Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN called over Inner City Press. "Do you want a tip?" he said. Of course. He detailed a group of ambassadors, including from Sudan, Syria, Azerbaijan and Malaysia, slated now to meet with the Council president then with Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown at 5 p.m.. The spokesman's office, asked by Inner City Press, confirmed the meeting, which ambassadors say will concern more bombing of civilians, although reference to Azerbaijan's representative, for OIC, was not included. As another reporter noted, "the real action is at the U.S. mission."

            At 4 p.m., the president of the Security Council emerged. He apologized for not summarizing the meeting, saying he feels a need to tell the other Council members before telling the press. He mentioned he lived in Westchester and Inner City Press asked, where? New Rochelle. Do you go to New Roc City? With a look of surprise he said yes, "I am a New York boy." More substantively, and full circle for this report, he answered Inner City Press' question about the burning of ballots in Congo by saying he hope for another briefing next week. We'll see.

In the UN's basement on Wednesday, a documentary was screened about a 90-year old survivor of the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who after the film took questions, remarkable lucidly and insightfully. Inner City Press asked about the North Korean missile tests and subsequent torturously negotiated Security Council resolution. Mr. Yamaguchi was aware of the missile that flew toward Japan and also Hawaii; he closed his eyes and said in both English and Japanese, "No more Hiroshimas!" And no Nagasakis either...

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, July 28, 4 p.m. -- Two days before the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN hastily issued a six-paragraph statement that allegations of abuse and negligence by UN asserting that allegations of abuse and complicity by its mission in the DRC "have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue."

   Hours before this exoneration was given to reporters, the day's New York Times appeared with an op-ed by the television journalist who had filmed the underlying events and their aftermath in Kazana village in April. He wrote that "United Nations investigators never asked to see the many hours of footage we took."

            While the UN's Kofi Annan attended a Security Council briefing on Lebanon, his spokeswoman Marie Okabe was asked by Inner City Press about the op-ed. Video here. On June 19 and July 18, Inner City Press had also asked about the UN's investigation of events at Kazana, and on July 26 Inner City Press asked the UN's head of peacekeeping in Africa Dmitry Titov about the status of the investigation.  Mr. Titov called the investigation "ongoing," and added that "we are interested... to come out of this as clean as we can."

            Less than 48 hours after Mr. Titov's statement about the ongoing investigation, the investigation was ostensibly concluded, and all allegations deemed "untrue."

 The UN's one-page statement, provided to Inner City Press full of typographical errors andnot even on letterhead, states that "fighting against militiamen is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the recent death of a Nepalese Blue Helmet in a 28 in operation" [sic; full MONUC statement is below].

            The referenced UN peacekeeper from Nepal was killed on May 28, when East Congo militiaman Peter Karim took hostage seven other UN peacekeepers. Earlier this month after negotiations involving Peter Karim and the UN, the peacekeepers were released and Mr. Karim was offered the post of colonel in the Congolese Army. After initial waffling by the UN spokesman's office, Dmitry Titov on July 26 acknowledged that the offer of "a post" to Peter Karim was "as a result of the deal" to release the UN peacekeepers.

            Kofi Annan took questions from the press on Friday afternoon. Inner City Press asked about the hastily-issued exoneration of the Kazana allegations, without the UN having asked to see the underlying video, and about Peter Karim being offered a colonel's post in the Congolese army. Video here, at Minutes 16:45 through 18:18)

         "With these two as the backdrop, is the UN system so committed to the elections that it is issuing half-dash exonerations" and "why would Peter Karim, who you said would face personal accountability, be allowed into the Congolese army?"

         Mr. Annan answered, "I do not have details on the issues you've raised... I was not aware that Karim had been abducted, recruited into the Lebanese, Congolese army."

         "But Mr. Titov--"

         "Titov. But I am not aware of it. I will have to follow up."          

            But on Monday Mr. Annan was provided, in hand, a Reuters article describing the offer of a colonel position to Peter Karim. Inner City Press waited more than an hour outside a meeting between Mr. Annan and the chief executives of large pharmaceutical companies, endeavoring to ask Mr. Annan about Peter Karim. When Mr. Annan emerged, he said his mind was too full with the pharmaceutical and other issues, but he took the Reuters article, in the margin of which was written, "Personal accountability? May 30, 2006. Or impunity?"

            The May 30 reference was to Mr. Annan's answer, at another stakeout interview, to Inner City Press' question about the then just-kidnapped peacekeepers. Mr. Annan said

"we have been in touch with Karim's group – we think that is the group holding them, and demanding their release. And hopefully, we will get them released. But Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable... They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts."

            On the afternoon of July 28, two months later, Mr. Annan said: "I will have to follow up." We'll see.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

   UNITED NATIONS, July 18 -- The Congolese warlord who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers on May 28 and only released the last five of them on July 8 is now slated to become a colonel in the Congolese national army. The spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked Tuesday if this new post for Peter Karim played a part in the negotiations leading to the peacekeepers' release after forty days of captivity. The spokesman replied that "we did not try to have any conditions attached to their release. No ransom was paid... This happened afterwards." (Video here, Min. 26-28.)

        Written requests for comments on this news were sent Monday night to UN Under-Secretary General for peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno and this deputy, Hedi Annabi. Twelve hours later, no response had been received. (Mr. Guehenno is in Brussels for a pledging conference for the African Union force in Sudan's Darfur region; Tuesday he telephoned other reporters at UN Headquarters, about Lebanon but not the Congo.)

    Beyond the factual question of the UN's awareness at the time of the UN peacekeepers' release that their captor would be given a position in the Congolese army -- which is accused for example of burning down the village of Kazana while UN soldiers in the MONUC mission watched, click here for more detail and see below -- additional questions need answering.

            Inner City Press has heard from senior UN officials who participated in the month-long negotiations that led to the peacekeepers' release that Peter Karim "changes from day to day" and "is on drugs." Given such knowledge at the highest levels of the UN, Inner City Press asked the Secretary-General's spokesman's office how the UN could remain silent and allow a known-to-be-unstable warlord to be given a senior position in the army of a country where more civilians have been killed by conflict than anywhere else since World War II. The responses ranged from noting that it is entirely the DRC government's decision to musing that this type of "reintegration" is common in order to settle civil wars. The speculative possibility of Joseph Kony being reintegrated into the Ugandan military, despite his kidnapping of children throughout Acholiland, was responded to surprisingly casually. "These things happen," was the answer.

            And so this question: how can the UN lead on human rights if it says nothing when a drugged-up warlord who kidnapped the UN's own peacekeepers is given further power as part of a national army?  "These things happen" in part because the international organization in charge of human rights says nothing.

            In other current Congo news, the UN MONUC's internal investigation of its involvement in the torching of Kazana and the burning-alive of the villages residents, exposed on Britain's Channel 4 last month, is still ongoing, Inner City Press was told Tuesday. With the DRC election slated for July 30, some surmise that the UN will not release any investigation results before then.  "When we have something more, we will share it with you," the spokesman said. (Video here, Min. 27:30) The local press reports that current President Kabila has silenced and marginalized nearly all of his opponents, and stands ready to win the UN-managed election.

   Tuesday across the street from UN Headquarters, Congolese-Americans demonstrated for a postponement of the July 30 elections. While predicting a Kabila victory, they said that a rally yesterday for Kabila in a Kinshasa stadium had a notably low turnout. The signs they held spoke of genocide and four million dead; Asked by Inner City Press about Peter Karim, demonstrator Yaa Lengi Ngemi called Karim a "mineral thief" and a "warlord." While there is a range of anti-UN protest, from the National Rifle Association to pro-sovereignty Republicans, the questioning of the UN among these Congolese protesters had roots that are more concrete.

            The UN has a long history in post-independence Congo. Under the leadership of Secretaries-General Dag Hammarskjold and, after his death in Northern Rhodesia, U Thant, the UN Operation in the Congo (ONOC) fought secessionists and mutineers from the Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC) throughout the early 1960s. In the UN's Operation Onukat begun in December 1961, the UN's new air power resulted in the destruction not only of mines but also hospitals in Katanga province. Suspicions exist of UN involvement or indifference when Mobutu sent his opponent Lumumba to his execution by Belgian mercenaries. ("The Assassination of Lumumba," London: Verso, 2001).

            This is the historical context in which the United Nations is for now saying nothing as a senior position in the Congolese army is given to Peter Karim, who took as hostages seven UN peacekeepers and showed instability in negotiations with the UN, including reportedly demanding a large quantity of footwear. More seriously, Peter Karim is known for killing civilians in order to loot natural resources, including rare woods, from Eastern Congo. The questions raised should be answered, by UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations officials, and by the Secretary-General himself.

Feedback: editorial [at] innercitypress.com

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UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 13 -- The UN under Kofi Annan has increasingly worked with corporations. Questions have been raised about background checks and safeguards. A day after Inner City Press reported that the UN's Geneva-based refugee agency had not known that Swiss banker Ivan Pictet is on the UN Investment Committee when the UNHCR Kashmir Relief Note placed money with the Pictet Funds India Equity fund, the agency's spokesman mused, "Isn't the UN Investment Fund based in New York?"

            Inner City Press asked if it would have been helpful to UNHCR if the UN system had a database of the companies controlled by the outside business people who serve on bodies like the UN Investment Committee. A Google search for that committee and Pictet found close to nothing. It appears that there is no easy way to find who is on the UN Investment Committee.

            UNHCR's Ron Redmond answered that that it would "have been helpful to have that type of information... For UNHCR to look it up is labor intensive, with all the possible company names." He later added in writing, "Any additional information on prospective corporate partners is of course always welcome; it would facilitate our screening processes." Mr. Redmond states that UNHCR was never required to ask SocGen to cease using the UNHCR visibility logo, in part because the brochure that it was on was only intended to be used for a brief period. But records show that individuals high in UN Headquarters chided UNHCR for the use of such terms as UNHCR "teams up" with SocGen. Despite this in-house chiding, or perhaps because the chiders refuse in their defensiveness to comment for the record, this practice continues in the UN system to this day, literally. Click here to view the UN's World Tourism Organization's July 12, 2006 press release, "UN tourism agency teams up with Microsoft," which was published on the UN News Center just as UNHCR SocGen-derilab's April 5, 2006 press release was. They just keep teaming up.

            As the UN increasingly has intercourse with corporations, basic safeguards are still not in place. Inner City Press has previously reported on the lack of background checks when corporations are allowed to join the UN Global Compact, and has twice been rebuffed in requests to interview or ask questions of corporate CEOs who have come to meet the Secretary General or on other Global Compact business.

            At Thursday's noon briefing, spokeswoman Marie Okabe was asked if any of the individuals in the Secretariat who were asked to comment on the UNHCR - Pictet - Societe Generale transaction had in fact spoken or provided guidance. We're still working on it, Ms. Okabe answered.

            Near six p.m., Ms. Okabe called Inner City Press and said she had spoken about the matter, as requested, with Under Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown. "They are aware of the issues," Ms. Okabe said. "This case highlights the complexities of the UN's partnerships with the private sector and so current guidelines and practices of various funds and agencies and programs will be reviewed" to try to avoid "potential conflicts of interest" and misuses of UN logos.

            Great. But what about the continued "teaming up," now with Microsoft? There's more work to be done.

[A note on UNHCR's work about Uzbekistan: the agency managed to visit in Kazakhstan with Gabdurafikh Temirbaev, the Uzbek dissident threatened with refoulement back to Tashkent, and has, its spokesman said, gotten a commitment to be able to review Uzbekistan's extradition request.]

            Alongside UNHCR's work, unlike at the UN Development Programme, at least UNHCR answered the questions and acknowledged that things could be better. On UNDP and human rights, on UNDP and refusal to answer press questions, what will happen?

            On the issues surrounding UNDP, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General managed to get some response from UNDP to a question Inner City Press asked UNDP in writing more than a week ago: why does UNDP help the government of Uzbekistan to collect taxes, given the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' finding that this government shot and killed its own people in Andijan in May 2005. Here now is UNDP's response:

"As far as your UNDP/Uzbekistan questions from the other week, here's what I can tell you... in Uzbekistan and most of the 140 developing nations where UNDP operates, UNDP works with government and civil society on a broad range of governance projects, including economic reforms, of which tax administration and fiscal policy are a significant component. Other governance projects in Uzbekistan focus on gender equality, internet access, and public administration reform. It may be worth noting that UNDP works in a wide range of political environments, from Costa Rica to North Korea, with the belief that UNDP's mandate as a development agency is to work constructively on behalf of the people of the developing world wherever and whenever possible."

            One wag wondered if UNDP's programs in Uzbekistan might involve technical assistance on not putting political dissidents in boiling water, as the U.K.'s former ambassador in Tashkent has testified takes place. And see above, that UNHCR has managed to visit in Kazakhstan with Gabdurafikh Temirbaev, the Uzbek dissident threatened with refoulement back to Uzbekistan, where he would face torture -- perhaps with tax funds UNDP helped to collect. UNDP has still not even purported to answer the week-old question about UNDP's funding of Robert Mugabe's purported "Human Rights Council." Now the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has called for a boycott.  What was that again, about UNDP working with civil society? To be continued.

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

  

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, 11:45 am, updated 7 pm -- Eager to "team up" with banks Societe Generale and Pictet & Company, the United Nations' refugee agency allowed SocGen to use the UN logo in a way subsequently criticized by UN legal staff, and to invest Kashmir Relief Notes funds in a Pictet & Cie fund despite owner Ivan Pictet being a member of the UN Investment Committee. Criticized by other UN units, UNHCR agreed to cease renting out the UN logo, but said nothing can be done about the investment with Pictet et Cie.

    Inner City Press first raised these matters in April 2006. Earlier today UNHCR in Geneva finally responded, confirming but defending the investment in a Pictet fund.  UNHCR's Ron Redmond wrote to Inner City Press that

"based on the information available to us, there is no conflict of interest created for Mr. Ivan Pictet, managing partner of Pictet & Cie, and ad hoc member of the UN Investments Committee, by the fact that Pictet Funds Indian Equities is one of the funds in which KRN funds are invested. Societe Generale, the issuer of the Note, is solely responsible for choosing the funds and this selection is based on recognized risk management and hedging criteria; UNHCR plays a purely passive role as the recipient of a donation and has no interest in the performance of the Note. Moreover, Mr. Pictet's membership in the UN Investments Committee was unknown to all parties involved in drawing up this investment product, and we trust therefore that the decision to include a fund managed by Pictet & Cie was taken in good faith."

         Whether this is in keeping with current and proposed UN standards of ethics and transparency will be seen in coming days. Whether the stated lack of knowledge of Mr. Pictet's membership on the UN Investment Committee comports with minimal corporate or competence standards is also in question. The problem is a wider one: in a defensive internal memo reviewed by Inner City Press, UNHCR lawyer Helmut Buss argues that UNICEF similarly partners with FIFA and NIS Petrol Co, and that the World Food Programme does the same with TNT Airways and the World Rugby Board. Nevertheless, UNHCR has agreed to drop the logo use and the "teams up" language deployed in its April 5 press release.

            The investment in a fund controlled by a member of the UN Investment Committee UNHCR defends, including by pointing out that Morgan Stanley's Francine Bovich is also on the UN Investment Board, while the UN does much business with JPMorgan Chase. (Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, despite the comment reference to Pierpont, are not related companies.) The UNHCR memo's argument is that it's too complicated or burdensome to avoid conflicts of interest. UNHCR's earlier justification to Inner City Press argued that "we are not talking about the usual procurement procedure," when talking about an investment in a fund controlled by a member of the UN Investment Committee.

            This conflict-or-reform debate has included at least in the carbon copies Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch-Brown, who appears to have agreed that UNHCR's actions were improper. The paper trail may be important. The story began with a UNHCR press release on April 5 of this year, headlined "New corporate investment scheme helps fund UN quake relief efforts" and stating that "the United Nations refugee agency has teamed up with two Swiss investment companies in a scheme that will benefit its earthquake relief operation in Pakistan. The joint project launched by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Zurich-based Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking, and derilab s.a., a derivatives company, will allow investors to participate in a financial product that affords a unique opportunity to support reconstruction and relief efforts."

   Inner City Press inquired into the release and published a round-up article on April 11 questioning the partnership: "It might well be on the level. But it's not yet clear that if it weren't, the scheme would not proceed. It would help if the follow-up questions were answered."

Inner City Press' article included at length the statement of UNHCR's Olivier Delarue:

From: Olivier Pierre Delarue
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 14:18:54 +0200
Subject: Re: Fwd: Press inquiry concerning how Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking, and derilab s.a were selected for participation with UNHCR

I work in UNHCR's Private Sector Fund Raising Service as Senior Corporate Relations Officer and your query about this fund raising initiative was forwarded to me... Based on the previous exchange of email you sent, your focus seems to be on the procurement and bidding process done by the UN. This particular initiative, however, is a fund raising project first proposed by  corporate entities and aimed at raising funds for UNHCR's humanitarian program.  Therefore, as with any fund raising project, we are not talking about the usual procurement procedure.

In my capacity as Senior Corporate Relations Officer, my role is to work on creating new partnerships with the corporate world in order to increase our donor base and receive greater financial and expertise from the private sector. In this particular case, Derilab s.a. approached us in the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia and proposed to assist us pro bono in finding new ways of raising donations from the financial market for this emergency. As this was never done in the past, a financial product which incorporated a charity/donation component was not easy to build. Derilab presented the project to all the major banks involved in structured and derivative products. Only Societe Generale showed a serious interest in working on this new concept. As matter of principle, UNHCR screens all new partnerships with the private sector. Societe Generale, the only bank to show an interest for this project, was screened. As a result of our careful review, Societe Generale was screened positively for various reasons, including their participation in the UN Global Compact. Please note that in the case of this initiative, UNHCR is only a receiver of donations through this financial product -- but is not endorsing the product itself

  The phrase "we are not talking about the usual procurement procedure" may have been an understatement, given the investment with a company controlled by an individual who is a member of the UN Investment Committee. Regarding the last above-quoted phrase, even the UN Headquarters staff who subsequently questioned UNHCR's program apparently found dubious this last point: the use of the phrase "teams up" implies an endorsement, the question-memo noted. ICP reiterated its broader questions to UNHCR in Geneva on June 1, including directly to Mr. Delarue, to whom UNHCR's spokesman's office also forwarded the request.

     Several UN officials contacted Inner City Press about its initial story. Subsequently UN staff in New York wrote to UNHCR in Geneva, demanding an explanation including of the seemingly violative use of the UN logo contrary to GA Resol. 92(I) of 1946.  More than a month later, UNHCR's Helmut Buss sent back a multi-page memo, acknowledging the investment in Pictet Funds Indian Equity Fund, and that Ivan Pictet is on the UN Investment Committee. Mr. Buss claimed to have determined that this conflict had been stumbled into "in good faith," and that avoiding conflicts would be difficult, given for example that Morgan Stanley's Francine Bovich is also on the UN Investment Board.

   How will conflicts of interest be avoided in the future?  More than 12 hours before initial publication of this report, Inner City Press put these questions to UNHCR in Geneva, as well as to Ivan Pictet by fax at his place of work. Inner City Press' request for UNHCR's comment stated that "while it shouldn't need to be said, Inner City Press has been appreciative of UNHCR's responses, when received, on refugee-related questions on Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, etc.. This inquiry, which began in April and was attempted to be concluded in June, is neither anti-refugee nor anti-UNHCR. As many have said, transparency is good for the UN system, in the long run. In this short-run, this is a formal request for UNHCR's written comment as quickly as possible."

            In the short and medium-run, UNHCR has declined to answer press questions about this, back in April, in early June, and now. What will happen in the longer run remains to be seen.

            At 8:15 a.m. New York time, 12 hours after sending its written request for comment, Inner City Press telephoned UNHCR deputy spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis in Geneva and reiterated the request for comment. Ms. Pagonis indicated that the request had already been forwarded to Mr. Delarue for response by midday. But since he had been asked back in early June to comment on developments of which Inner City Press was even then aware, and he did not respond, to await Mr. Delarue's belated second response seemed neither necessary nor appropriate. "It is not really about Mister Delarue," Inner City Press explained to UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis. "It's about UNHCR and the wider United Nations."  Subsequently, the following was received:

From: REDMOND [at] unhcr.org

To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com, BUSS [at] unhcr.org, DELARUE [at] unhcr.org

Sent: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 11:01 AM

Subject: Re: Request for comment asap on UNHCR / Societe Generale's Kashmir Relief Note/ Pictet Funds - on deadline

Dear Mr. Lee,

Olivier Delarue and colleagues have looked into your questions and their reply follows.

- Use of UN name and logo: UNHCR has not authorized Societe Generale to use the UN name and logo, nor of the UNHCR official logo, both of which are indeed protected under GA/RES/92(I) of 1946. In line with the "Guidelines on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Community", issued by the Secretary-General on 17 July 2000, however, UNHCR has, for the sole purpose of the raising of funds for UNHCR, allowed SocGen to use, on its brochure announcing the KRN, the UNHCR "visibility logo" with the addition "in support of". For your information, Article 16 (d) (ii) of the a/m Guidelines authorizes the use of the name and emblem "to assist in the raising of funds for the Organization".

- Potential conflict of interest: Based on the information available to us, there is no conflict of interest created for Mr. Ivan Pictet, managing partner of Pictet & Cie, and ad hoc member of the UN Investments Committee, by the fact that Pictet Funds Indian Equities is one of the funds in which KRN funds are invested. Societe Generale, the issuer of the Note, is solely responsible for choosing the funds and this selection is based on recognized risk management and hedging criteria; UNHCR plays a purely passive role as the recipient of a donation and has no interest in the performance of the Note. Moreover, Mr. Pictet's membership in the UN Investments Committee was unknown to all parties involved in drawing up this investment product, and we trust therefore that the decision to include a fund managed by Pictet & Cie was taken in good faith. In any event, Mr. Pictet had no involvement whatsoever in UNHCR's decision to accept the funds thus raised by SocGen. Finally, you may also note that the volume of this investment (US$1 million shared over a number of funds, only one of which is Pictet & Cie's) cannot be considered to benefit Mr. Pictet in any substantial manner.

- Screening of Corporate Partners: Societe Generale is a member of the Global Compact . Moreover, our research at the time demonstrated that Societe Generale was rated over the past years as one of the best banks in the world, and the best in terms of derivative products. For your information, private sector partnerships are a relatively recent addition to UNHCR's fundraising strategy. In its dealings with the private sector, UNHCR consistently bases itself on the a/m Guidelines issued by the Secretary-General. In addition, UNHCR is in the process of installing an advisory board to ensure even more checks and balances. This process, by the way, was already on the way before the KRN was even first considered.

Derilab, finally, is not a signatory to the Global Compact. It is a very small Swiss company consisting of former bankers, that offered to provide its expertise in the highly specialized field of derivative products to come up with innovative approaches that could increase UNHCR's ability to raise funds from the financial market.

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. The past month is one of the busiest times of the year at UNHCR.

Regards, Ron Redmond

Head, Media Relations & Public Information, UNHCR Geneva

Update 1 p.m. July 12 -- Asked at the noon briefing if UNHCR is correct in invoking in its defense of this program and investments Kofi Annan's "Guidelines on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Community," spokeswoman Marie Okabe said that UNHCR has submitted a detailed response and that she, and presumably for now the Secretariat, have nothing to add to it. While UNHCR's written response was, as always, appreciated, on-the-record inquiries will continue, first into whether this UNHCR program, SocGen's initial use of the logo and the investment with Pictet & Cie, are viewed within the Secretariat and elsewhere as comporting with current and proposed standards of transparency and ethics.  Inner City Press is aware of views within the Secretariat, not close to the ground, which are at odds with UNHCR's positions and actions. These views are being solicited, on-the-record.

If Ambassadors to the UN, even from the Permanent Five, answer questions at the Security Council stakeout about their positions on such issues as amnesty for the Lords Resistance Army's Joseph Kony, and who should repair the Gaza electrical power plant, the Secretariat should answer regarding this UNHCR program. Watch this space [and see Report of July 13, 2006, above.]

On North Korea, Blue Words Move to a Saturday Showdown, UNDP Uzbek Stonewall

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- The missiles flew, and at the UN the words turned blue. Friday in the hallways outside the Security Council, the Japanese and American ambassadors said their resolution imposing certain sanctions on North Korea is ready for vote within 24 hours. France's Ambassador De La Sabliere, the Council president this month, said the vote might or might not happen on Saturday. Inner City Press asked him if the vote might be put off pending a Chinese visit to North Korea. "I cannot tell you the timing," Ambassador De La Sabliere replied. A staffer added that the resolution's sponsors will let members and reporters know of their Saturday plans by late Friday afternoon. Russia's ambassador, meanwhile, walked away from the stakeout with reporters in tow, joking but refusing to comment. "I don't want to steal the French ambassador's show," he said. As the stakeout presentation turned to the Central African Republican, most reporters left in droves.

            "The vote will not happen," one Council exiter said, "on Sunday between three and five," the time for the World Cup's final game between Italy and France. Another wag, this one, mused that North Korea might conduct an additional test at just that time, a sort of half-time show. Inner City Press asked a French staffer if there was any North Korean commitment to hold its fire on Sunday.  "Fireworks," the staffer answered. "Perhaps on the 14th of July?" Bastille Day -- you read it here first. Here's a key paragraph of the proposed resolution now in blue:

"The Security Council... 4. Decides that Member States shall take those steps necessary to prevent the procurement of missiles or missile-related items, materials, goods and technology from the DPRK, and the transfer of any financial resources to end users involved in or supplying DPRK's missiles or WMD programmes."

Closer reading by Inner City Press' bleary-eyed legal team of the gone-blue resolution leads to this question, among others: who are the targeted "end users... supplying DPRK's missile or WMD programmes"? Logically, an end user doesn't supply anyone else: they end use. So, at whom is Paragraph 4 directed?

            And speaking of financial resources, substance over semantics, many observers note that the crackdown on North Korea's dollar counterfeiting program, and the seizure of its assets in Macau, precipitated this crisis. And in the darkened stakeout, a photographer opined that John Bolton needs to get his glasses fixed, to stop fiddling with them. "Lens Crafters," he recommended. "They're having a sale."

            At the noon briefing, the spokeswoman announced that the talk on the small arms conference, scheduled for 12:30, would now be held at five. Great timing, to get the news out. Having received no responses from the UN Development Programme's external communications head, nor UNDP staffers in Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokeswoman about the UNDP program to help the government of Uzbekistan collect taxes. Given that the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' finding that the government of Uzbekistan shot its own people in Andijan in May 2005, and has demanded the refoulement of all dissidents from Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kakakhstan, as critiqued by UNHCR, what safeguards does UNDP have in place, if any, to ensure that the taxes it helps to collect are not used for such purposes?

            "We'll try to follow up on the question with UNDP for you," the spokeswoman said. While such intersession should not be needed, whatever gets answers...

Interim follow-up: On Uganda, the UN Department of Political Affairs report circulated to the Security Council on Monday is still not an "official document," though that slow alchemy is expected next week, the spokeswoman said. [Post-briefing, she specified by email that July 12 should be the day.] Then it should move to the Council's agenda.

Postscript 8:30 p.m. -- on the North Korea fracas, it's been announced that there'll be no Security Council meeting over the weekend. The text went blue and for what? In the interim in the basement, the small arms conference plodded to its end. No text was agreed on, the main objector being the United States which opposed any review conference in six years.

  In a wan post-conference sit-down with five reporters in an adjoining room, Chairman Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka called the U.S.'s stance "unique."  Inner City Press asked how this compared to the HIV/AIDS conference, and whether he thought the process could have benefited from more involvement from the General Assembly president (who will travel mid-July to China wearing two hats, that of Sweden and the G.A. presidency). While the spin was that this small arms conference was a victory, that wasn't the review from the floor or audience in the final proceedings. "Disgusting," an arms-violence expert in the cheap seats said. The UNDP seat was empty, and past deadline the S-G's spokesman's office had only this to say: "On your question today about how UNDP can work with the Uzbek Government on assistance to its tax collection efforts when the UN human rights officials say the government harms its own people [we're] checking in with UNDP on this."  Inner City Press has been checking in with UNDP on this and other questions for more than a week. And so, again, it goes...

As the World Turns in Uganda and Korea, the UN Speaks only on Gaza, from Geneva

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

   UNITED NATIONS, July 6 -- The world moves fast and the UN? Not so much. Forty-eight hours after the launch of the North Korean missiles, when asked if the Secretary-General had any comment, his spokeswoman in New York pointed to months-old statements. In terms of the missiles "over the weekend or on the Fourth of July, he has deferred comment as the Security Council is focused on the matter, is seized of the matter," she said. It's nice to be restrained, but sometimes deference and leadership pull in opposite directions.

            Less in the media spotlight, the same is true of Uganda. A day after the incoming president of the Security Council, Ambassador De La Sabliere, said he was still waiting for the Secretary-General's report, Inner City Press obtained a copy of the report, which is dated July 3. The report inveighs against impunity for the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, but says that the UN troops in Congo and South Sudan are otherwise occupied. On July 4, Uganda president Museveni offered amnesty to the LRA's Joseph Kony, explaining this in light of the UN's failure to take action. On Thursday Inner City Press at the noon briefing asked for the UN Secretariat's reaction to Museveni's offer of amnesty. The spokeswoman responded that although the report had been circulated, it was still not "out on the racks," and therefore she couldn't comment on it. "'It's not yet a document." But it has a document number, S/2006/478.

            "Given the speed at which events are moving, the Secretary-General or Secretariat might want to comment," despite the precedent of the racks.  Or maybe not. "You're free to quote from the report," the spokeswoman said. Okay then. Its 51st paragraph begins, "While recognizing the threat posed by the LRA, I should like to reiterate that since UNMIS and MONUC have already challenging tasks to perform in their respective areas of responsibility, they should channel their capabilities and resources primarily to address those challenges." One wag observed that an indictment without any enforcement might be worse than no indictment at all.

            Meanwhile in Geneva, the new UN Human Rights Council in its first special session passed a Gaza resolution, 29 in favor, 11 against and five abstentions. Switzerland was among the abstainers, stating that "both parties should be reminded of their obligations." At an afternoon stakeout briefing by the Palestinian permanent observer Riyad Mansour on the perceived stalemate in the Security Council, Inner City Press asked him to compare the two Councils: Security and Human Rights. "They are entirely different," he answered. Ya don't say...

            As dusk fell on Turtle Bay, reporters sought out the elusive group of experts still toiling over North Korea language, whether resolution or Presidential Statement. At seven they gave up. Those who voted on no action until Friday seem to have won the bet.

            From the UN Development Programme, the silence remains deafening. On its programs in Zimbabwe and North Korea, regarding which Inner City Press submitted written inquiries earlier this week, no answers have been provided. (By comparison, the World Food Programme responded Wednesday morning, and UNHCR on Wednesday night.) Inner City Press has asked UNDP staff in the region to comment on UNDP's assistance with tax collecting for the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan.  What sort of development is this? We'll see. Until we do, we'll call it, developing...

North Korea in the UN: Large Arms Supplant the Small, and Confusion on Uganda

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

  UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- On display Wednesday was the UN Security Council as a divided center of power. Responding to North Korea's launch of six then seven missiles, the permanent representatives of the US and UK appeared at the stakeout in support of Japan's demand for a resolution of condemnation. Russia, while complaining that fragments of one missile landed near its territory, insisted that no resolution is needed. China has sent the same signals, but China took no questions, like North Korea. One journalist reported that the North Korean ambassador, asked what he would say, replied that "I am the permanent representative of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea -- I come and go as I please." As with the missiles, and the UN's World Food Programme.

            Just after the missiles' flight, Inner City Press asked WFP as well as UNHCR and of course UNDP to explain their North Korean activities. This was raised to UNHCR, in Geneva and New York: reportedly a Mr. Park of North Korea, in Bangkok, was told by UNHCR they would only give him refugee status if the US embassy will take him.  Then the US embassy said they would only consider his case if he already had UNHCR refugee status. How does UNHCR respond?

            As of press time, sixteen hours later, UNHCR does not yet respond.  Nor does UNDP, where questions are building up.

   The World Food Programme provided a transcript of a May 2006 press conference, restarting a slimmed down program:

the approximate total food needs of DPRK are about 5.3 million tonnes a year. They produce around 4.5 million tons, though it varies somewhat from year to year. They have an annual gap of about 1 million tons. They need to get food to fill that gap. They can get it through commercial imports, from bilateral assistance, from humanitarian aid. WFP has played a very important role for the past decade in helping to provide assistance to the people in the country who were suffering because that gap hadn’t been filled. The DPRK is going to continue to face a food gap; they will have to meet it in some way. If they can meet it from commercial imports or bilateral aid, then the requirement for WFP is less. But right now they can’t fill the entire gap from other resources... Under the new operation, given its limited size, we have had to make very difficult decisions. We decided to concentrate our assistance mainly on women and children. Elderly people who we helped in the past are not going to be beneficiaries of this program. Life for some elderly people in DPRK can be very tough. Their pension is about 900 won a month. The dollar exchange rate now is about 2,900 won. So they’re getting 34 cents a month from their pension.

            Speaking of pensions and food, or using them as trope transitions, France holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, and its ambassador Jean-Marc De La Sabliere took questions from the press for nearly an hour. Amb. De La Sabliere recited a list of crises to deal with, from Darfur and the Congo through Cote D'Ivoire and Kosovo. Uganda was not among them, except cryptically in a footnote. Since more than 24 hours before, Uganda's Museveni had loudly offered amnesty to Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army, despite his indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, Inner City Press asked for Amb. De La Sabliere's position on whether war crime indictments can be waived.  "That's for the prosecutor to answer," the Ambassador replied. Video is here, with Uganda question(s) and answer running from Minute 46:40 through 51:10, the third-to-last question. Amb. De La Sabliere acknowledged that he hadn't heard of Museveni's amnesty offer, nor presumably of the Ugandan People's Defense Force's cordon-and-search disarmament in Karamoja. "I don't know when Uganda will be on our agenda," he said. "We've heard from Jan Egeland, there's a ten point proposal, no?"  We'll see.

            In the basement the conference on small arms continued, overshadowed by large arms in the sky and two floors up.  At two p.m. the UN's lights flickered; this was later blamed on Con Ed. One wag wondered of the role of North Korea.  Many wags congregated in the basement cafe, from which this is filed, to watch France - Portugal, the last weekday World Cup game. The mostly pro-French crowd roared its approval for Zidane and at the game's 1-0 conclusion. A still downcast German in the crowd recounted how 300 people watched their loss to Italy at the German mission on Tuesday. "The Italian mission is only one floor in DC-1," he said, "so they couldn't compete. Except on the pitch." As the afternoon waned and the experts met in the basement, a stakeout was established in front of Conference Room 10, but the sum total of expertise filmed consisted of which selections to make from the potato chips and coffee machines. 

 After five p.m., a school of experts swam the basement hallway. One said, "Ask the Japanese." An American said, "Ambassador Bolton will speak on the resolution. If I tell you folks anything of substance, I'll be fired."  Reporters took bets on probable outcomes, with a Friday evening statement gaining the plurality. To re-coin a phrase, and so it goes.

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 3 -- As thousands of Zimbabweans seeking asylum are forcibly returned, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he will give "time and space" to Robert Mugabe's handpicked mediator. Speaking to the press about Zimbabwe on July 2 following the meetings of the African Union, the UN Secretary General announced that "the former Tanzanian President, Ben Mkapa, had been appointed as a mediator. I told President Mugabe that I was committed to helping Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe... and we both agreed that the new mediator, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, should be given the time and space to work."

            At the noon briefing at UN Headquarters on Monday, Inner City Press began questioning by asked if this means that the Secretary-General will not visit Zimbabwe to see the mass evictions, and that the treatment of those being forcibly returned to Zimbabwe by South Africa, profiled in the current Frontline World, will continue unchecked by the UN.  (Video here; questions start at Minute 12.) The spokeswoman responded that the Secretary General would not throw his weigh behind a process he didn't believe it, but that she would check into Mr. Mkapa's mandate and get back to reporters.

            The questions only grow. Rudimentary research shows that after the 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, Mkapa wrote to Mugabe that "your firmness was good for all Africa." (AP of March 13, 2002.) Then-Foreign Secretary of Security Council member Britain, Jack Straw, said this "firmness" included having "prevented voters from registering, instructed the police to break up rallies, had the leader of the opposition arrested and reduced the number of polling stations in opposition strongholds."  Observers have noted that Mr. Mkapa was appointed by Mugabe himself, less as a mediator than as an ambassador. Where goes this leave the people in Zimbabwe, particularly those who fleeing or seeking to flee the country, now said to number close to three million?

            Before the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN's refugee agency UNHCR to explain its position "on which of those leaving Zimbabwe are refugees and the propriety of forced return to Zimbabwe?"  Within hours, this response was received:

From: REDDEN [at] unhcr.org

To: Matthew.Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com [and 2 at UNHCR]

Sent: Mon, 3 Jul 2006 11:50:23 +0200

Subject: Re: Two UNHCR press questions: forcible return to China of Huseyincan Celil, and UNHCR actions / position

  Dear Matthew

There are indeed many Zimbabweans deported from South Africa. However, we have not found them to be refugees or asylum seekers in the process of requesting refugee status. South Africa has strong legal structures in place for refugees to prevent refoulement -- the forcible return of refugees to the country they have fled -- and we believe that is the practice. We monitor the process to the extent that our resources permit, including visiting the detention centre where most of those deported are held. An area of concern for UNHCR has been the slow processing of asylum requests -- which affects those from many countries incluidng Zimbabwe -- but the government has now launched a "backlog project" that aims to clear some 100,000 pending applications over the next year.

Instead of being refugees and asylum seekers, the deportations of Zimbabweans have involved migrants. While the story you noted mentions some two million Zimbabweans in South Africa, we do not have an authoritative figure. That figure could well be correct since the lowest estimates are still hundreds of thousands, which may be rising with the economic deterioration in Zimbabwe. I was there a few weeks ago and life is clearly difficult. However, relatively few Zimbabweans have requested refugee status in South Africa. The queue of asylum applications (submitted by July 2005) facing the backlog project in early April of this year numbered more than 103,000. Of those, about 10 percent were Zimbabweans. The largest number of applicants were from Democratic Republic of Congo. Most Zimbabweans here have not requested asylum and those are the people who are being deported. This is a situation that UNHCR will continue to watch closely to ensure those with the right to refugee status receive it, but the problem you are enquiring about is mainly the bigger, more complex question of migration. Migration is moving up the list of international concerns and will be discussed this coming autumn at the United Nations.

Best regards, Jack Redden, Senior Regional Global Public Information Officer, Pretoria

            This is certainly a faster and more comprehensive response than from, from example, the UN Development Programme (see last week's Inner City Press UN Reports, and see below). But not only does it not address the headlined case of refoulement from Uzbekistan to China -- UNHCR does not explain why people who flee saying that in Zimbabwe they face torture, rape in prison or even, in the continuum, the destruction of their homes in Operation Murambatsvina -- "Drive out Filth" -- are not refugees.  In fact, Mr. Redden was quoted last month that " The number of Zimbabweans applying for asylum in South Africa rose sharply in the first three months of this year to 7,211. Zimbabweans account for 38 percent of the total 18,800 requests." And yet by November 2005, only 86 Zimbabweans had been approved for refuge status.

            Some question whether the approach of UN and UNHCR to South Africa's and others' treatment of those fleeing Zimbabwe is less a matter of following international law and more a matter of history and politics. The same may be asked of the fast announcement and seeming deference to a purported mediator who had already made his position known, and who was unilaterally appointed by Mugabe himself. We'll see.

            Inner City Press also asked if the Secretary General's discussions in Banjul included the situations in Uganda, including the negotiations with the Lord's Resistance Army, whose leaders are under indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.  The spokeswoman said she was not aware of any discussions on the topic, but would check. The UN Development Program over the weekend, simultaneously with UNHCR, was asked in writing:

"that if and when UNDP restarts disarmament programs or assistance to disarmament programs in eastern Uganda / Karamoja, an announcement be made. The decision to halt is still not on UNDP Uganda's web site (or UNDP's web site); this request is that confirmation and any restart be announced, as was the halt, and last week's Fenway Park award ceremony, at the noon briefing of Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, hence the cc's [to Kofi Annan's Spokesman's Office].

 Also, we'd like to request an interview with either UNDP's Africa regional director Gilbert Houngbo and / or the Administrator.  You could tell Mr. Houngbo, to whom this is cc-ed, that the interview will concern not only the Uganda issues, but also, inter alia, UNDP's activities in Somalia  and the DR Congo (the disarmament component of which we would like information on, beyond that at http://www.so.undp.org/Themes/ROLS/DDR.htm and http://www.cd.undp.org/docs/ituri_dcrp.pdf, respectively). Also, Kenya.

  For your information, I am pasting below two articles from Uganda, in which the UPDF reiterates it will continue with cordon and search disarmament, and a particular incident in Karamoja; also, one re disarmament in Kenya. Please ensure confirm that notification will be provided of any restart by UNDP disarmament programs or assistance to disarmament programs in eastern Uganda / Karamoja. Thank you.

            As of mid-afternoon Monday, no response had been received. A next question will concern UNDP's engagements with Zimbabwe. And the beat goes on.

Postscript 8 p.m. July 3: Monday afternoon lethargy was palpable at UN Headquarters. In the basement in Conference Room 4, the Small Arms Conference plodded on. Three speeches in a row criticized the lack of translation of documents. In any language, human rights were lacking. In an otherwise nearly-full room, there were empty seats behind the name plate of Uganda, as that nation continues forcible disarmament and abuse of civilians in Karamoja. The UNDP seat was empty, then temporarily filled.  There was a stack of UNDP Statements by Ms. Kathleen Cravero, with no mention of UNDP halting, or restarting, programs parallel to abuse by the Ugandan government.

            At 6:15 in the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium a dozen people gathered for a screening of a near-snuff movie of child soldiers in Liberia, Les Petits Soldats. Young teens were repeatedly asked, "How many people did you kill?" They answered in pidgin English. One's nom de guerre was Notorious B.I.G.. Another told of his commander ZigZag Master cutting out hearts to eat them. Afterwards there was no discussion. The audience trooped out through the empty UN HQ. There was still no response from UNDP. Another request, with an addition on Zimbabwe, has been sent. The host country and city prepared for fireworks. Mesmerized by gunpowder...

 

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting: 3 Becomes 4 With One Bolton Missing

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 30, 11:30 p.m. -- "If it's all night, it's all right." So said John Bolton at a 5 p.m. Security Council stakeout. But in the General Assembly from nine to eleven p.m. he was nowhere to be seen. The major vote was left until last. Four member states disassociated themselves from the raising of the UN budget cap: the U.S., Japan and Australia, and a last-minute addition, Canada. Speaking to reporters just after the vote, outgoing Canadian Ambassador Rock predicted slow progress on management reform and mandate review. "Next week is only three days," he said. For John Bolton, the weekend started early.

  Bolton's foil Mark Malloch Brown conferred with two advisors in the lobby outside the G.A.. Inner City Press approached and asked if Canada's vote had come as a surprise. MMB remained Sphinx-like. His colleague said Canada's eloquent speech spoke for itself.

  Among the U.N. press corp, only Japanese media, AP and Inner City Press remained on the scene. In garbage time the G.A. President was asked about the strange-shaped gavel he used. "It's a gift from Iceland," he answered. Thursday afternoon he'd said he'd cancelled Friday plans. But in New York at 11, the night is still young.

  In under-the-radar diplomatic skirmish news, a vote on Lebanon turned on paragraphs about Israel, debts from '96. The U.S. and Israel were joined by Palau in opposition. The Marshall Islands were nowhere to be seen. The development resolution passed, but with Qatar excluded from paragraph 62.

 Earlier in the afternoon, two lower profile Ambassador briefed on background about this resolution on development, with its over sixty operational paragraphs, include three which gentle chide the World Bank and IMF. They said optimistically that it would be voted on at 4 p.m., it fact it got tied to the rest, and began at nine p.m.. A speech by UAE began without translation.  The gavel from Iceland banged down again and again.

  Before he left the building, at the 5 p.m. stakeout John Bolton declined to call the kidnapping a month ago of UN troops in Ituri an act of terror. He didn't criticize the UN's slow approach, saying only that events are being closely followed.

            Following up on violence against civilians in disarmament in Eastern Uganda, Inner City Press asked the director of the UN's Institute for Disarmament Research about UNDP's current halt of programs, "pending clarification from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja." The director drew analogies to Mali and Iraq, and suggested a talk with UNDP's Robert Scharf, who's in New York for the small arms conference. Another person present at the noon briefing said she'd make Mr. Scharf available in the afternoon. As of 8 p.m., Inner City Press had not heard from Mr. Scharf. In the UN basement a table sat unmanned, with a sign saying "UNDP Promoting Security for Development."

            There is a request that if and when UNDP resumes funding disarmament in eastern Uganda, an announcement be made, in New York as well as Kampala. Kofi Annan's spokesman's office says it is not an enforcement agent. But who then holds a UN agency to the statements it provides, in this case about Ugandan government troops' abuses of civilians? And as reported on UN OCHA's IRIN, UNDP played a role in celebrating the destruction of weapons collected, presumably by voluntary and involuntary means. (Click here -- the article quotes UNDP's Bob Scharf.) In Kampala, the Minister of State for Defense Ruth Nankabirwa "denied reports that the UPDF has suspended the 'cordon and search' for guns." How much more clear does UNDP want it? And where else is it funding such programs?

            While the General Assembly provided only anonymous background on its development resolution, an on-the-record briefing was held on DESA's "Diverging Growth and Development" report. This report, like the resolution, approaches the Bretton Woods two with velvet bureaucratic gloves. A call is made for "gradual, country-specific and home-made institutional reforms," and for using for developing countries what shrinking space the WTO allows for protections. In 1950, Africa's income was 40% of the developed world's. The figure is now seven percent. The rich are getting richer and vice versa for the poor, this UN report concludes. Dog bites man, some say. From the World Bank / IMF to the Security Council's P-5, power talks and the rest of the world just walks and walks and walks. Or wait and votes 'til late on Friday night.

        In his last UN talk, outgoing German Ambassador Gunther Pleuger said the budget cap games put pressure on the wrong target: the Secretariat. He said he had no regrets about his G-4 gambit. Days earlier in the half-hit Council stakeout, he'd opined that Japan walked behind the U.S., until the chips are down. He said not to quote him until he leaves his post, which has just happened. Buena suerte!

In lieu of fireworks, and speaking of the need for reform and impunity's end, we offer this blind item: Which outgoing SRSG was pushed rather than jumped due to an illicit taste for the topic of his charge? Just throwing in the word conflict does not make it go away...

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- The rights of Ugandan civilians have been abused by government soldiers, leading the UN Development Programme to halt its programs in eastern Uganda, Kofi Annan's spokeswoman Marie Okabe stated on Thursday. (Video is here, answer is Minute 11 to 13:35.) While clearer than before in acknowledging abuses by the Ugandan People's Defense Force, which Inner City Press has reported on for the past eleven days, this statement does not address what the Ugandan government's funders knew and when they knew it. UNDP has repeatedly declined to answer this question, which has been put to it in writing and orally, or has left its answers vague and not, it's said, to be quoted. Here however is AllAfrica.

            A UNDP statement issued in Kampala on Thursday, three paragraphs in length, waited until its last terse sentence to disclose that "pending clarification from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja, UNDP Uganda has suspended its support to activities related to the KIDDP."

             This last stands for the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Plan, a copy of which Inner City Press has obtained.  The KIDDP lists a number of funding partners, including the Danish International Development Agency, the European Union, the World Bank, the government of Italy, Germany's GTZ, USAID, Netherlands' SNV, Ireland's DCI, and the UN agencies World Food Programme and UNDP. Since UNDP initially named Denmark as the funder of disarmament programs in eastern Uganda, Inner City Press last week asked the Danish mission to the UN for its comment on specific allegations of abuses in Karamoja. "It will take time to look into," the mission's spokesman said. On Thursday Inner City Press asked the Danish Ambassador to the UN, the outgoing Security Council president. The World Food Programme was asked for comment a week ago but no response has been received. The inquiries will continue.

  With regard to UNDP, the statement is undated, and cannot itself be the warning which UNDP states it has given. Some surmise that the abuses were to meet the aggressive gun-collection targets, even to provide a photo-op. As with photography, transparency would have been better from the beginning, and is still being called for.

            Also at the UN on Thursday, the Ambassador of Kazakhstan spoke to the press about the June 17 meeting in Almaty of the 18 member Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, called CICA and pronounced seek-a. Thailand is a member; the Ambassador said diplomatically that the Thai deputy foreign minister is an attractive candidate to become UN Secretary General. Kazakhstan has reportedly pledged its support to Bangkok, just as Uzbekistan has opened traded its vote to South Korea in exchange for an ongoing energy sales deal.

            It was about Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan's pattern of returning dissidents to that country to face torture, that Inner City Press questioned Ambassador Yerzhan Kazykhanov, specifically about the recent arrest of Gabdurafikh Temirbaev.  The Kazakh Ambassador's response, after saying that Kazakhstan gets along fine with UNHCR, was that Kazakhstan wants and needs prosperous and stable neighbors. One could infer that he meant that returning dissidents to Uzbekistan makes that country and its Karimov regime more stable.  Through the OSSG, Inner City Press has asked what the UN and UNHCR are doing to stop the trend of refoulement to Uzbekistan, which has already taken place from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, is constantly threatened from Kyrgyzstan, and is now said to be happening in real (media) time to a person, Gabdurafikh Temirbaev, who UNHCR reportedly on June 16 deemed to be a refugee?  What guidance might the UN or UNHCR give to the organizations and members in the CICA and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  Kofi Annan at his June 15 press conference answered that he is aware of those facing refoulement from Kyrgyzstan, the transcript is online -- but what about Kazakhstan's refoulements of Uzbeks? We'll see.

  This time the stories connect, thusly: despite Uzbekistan's record, and UNHCR being tossed out of the country by Karimov, UNDP has not retracted its praise of the regime. And so it goes...

In Uganda, UNDP's Belated Announcement of Program Halt Leaves Questions Unanswered

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- On June 29 in Uganda, ten days after Inner City Press' questions about disarmament abuses began and two days after a more quiet announcement, the United Nations Development Programme is slated to go public with the news that it has suspended its programs in eastern Uganda. This follows the newspaper The New Vision picking up on Inner City Press' reports (click here to view; the AP in New York has also followed up). In the field of public relations, the advice is often to get out in front of events, rather than play catch-up. When that is missed, it's spin, spin, spin.

  In the Kampala-based New Vision, Ugandan People's Defense Force spokesman Felix Kulayigye is quoted as disputing Inner City Press' reports, stating that "statistics showed that the cordon-and-search had been more successful than voluntary surrendering of guns" and that "this month, the UPDF recovered over 1,100 guns compared to 636 guns recovered in two years ending March 2006."  It all depends on the tactics used... The AP has UNDP's spokesman declaiming that "our operations in the region have halted due to a continuing difficult security situation and concerns about Ugandan military operations in the area." UNDP's letter goes further, referencing recent reports of "killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment."

    Wednesday in New York, nine days after Inner City Press first raised these questions, UNDP's spokesman came to speak to Inner City Press for over an hour, describing the announcement to slated for Thursday in Kampala, saying it will refer to "security" issues rather than human rights abuses, and arguing that UNDP was and is a "small player" in Uganda's Karamojo region. The spokesman congratulated Inner City Press for raising the issues, and asked in essence what more could the UN do at this time?

      Plenty, according to a source in the Prime Minister's Office (OPM) in Kampala. In a second email to Inner City Press, the source paints a picture quite different from that offered by UNDP's spokesman in New York, writing that

"OPM terminated the contract of the 4th advisor, Techeste Ahderom, because of management and performance issues arising out of this situation. We have brought these matters to UNDP attention but have received no constructive feedback. As a result the program, support to implementation of the IDP Policy, which Techeste was managing has suffered serious setbacks. The human security / Karamoja program is having similar problems and Robert Scharf has been warned on a number of occasions. One of Robert's main responsibility was to support coordination of the implementation of the KIDDP at the highest level including ministry of Defense and internal affairs. For over six months now he has failed to convene a single meeting - OPM role in the promotion of voluntary disarmament has been compromised... In the Mine Action Programme a UK based NGO was recruited to conduct mine assessments in northern Uganda - more than 90% of DFID money has gone to contracts of so called experts. They have failed to produce a credible report and the financial accountability is questionable but UNDP continues to disburse funds to this NGO."

            On the question of UNDP's use of funds, the agency's spokesman did not bring any budget documents during his visit Wednesday to Inner City Press. Asked to explain the use of the $293,000 spent before the program was suspended, the spokesman referred to start-up costs, including the need to "set up offices in huts." He stated that now no UNDP program staff remain in the field.  He congratulated Inner City Press for raising the issues, which have now been picked up by Ugandan press, click here for The New Vision, and with more UNDP involvement, the AP.

   On Wednesday in New York, UNDP's spokesman urged Inner City Press to shift the focus of its two week old inquiry, to turn to wider programs and other funders. The story and its implications are certainly wider than UNDP, and will be followed where they lead. But here are a list of questions provided to the UNDP spokesman prior to his hour-long presentation, and still not answered:

-On what date did UNDP suspend its support of programs in Eastern Uganda?

-What if any are the conditions of the suspension?

-What is the overall spending figure for UNDP's programs throughout Uganda for 2006?

-Your 6/27 message states that 'cordon and search' operations "undermine the possibility of achieving lasting peace and development for the region" and that "UNDP has joined with other development partners in Uganda to voice concern about this exercise to Ugandan authorities." Who are the "other development partners in Uganda" referenced in this statement?

-Your message states that UNDP "is aware of the allegations of abuse by the Ugandan military... including the ones you have raised" but further claims that UNDP "does not have the mandate to independently investigate accusations of human rights abuses by a national military against citizens of that country."

-If UNDP does not "have the mandate to independently investigate accusations of human rights abuses by a national military against citizens" of a country where UNDP operates, who in UNDP's opinion does have such a mandate?

-UNDP's then-Country Director, Cornelus Klein, made a speech on May 25, 2006 where he applauded Ugandan Government efforts at disarmament and specifically singled out the work of the UPDF with praise. He said "Uganda… is seizing the opportunity to address small and light weapons concerns. While UNDP currently provides modest support to the nation, it is Uganda that can support and lead other countries in doing the same. Let me take this opportunity, therefore, to applaud the Government for its strong leadership and commitment. I also wish to express our thanks to the National Focal Point, the UPDF, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Safer Africa whose excellent work we have all seen this morning, and all other partners that have worked collectively towards this important achievement. I hope that the well trained, hard working and dedicated people we have seen handling this process will remain busy for a long time so that all illicit weapons in the country are destroyed."

    Six days prior to Mr. Klein's speech, as recounted in my first message to you nine days ago, the first reported attack by the UPDF in Kotido sub-county, where on May 19th the UPDF encircled a village and attacked to force the residents to turn over their weapons, resulting in four people being killed by the UPDF or its local defense units, including a 15-year old girl. Over 100 homes were burned and the village's protective fence was destroyed. Many residents were taken and detained in the UPDF barracks in Kotido. On the same day, May 19th, in Nadunget sub county, the UPDF reportedly encircled a village at 4 a.m.. People were ordered out of their huts and beaten while the army searched the village. Although reportedly the army found no weapons or ammunition, ten men from the village were taken and detained at the Moroto army barracks.

 Question: When he gave his speech on 25 May 2006, was Mr. Klein aware of these separate attacks by the UPDF some six days earlier?

--Reportedly, Mr. Klein left Kampala "at the end of May, after eight months in Uganda." Where is Mr. Klein now? Can he and his successor Theophane Nikyema be interviewed?

            Beyond these still unanswered questions, there were questions that were half-answered, or answered through Internet research:

Does the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have a presence in Uganda and a mandate to review Ugandan Government military operations against Ugandan citizens?

            The answer is yes - click here to view, and to read on pages 61-63 that

"In the sub-region of Karamoja, in northeastern Uganda, the traditional culture of cattle rustling with its increasingly violent modern expressions, persistent Government neglect, and an unsuccessful disarmament programme have led to serious security concerns, human rights violations, violence, and a total lack of protection for civilians. Administration of justice structures, law enforcement institutions, and other central Government services are virtually non-existent in the sub-region; as a result, a parallel system of traditional justice, based on reprisals and revenge, has emerged instead... In recognition of the need to consolidate peace with the need for justice, accountability, and reconciliation, OHCHR will establish itself as the lead agency within the United Nations Country Team, in cooperation with civil society actors and the Amnesty Commission, to help to develop national reconciliation strategies, which could include truth-telling, repentance, and compensation, to complement the ongoing peace process. In the Karamoja sub-region, OHCHR will explore ways to enhance the protection of civilians, combat impunity, help to restore security through community-based mechanisms, and facilitate inter-ethnic dialogue on peace and human rights education. These activities will be conducted in partnership with the United Nations Country Team, which is deepening its engagement in Karamoja in response to the Government's Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme (2006–2008)."

   We will have more on this wider plan; for now we note that the UNDP spokesman on Wednesday stated that while UNDP is usually publicly quiet, it raises the human rights issues it sees to the head of the UN Country Team, who in turn forwards the information to UN Headquarters. In this case, UN Headquarters has yet to make a comment.

Question: When UNDP becomes "aware of allegations of abuse" by the national military of a country where it works, does it provide this information to any UN entity with a mandate to independently investigate such things?

            This question, Inner City Press asked to two representatives in Kofi Annan's spokesman's office, without on-the-record response. UNDP's spokesman described to Inner City Press UNDP's desire to stay quiet in order to be able to continue to work in countries, as it does in Myanmar on HIV/AIDS. Asked about the wisdom of such silence, or even incongruous UNDP praise, for as for the Millennium Development Goals progress of Uzbekistan, also known for torture, the spokesman only answered, "good question." But what's the answer?

            At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman to comment on UNDP's suspension of programs in eastern Uganda due to disarmament abuse by the government. The spokesman said that UN agencies are expected to monitor and ensure that funds are not misused; on UNDP's suspension of programs in eastern Uganda, he said there'd be no statement "yet." Perhaps UNDP's press release slated for June 29 in Kampala will trigger some response by the Kofi Annan's spokesman, even during the Secretary-General trip, which will include the African Union's weekend meeting in Banjul, where Mr. Annan will, he responded, meet with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

Endnotes: most UN reporters on Wednesday covered the lifting of the budget cap. Freer pundits opine that the fireworks are still to come, Friday before the 4th of July (for which UN grounds passes are much in demand).

  Mid-afternoon, both co-chairs of the S-G's Alliance of Civilizations took questions from reporters. Fox News asked how the Alliance is funded. "We're transparent, ask the Secretariat," was the answer. Inner City Press asked if the Alliance or its High Level Group has discussed the crackdown on the Uighurs, Muslims in western China's Xinjiang province. "I like that question," Spain's foreign minister said. But he then did not really answer, except to note that both China and India are represented in the High Level Group. But what about the Uighurs?

UN Global Compact Board Holds First Meeting, Closed to Press

  In undercovered United Nations news, the Global Compact Board met on Wednesday. Among other things, member Mary Robinson suggested a working group on human rights. In terms of transparency, despite assurances that its members could be interviewed, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart proved unavailable at the meeting's conclusion, heading he said to Washington, DC. While the meeting was closed to the media, Inner City Press has learned that three of the ten corporate members of the board were absent: Anne Lauvergeon of France-based Areva, Mr. B Muthuraman  of India-based Tata Steel, and Hiroyuki Uemura of Japan-based Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company. In baseball, that Middle American sport, getting a hit three times out of ten is good. And speaking of baseball and coming full circle (or around the bases), UNDP on Thursday, the same day as its Kampala announcement, is celebrating for Dominican hurricane assistance one of the owner of the Boston Red Sox, the corporate jet of which was used for extraordinary rendition flights whisking terrorism suspects without any process to parts unknown. And speaking of kidnapping, while clashing continues for one soldier taken hostage, five UN soldiers from Nepal remain captive in the DR Congo's Ituri region, now for more than one month...

From today's mail bag, from within Uganda's Office of the Prime Minister

Subject: Re: Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament

From: [Name withheld]

To: Matthew Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 08:58:47 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Matthew, 

 Several Issues. Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was not involved in the selection and recruitment of advisors/managers (2 in the Mine Action Programme - Hartmut Thomas and Jane Brouillette and 1 Human Security - Robert Scharf). These advisors/managers are paid from project resources to work with and build the capacity of OPM. In practice these advisors do not recognize OPM structures and prefer to report and take direction from UNDP while based at OPM. OPM terminated the contract of the 4th advisor (Techeste Ahderom) because of management and performance issues arising out of this situation. We have brought these matters to UNDP attention but have received no constructive feedback. As a result the programme (support to implementation of the IDP Policy) which Techeste was managing has suffered serious setbacks. The human security/Karamoja programme is having similar problems and Robert Scharf has been warned on a number of occasions. One of Robert's main responsibility was to support coordination of the implementation of the KIDDP at the highest level including ministry of Defense and internal affairs. For over six months now he has failed to convene a single meeting - OPM role in the promotion of voluntary disarmament has been compromised...

   UNDP has imposed a DEX execution modality that has not allowed us any say in the manner in which resources are managed - in the Mine Action Programme a UK based NGO (Mine Action Trust) was recruited to conduct mine assessments in northern Uganda - more than 90% of DFID money has gone to contracts of so called experts. They have failed to produce a credible report and the financial accountability is questionable but UNDP continues to disburse funds to this NGO. Reliable sources tell us that this NGO used a local CBO to get registered with the NGO board and later sidelined them when the UNDP contract was awarded.

  These advisors continue to mobilize resources to justify extension of their contracts. If these advisors work for OPM should we not have a say in these matters? It is common practice for proposals to be written and sent to donors without our input. We are forced to accept this kind of support because we do not have enough resources of our own but is it fair?

  We are disappointed that such malpractices continue to tarnish the good name of the UN. If UNDP genuinely believes in building national capacity this is not how to do it and stories such as the one you wrote can only get worse. I hope you will use your good offices to put an end to all this malpractices.

         Ending malpractice(s) is one of journalism's missions.

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Senior Reporter

June 27, 2006 -- Abuses by the Ugandan government's "cordon and search" disarmament program in the Karamojo region have resulted in a suspension of United Nations Development Programme spending and activities in northeast Uganda, a UNDP spokesman acknowledged in writing on Tuesday.

   In a third email to Inner City Press, the spokesman states that "UNDP does not support the recent operations of the Ugandan military [the Ugandan People's Defense Force, UPDF]  in 'cordon and search' in any manner and has warned that such approaches undermine the possibility of achieving lasting peace and development for the region. UNDP has joined with other development partners in Uganda to voice concern about this exercise to Ugandan authorities." The spokesman confirmed that UNDP's program directed at the Karamojong pastoralists was budgeted at $1 million in UN funds, to include "voluntary" disarmament program, but that the program has been suspended after spending $293,000. The spokesman added that "the UPDF neither informs nor coordinates with the UN nor requests support from the UN in its actions. UNDP and other donors strongly urge these operations to cease and to return to agreed strategies."

            It is still unclear what these "agreed strategies" were, and who agreed to them.

  Beginning eight days ago on June 19, Inner City Press asked UNDP to respond to the following:

"In Kotido district on May 19, 2006, in Jimos village, the UPDF and LDUs encircled a village and attacked them to force them to turn over their weapons. 4 people were killed by the UPDF/LDUs including a 15 year old girl. Over 100 homes were burnt and the protective fence shelters used to protect the collective living space from enemy armed raiders were burnt. Many inhabitants, including many women, were taken and detained in the UPDF barracks in Kotido.

"In Moroto district, at Loputiput and Longoleki village, in Nadunget sub county, on May 19, 2006, the army encircled the village at 4 a.m.. People were ordered out of their huts and beaten while the army searched the village. Even though it appears the army found no weapons or ammunition, ten men from the village were taken and detained at the Moroto army barracks.

"Also in Moroto District, newly disarmed villages began being attacked on June 3 and there are at least a dozen attacks have occurred. For example, on June 1, 2006, a prominent Karamajong peace leader who people had worked with to design a voluntary disarmament program saw what was occurring in forced disarmament and so to save his village brought in a dozen guns that were in his village. He then asked the UPDF / LDUs for protection against the armed raiders. He was told they would not protect the village. On June 3 his village was attacked by armed raiders and he and some of his sons were killed and over 118 head of cattle were stolen.

"On May 26, 2006, in Loperot parish attacks killed an old woman, 4 women were raped, many people were beaten. One boy who was shot in the leg and beaten was then forced to drink three liters of local liquor. He was later admitted in Matani Hospital in Moroto district."

            Eight days after Inner City Press raised these issues to UNDP, the agency's spokesman has responded in writing that  " Regarding your query as to specific reports of human rights abuses and other incidents in the region: UNDP, as stressed in our previous conversations, does not have the mandate or capacity to carry out investigations of human rights abuses. UNDP has no staff working in the villages cited in your question and no direct knowledge therefore of these particular incidents. However, UNDP is aware of these reports, takes them seriously, and, as noted above, has conveyed its concerns about UPDF actions in the Karamoja region to Ugandan national authorities and suspended work its own work in the region."

            What is new in Tuesday response is the final phrase, "suspended... its own work in the region." It is unclear why UNDP's chief for External Communications would unable to confirm such action, or suspension, for more than a week, and did not provide financial information until Tuesday's message.  The day previous, Inner City Press received a communication naming the $1 million figure, and blaming the "failure" of the program in Karamojo on UNDP itself.  There is much on which to follow up. The UNDP Spokesman's third email to Inner City Press is below:

From: William.Orme [at] undp.org

To: Matthew.Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com

Cc: [2 in OSSG, 2 in UNDP]

Sent: Tue, 27 Jun 2006 14:40:03 -0400

Subject: RE: NE Uganda and UNDP

   Matthew, I'm sorry I missed you yesterday...Your main line of questioning has to do with the Ugandan military's operation in the area over which UNDP and the UN generally has no connection or control... We can inform you about our own operations, though. You can use all of this on the record if you wish... A summary:

UNDP in no way supports “involuntary” or “forceful” disarmament in eastern Uganda. UNDP advocates voluntary disarmament linked to the strengthening of human security as the best way forward. UNDP supports peacebuilding and development in Karamoja and has encouraged voluntary weapons collection processes, as outlined in the Government’s Poverty Eradication and Action Plan, that first take into consideration and address the root causes of insecurity and work together with local communities towards finding sustainable solutions. 

UNDP does not support the recent operations of the Ugandan military (UPDF) in “cordon and search” in any manner and has warned that such approaches undermine the possibility of achieving lasting peace and development for the region. UNDP has joined with other development partners in Uganda to voice concern about this exercise to Ugandan authorities. 

There is no and has never been any UNDP or UN funding of or involvement with UPDF disarmament activities, contrary to published assertions to the contrary. The UPDF neither informs nor coordinates with the UN nor requests support from the UN in its actions. UNDP and other donors strongly urge these operations to cease and to return to agreed strategies. 

In 2006 UNDP began work on an independent community development and human security project in the Karamoja region, one component of which was the encouragement of voluntary disarmament. The project was budgeted initially for $1 million, to be financed from UNDP’s Uganda country office [Due to a misunderstanding on my part I erroneously identified to you in our conversation Tuesday the government of Denmark as a funder of this project.] Only $293,000 has been spent to date and all UNDP activities in the region are now halted, given that they are unworkable at this time, for the reasons noted.

Regarding your query as to specific reports of human rights abuses and other incidents in the region: UNDP, as stressed in our previous conversations, does not have the mandate or capacity to carry out investigations of human rights abuses. UNDP has no staff working in the villages cited in your question and no direct knowledge therefore of these particular incidents. However, UNDP is aware of these reports, takes them seriously, and, as noted above, has conveyed its concerns about UPDF actions in the Karamoja region to Ugandan national authorities and suspended work its own work in the region.

 There is extensive information about UNDP’s DDRR work and the funding of such on our website: www.undp.org/bcpr/whats_new/publications.shtml. Please bear in mind however that our (now suspended) work in NE Uganda is not a DDRR program, which typically take place in post-conflict situations with international involvement and oversight, usually in the context of the presence of a peacekeeping force. As we have discussed, none of this is the case in northeastern Uganda.

 William Orme

 Chief, External Communications

 United Nations Development Programme

            Again, there is much on which to follow up. Developing...

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Senior Reporter

June 26, 2006 -- Three days after Secretary General Kofi Annan said that budget information should be immediately available, and six days after such information was requested, the UN Development Programme has still not disclosed how much it has spent in Uganda, including on controversial programs in the northeast where Karamojong villages and women and children have been attacked in the name of disarmament.

            On June 20, Inner City Press asked UNDP for financial information about its involvement in and awareness of disarmament programs in Uganda. On June 23, Inner City Press asked the Secretary General about UNDP's failure to provide information. The Secretary General replied that such data is or should be public information, for the public. Later on Friday, among with much invective, UNDP's spokesman William Orme stated that he had to contact Kampala for the data, to be expected Monday.

            As of press time on Monday, despite communications to UNDP by telephone and email, the data has not been provided. In the interim this has arrived, from the office of the Prime Minister in Uganda, noting a rumor that the program may end, and blaming UNDP for the abuse:

Subject: Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament

To: editorial [at] innercitypress.com

From: [Name withheld in this format]

Sent: Mon, 26 Jun 2006

Thanks for highlighting this issue of great concern to our community. I write with grave concern about the recent rumours that the Karamoja UNDP supported project might be closed down following concerns raised in NY regarding forceful disarmament activities by the UPDF.

 Before such a decision is taken it would only be fair to review why the $1million UNDP support to the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme (KIDDP) "Creating Conditions for Promoting Human Security and Recovery in Karamoja" has failed to take off. We at the office of the Prime Minister have serious concerns about UNDP management of this and other related projects. The continued deployment of incompetent "technical advisors" in the name of national capacity building continues to frustrate otherwise well intended programmes.

 Karamoja needs this support, let's address the source of the problem. I believe UPDF and Government of Uganda have their cases to answer but so does UNDP in getting inexperienced advisors...

            Whether these issues explain UNDP's failure to provide information requested six days ago, information that the Secretary General has said should be available to the public, presumably immediately, is not yet known. Nor despite six days has UNDP provided a figure such as above, $1 million. Inner City Press has asked the correspondent above to name the "incompetent 'technical advisors.'" On UNDP's web site, there is a May 25, 2006, speech by UNDP's Cornelis Klein, acknowledging UNDP's support to the Government of Uganda and praising the Ugandan People's Defense Force.

  Here is UNDP's spokesman's most recent communication to Inner City Press, on Friday after deadline:

Subject: RE: Message to UNDP spokesman from Inner City Press

"To clarify: You asked us this afternoon, for the first time, for a copy of a project document describing the small UNDP-managed community development project in the region of Eastern Uganda populated by the Karamajong, of which, as I explained, voluntary disarmament is one relatively minor though important component. You also asked today about the overall cost of the UNDP project. I said I would request the information from our country office in Kampala and that given the time difference and weekend the earliest we could provide a response would be Monday, and we would try to do so... you have additionally asked whether our project is active in a several specific villages that you identify; again, we will seek confirming information from the project manager in Uganda, and will provide it as soon as we have it...You have reiterated your original request for information on / confirmation of reported abuses committed by Ugandan troops under the Ugandan’s military’s own disarmament program. More on this below. As I said, I was surprised by the tone and content of your question at today's and yesterday's noon briefing, implying that UNDP has somehow failed to respond to your initial query regarding the allegations of abuses by Ugandan troops in Eastern Uganda (per your email below), and had also failed to provide requested financial information about the UNDP-managed developed project in eastern Uganda (information which you never once requested when we spoke or in your subsequent email). Neither is true. I was further surprised to hear that you had apparently repeated this accusation in a question to the Secretary-General today. It seems necessary to state for the record what has actually transpired in your interaction with the UNDP Communications Office in the course of this week.

Your first inquiry was devoted solely to the issue of reported human rights abuses by Ugandan military troops against the Karamajoa community, several of which you detailed. You asked UNDP for information and comment on this issue and this issue alone for the one and only time in the late afternoon of this past Monday, 12 June, first by phone and then by follow-up e-mail...

The information you provided would appear to indicate that these reported abuses were carried out by Ugandan troops involved in the government’s military-run disarmament program. I stressed in our conversation Monday that UNDP, as the UN’s development agency, does not have the mandate to independently investigate accusations of human rights abuses by a national military against citizens of that country, in whatever country, so could not be an on-record UN source to either confirm or comment on the allegations of abuses as described in your email. Others in the UN system have that capacity and authority. I did say we would try to find out what we could about the basic facts of the matter from our Uganda-based colleagues and then share them, on background, to aid your reporting. Which we did. We also said we would learn more in the next day or two from those directly involved in the project (at that point beyond phone contact in eastern Uganda), should you wish to pursue it further.

When we heard back from you this afternoon, I reiterated that UNDP Uganda was aware of these reports, and had conveyed its concern about these reported abuses to Ugandan authorities. The follow-up questions you cite below that you said I 'declined to answer' I did not answer as I do not know the answers and do not want to mislead or misinform. Having now been asked, I will try to obtain this information, and will share it with you when I do."

   While the above is filled with misstatements -- as simply two examples, the financial information was requested on Tuesday, June 20, from the UNDP staffer to whom the agency's spokesman referred Inner City Press, after she declared that everything she'd said was "on background" and could not be used, not to assist in reporting or in any other way -- as of close of business Monday the information had still not been provided. And the beat goes on...

            In fairness, this post-deadline update, a message received after publication from UNDP's spokesman:

"I remain concerned that there is some misunderstanding that there is some UNDP support of or involvement in the Ugandan military's disarmament drive in the region, which there is not.  Hence we have no information financial or otherwise to give you about that. We do, however, as I noted, have a small community development project in the area, about which I do have information for you, though I am unsure if that is your real interest here."

            After what's now a week, no financial information? Or, no financial information provided, due to assumptions about the interest in the data, or the possibility of misunderstanding? This is a reason that something like a Freedom of Information Act at the UN is needed: the financial data should be provided as a matter of right, without a week's delay and nor attempts to spin.

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 23 -- While UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states that the details of programs and funding through UN agencies is publicly available, the UN Development Programme on Friday said it was still unable or unwilling to specify how much money has been spent on disarmament programs in northeastern Uganda, a region in which UNDP now acknowledges it is aware of allegations of abusive involuntary disarmament by the Ugandan military.

   In a media availability late morning on Friday, Inner City Press asked the Secretary General how the press and public can have prompt access to information about funding activities of UN agencies, particularly where as in Uganda allegations of abuse exist and are known to the agency; the question referred back to a previous question about a UN Freedom of Information Act. Mr. Annan stated that "this kind of information is generally open... But I wish you pursue it, they should be able to give it to you."

   An hour later in a contentious on-the-record interview, UNDP spokesman William Orme did not provide any financial information, but stated that UNDP "is aware of the allegations of abuse by the Ugandan military... including the ones you [Inner City Press reports] have raised" and that UNDP "has made their concerns known to Ugandan officials."

   Asked directly when and to whom in Uganda UNDP's concerns have been expressed, and how and when UNDP became aware of the allegations, UNDP's Mr. Orme stated, "that's all I'm prepared to say."

   Inner City Press asked Mr. Orme is there are any written agreements between UNDP and the government of Uganda. Mr. Orme recited that all UNDP project are carried out with the knowledge and consent of the host governments. Asked if this knowledge and consent is oral or in writing, Mr. Orme answered, "In writing." Asked the documents are available, Mr. Orme replied, "What documents?"

  "The ones reflecting knowledge and consent."

   Mr. Orme did not provide access to any documents. On UNDP's web site, the most recent  "country cooperation framework for Uganda" is from December 2000, more than five years old, and expired. On Friday, Mr. Orme said that there may be no documents about UNDP's programs in Eastern Uganda. Of these programs, he stated that they are development programs, with some voluntary disarmament included. Inner City Press asked if these voluntary disarmament programs have taken place in the same areas as the allegedly abusive involuntary disarmament operations by the Ugandan People's Defense Force in conjunction with Local Defense Units (LDUs) -- for example, in Inner City Press' June 21 report, provided to UNDP for comment on June 19, in three districts bordering Kenya: Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit.

   Four days ago, Inner City Press asked UNDP and some others in the UN system to comment on:

In Kotido district on May 19, 2006, in Jimos village, the UPDF and LDUs encircled a village and attacked them to force them to turn over their weapons. 4 people were killed by the UPDF/LDUs including a 15 year old girl. Over 100 homes were burnt and the protective fence shelters used to protect the collective living space from enemy armed raiders were burnt. Many inhabitants, including many women, were taken and detained in the UPDF barracks in Kotido.

In Moroto district, at Loputiput and Longoleki village, in Nadunget sub county, on May 19, 2006, the army encircled the village at 4 a.m.. People were ordered out of their huts and beaten while the army searched the village. Even though it appears the army found no weapons or ammunition, ten men from the village were taken and detained at the Moroto army barracks.
Also in Moroto District, newly disarmed villages began being attacked on June 3 and there are at least a dozen attacks have occurred. For example, on June 1, 2006, a prominent Karamajong peace leader who people had worked with to design a voluntary disarmament program saw what was occurring in forced disarmament and so to save his village brought in a dozen guns that were in his village. He then asked the UPDF / LDUs for protection against the armed raiders. He was told they would not protect the village. On June 3 his village was attacked by armed raiders and he and some of his sons were killed and over 118 head of cattle were stolen.

On May 26, 2006, in Loperot parish attacks killed an old woman, 4 women were raped, many people were beaten. One boy who was shot in the leg and beaten was then forced to drink three liters of local liquor. He was later admitted in Matani Hospital in Moroto district.

   Inner City Press' June 19 written questions to Mr. Orme also stated that "this is an inquiry about a UNDP program in Uganda -- assistance with the disarmament of the Karamajong people. What is UNDP's role in this program? What oversight is UNDP giving to how the program is going? Have problems been seen with forcible disarmament, abuses of women and children and post-disarmament looting of Karamajong cattle and villages? Any information you can provide on UNDP's awareness of and involvement in these issues will be appreciated." Inner City Press named a deadline of 5 p.m. eastern June 20.

   On June 20, Mr. Orme had his staffer Cassandra Waldon telephone Inner City Press; near the end of the conversation she stated that everything she said was "on background" and "you can't use it." Inner City Press then asked, among other things, for financial information and for an on-the-record response as quickly as possible. Even so, Inner City Press waited an additional day before publishing its initial report.Two days later no on-the-record response had been given, and no financial information, and so the question was raised in rushed form to Secretary General Kofi Annan.

   Inner City Press asked about "UNDP-funded disarmament in Uganda of pastoralist tribes that use the guns really to defend their herds. I guess what I want to ask is, although we are still pursuing it, there seem to be abuses in the program; we have asked how much funding UNDP provides for the disarmament of pastoralist tribes. I will say that for four days we have been unable to get even a number about how much is funded. So I guess, this idea of freedom of information act, which I once asked you about before…is it your sense that a UNDP agency should be able to, in four days, disclose how much it is funding a program?"

   The Secretary General responded: "I am not sure I would tie that to a freedom of information act. I am not sure whom at UNDP you asked, but this kind of information is generally open; the UN peacekeeping budgets are open, and the amounts of money we spend on disarmament efforts are public information, for the public. So I really don’t know whom you asked in UNDP, and why you haven’t got it. And really, don’t expect me to give you an answer. But I wish you pursue it. They should be able to give it to you."

   One observer noted that while the Department of Peacekeeping, which Mr. Annan previously headed, may quickly provide financial information, UNDP for now operates differently, including with a lesser degree of responsiveness to questions from the press and even from the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General.

  Minutes later at the noon briefing, the OSSG's Marie Okabe was asked what the procedure for getting such information is, without having to ask the Secretary General. Ms. Okabe replied that the requested information was now upstairs.

  But upstairs just after the noon briefing, Inner City Press was directed to again call UNDP spokesman William Orme. Mr. Orme did not however on Friday provide a single piece of financial information, despite Inner City Press' June 20 question about how much money has been spending on UNDP disarmament programs in northeastern Uganda. Mr. Orme stated that he now had to seek the information in Uganda. Inner City Press asked how it is possible that UNDP Headquarters in New York does not have or will not disclose such a figure. No explanation was not provided; Mr. Orme has stated that the information will be provided on Monday. We will await it, in writing. In the interim, if answers cannot be had inside UN Headquarters, they will be sought elsewhere: watch this site.

* * *

  Also at the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for response to a call by Uganda's envoy in Juba for the UN military option to arrest Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and three others in the Lords Resistance Army. At press time, the spokesman's office said:

"In response to your question from today's Noon Briefing: As requested by the Security Council (SC) in Resolution 1663, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) continues to go everything within its mandate and capabilities against the LRA, however our forces are extremely limited by both. It must be stressed that the Governments of the region (Sudan, Southern Sudan, Uganda, DRC) have significant more capacity to act against the LRA than UNMIS does. (UNMIS has only 700 guard troops in all of Equatoria - an area the size of Austria - while reports have put combined SAF-SPLA-UPDF at 50,000, although SAF is withdrawing and UPDF presence may fluctuate). UNMIS is also configurated towards implementing a classic Chapter 6
monitoring and verification mission and, as such, does not possess any offensive assets. Areas of focus to assist against LRA now that UNMIS deployment is reaching completion are more pro-active patrolling in known LRA areas, and assistance facilitating the coordination of information between thre three military forces on the ground - SAF, SPLA and UPDF. To do more would require a stronger mandate and much more robust resources."

  It's a response, and it was fast. But presumably the call for UN military action was directed at the 17,000 UN troops in the DRC with MONUC. To be continued.

Heard in the hall: an outgoing ambassador told Inner City Press that the fix is in on the UN budget crisis. "There is no more crisis," he said, "the United States caved in." He predicted that on Wednesday the cap will be lifted, along with happy talk about reforms that have been achieved. Asked if Japan had left the U.S. alone with its threats, the diplomat said, "Japan chases behind the U.S. and then doesn't back them up. But don't quote me by name!" Okay...

On a lighter note, on Thursday evening photos of Angkor Wat were unveiled in the UN's visitors' lobby, where they will remain on display until August 18. The opening ceremony was graced by Cambodian dancers as well as a mobbed table loaded with sushi. A heart-felt celebration of global culture.

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- As the United Nations prepares for a two-week conference on small arms, questions about a UN-funded disarmament program in Uganda have gone unanswered, including at a press conference mid-Wednesday. Amid happy talk about member states reducing weapons, and side-questions about the 100,000 protest letters the National Rifle Association has submitted, the reported abuse of the Karamojong pastoralists has thus far not been deemed worthy of on-the-record comment by the UN Development Programme, which funds the involuntary disarmament being carried out by the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) in conjunction with local militias called Local Defense Units (LDUs).

            That some of the most detailed reports come from well-placed sources inside the UN may reflect an intra-UN rift in how to engage with the Ugandan government's strong-arm tactics. This is what Inner City Press has been told, by knowledgeable sources including within the UN, and what it has for three days asked for UNDP comment on:

--on May 19, 2006 in Jimos village in Kotido sub-county in northern Uganda, the UPDF and LDUs encircled a village and attacked to force the residents to turn over their weapons.  Reportedly, four people were killed by the UPDF / LDUs,  including a 15-year old girl.  Over 100 homes were burned and the village's protective fence was destroyed.  Many residents were taken and detained in the UPDF barracks in Kotido.

--Also on May 19, in Moroto district at Loputiput and Longoleki village, in Nadunget sub county, the Ugandan army encircled the village at 4 a.m.. People were ordered out of their huts and beaten while the army searched the village. Although reportedly the army found no weapons or ammunition, ten men from the village were taken and detained at the Moroto army barracks.

--on May 26, 2006, in Loperot parish similar disarmament attacks killed an old woman. Reportedly four women were raped.

--On June 3, 2006 in Moroto District, newly-disarmed villages began being attacked; since then a dozen other attacks have occurred.  Some background: on June 1, 2006, a local Karamajong who had previously worked on a voluntary disarmament program saw what was occurring in forced disarmament and so in order to save his village brought in a dozen guns that were in his village. He then asked the UPDF / LDUs for protection against other armed raiders. He was told they would not protect the village.  On June 3 his village was attacked by armed raiders and he and some of his sons were killed and 120 head of cattle were stolen. In Kotido district, over two dozen such raids have occurred.

            While this inquiry at present is about what if anything did the UN and its agencies know, and when did they know it, experts consulted about the context of the narrative above point out that the treatment of the Karamojong has been un- or under-reported due to their characterization as cattle rustlers rather than pastoralists, like the Masai. The Karamojong are portrayed lagging behind the wider narrative, popular at the World Bank and elsewhere, of Uganda as a UN- and U.S.-supported success story albeit one with a one (or no) party state, the single leader of which some Karamojong recently shot at. A question raised is whether women and children should suffer this impacts, from a UN-funded program. Military and human rights analysts note that the Ugandan army has had "slippage in discipline" at least since its profitable incursions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is much more to be reported, from Kampala and the villages named above.

            But at UN Headquarters in New York, because the UN Development Programme funds this disarmament program, Inner City Press emailed UNDP for comment, as well as for a description of UNDP's procedures for overseeing the disarmament and other programs that it funds. After allowing time for UNDP staff in New York to contact their colleagues in Uganda, and specifying a Tuesday 5 p.m. deadline, Inner City Press telephoned and spoke with a UNDP official who insisted on anonymity, and used the words "on background" even for the generalities offered, which included phrases such as "we are aware of violence" and "there are challenges on the ground" and "we know that there are problems."

            When asked what UNDP is doing about these problems, the official said that UNDP "maintains dialogue with its partners" and keeps this behind closed doors.  But now Inner City Press has been told that the UPDF disarmament program is slated to be expanded, including with the use of helicopter gun ships.  And so ill-timed these voices are compelled to be raised. If the UN is providing guidance, no one is hearing it.

            Inner City Press also raised this narrative to the spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, by email, to the director and spokespersons for the children's agency UNICEF, who stated they will "revert" by week's end, to the spokeswoman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA and to the World Food Programme. At the noon briefing on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked the president-designate of the Small Arms Conference, Sri Lanka's permanent representative to the UN Prasad Kariyawasam, what safeguards are in place for such involuntary disarmament. His response was indirect, that while there is no one entity overseeing the UN's disarmament efforts and no ombudsman, at the upcoming conference "no government is prohibited from critically assessing implementation" of disarmament. He added that "when we adopt a final document we will perhaps address" the issues and "have remedies for alleviation of any mishandling." (The questions and answers are in this footage of the briefing, from minutes 30 through 33 and 47 onwards.)

            Inner City Press asked how many countries the UN funds involuntary disarmament in. Amb. Kariyawasam's co-briefer, who afterwards stated she has no business card from the UN's Department of Disarmament Affairs, said the questions should be directed to UNDP.  When told that no on-the-record response had been forthcoming, another staffer, Francois Coutu, said that since he used to work for UNDP, he would try to get an answer. So too did the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General. But this should not be like pulling teeth.  And the question, who is overseeing UNDP-funded involuntary disarmament programs, has yet to be answered.

   Mid-afternoon Wednesday, UNDP indirectly asked for yet more time. Kofi Annan's spokeswoman said, orally and in writing, that violence against civilians, particularly women and children, is to be condemned. But by who? At 6 p.m. press time, the Secretary General's spokesman's office provided an update, that "UNDP is aware of these allegations and is looking into them," including by attempt to contact an Eastern Uganda staff members. Inner City Press had previously emailed this staff member, and received in return this response:  "This is an automatic reply. I am away from the office and unable to read my email. I will read your message when I return on 23 June." And then we all will read UNDP's on-the-record response on these issues, it is hoped. Developing...

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

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- The UN's Kofi Annan, with six months left in his term, answered twenty media questions on Thursday. Most dealt with the issues of UN reform, and the triple B's of Bolton, budget and Mark Malloch Brown. As question 19 out of 20, from Minute 51:15 through 55:50, Inner City Press asked about the Secretary-General's recent praise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's members' initiatives against separatism, in light for example of Uzbekistan's imprisonment and torture of opponents. The full Q & A is below.

   Mr. Annan responded that he has been speaking with the High Commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, about Uzbekistan and both the bulk of those fleeing and specifically the four Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan; he used the terms of art enforced refoulement, "particularly if they may be at risk if they are sent back against their will." The Secretary-General said he has in the past spoken with the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov; perhaps that is needed again. Mr. Annan said he's increasingly concerned with the "excesses" he's seen in the fight against terrorism. "It's been too easy for some governments to put the T word on someone and then move against them and expect that nobody asks questions," he said, an apt description of China's use of the "E.T." word, East Turkestan, as well as the usual lack of questions about Xinjiang and places like it at the UN.

            On Inner City Press's second question, which Mr. Annan called the third, whether he support and will implement a Freedom of Information Act during his final six months, Mr. Annan asked for clarification, which was given by reference to the UN Staff Union's report on internal justice and even the calls for transparency from US Ambassador Bolton.  "Yes," the Secretary-General said, "I think we should be more forthcoming." 

   He mentioned that some documents would have to be withheld, concerning confidential communications with heads of state.  That should be no obstacle or excuse: all FOI laws have exemptions, for pre-decisional and other information, within an overarching presumption of a fight to information, such as that contained, too vaguely, in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

            Minutes later, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if he might work with Kofi Annan on a Freedom of Information mechanism. The response was not yes, but neither was it no. Amb. Bolton referenced his meeting Wednesday with the Staff Council, and said he'd follow up.

            In more marginal news, just before the Kofi Annan briefing, journalists were cleared from Room 226 so that a bomb-sniffing dog could go through.  Later by the 46th Street entrance, the dog and his handler were interviewed. The former's name is Storm.  Meanwhile Sandy Berger floated off the UN grounds with a big name tag on, and no documents in sight. In the basement, the plasma TV sign for a meeting of the Friends of the International Criminal Court said, "Closed meeting." Some friends...
Later at the Security Council stakeout, the Palestinian Permanent Observed answered Inner City Press' request for an update on whether a funding mechanism for the Palestinian Authority, previously discussed at the UN, has been found.  No, was the answered, talks remain ongoing in Brussels.

            Pakistan's UN envoy Munir Akram played diplomat upstairs before the UN Correspondent's Association. When Pakistan come forward with its candidate for Secretary-General, now that India has? It is complicated, he said, while stating that no country with eyes on a (permanent) Security Council seat should also field a candidate for Secretary General. Inner City Press asked Ambassador Akram about Baluchistan, the few English language articles regarding which invariably use the adjective restive, as well as about mass evictions of the poor in Karachi

  On the former, Amb. Akram spoke dismissively of "three Sardars" who used to work with the government, but who then wanted more money. Amb. Akram said that their Baluchistan Liberation Army has funding and arms from "outside sources." When Inner City Press pointedly asked if that means India, Amb. Akram declined to answer. The evictions, he said, probably relate to attempts to give the poor more rather than fewer property rights -- a position not shared by close observers.

   Finally, Inner City Press asked Amb. Akram if Pakistan would consider as its S-G candidate the human rights lawyer, previously UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir. "I suppose not," Amb. Akram answered dryly. Later over a Pakistani lunch he spoke of Somalia, calling it "Taliban Two." Given the links between Pakistan's ISI and Taliban One, the irony was as pungent as the spinach, yoghurt and rice. Let the Games continue.

June 15, 2006 Question and Answer

Inner City Press question: This is a question about Asia and human rights. The media in China and Central Asia reported your remark earlier this week that you praised the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its meeting for its work against terrorism, extremism and separatism. And it said that you praised this, as I am sure you know, UNHCR has criticized Uzbekistan for requiring that people be deported and locking them up. China has cracked down on its Uighur minority. So I wonder if you have any guidance for the balance between human rights and fighting terrorism and, totally separately, whether you would consider supporting a freedom of information act at the United Nations in the six months that remain to you, maybe even imposing it in the Secretariat, as an experiment? Those are two different questions.

      The Secretary-General: May I ask for clarification on your third question? What do you mean by “freedom of information act at the UN”?

      Inner City Press clarification: Okay, I’m sorry. The Staff Union report that just came out suggested that documents be made available not just on a whim, but as a right, to the media or to the public, as many Member States have such a law. I think Mr. Bolton has said, and a variety of people have said – and I think you even said in your reform proposal that you would favour something like that. So I just wanted to hear whether you would actually implement it.

      The Secretary-General: I think, on the question of effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights, my position is very clear: that there can really be no tradeoff between effective action against terrorism and civil liberties and human rights of the individual, and that if we undermine human rights, if we undermine the rule of law in our fight against terrorism, then we are giving the terrorists a victory they could never have won alone. And this is why I’ve been quite concerned about some of the excesses I’ve seen around the world when it comes to the fight against terrorism. It’s been very easy for many Governments to just put the T-word on someone and then move against them, and expect that nobody asks questions. So we have to be very, very careful not to undermine the basic rule of law in the fight against terrorism.

      As to my message to the others, I think it was a gathering that was going to talk about security and the fight against terrorism, and it was to encourage them in that direction. I’m very much aware of the High Commissioner’s difficulties with the Government you mentioned. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to the President myself at the time when the bulk of them were allowed to leave. And we are working on the four, and in fact the High Commissioner, Mr. Guterres, spoke to me about it, that we should make sure that there’s no enforced refoulement, particularly when they may be at risk if they are sent back against their will. And not only that: he has made arrangements with other Government that are willing to accept these four. So, it’s not that they will be stateless; we have homes for them. So we are asking the Government to hand them over to the High Commissioner for Refugees; and Mr. Guterres has worked very hard and has homes for them, and I urge the Government to let them go.

      On your freedom of information act – or, freedom of information in the sense of making information available – I think, as an Organization, we are pretty open. In fact, sometimes I say this is one of those buildings, [if] you have two copies, consider it published. And it’s all over. But I think we should be more forthcoming. We should release as much information as we can. Of course, there are certain informations that you cannot release, because it does cause problems. Sometimes, some of you have asked

me what is the nature of your conversations with this President or that Prime Minister or others, and I’ve had lots of confidential discussions and others that I cannot release till much later. And so, we do have rules where certain things are embargoed for a certain period. But beyond that, we should be open and forthcoming. [Q19 of 20 in www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=887]

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- What is the place of human rights among the UN's other goals? If Central Asia is the test, the results are decidedly mixed. Wednesday at the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman read out a statement from the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, urging the Kyrgyz government not to deport four Uzbeks who "arrived in Kyrgyzstan in the immediate aftermath of the violent events in Andijan in May 2005." Uzbekistan's Karimov regime has pursued all opponents, getting a dozen returned for example from Ukraine.

  Inner City Press has repeatedly asked UNHCR headquarters in Geneva for some update on those deported from Ukraine. "There is no update," has been the response. Another refugee from the region, imam Hseyincan Celil who was pursued for raising his voice for China's Uighur minority, was disappeared in Uzbekistan in April and has not been heard from since. (CBC radio report here; Uzbek response here.) His relatives fear he will be deported or "refouled" to China, for more permanent disappearance. Nevertheless, UNDP has said that Uzbekistan is making much progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

            If UNHCR is the left hand and UNDP is the right, Kofi Annan's Secretariat is supposed to be the heart or head or both. But on Monday, the Secretary-General sent an unequivocal message of congratulations to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a entity through which China has gotten deportation and "refoulement" commitments from the Central Asian states and Russia, and soon perhaps others. As reported, Mr. Annan praised the SCO's efforts against "terrorism, separatism and extremism." Of course, Uzbekistan's Karimov would say his pursuit of opponents is just that, part of the war on terror. That's what China says of the Uighurs, using the loaded term East Turkestan. 

            At Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the spokesman about this, and about Undersecretary General Gambari's current trip to Tajikistan. "Is the issue of human rights being raised?" Perhaps Kofi will be addressing these issues this week, mid-way through his last year as S-G.

            Ambassador Bolton's meeting with the UN Staff Union, which Inner City Press Tuesday night predicted, from hallways sources, would take place in the Indonesia lounge on Wednesday, did in fact take place. It was after 3 p.m., however, and not at 10 a.m. (parallel universe reported on below). At 3:45, the president of the Staff Union and the ubiquitous Judge Geoffrey Robertson emerged, saying it was a good first meeting. Judge Robertson added, in response to Inner City Press' question about what other member states they'd meet with, that there would be several.

   Then John Bolton stepped up to the impromptu Fox News camera and graded Mr. Annan incomplete. At a stakeout on the Hariri investigation earlier on Wednesday, Professor Bolton said that Mr. Brammertz' characterization of Syria's cooperation as "generally satisfactory" was only praise in a pass - fail grading system. He was also asked by AP about his previously-highlighted remark that Malloch Brown's speech was the worse mistake by a senior UN official since 1989; AP asked him to contrast to Rwanda. Bolton called that "incompetence and a lack of political will," versus the speechmaker's "flat out mistake."

            Inner City Press asked Ambassador Bolton if the United States supports a Freedom of Information Act at the United Nations, and John Bolton appeared to say yes. A flamboyant colleague points out that the Deputy Secretary-General began speaking of a UN FOIA six months ago. Another, of pragmatic stock, says that it's not who speaks first, but who gets the job done. We'll see.

            From the Department of Parallel Universes, in the Indonesia Lounge mid-morning Wednesday, at least three candidates for election to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women were campaigning by meeting with representatives of the voting member states. The candidate from Slovenia had a staffer from the Slovene mission working the phones.  "Myanmar can't make it? We have a lunch at one. Vietnam? Excellent." To those she met with, she made the identical small talk. "I lobbied you on the Human Rights Council, and now I'm back asking for this. But my candidate -- I mean, our candidate -- has a long history of advocating for women."

            In opposition to these smooth campaigns, on a couch with a phone was a slight woman of proud bearing, alternately speaking Arab, French and English. She met with a staffer from Ireland's mission, and asked him about the status of woman in his country. In response later to a reporter's questions, she explained that in her previous service as vice-chairperson of CEDAW, she noticed that while predominantly Muslim countries were invariably questioned about women's rights to abortion and in marriage, such questions were rarely put to the representatives of "Christian countries." And so she asked the questions, even to countries whose vote she seeks for re-election.

            Her name is Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani, a lawyer in Algiers who had been in New York since mid-May. Of her service on CEDAW she says that the problems of women in the developed and the developing worlds are not the same.  "They asked Eritria for employment statistics, when the average woman has six or seven children and lives only into her 40s, often dying of AIDS." As she spoke on this topic, on a bench in the basement outside Conference Room 2, there were tears in her eyes. "The world can get along," she said. And hearing her, one believes it.

            Near press time, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court emerged from the Security Council to take the press' questions. Inner City Press asked his position on arresting Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and the three -- or two -- other Lord's Resistance Army indictees. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo repeated that Sudan has agreed to make such arrests. A colleague just back from Juba pointed out that "it is not Sudan, it is not the central government there." The colleague's reporting was detailed, and raised during her absence in perhaps garbled form, to move the story forward.

    Inner City Press asked directly what the Chief Prosecutor thought of the photograph of South Sudan's vice president handing Joseph Kony money, variously described as five or twenty thousand dollars. Trailing down the second floor hallway Mr. Moreno-Ocampo and his former spokesman, Inner City Press asked about Peter Karim, who according to DPKO holds the seven Nepali peacekeepers. What will happen next remains to be seen. Meanwhile in DR Congo, not only do the seven UN peacekeepers remain in captivity -- now there is plague. A colleague reporter just back from Kinshasa recounts that the plight of the peacekeepers was not mentioned after the meetings with President Kabila, nor with this "ex-warlord" vice presidents..

At the UN, Internal Justice Needs Reform, While in Timor Leste, Has Evidence Gone Missing?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- With its tens of thousands of employees, the UN is far behind the times in terms of workers' rights and whistleblower protections. How out of step with institutions its size is the subject of a just-released Report of the Commission of Experts on Reforming Internal Justice at the UN. On Tuesday Justice Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. of the Commission briefed reporters on his findings. These include a failure to publish UN Appeals Tribunal decisions, meaning that these can hardly be cited as precedent. Disputes can take up to five years to lead to a recommended outcome, which can be ignored or modified by the Secretariat in any event.

   Justice Robertson says the UN inherited these Kafkaesque procedures from the League of Nations, and has not meaningfully improved them. His recommendations include that "the UN should promulgate its own 'Freedom of Information Act,' under which its internal documents and decisions will become available in due course, upon application by the public of the media." (Report at Paragraph 65).

            This call for transparency, endorsed by the UN Staff Union, is consonant with a demand made earlier in the week by, among others, a visiting U.S. Senator, Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, a skeptic of the UN system on sovereignty grounds. Asked on Monday by Inner City Press for his views on a UN Freedom of Information Act, Senator Coburn embraced the idea, while declining to comment on reported U.S. funding of Somali warlords in violation of the UN arms embargo.

   And so on Tuesday Inner City Press asked Justice Robertson if his report and its future before the Redesign Panel and then the General Assembly might be consonant, so to speak, with the U.S.' and others' different demands for reform. Justice Robertson answered diplomatically, that the UN would benefit from openness, so that wild accusations from Senators "or whomever else" could be disproved.  So where in the current mano-a-mano does the report and its trajectory lie? Amb. Bolton or Deputy S-G Malloch Brown? [regarding both of whom, see 9:25 update below.]

   Justice Robertson answered indirectly, saying that some governments are against the UN for domestic political reasons -- that is, as Malloch Brown described the U.S. -- while other governments are overprotective of the UN "because they get more than they deserver" from it. A candid judge whose decisions, up to now, have not been published or collected.

            In the wider world, the Secretary General's envoy to Timor Leste, Ian Martin, briefed the Security Council and then the media. In response to a question about how the oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea relate to the conflicts, Mr. Martin said he sees no connection to the present violence, but that the oil and gas may be part of the solution, as poverty and unemployment are roots of the current unrest.

   Asked about evidence reportedly looted from prosecutors' offices in Dili, Mr. Martin said the losses are being catalogued, but that the UN "has copies." Asked how that could include physical and forensic evidence, Mr. Martin said it's being checked, but he believes such items have been returned. We'll see.

Endnotes and follow-ups: At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about Monday's meeting between Deputy S-G Malloch Brown and Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona. At press time the answer came in: the meeting was "about the budget," and had been scheduled before the Deputy S-G's speech.

  Inner City Press asked for more information on Jan Egeland's plan, announced Monday, to work with personnel of the Lord's Resistance Army before the level of the five indictees; we'll see.  Reuters did -- they reported on Jan Egeland's answer yesterday. Now, reportedly, Joseph Kony has named 14 negotiators. And on the captive UN peacekeepers in Congo, still no update, 15 days in...

9:25 p.m. update, heard in the halls: it's said that Amb. Bolton will be meeting with the UN Staff Union tomorrow. The time and place named by one source was 10 a.m. in the Indonesian Lounge; this source says the topic is "MMB and a possible united front." Another, better placed hallway source says he's heard that they'll meet, at Amb. Bolton's request, but that it's not 10 o'clock. We'll see. For or with more information, e Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- In the real world, Congo equals six Rwandas: that is how the UN's Jan Egeland put it in response to question about the death of seven humanitarian workers in Ituri in the DRC. "By far the worst humanitarian disaster of our time," he also said, urging that whatever happens at the end of July, when elections are slated, the UN not mostly leave the country as it did, in essence, in East Timor.

   In issuing $18 million flash appeal for Timor Leste, to supplement $4 million from the UN's Central Emergency Revolving Fund, Mr. Egeland characterized as "great" the United States' $10 million. The CERF web site shows that this $10 million is an "uncommitted pledge." Time did not permit this follow-up question:

how does this U.S. un-commitment relate to the issues raised in Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown's speech last week?

   On that, at 11 a.m. U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, came down from a meeting with Mr. Malloch Brown, and after three times referring to waste-fraud-and-abuse as if a single word, took questions from the media. Responding to Sen. Coburn's demand for transparency, Inner City Press asked if he would support at the UN something like the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The Senator said yes. Inner City Press later asked him if he had any insight into the controversy surrounding the U.S.'s alleged funding of warlords in Somalia. "I have no comment on that," Senator Coburn replied. It did not feel transparent.

            As it turns out, during his 2004 campaign Tom Coburn bragged that

"As a U.S. Senator, I will oppose any legislation or treaty that compromises the sovereignty of the United States... I will vote against approving the United Nation sponsored Law of the Sea treaty which seeks to impose a regime to rule over the use of the oceans and their resources... No treaty or international organization, including the U.N., shall ever supercede [sic] the sovereignty of the United States." 

(www.coburnforsenate.com/americanatsov.shtml, as of June 12, 2006.)

            One wonders if this particular campaign promise came up at the meeting with the Deputy Secretary General. At the stake-out, Senator Coburn said this meeting had been scheduled well before "the speech," to discuss on what terms the U.S. would participate in renovating the UN Headquarters. Deputy Secretary-General Malloch Brown's daily schedule include a Republican Rep. from Arizona as well. At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if this meeting, too, pre-dated last week's speech. No answer came, as of press time five hours later.

            There was however some candor. Inner City Press asked Jan Egeland, as last week it asked Kofi Annan's spokesman, if the Lord's Resistance Army's Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and three other ICC indictees should be arrested. Mr. Egeland responded that all five should be arrested. He added that he is working on a plan to reach out to the Lord's Resistance Army personnel below the five top indictees, to "remind" them that that there is a future, even to get them back in school. This has not been elsewhere reported. Nor has the second of these two responses to Inner City Press, from the ICC Prosecutor's spokesman in The Hague:

From: Christian.Palme [at] icc-cpi.int

To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 13:58:24 +0200

  Dear Matthew, My only comment is the following official statement from the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC:

"The governments of Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo are obligated to give effect to the arrest warrants, and we are confident that they will honor their joint commitment to do so.  The ICC warrants name  Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.  Each is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Uganda since July 2002, in the context of a 20-year campaign of brutality against civilians."

  Then, after Inner City Press' follow-up question, does Sudan have any agreement or arrangement with the ICC in this regard, this:

From: Christian.Palme [at] icc-cpi.int To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com  Sent: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 19:20:17 +0200

  Dear Matthew, No, the Sudan is not a State Party to the ICC. Yes, there is an agreement between the ICC and Sudan to arrest the five leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army for whom arrest warrants have been issued by the Court.

            Subsequently, there were reports quoting that ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that "the Sudan, a non-state party who had harbored the LRA in the past, has voluntarily agreed to execute the (ICC) warrants" and that Kony "has used negotiations to buy time and regroup. To do justice and re-establish security in the region, the justice network has to arrest the LRA commanders." And then there were reports of the LRA killing nine more people near Juba. Presumably, the triggers weren't pulled the five indictees.

            Of the S-G's spokesman's office in New York, speaking of waste-fraud-and-abuse, Inner City Press asked for an update and briefing from the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, whose June 2 release implies that oil is still not being metered in Iraq, by "continu[ing] to reiterate its concern that key actions, especially the installation of an oil metering system, needed to be comprehensive and were taking a long time to implement." Speaking of waste-fraud-and-abuse, the release also discloses delay in the auditing of contracts of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root:

"the IAMB requested an independent verification of the global settlement of all six DFI funded task orders under the Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) contract reached between the U.S. Government and KBR on December 22, 2005 as well as a review of the remaining sole-sourced contracts to determine whether excess costs were incurred that would be the subject of renegotiation. However, progress has been slow in executing these special audits."

 On the peacekeepers in Ituri there was no update, after two weeks of captivity. On a report of UNHCR's dealings in Cairo with Sudanese refugees, culminating in the death of 27 refugees on December 30, 2005, Inner City Press was directed to UNHCR, which has denounced the report. Let the sunshine in!

Endnotes: First, on the topic of child labor, BBC today broadcast an in-depth report about 10-year old miners in Katanga in DRC, in a mine owned by Metorex Group. Cobalt dug and cleaned by foot by ten year olds... Next, some less enterprising gloating. Last week Inner City Press asked the spokesman about rumblings heard that the SRSG for Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen would leave at the end of the month. "I have nothing on that," was the response. Monday it was announced: Jessen-Petersen is leaving, at the end of the month. Finally, upstairs downstairs: in the basement in Conference Room 2, speakers inveighed for independence for Puerto Rico, pointing out the corporate interests which want to keep their Caribbean tax breaks. Upstairs in the lobby, a throng watched the Czech Republic beat Team USA 3-0. One wag in the crowd said, "If they still had Slovakia, would the score have been six - zero?" Let the games continue.

In Bolton's Wake, Silence and Speech at the UN, Congo and Kony, Let the Games Begin

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- What is the U.N.'s role, what is it's jurisdiction? U.S. Ambassador John Bolton on Friday said, "The member states tell the Secretariat what to do, not the other way around." Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the U.N. has 17,000 peacekeeping troops, prisoners in Beni, North Kivu are rioting to protest conditions and their lock-out without charges or trial. Less than a week after 192 prisoners broke out of jail in Bukavu, in Beni ten escaped and three were shot, including one prisoner who hadn't even tried to escape. In a post-shooting written statement, the UN stated that it will "remind the authorities once again of their responsibilities concerning prison conditions and the security of the population." So the UN does sometimes speak to, or at least remind, member states of their responsibilities.

            But when does the UN speak, and when does it stay silent? Friday at the noon briefing at UN Headquarters, Inner City Press asked the spokesman to take a position, primarily directed at South Sudan, on whether Lord's Resistance Army officials including not only Joseph Kony but also Vincent Otti, who have both been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Northern Uganda by the International Criminal Court, should be arrested. On Thursday, the new staffer in the Spokesman's office, previously speaking for the ICC, stated at five p.m. that he'd been unable to confirm reports that Otti is in South Sudan. The effort was appreciated and acknowledged. Friday after the briefing and Inner City Press' question about increasingly detailed reports, he appeared to say that it is not the UN's problem. (In fairness, Inner City Press later in the day sought clarification, see below.) In the briefing as before, the spokesman had inveighed generally against impunity.

 But what about this particular individual, Otti, as a test: will the UN "remind the authorities" in South Sudan that they have a responsibility, in light of the ICC indictment? 

   So far, for two days the UN has declined to answer the question.  So too when asked about a detailed report in the New Vision newspaper, carried on the UN's own MONUC website, that the Lord's Resistance Army is entrenched in Garanga National Park in the DRC. Inner City Press raised this article at the noon briefing, and afterwards showed the new staffer that article, as well as a more recent article, "Sudan VP Meets Kony Rebels in Juba," in which the Ugandan state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem is quoted that "We are consulting the International Criminal Court because they have issued arrest warrants, implying the government of southern Sudan is under obligation to arrest the rebels on sight. This issue has to be sorted out."

  Inner City Press asked again: why isn't the Secretary General or wider UN providing guidance at this point?  (In fairness, the Secretary General spoke out at the time of the ICC indictments, and since then generally about not tolerating impunity.) The reasons offered for not speaking at this time include that the International Criminal Court is not a UN body, that the UN and ICC have a partnership agreement; that Sudan is not a party to the ICC (the spokesman for the ICC Christian Palme will be asked to confirm this); and that the reported talks between the LRA, South Sudan and prospectively Uganda have no UN involvement.  Inner City Press said, and says here, that there are some who question if the UN would be so restrained if Mladic for example were spotted negotiation in Pristina or Montenegro, and who question if the proffered differences are much more than hair-splitting. So far not many seem to care or question, was the interim response. What is the standard for speaking? It becomes increasingly hard to tell.

            In Kampala, Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni said, "the DRC government and the UN are not serious" about acting on the Lord's Resistance Army. Often in reference to Un inaction it is said, "the UN and what army?" But in this case, the UN actually has an army, near the refuge of the long-denounced Lord's Resistance Army, reportedly down to fewer the 500 members. While 17,000 troops may be spread out, the rhetorical question about "what army" can, in this case, be answered. MONUC in the field will speak to government officials about their human rights duties, in jails and elsewhere. Why at UN headquarters has speech become so selective?

            Again no new update was given regarding the seven UN peacekeepers held captive in Ituri. Before he left for Khartoum, what we'll call a senior UN official told Inner City Press that the UN has seen the Nepali kidnappers, but that their captor is lucid one day and not so the next. More was said but for now not reported. As the Spokesman says, things are delicate.

            In lighter news, the first day of the 2006 World Cup saw dozens of people milling in front of the television in the UN Headquarters lobby, watching Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in French-language TV 5. Such crowds in the lobby usually connote an act of terrorism, or perhaps a John Bolton speech. But this time, and for this month, it is sport. On the second floor, a smaller crowd gathered by the TV set to the side of the Security Council. What will happen when a match overlaps with a Security Council stakeout is not yet known. Then again, as of Friday there's no ESPN, ABC or ESPN-2 available on UN TV. At 2:50 p.m., DSG Mark Malloch Brown floated through the lobby. Let the games begin!

3:25 p.m. postscript -- the light mood can't last long. An impromptu press conference was called at the stake-out regarding the alleged targeting of civilians on a beach by the Israeli Defense Forces. Questions were shouted about the impact on the referendum. Games, not funny, of an entirely different sort.

7:15 footnote: in the UN's Delegate's Lounge, prospective spokespersons for Lebanese inquiries hold forth with martinis and thick cigars, at the bar there's rare talk of Turkmenistan and Ruhnama, and even those who joist back and forth throughout the week are all at ease. If only world peace were this easy.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- The chairman of BP / British Petroleum on Thursday denounced the high cost of remitting money from poor people to their relatives as "a horrific indictment of the financial system."

   Peter Sutherland, Kofi Annan's point-man on migration and founding director general of the World Trade Organization, also conceded that the poor are ill-served by the WTO's dissonant treatment of goods and people. Nations accede to the free movement of goods and increasing services, but restrict those who must travel in search of work or other improvement.

   Asked what might make member states be as open to people as goods and services, Mr. Sutherland responded both that there are economic benefits and that it is inexorable, given most of the developed world's declining birthrate. Thus the briefing ended, but there were ever yet more question some quite concrete. In Russia for example, with its dwindling population, much of the construction work is done by migrants from Central Asia. Uzbek immigrants live in sheds, subjected to shakedowns under threats of deportation. The use of migrant labor may well be inexorable, but the fair and humane treatment of migrants is not.

            The recent UN migration report's author, Hania Zlotnik, was asked about this outside the briefing room. She recounted recently watching an old Public Broadcasting Corporation documentary about Chicago, in which Eastern European immigrants were exploited but now have even power. She reported that on the substance of migration, the United States is not being a problem -- only on the issue of the upcoming forum and its timing. In the wake of Wednesday's John Bolton - Mark Malloch Brown dust-up, the U.S. position on migration was not mentioned in the briefing.  

   The U.S. was the elephant in the (briefing) room, as it is on the issue of the funding of the warlords in Somalia. On that, Ambassador Loj in the morning predicted a Security Council briefing, which occurred, leading to a more formal presentation from Francois Lonseny Fall, now slated for June 19. Whether he will take questions is not yet known. On Thursday, incoming General Assembly president Haya Rashed Al Khalifa was slated to speak with the press, and then decided not to at the late minute.  Speaking in depth, not in Room 226 but rather in the UN Correspondents Association, was the Grand Mufti of Bosniak and Albanian Muslims in Montenegro, Rifat Fejzic, who painted a positive picture of the treatment of the Islamic community in what's slated to be the 192nd member state. He estimated that there are 150,000 Muslims in Serbia itself, not including Kosovo.

   A long-time Balkans observer was surprised at the Grand Mufti's upbeat take, contrasting it to the Bosnians. He referenced a Balkan proverb, that one who is bitten by a snake becomes afraid of a lizard. Independence via referendum and not bloodshed means that lizards can be addressed without fear. The Grand Mufti said that French officials have approached him, for information on how to bring about a more hierarchical organization of Muslims in France. How this will work out is anybody's guess.

            There was something of a lull at the UN on Thursday. The Secretary General urged reporters to put the speech story behind them, advice echoed by the forthcoming lame duck General Assembly president at a four-minute East Foyer stakeout. John Bolton was in London; his Security Council colleagues were in Sudan, from which Reuters reported that Joseph Kony's deputy Vincent Otti will be participating in talks with South Sudan and even Uganda. Since Mr. Otti has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, at noon the question was raised, should Mr. Otti be arrested? Near press time the new member of the Spokesman's Office team courteously disclosed that the Otti report could not be confirmed, and thus there'd be no comment. The question remains: should South Sudan arrest Mr. Otti? Time will tell the answer.

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 -- The dueling speech and sound-bytes from UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador, consumed the press corps and debate on Wednesday. At a three-minute stake-out in the morning, Amb. Bolton declared that "this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official" since 1989. (Video here, quote is at minute 2:13). At the noon briefing, after the spokesman said that the Secretary-General stands behind his Deputy's speech, he was asked if any graver mistakes by UN officials since 1989 came to mind. A topic just then being discussed in the depopulated Security Council, Rwanda, came to mind but was not mentioned.

    The spokesman was also asked, since the speech named names, if there'd be any comment on the Council of Europe's just-released report calling "reprehensible" the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects to secret camps -- including it seems in Poland and Romania -- and from there for torture with nary a court.  The spokesman said he hadn't yet seen the report and had not comment. So much for naming names.

   Asked, in advance, about the Dutch judicial system's conviction earlier in the day of Oriental Timber Co.'s Guus Kouwenhove for violation the UN arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman said that it is up the member states to bring enforcement actions. On Ambassador Bolton's call for now lifting the arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman had no comment.

            Later at the very Security Council stake-out, Mark Malloch Brown appeared. He selectively took questions from reporters by name, praising the very Fox news he'd in the speech called a detractor, and dismissing the notions of polarization, either that he is too closely aligned with the Democratic Party in the U.S. or that his remarks might make matters worse by enlarging the UN as a target of Republican rhetoric. When he strode off, there were still hands in the air and questions to be asked. These include, from the text of his speech, the identities of the G-77 member "few spoilers... opposed to reform for its own sake" and his views of the major candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, referred to in the final substantive line of his speech. While he'd probably "no comment" an inquiry about Senator Bill Frist, for example, one might wonder why, given the other specifics in his speech.

  One mostly wonders why what he calls his friendly critique of the U.S. did not include any reference to such controversies as extraordinary rendition or, even more unreported, the essentially confirmed U.S. funding of warlords in Somalia. The references in the speech to human rights are to the Unites States' vote against the new Human Rights Council and decision not to run for a seat, and to the Security Council's attempt to expand its mandate to include human rights. The speech mentions Rush Limbaugh and not Guantanamo Bay, and one wonders why.

            One might also wonder why Mr. Malloch Brown gave his speech at such a Democratic Party-identified venue. Why not the Council on Foreign Relations? Or the American Enterprise Institute, which he mentioned by acronym at the stake-out? Why not in the UN Headquarters building, described in the speech as "in most respects the most hazardous workplace in town"?

            In fact, the previous week Richard Holbrooke said much the same thing, in an impromptu stake-out after his remarks on the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Holbrooke said, as taped by this reporter (see, Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence, May 31, 2006), and the unnamed CNN, which never played it:

"This administration has shown a schizophrenic attitude towards the UN. We use it when it suits our purposes, like Iran, and we bypass it in a way that undermines it. It needs to be funded, and at the same time we need to push for more reforms."

            Some might call this a Cliff Notes version of Malloch Brown's later speech. While all day reporters were urged to "read the speech," as of 5 p.m. a Google search for "you will lose the UN" did not find the speech. [5:30 update: on un.org clicking Dep. Sect-Gen and speeches and latest, one finds the speech.] In further punditry, the first lesson and question of public relations is "who are you trying to persuade"?  This question was posed to a right-leaning pundit who was, in fact, called on by Mr. Malloch Brown. "The people where he gave the speech," was the answer. "It was a job application." If so, consider the owners of Progressive Insurance in Ohio, Middle America, and the cashing-out duo of Golden West Financial, selling to Wachovia. But if the message was directed beyond that room, again the question is, to whom? If overseas, to omit a substantive critique of U.S. human rights seems strange. And if it was directed to Middle America, the phrase in the speech, it is not clear that the speech's venue, its gleeful dissection on Fox News or the subsequent stake-out are enough.

            In other fruitless stake-out news, while at the noon briefing it was announced that Carla Del Ponte and her replacement on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Hassan B. Jallow, would take questions after their time in the Security Council, Ms. Del Ponte walked right by the microphone and brushed off those reporters who trailed her.

            Security Council president Loj did stop and take questions. On Somalia, she said she anticipates a briefing on Thursday and next week. Asked again to comment on Denmark's failure to response to the UNAIDS survey, she deferred to a staffer, who reiterated this written response:

"From: Michael Starbaek Christensen [at] um.dk
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 15:42:42 -0400
Subject: Un  AIDS survey

  "Dear Matthew, I checked with the Danish delegation to the HIV/AIDS high level event. In Denmark, the Ministry of Health is in charge of the Danish efforts to prevent and inform about HIV/AIDS. The efforts are concentrated on the substantive work in this field, and resources have not been earmarked to produce a report to the UN."

            In refusing to even respond to a UN project on AIDS, is Denmark a "spoiler," as phrased in the Malloch Brown speech? On Denmark's (non-) response, UNAIDS has yet to respond to a request for comment. Selective naming of names, selective allowing of questions. How it will turn out remains to be seen

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 6 -- The dual role and constraints of the UN system are on display in its just-released Report on International Migration and Development. The report highlights the global rise in migrants, from 155 million in 1990 to 191 million in 2005, and in remittances back to their countries of origin, from $102 billion in 1995 to $232 billion in 2005. Kofi Annan's introduction to the report recites that "it is for Governments to decide whether more or less migration is desirable" -- then headlines "benefits at both ends of the voyage."

            The report does not address the accelerating trend of corporations in developed countries outsourcing back-office and other skilled work to countries like India. A call to customer service is increasingly answered in an offshore call center, as is live on-line help. X-rays can be read and diagnoses delivered by lower-cost doctors overseas, over the Internet. Now investment banks' stock analysis comes from overseas, and Reuters business stories about mergers in California have Indian datelines. The trend may be that while some can ply their trades over the Internet, telecommuting on steroids, less skilled workers still need to migrate, by any means necessary.

            The reason for the Secretary-General's and other UN officials' statement that "it is for Governments to decide whether more or less migration is desirable" is to be found in the anti-immigrant political debates in France, Germany and the United States. The UN does not want to be accused of promoting open migration right at the time that both Houses of the U.S. Congress, to differing degrees, are trying to substantially slow and problematize entry into the United States.

            The report will be taken up by the UN General Assembly in September. The General Assembly has already spoken -- without strong-arming Capital-G Governments, of course -- on the question of remittances, urging countries to bring about more competition and impose fewer restrictions. The just-released report states that

"Governments can do much to increase competition in the remittance market and maintain pressure on fee reduction, including... requiring all money-transfer agents to disclose all charges and fees before a transaction is made; and disseminating information on costs in a systemic manner... Governments of both countries of origin and destination can reduce regulatory constraints hindering the use of banking institutions by migrants."

            Governments can do these things -- but do they? Following 9/11/01, the United States made it much more difficult to open a bank account, particularly for migrants. Al Barakaat, the major remitter to one of the poorest countries on earth, Somalia (see below), had its assets frozen. Officials implied that informal but longstanding remittance networks like South Asia's hawala system were rife with money laundering for terrorism.

            Money laundering and it cousin, tax evasion, may play some unexamined explanatory part the Report's Table 11 of the Top Twenty Countries in terms of receipts of remittances. The first three are no surprise -- India, China and Mexico -- but Number Four jumps out: France, with $12.7 billion remitted to it in 2004. This compares to only $3 billion having been remitted to the United States, a figure the UN report's table 11 cites to the World Bank. The World Bank table is here in PDF; more detailed remittance data is available here, in Excel format. Neither the World Bank report nor the just-released UN report answer, where is the money of American expatriates going?  A question for another day.

            The question of the day at the Secretary-General's Spokesman's noon press briefing was Somalia. A statement was read out, from the elusive SRSG Francois Lonseny Fall in Nairobi, that

"members of the international community welcome reconciliatory statements from the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and encourage a similar approach from the Union of Islamic Courts and other parties in Mogadishu."

            The facts on the ground are that Islamic Courts drove the warlords out of Mogadishu, and that the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism warlords were thrown out of the ever Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa. So to what "reconciliatory statements" was Amb. Lonseny Fall referring? The spokesman said he would find and identify them, but nothing was received by the expiration of the embargo on the UN Report on International Migration and Development at 4 p.m.. [Inner City Press was instructed, by a spokesperson for the General Assembly president, not to call any countries' missions for responses to the Report prior to 4 p.m.. Therefore we link to this response, to a separate but related UN migration report: "Austria's representative, Hannah Liko on behalf of the European Union, notes that, 'while the [Report] covered a number of important issues, it had missed a deeper analysis of the root causes of migration.'"

            Also at the noon briefing, the spokesman was asked if there is any update on the plight of the seven UN peacekeepers taken hostage in Ituri in the Congo. "No," the spokesman said. We'll keep asking...

  Other wires' Migration Report coverage: AP  Reuters  AFP  BBC

UN-reported post-embargo post-script: With the embargo lifted, Hania Zlotnik was asked how the International Organization for Migration relates or not to the report. "They are not part of the UN system," Ms. Zlotnik said. "We've tried to swallow them but we get indigestion." Responding to expressions of regret that she, as the report's author, could not (easily) be quoted, except it was projected and confirmed by one paper of record (which quoted her that "societies don't ask themselves enough what they would do without migrants"), Ms. Zlotnik shrugged, "That's how they do it," and headed down the escalator from the UN's third floor...

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 5 -- Most of Mogadishu fell over the weekend to so-called Islamic Court. They declared victory over the also so-called Anti-Terror Alliance, also known as warlords. From the Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa, the warlords were expelled. A corner sees to have been turned and so at UN Headquarters at noon the question was asked: what is the United Nations' or its Secretary General's view of Islamic Courts' takeover of the putative capital of all Somalia?

            Four hours later, the answer came in writing, in three sentence here quoted in full:

"The Secretary-General continues to be concerned about the violence in Mogadishu and its environs. He appeals to all sides to stop the fighting and enter into negotiations. He stresses that all parties to the conflict should resolve their differences and address outstanding issues in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia."

            To some, the statement is both empty and besides the point. Already Puntland and Somalialand are hardly in the orbit of Mogadishu, much less Baidoa. Now Mogadishu falls to Islamic Courts. What may be being cooked up in the Pentagon is anyone's guess.

            Also over the weekend, reports emerged that the seven Nepali UN peacekeepers taken prisoner in the Congo had been released. This came from Nepal's permanent representative to the UN, but turned out to not be true. The perhaps-accurate names of the Nepalis were, unlike the soldiers, released: Gir Bahadur Thapa, Prem Bahadur Thapa, Tuk Jung Gurung, Chhatra Bahadur Basnet, Sher Bahadur Bista, Jhalak Kunwar and Kale Sarki. At the Secretary-General's spokesman's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for an update. Unfortunately, they are still being held, was the response. There are rumblings of military action, and of attempts, not by the UN, to pay ransom. Still the US representatives in Kinshasa characterize events in East Congo as a sideshow, that will not impact the election slated for July 30. Some say: wishful thinking.

            The status of the Democratic Republic of Congo was raised to Noam Chomsky on Monday, when he took questions from the UN Correspondents' Association. Inner City Press noted that neither Congo or DRC is in the index of the professor's new book, "Failed States." Mr. Chomsky acknowledged that the DRC is "perhaps the worst ongoing atrocity in the world" and that it is not mentioned in his book -- because, he said, "I can't think of any sensible way to do anything about it." He mentioned strengthening the "weak" UN force, and stopping other countries' interventions. Afterwards, one of Prof. Chomsky's more combative interlocutors opined that if the U.S. is not the major negative actor, a situation is not of much interest to the professor. In his answer, Chomsky put it differently, saying "we should focus on our own responsibilities" and on "our own society." The UN Correspondents' Association, however, includes journalists from all over the world. A philosophy that as one of its seven main points urges that the UN be lead-actor on world crises should have something to say about wars like the Congo's. And the West is not without responsibility: DRC resource extractors include U.S.-based Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation, Adastra Mineral f/k/a American Mineral Fields, Ivanhoe Nickel & Platinum and Canada's Kinross Gold Corporation, among others.

            To Inner City Press' other question, on the regulation of corporation, Prof. Chomsky replied that corporations are "private tyrannies" that have come to dominate most stakes.  "It is not a law of nature," he said, "that corporation must serve only their shareholders... What about stakeholders?"

            There was much back-and-forth about the Middle East, and a prediction by Chomsky that China is ascendant, and that India will have to choose. (.wmv file being processed; available.) Asked at the end about the Uighurs in western China, Prof. Chomsky said it could be followed up by email. We'll see.

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

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, June 2 -- As three days of discussions of AIDS wound down at the UN, the co-chairs of the declaration's negotiations declared the document the best that was possible, while acknowledging that on the concrete issues of who gets antiretrovirals and at what cost, the tables are still turned against the poor. The UN Ambassador of Barbados, Christopher Hackett, answered Inner City Press' question about obstacles to Bolivians having access to generic medicine from Brazil by pointing to one paragraph of the declaration, number 42, which vaguely alludes to making "improvements in legislation [and] regulatory policy."

            UNAIDS director Petr Piot said, it's up to Bolivia to follow the steps outlined in the Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Close observers of this process note that license holders support the complex scheme, while not only people with AIDS but also the producers of generics say it is burdensome if not unworkable.  But Mr. Piot missed the point -- at issue was the strong-arming of Brazil, by the United States at the behest of license-holding pharmaceutical companies, into agreeing not to export any medicines which Brazil was producing generically prior to the World Trade Organization. Barbados' Ambassador Hackett diplomatically acknowledged that the real power may lie in another venue.

            Another journalist asked why the pharmaceutical industry was not more involved in negotiating the declaration. "Oh but they were," said one wag. Mr. Piot mentioned Merck and Pfizer, the headquarters of which stands two blocks west of the UN on 42nd Street, and which was not unconnected from the U.S. negotiators and their positions.

            At a stake-out, the president of El Salvador Elias Antonio Saca answered Inner City Press' question about AIDS services to particularly vulnerable groups, and then about the debate about immigration in the United States. He expressed most concern about those Salvadoran already in the U.S., and stated that while the U.S. might have a legal right to build a wall, he and other Central American leaders will be trying to reach out to U.S. legislators "of both political parties."

            Similarly promising outreach, Japan's ex-prime minister Yoshiro Mori answered Inner City Press' question about the lack of Japanese companies in the Global Business Coalition on AIDS by stating, among other things, that it is Japanese culture not to seek publicity, but that he will try upon his return to Japan to drum up interest among corporations, for the Coalition and also for the AIDS fund-raising program with "Red" credit cards and consumer electronics, an industry in which he noted that Japan is very big.

            Promising an answer, which perhaps will come during the month she serves as President of the Security Council, was Denmark's Permanent Representative to the UN Ellen Margrethe Loj. She was asked about the absence of Denmark from the list of nations which replied to UNAIDS survey. She said her focus has been on her upcoming month at the head of the Security Council. She described the plan of work, and said she was glad for Inner City Press' question on Somalia, stating that is can and will be brought up in the Council as events makes necessary. We'll see. On other member states' responses to UNAIDS the count as of June 2 according to Mr. Dangor, was 146 of 191 nations reporting, with Afghanistan for example still missing. The Danish mission did telephone Inner City Press near press time, but due to phone tag and attendance at the final vote in the General Assembly, the substantive explanation was not received. It will be reported on this site upon receipt.

  At 8:30 p.m., the President of the General Assembly deemed the declaration final and banged down his gavel. From the press gallery, where the speakers weren't on and the headphones barely worked, there came some presumably civil clapping. Then a rush for the exits, through stairways in which rain was leaking. By 8:50, the finalized Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS was an eight-page bound document by the Spokesman's Office's rolling metal gate. Later a second, more haggard exodus began.

            In non-AIDS news, at a Security Council stake-out mid-Friday the UN's Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping Heddi Annabi said he was aware of reports of an upsurge of violence in Burundi, but the UN's pull-out, he said, would only be slowed or called off if the government of Burundi requests it. On the seven UN peacekeepers taken hostage in Congo's Ituri region, Mr. Annabi confirmed Peter Karim as their keeper, but declined to estimate the size of Karim's force, or whether the UN's MONUC will consider military action to free the peacekeepers. And so it goes...

On AIDS at the UN, Who Speaks and Who Remains Unseen

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- On AIDS, the UN Thursday was the venue of an unwieldy dance of nation states, people and an unseen force, corporations. The rumbling in the UN basement and the street, which gathered force Wednesday while Booz Allen Hamilton and hybrid corporateer cum diplomat Richard Holbrooke briefed in Room 226, came upstairs for a well-run press conference at 11:30 a.m.. From the podium four activists, and more from the audience seats, explained how the draft declaration was getting watered down and twisted. "If it is weaker than in 2001, we will not accept it," one said. The call was also for openness and an end to "side deals."

            Inner City Press asked what role corporations are playing. While one answered that the focus was on nation states, others noted that pharmaceutical companies were brandishing the talisman of intellectual property, at least as enshrined in Doha. Downstairs the U.S. delegation conferred, noting that they could not commit Congress to spend any money but would focus on unpacking "vulnerable populations" and some qualifier on universal access. A later draft conveys an "aim of coming as close as possible to the goal of universal access" -- a phrasing that echoes of failed desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

            In a background briefing by individuals describing themselves as "UN officials following the negotiations," it was dropped that negotiations had begun with opposition to the concept of the empowerment of girls. "Who was it that said that?" a journalist asked. "I don't remember," replied a UN Official Following the Negotiations.

            By nightfall Richard Gere held forth in the General Assembly. And outside a hard rain began to fall...

            In other UN system news, two update from UNHCR in Geneva: the agency responded to the Senate Inquiry on the Unauthorized Arrivals Bill. UNHCR's is #75 of these responses. Asked about UNHCR's leaked contingency plan for tens of thousands of Serbs leaving Kosovo, UNHCR's Jennifer Pagonis responded that "contingency planning is based on the institutional and moral responsibility of the UN humanitarian agencies to help ensure that adequate and timely humanitarian aid is provided to persons in need, should such  an emergency occur, in order to reduce human suffering.  It is not part of any  political process.... I passed on your enquiry on the other issue to Olivier Delarue but don't have a response as yet."  We'll be waiting...

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- Two faces of the UN were on display on Wednesday, as corporations were celebrating themselves in less than transparent fashion while one of the corporateers praised, sincerely, the birth of the 192nd state, Montenegro.

    The UN's two faces were combined Janus-like in one: Richard Holbrooke, who along with Peter Parry of Booz Allen Hamilton, briefed reporters on the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. The GBC now has 215 corporate members, each of which pays an annual fee of $25,000 and can help, the hand-outs state, "by simply adding the force of their reputation and reach to [the] work." One of the members is DynCorp, embroiled in abuse allegations in the Balkans. Not a member, at least for now, is Credit Suisse, where Mr. Holbrooke was previously vice chairman.  Listed as a member is another financial firm on whose board of directors Mr. Holbrooke currently serves, the insurer American International Group (AIG).

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Holbrooke both about what, if anything, AIG does about AIDS, and also for his reaction to the independence vote in Montenegro. On the former, ICP noted that a search of AIG's website for "AIDS" results in not a single hit.  "It might surprise you," Mr. Holbrooke said, "but I am not in charge of their website."

            "But what does AIG do about AIDS?"

            Mr. Holbrooke said he was not comfortable answering, since he is a director of the company. This approach seemed to spread on the podium.  Inner City Press asked Peter Parry about its role in USAID's $77 million contract to "build a system to distribute pharmaceuticals to people with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman IT are among the contractors involved." See Federal Computer Week of May 29, 2006 (live link here as of May 31, 2006). Mr. Parry responded that he doesn'twork in that part of the company, and so couldn't answer. Whether forthcoming will be any answer or revision Mr. Holbrooke's statement that Booz Allen's work on AIDS is pro bono is not known at this time.

            Outside the briefing room, Mr. Holbrooke stopped to take informal questions about more diplomatic matters. He opined that the current U.S. "administration has shown a schizophrenic attitude towards the UN. We use it when it suits our purposes, like Iran, and we bypass it in a way that undermines it. It needs to be funded, and at the same time we need to push for more reforms."

   Inner City Press asked if he had any comment on the vote in Montenegro. Mr. Holbrooke responded:

"The Montenegro vote is fantastic. I applaud the Montenegrin people. I've always thought that they should be an independent country. It was an inevitable event. I congratulate the people for making a historic decision. And now let's deal with Kosovo."

   (.wmv clip to be uploaded; formal briefing here.) And then he was gone...

   Elsewhere at UN Headquarters on Wednesday, the President of the General Assembly in response to a stake-out question from Inner City Press added his voice to that of UNAIDS' director, that members states are "urged to respond" to UNAIDS' surveys. Portugal's ex-president Jorge Sampaio briefed on tuberculosis, while declining to name the countries with the most cases, or why the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pulled out of Myanmar.

   The Global Fund's executive director Richard Feachum did answer the question, stating that like North Korea, Myanmar is a country where it was impossible to know if money was being spent appropriately. These he distinguished where countries where corruption has been found, and the funding temporarily cut off: Ukraine and Uganda. (Click here for background on the Uganda situation.) In non-AIDS news, the cloak-and-dagger in the Security Council involved cutting costs and troop levels in UNMEE in Ethiopia and Eritrea, in the face of results in Timor-Leste. The seven Nepali blue helmet remain hostages in Ituri in the Congo.

At 8 p.m. Inner City Press asked Jean-Marie Guehenno, head of UN Peacekeeping, if there was any update on the peacekeepers. "No," he said. "We're working on it," a bespeckled colleague with him said. "No good news, but no bad news," Mr. Guehenno added.

On AIDS at the UN Perspectives Vary, Some Civil Skeptics and Many Non-reporting Countries

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, May 30 -- Brandishing a 629-page report of the global AIDS epidemic, the head of UNAIDS Peter Piot on Tuesday emphasized that the 2001 contribution target of $8.3 billion has been reached. Asked why only 126 of 191 current countries, or of the 189 that made the 2001 commitments, have responded in any way to the UNAIDS survey requesting information, Mr. Piot said that this is a problem, particularly in Central Asia and in developed countries which think "this is only for poor nations." (The nations which have not reported can be inferred from this web site.) Mr. Piot indicated that the May 31-June 2 High Level Meeting will be used to urge the non-reporters to come clean. Hearing the issue of the missing country data for the second time was UNICEF's executive director Ann Veneman, who afterwards gave a heartfelt interview to South African Broadcasting.

            Activists in town for the meeting had a different take. In from Nigeria, Omulolu Falobi laughed at the size and weight of UNAIDS' report. "They could buy medicine for three people for the cost of each book," he said. He stated that the funding offered by the U.S. President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, contorts developing countries' responses to AIDS toward religiously-rooted programs focused on abstinence, like those on Ghana and of Uganda's First Lady. In from Bolivia, and stating that her HIV/AIDS came from being raped in 1998, Gracia Violetta Ross Quiroga, stated that she sees so much misspending in Latin America by the Global Fund for AIDS that she cannot advocate for additional funding for that mechanism. She and other activists stated more generally that much more funding that the $8.3 billion referred to by Mr. Piot is needed.

            On the matter of the non-reporting countries, Liz Ercevik Amado from the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies opined that many Middle Eastern and Central Asia states may not have reported due to taboos and stigmas surrounding the issue of AIDS. In from Canada, Kieran Daly of the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations said, of the Catholic Church and its anti-condoms policy, "You could argue that they're killing people."  For the coming three days in and around the UN, let the arguments begin!

In Congo, Peacekeepers Turned Hostages: Interview with Jean-Marie Guehenno by Inner City Press

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, May 30 -- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, one UN peacekeeper is dead, three wounded and seven taken hostage by the forces of Peter Karim, known for hauling the DRC's resources east into Uganda. At UN Headquarters on Tuesday, Inner City Press interviewed Jean-Marie Guehenno, Under-secretary general for peacekeeping (click here for WAV file). Earlier, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Kofi Annan what is being done to secure the peacekeepers' release, and how the DRC election, slated for the end of July, can take place in these circumstances. The Secretary General replied that Karim has been implored to release the peacekeepers, and will not have impunity. He added that the UN is doing the best that it can for the election, the first in 40 years in Congo.

            An hour later at Kofi Annan's spokesman's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about reports that Karim is demanding $20,000 per peacekeeper. We do not pay ransom for our personnel, the spokesman replied, and there will be no impunity.  Asked about MONUC's own report that it is government soldiers who are responsible for most of the rapes in the Congo, the spokesman referred to training, and repeated that there is and will be no impunity. That was the word of the day. To inquire further, Inner City Press asked at the noon briefing if Jean-Marie Guehenno would take questions after he briefed the council. "We've asked," was the answer.

            At 1 p.m., Inner City Press asked Jean-Marie Guehenno as he rushed into the Security Council if he would answer questions at the stakeout after he briefed the Council. Mr. Guehenno replied that he was not going in to brief, but rather to find an Ambassador.  It was past three p.m. when the briefing began. Kofi Annan and Mr. Guehenno went in, and at 4:08, the Secretary General came out, waving.  At nearly five o'clock Mr. Guehenno emerged, with a half-dozen staffers in his entourage. For eight minutes Mr. Guehenno answered Inner City Press' questions, all on the Democratic Republic of Congo.

            Asked about the status of the seven kidnapped peacekeepers, Mr. Guehenno said the militia leader involved would be held personally accountable if the Blue Helmets are not released. Asked if this militia leader is, in fact, Peter Karim, Mr. Guehenno replied, that is the assumption. He described an ambush in Ituri in which one peacekeeper was killed, three injured and seven surrounded and captured. A helicopter that arrived thereafter could not free them, due to the surrounding jungle.

            Asked to clarify a recent quote that there are not that many deaths in Congo, Mr. Guehenno distinguished between "direct" deaths, by shooting or machete, and more indirect impacts of war, including the breakdown of the state and health system.

            Asked if the elections, slated for the end of July, are on track, Mr. Guehenno replied "as much as can be," and described logistical and political obstacles. Mr. Guehenno asked rhetorically, Will it be a Westminster democracy? No, he answered. He said that what gives him hope, when he goes "beyond Kinshasa," as the ten Permanent Representatives visiting DRC in the second week of June apparently will not, is excitement about voting, and the mobilizing of voices "who have no voice."

            Asked about the calls in Kasai for a boycott of the election, Mr. Guehenno replied that the leader of the UDPS had been given many opportunities to participate, but unfortunately has chosen not to. Asked about President Kabila's allegation that the three dozen foreign bodyguards, including three from Orlando, Florida-based AQMI Strategy and others from South Africa's Omega Risk Solutions, were attempting a coup, Mr. Guehenno said he only knows the news he reads. One wonders if others in a position to impact Congo even read the news. Click here to hear Inner City Press' interview with the UN's Jean-Marie Guehenno, recorded on a $20 MP3 player and edited on open source audio software, with an voiceover introduction recorded in an echo chamber on the UN Headquarters' third floor. Watch -- and listen for -- this site.

 

May 29, 2006- Last (UN) Week in Review: On Congo, Cognitive Dissonance at the UN, While UK Calls for Crackdown on LRA's Joseph Kony

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- "The election will be credible," responded France's Permanent Representative to the UN Jean-Marc de La Sabliere to questions Friday on Congo, to which he and nine other Permanent Representatives will travel next month after Sudan.

   Inner City Press had asked about reports of mass displacement in Ituri, and about most observers' skepticism about current president Kabila's claims that an opponent has attempted a coup with foreign mercenaries. Amb. de La Sabliere did not answer about the purported coup attempt, but spoke at length, as the UN's Ross Mountain has, about the number of polling places and the 25 million people who have registered to vote. "I cannot answer as to each village, in Ituri or Kivu," he said, "the DRC forced back by MONUC have done a good job."

            Earlier on Friday at the UN, at a briefing on children's right to HIV and AIDS treatment, the president of World Vision International Dean Hirsch had answered a question from Inner City Press about the lack of AIDS treatment in Congo by stating that "the DRC is the greatest tragedy on earth," comparing it to Darfur.

            The two statements, made three hours apart from the briefing podium in Room 226 of UN Headquarters, lead to cognitive dissonance. Does the continuing level of violence and underdevelopment in the Democratic Republic of Congo make it the world's worst tragedy? Or is everything looking up, at Amb. de La Sabliere and Ross Mountain have it, in light of an election scheduled for July 31, into which the UN is clearly invested? At what point does wanting the election to go well become whitewashing the world's world humanitarian crisis? And how can a Security Council member or mission declare, in advance of their visit as well as of the election, that an election "will be credible"?

     At the Security Council briefing, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry responded to Inner City Press' question regarding the Lord's Resistance Army that the LRA has "wrecked havoc" leading to (among other things) one and a half displaced people; he reiterated that Kony has been indicted by the ICC and that the indictment should "be implemented" and Kony should "face justice." The spokesman for the Secretary General, who the previous day had said he'd inquire and get a response, provided one late Friday, quoted here in full:

"Northern Uganda continues to experience an enormous humanitarian crisis with 1.7 million Internally Displaced Persons resulting from more than 20-year old conflict. The Lord's Resistance Army activity is one of the most violent and vicious ever seen and it is in everybody's interest to implement the International Criminal Court indictments against its leaders. We are aware of contacts mediated by Sudanese VP Salva Kiir to arrange for a political solution to the LRA. The Ugandan Government insists its amnesty applies to all LRA elements with the exception of its two top leaders Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti. Although recognizing the LRA phenomena has to be addressed from a comprehensive military as well as humanitarian, political, social and economic perspective the overall focus should be on protection of the innocent, respect of human rights and fight against impunity."

          There it is. In other UN news, David Balton, with the long-winded title Chair of the Review Conference on the Agreement for the Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, predicted that Japan will be signing on to the agreement "in a week or two," but that outside the agreement remain large fishing counties such as China, Indonesia, Philippines and South Korea. He indicated his awareness of reports of the rogue trawlers Isabella, Carmen, Rosita, Eva and Juanita being serviced in Germany, Lithuania and Poland; his co-briefer Fernando Curcio responded that the European Commission is acting on this, and promised to provide documents in a week or so. Asked by Inner City Press if any fishing industry participants are members of the UN Global Compact, and if the Global Compact has had or could have any role in rooting out illegal, unreported and unregulated (UII) fishing, Mr. Balton said not to date, but that it might be worth asking the Global Compact.

            Speaking still of global, in the future tense, at Friday's Global Movement for Children briefing, UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman also answered on Congo, stating that she'd been to DRC this year and speaking passionately about the rape of children there. Responding to a question from Inner City Press about the more than 50 member states which have not provided any response to UNAIDS' survey, Ms. Veneman encouraged attendance next Tuesday at a May 30 UNAIDS press conference. Watch this site.

Conflict Cocoa in Cote D'Ivoire But Maybe No Election; In Security Council, Late Night on Timor L'Este; In Kosovo, UN Uses Tear Gas Though the Spin

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- In Cote D'Ivoire, thirty percent of cocoa production leaves the country through informal channels, according to the UN's Abdoulaye Mar Dieye. This constitutes, among other things, tax evasion. Inner City Press inquired at Thursday's briefing into the use of child labor in cocoa production, an issue on which Nestle and ADM have been sued. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye responded by referring to a study that's about to come out.  In a subsequent interview he suggested that cocoa production might need something akin to the Kimberly process on conflict diamonds. (Click here for information on the Kimberly process).

  Abdoulaye Mar Dieye reiterated the recent statements of Gerard Stoudmann that elections by the October 31, 2006, deadline are "still technically feasible," although they would require bending if not breaking some procedural rules; he acknowledged that the deadline might not be met. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye stated that there are 700,000 internally displaced people in Cote D'Ivoire (OCHA's web site put the figure at 500,000.)

       On another displacing issue further east in Africa, with the government in South Sudan offering to mediate between Uganda and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the Secretary-General, now in Bangkok, has a position on whether South Sudan should arrest Kony, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. It was said that a response will be forthcoming.

     What are the odds? A day after the UN's Soren Jessen-Petersen denounced as misinformation reports of attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, in the village of Krushe e Vogel / Mala Krusa stones were thrown at two Serb defense lawyers. he UN Police responded with tear gas. The previous day's press release had

"analyzed 1,408 Kosovo Serb convoys that were escorted by the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) during January to early May this year. It was found that there had been six incidents of stone throwing at these convoys and police had made five arrests in those cases."

  That is, less than four-tenths of one percent of convoys were attacked. So what were the odds of it happening the very next day?  TInner City Press raised the incident at the noon briefing; the questions, both unasked and unanswered, is why the UN attempt to spin in some areas while remaining silent on many others, for example on the "clandestine" violator of the arms embargo in Somalia and the metering of oil in Iraq.

            As the meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues winds down, a briefing was held and these numbers presented: 1200 indigenous representatives attended along with 55 member states. Three of the states, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, openly spoke out against the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, not only against the notion of requiring the consent of indigenous people to projects on their land but also the reference in Article 3 to the right to self-determination.  Inner City Press inquired into Indonesia's position on self-determination for indigenous people, in light of West Papua. The chairwoman responded that Indonesia was not involved in the drafting process in Geneva, nor in this Permanent Forum meeting. Asked about the issues of missionaries, conversions and adoptions, under the rubric of loss of culture, Forum member Wilton Littlechild said the matter is not only in the draft, but also before the Commission on the Rights of the Child.  In a separate interview in the basement outside Conference Room 2, Mr. Littlechild described several class actions in Canada on these issues, alleging cultural genocide. Since the treatment by courts of claims of cultural genocide is an open question, one wonders if the Declaration -- in one its 19 perambulatory paragraphs or 45 articles -- shouldn't address the need in nations' laws for just such a cause of action.

            Finally, on Timor L'Este, events in Dili were murkily described at the Security Council stake-out at 5:40 p.m. by the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno. "Often we leave too early," he said. Inner City Press asked if events in Timor L'Este might cause a rethinking of fast UN pullouts from such locations at Burundi.  "Generally," Mr. Guehenno answered, "one should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish." He added that before leaving, one should make sure that the majority and the minority get along in a democratic fashion.  Yes, one should...

  The Security Council was to re-convene at 10 p.m.. Knowledgeable correspondents ascribed this to the need for the Chinese delegation to get word from Beijing; drained correspondents awaited the recently-dancing Chinese press attache, past deadline.

In the lull at the Security Council stakeout, informed / uniformed sources opined that next month World Cup soccer games will be broadcast in the lounge outside the Security Council, but not outside ("If it was still Mr. Lavrov [as Russian envoy to the UN] and it was up to him, it would be on TV in the Council too," one said).

At 9:56 p.m., a spokesman for China passing through the stakeout explained they had to call their Ministry, and didn't want to wake people up. "Now it's 10 a.m. in Beijing, we've gotten our instructions, it should all go quickly now."  -Filed 9:58 p.m. Eastern

At 10:10 p.m., a passing spokesman disclosed that, with the word "warmly" dropped, it is being passed. -Filed 10:11 p.m.

All this for six minutes (in Real).

At 10:23 p.m., Japan's envoy expressed hope that the UN will not have to reconstitute a peacekeeping force, but stated that when Ian Martin reports back, this too may be considered. There was much joking about returning to dinner, with references to Chinese takeout, and Japanese tea. Some looked for stronger fare. -Final filing 10:25 p.m. Eastern

At the UN, Too-Rosy Light on Myanmar, More Clarification on Timor L'Este and a Dance

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 -- Myanmar was illuminated, briefly, by rosy light at the UN Headquarters on Wednesday. Following his visit to Myanmar including its new capital Pyinmana, the UN's Ibrahim Gambari told journalists that Aung San Suu Kyi, who he called A.S.S.K., is in good health, that the military regime is working well with the UN's anti-drug office and, generally, that things are looking up.  Inner City Press asked Mr. Gambari if he raised to the regime the issues of press freedom, and of the Karen and stateless people, and about reports that Myanmar is defaulting on payments to the state-owned Ukraine arms supplier UkrspetsExport and on construction of its new capital in the jungle. Mr. Gambari said his visit was not about the defaults (or, by implication, about arms sales), but he was willing to describe his one hour visit to the new capital, stating that although most ministries have moved there, it is still fairly empty. Mr. Gambari made an analogy to when his country, Nigeria, moved its capital.  But the Myanmar regime's move seems not about rural economic development, but rather about staying in power.

            Relatedly, Mr. Gambari was repeatedly asked about his and Kofi Annan's involvement in seeking an endgame for the Mugabe era in Zimbabwe.  While the spokesman turned questions away, Mr. Gambari appeared to respond that he's involved, then backed away.  We talk to a lot of people, was essentially the answer. Ah, diplomacy.

            Also diplomatic was the UNAIDS director's spin on more than fifty countries' failure to respond to UN surveys on AIDS. At a briefing on Wednesday he characterized such an inquiry as pessimistic. While tomorrow can always be a better day, for the UN to excuse failure to provide basic information seems counterintuitive.

            On an issues raised at the noon briefing, the UN's reaction to disturbances in Timor L'Este which has now invited back in foreign forces from four countries, in light of the critique that the UN left too quickly, the Secretary General's spokesman subsequently had an answer, on- and off-line. It was the U.S. and Australia which wanted to pull out when they did. He also stated, in the briefing, that the UN would not look kindly on the reported coup attempt by foreign mercenaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Well, unlike on Somalia and even Montenegro, it is a response. On Tuesday as Monday, the spokesman declined to comment substantively on the weekend's vote in Montenegro, despite Russia and now Serbia conceding the result.

            An observer noted that perhaps the UN made little of Montenegrin's vote for independence because the victory and credit for the peaceful transition, so far, is for the European Union and even Serbia.  Another noted that Timor L'Este is considered one of the UN's coups, so to speak, so perhaps the UN is reticent to highlight the temporary unraveling of things there. But what explains the lack of information from Somalia, in particular from the UN's envoy Francois Lonseny Fall? Most recently his office still has no comment on the UN-backed transitional government inviting in peacekeeper -- from which it seems fair to infer that the UN was not involved in this development. He still has no comment on the attempted sale by the breakaway region of Puntland of mineral rights to the Australian company Range Resources Ltd. In fact, the UN system insists on characterizing those who flee into Puntland as "internally displaced persons" and not full fledged refugees. (Click here for the wider humanitarian issues.) It was however observed: if you're going to play politics and put more energy into always siding on a one-state solution for Somalia, you should at least fully play the game and both be involved in seeking peace(keepers) and in speaking out against a breakaway region's sale of resources to a first world corporation, in what others in the UN have called a vulnerable conflict zone. If the UN doesn't speak on these matters, who will?

At UN, Silence Greets Birth of a Nation, Montenegro, and Continuing Collapse of Another, Somalia

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- What if a nation was born and nobody came? The birth today of a nation, Montenegro, was met at UN Headquarters with a shrug, a confused look, even a yawn. Over the weekend, just over the required 55% of Montenegrins voted to break away from Serbia, the next to last shoe falling from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The Kosovar question remains. At the noon briefing Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the Secretary General had any comment on the birth of this nation. As summarized in the briefing's highlights,

"Asked if the Secretary-General had any comment to make on the independence referendum held in Montenegro over the weekend, the Spokesman said that the UN had no official comment to make as it is awaiting the official results to be announced. He added that the UN had taken note of the peaceful manner in which the referendum took place. Asked what the referendum meant for possible membership of the UN general Assembly, the Spokesman said membership is decided by the General Assembly."

     The spokeswoman for the GA president said she hadn't spoken with Jan Eliasson about Montenegro, but "we'll check on it for you." By press time, no comment was forthcoming, nor any description of the process Montenegro must follow. A call to the permanent mission to the UN of Serbia and Montenegro found the answering machine still listing the two countries together.  At 7:40 p.m., as Puccini's Madame Butterfly reverberated in the General Assembly (and one listener was seen with the white one-ear headphone on, clicking the translation knob) this response came in:

"I raised your question about Montenegro with General Assembly Affairs. The process is that Montenegro would apply for UN membership by sending a letter to the Secretary-General.  The Security Council would make a recommendation to the General Assembly, and the General Assembly would adopt a resolution.  An item to address such situations is on the agenda of all sessions of the Assembly."

   Inner City Press sat in the Serbia and Montenegro seat, between the Philippines and Spain, in Conference Room 2 throughout the afternoon, for an otherwise well-attended meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, including details on Indonesian plantations, mass evictions and the killings of 46 indigenous leaders in The Philippines. On agenda item 4B, the delegate from the Russian Federation spoke too fast for the translators, and too long for the chair. On the matter of requiring the "free prior informed consent" of indigenous communities to projects which impact them, a contrary joint statement by the U.S., Australia and New Zealand rejected consent, and also bad-mouthed the draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

            What if a nation was (re) born and nobody came?

      In another state disintegrating less peacefully, Somalia, parliamentarians in Baidoa voted over the weekend to invite in peacekeepers from Uganda and Sudan. Last week, the spokesman for Kofi Annan's envoy Francois Lonseny Fall had no comment on this. At Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if Lonseny Fall had any involvement in the Baidoa announcement of inviting in peacekeepers (which would required UN Security Council approval, as it would contravene the arms embargo in place since 1992).  "We can check into it," the spokesman said.  At press time, nothing on Lonseny Fall's involvement if any. Meanwhile Puntland reiterated its lack of respect for and submission to Baidoa, on the question of selling its mineral and energy resources. In Puntland, General Adde Muse Hersi told reporters that "the government of premier Gedi has no land to rule and we will continue the missions to produce our resources and we are prepared to defend ourselves against any assault."  Presumably including by any troops from Uganda or Sudan...

 

May 22, 2006 -- Kinshasa Election Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's Belly-Dancing

Byline: Inner City Press UN Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 -- Eight weeks out from the first election in Democratic Republic of Congo in 45 years, the United Nations coordinator Thursday called the process a "nightmare." Long-time UN envoy Ross Mountain said he was not very concerned that the ongoing gun battles in Ituri will impact turn-out, nor of the call for a boycott by the Democratic Union for Social Progress (UDPS), which is strongest in the province of Katai. Inner City Press asked Mr. Mountain for an estimate of what percent of those eligible have actually registered to vote, in both Uturi and Kasai.  "We can get you that," Mr. Mountain replied. But no information was received by press time, five hours later.

   Among the more positive trends emphasized by Mr. Mountain are the registration of 25 million voters in what he called "a Western Europe without roads;" the plans for 53,000 voting booths to be staffed by 300,000 poll workers and 50,000 police. Mr. Mountain also said that of all plane crashes in Africa last year, half involved commercial aircraft in the Congo. On that, an item we've need to update: the World Food Program plane that got lost between Goma and Bunia on April 28 was found just across the border in Uganda, with all three who's been aboard found dead.

    In unrelated news, Canada's Ambassador Allan Rock briefed members of the UN Correspondents Association on his country's proposals to reform the way the new Secretary General will be selected. Mr. Rock disclosed that it's at the end of June that he's leaving, to return to the practice of law. He offered to pass out his business card, then laughed, as he did while answering in French a question about whether he agrees (with France) that the next Secretary General must speak French.

 More seriously, alongside a wider proposal Mr. Rock suggested that even in 2006, the idea of limiting the Secretary General to a single term should be discussed, and candidates for the position should openly campaign, including answering questions and specifying their proposed Deputy Secretary General. Inner City Press asked about the recent seeming trade of Uzbekistan's support for South Korea's candidate for an energy deal between Tashkent and Seoul. Mr. Rock declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but said that the selection should be based not on side deals but on who would be best for the position, even if not from the region whose "turn" it is. Developing...

Overtime: A reporter trying to attend a Model United Nations meeting in the General Assembly at six p.m. was turned back, and sent from the second to the third floor -- where a more intimate event was taking place, complete with an invitation from the Russian Section on the 14th floor to visit "anytime, day or night," three tables of eclectic food from grape leaves to falafel and even a belly dancer, with the now-gutted Con Ed buildings behind her. Only at the UN...

U.S. Working with Warlords, U.N. Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the UNHQ

Byline: Inner City Press UN Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 -- In Somalia, another day, another gun battle. In Mogadishu an underlying dynamic is the reported United States funding, ostensibly as part of the War on Terror, of non-fundamentalist war lords, the politically-correct term for whom is "factional leaders." These warlords now have a long-named trade association, the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). At the noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Inner City Press asked for the position of the UN Secretary General if a major power were to fund warlords like the ARPCT. Kofi Annan's spokesman referenced the Secretary General's positions "as elaborated by his Special Envoy" Francois Lonseny Fall (see below) and said, "I am not going to get into hypotheticals."

    But it's hardly hypothetical. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack, when asked if the U.S. is funding the ARPCT, said "We are working with individual members of the transitional government to try to create a better situation in Somalia. Our other operating principle is to work with responsible individuals and certainly members of the transitional government in fighting terror."  Whether this "work[ing] with responsible individuals" is violating the UN arms embargo on Somalia is an open question. Six nations were recently named as violators of the arms embargo  -- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Yemen -- while a seventh, unnamed by the UN, was called a "clandestine" violator of the arms embargo. Developing...

   Following the noon briefing, Inner City Press reached Ian Steele, the spokesman for Francois Lonseny Fall, on his cell phone in Nairobi. Asked about the UN report's unnamed "clandestine" violator of the arms embargo in Somalia, Mr. Steele responded, "You have that report." Asked about the U.S. State Department's spokesman's statement that the US is working with "responsible individuals" in Somalia to combat terrorism, Mr. Steele said that is just rumor, that he and Mr. Lonseny Fall cannot confirm from the office in Nairobi.  Reportedly, the U.S. outreach to warlords is being conducted from Nairobi. Asked for the Special Envoy's view on Puntland's sale of mineral rights to Australia-based Range Resources, Mr. Steele responded that "we don't track business developments." Then who does?

   Even earthquake response not free from the politics of terror. The Pakistan-based group Jamat-ud-Dawa was been named by the U.S. as an affiliate of Al Qaeda; the group claims to have helped many earthquake victims in Kashmir. UNDP's representative to Pakistan Jan Vandemoortele briefed reported on Tuesday on the transition from relief to reconstruction. Asked by Inner City Press for his view of Jamat-ud-Dawa, Mr. Vandemoortele said that even during the initial response to the earthquake, the UN was careful not to work with "those groups," even in camps with the groups' banners on them. "The latrines were by UNICEF," said Mr. Vandemoortele. His goal seemed to be to cut off at the pass any controversy about the UN working with an organization accused by the U.S. (but not UN) of being affiliated with terrorists. The more subtle question, regarding hybrid groups, was left unaddressed.

Overtime: Tuesday night from six to eight the UN's visitors' entrance was jumping, with musical performances tied to the meetings of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Descendace Aboriginal, P. Town Boyz from the Great Lake Nation and some hypnotizing slow rock from Saamis from Norway / Finland, Scandanavian Lou Reed as outside it grew dark...

May 18 mid-week report - At the UN: The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Byline: Inner City Press UN Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, May 15 -- The Democratic Republic of Congo and its ongoing wars hit the top three of the UN's list of "Stories the World Should Hear More About." At the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about reports over the weekend, of 500 rebels attacking the 800 Congolese soldiers stationed at Nioka in the Ituri region. The spokesman answered the UN's Congo mission, MONUC, has been focused on "controlling the militias." But other reports have Peter Karim's band smuggling wood into Uganda to exchange for yet more weapons. Note to UN: the world needs to hear more...

            In response to a follow-up question requesting comment on the fact that the UN's call for $682 million in assistance to the DRC has yielded less than 14% of the figure, the spokesman noted that the list of countries which gave is public, so by implication so are the non-givers. "What does the Secretary General say to those countries which haven't given?" "Give," was the answer.

            Paparazzi filled the UN's briefing room, to capture each phrase Naomi Watts read about her visit to Zambia for UNAIDS.  Asked why the UNAIDS website has a country listing but no information about Afghanistan, Deborah Landey said it was hard, but that a global survey will soon come out with such information.  After the briefing, UNAIDS director of advocacy (and noted novelist) Achmat Dangor told Inner City Press that 125 of 191 countries responded to UNAIDS' survey. Asked if information on Afghanistan will be in the forthcoming global study, Mr. Dangor said no.

            In a question unrelated to AIDS, Inner City Press asked Naomi Watts about the criticism, including by UNHCR, of Australia's new anti-refugee proposal, to outsource those seeking asylum to the scorched island of Nauru.

Inner City Press question: "Have you heard of this? Would you like to say anything about it?"

Response by Naomi Watts: "I am not an authority on that."  But that wasn't the question. Developing? (Click here for the press conference in Real).

            Bolivia's foreign minister David Choquehanca Cespedes fielded most of the questions at a half-hour briefing on the kick-off of the meeting of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. One of the questioners asked "if there will be further restrictions on gas operations in Bolivia." The answer addressed unfair bargains of the past and included reference to 500 years of oppression. Near the end, a person attending the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues complained that all most "Occidental" questioners cared about was gas and timber and money. "What are we, objects?" he asked. For the record, Inner City Press directed questions to the Forum's chairperson Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and to Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, about the progress if any of the draft International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and about the World Bank's requirement on its projects for consultation with, but not consent by, indigenous people. Ms. Tauli-Corpus responded that the draft Declaration should be on the agenda of the new UN Human Rights Council, with an eye toward adoption by the end of the year. And, she said, it is hoped that the Declaration will use the term consent and not consultation, in pointed reference to the World Bank.  Left unanswered -- and unasked, due to the abrupt end of the briefing -- was whether Bolivia under Evo Morales might run for a seat on the Human Rights Council next year. Time will tell...

May 15, 2006 - Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 -- For the new Human Rights Council, the voting went to a second then third run-off ballot. Denied a spot in the final run-off was Slovenia, whose president has spoken to near-empty rooms at the UN about his Darfur peace plan. Edging the Slovenes were Romania and Ukraine, despite its recent deportation of asylum-seeking from Uzbekistan. In better-known rights abuse news, many in the media focused on records of some of those elected -- Cuba, Russia, China, et al. -- while the UN true-believers pointed out that Sudan and Zimbabwe didn't run. 

            Inner City Press, which spent much of the day in a fruitless stake-out in front of the General Assembly entrance, focused on a more marginal storyline, literally at the bottom of the page like a footnote. In the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General -- which did not hold a noon press conference, apparently to prepare for the Condi-fest reported on below -- there was a hand out listing by region the countries elected and those which got less than the 96 votes required for inclusion. Several countries were listed as receiving a single vote: Spain and Colombia, Malvides and Qatar, Serbia-and-Montenegro, Tanzania, Madagascar and Egypt. What was the explanation? Would headlines ensue, Qatar excluded due to human rights abuse? In the alternative, were these stray votes a signal of protest? Or merely of negligence and inattention?

            We're betting on the latter. As pointed out to Inner City Press by Spain's Information Counselor Faustino Diaz, "Spain was not a candidate in today's vote. Therefore it must have been a mistake of a delegation to write its name in the ballot." Spain's Mr. Diaz added, "We are considering our candidacy for 2008." Bonne chance!

 In the driveway of UN Headquarters, a fleet of black SUVs announced the visit of Condoleezza Rice. She came to confer with the so-called Quartet, on how and if to allow any funding to the West Bank and Gaza. There followed a five p.m. press conference, from which the Russian foreign minister left early. In the aftermath Javier Solana was surrounded by reporter, and the UN's Alvaro de Soto, channeling not his economist brother Hernando but rather ex-NYSE Dick Grasso, briefed reporters by the doorway.  Further inside, a self-described senior U.S. State Department official (henceforth the "SUSSDO") talked cocky about the effect of barring all dealings with the Palestinian Authority.

   Asked by Inner City Press whether the new funding mechanism sketched by the press release read out by Kofi Annan would involve or require any amendment to the U.S. Treasury Department's block-order, SUSSDO smirked and acknowledged that there are some "overseas" concerned that is they touch any funds to or from the Palestinian Authority, they'll run afoul of U.S. banking laws. "But you have to remember," said SUSSDO. "We have these sanctions for a reason." SUSSDO continue on to estimate that only 20 to 30 percent of the employees of the Palestinian Authority actually show up to work, "especially among those added on in the last month." Alvaro de Soto estimated that the Palestinian authority has from 140,000 to 170,000 employees, security making up 70,000 of these. Mr. de Soto declined to answer Inner City Press' questions about U.S. Treasury Department regulations, saying "I'd have to check with my lawyer."  Famous last words...

Footnote, 9 p.m. -- an unscientific poll of United Nations late-night cleaning workers elicited frustration that the day's Condi-hoopla centered not on Darfur. An articulate 5-to-12 cleaner who is from the Sudan opined that UN blue helmets are neither wanted nor needed in Darfur; "they'll only lead to more problems," he said. There were tales of the freight elevator which carried up and down Ms. Condi Rice's paraphenalia from her meeting with Annan. The SUVs and armed guards gone, the UN building's graveyard shift proceeded...

May 8, 2006 -- Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent.

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- As the level of threats regarding Iran continues to rise, at UN Headquarters many issues fall to the side. Child labor, for example. At a ten a.m. press conference attended by precisely one journalist [full disclosure deemed unnecessary], Maria Arteta of the International Labor Organization released a report documenting among other things that the raw number of child laborers in Africa rose in the past four years. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 26% of children ages five to 14 are at work.

    The lone attending reporter inquired into an African specific: the use of child labor in cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghana, and the alleged involvement of Archer Daniels Midland, Nestle and Cargill. Teenagers from Mali have sued the three companies, asserting that they were trafficked to harvest cocoa for or to the benefit of the three named companies (the last two of which are members of the United Nations Global Compact).

            Ms. Arteta responded among other things that these companies

"need to think about how do they establish controls of their supply chain...

They do need to respond to this accusation

They do need to investigate

They do need to find out

And they do need to have steps to put these controls in place... [so that their] supply chain is free from child labor and other exploitation."

            Immediately following the ILO briefing, Inner City Press posed written questions to two officials at the Global Compact, asking for a response by mid-afternoon:

"what comment does the Global Compact have on the allegations and lawsuit against Global Compact members Cargill and Nestle and the idea that these companies, and other Global Compact members facing child labor-related allegations, need to address the issues and that the Global Compact should provide guidance, and provide transparency into what both it and its members are doing in this regard?"

            This was also raised by Inner City Press at the OSSG noon briefing. At 4 p.m. the Global Compact's always-polite media relations officer said "we're still working on some answers." Inner City Press asked for some by five or even six o'clock, but no response from the Global Compact was forthcoming by six-fifteen. An inquiry thereafter by the OSSG was followed, at 6:35, by the following response, which in fairness we quote here in full:

"All Global Compact participants are expected, within their sphere of influence, to work towards the implementation of GC principle five, namely the effective elimination of child labour. The ILO and UNICEF, among others, are very active in this field and have guidance materials and other efforts aimed at achieving this goal. Some information about what companies can do is also available on the Global Compact's website.The Global Compact advocates use of a performance model, which is designed to provide practical guidance to companies on how to improve their performance with respect to all ten principles. As a voluntary initiative, it is neither our practice nor within our power to express opinions about the situation of individual companies, including with respect to lawsuits that they may be facing. Nevertheless,transparency is a core value of the Global Compact, and we use the means available to us in order to increase the quantity and quality of information for stakeholders on companies' progress in implementing the Global Compact principles. To this end, the Global Compact requires that participants communicate annually to their stakeholders on progress made in implementing all ten principles, including principle five on child labour. Links to these communications can be found on the Global Compact website. Moreover, in the spirit of the Global Compact's emphasis on dialogue and learning, we encourage and promote dialogue between Global Compact participants and those who raise matters relating to their implementation of the Compact's principles. We therefore hope that the parties concerned will engage in constructive dialogue to resolve this matter as early as possible."

  While that's a bit much to unpack at press time, the raising of these matters has been not only in litigation, and in a shareholders' resolution this Spring at the chocolate company Hershey's, but now (full circle) at the ILO's briefing on May 4 (here in UN summary; here in Real Media) --  this is an ongoing beat.

* * *

  While a promised briefing about Sierra Leone was postponed, Doctor David Nabarro returned from the field, to report that the H5N1 strain of avian flu is now in 45 countries. When asked if the countries castigated this week for censorship would allow the reporting of bird flu outbreaks, Dr. Nabarro said diplomatically that all are reporting to the UN. Asked if this includes North Korea and Burma / Myanmar, for example, Dr. Nabarro suggested the question be asked to the UN's people there. This was subsequently clarified to mean staffers of the WHO, without specifying who. There are virologists meeting in Singapore; there's a meeting in Denang. Still the focus at the UN and its press corps remained on Iran. At a less formal podium in the early afternoon, the UK's Permanent Representative Sir Emyr Jones Parry spoke at length about Iran and nuclear weapons, including a draft Security Council resolution that "calls upon all States to exercise vigilance in preventing the transfer of items, materials, goods and technology that could contribute to Iran's enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and missile programs." In the briefing's final question, Inner City Press asked about the enacted sanctions on Darfur, specifically in light of the Security Council president's statement Tuesday that some of the sanctioned may have no desire to travel abroad, and may have their assets in livestock, not subject to "deposit in Citibank" and thus not to seizure.  Amb. Jones Parry answered at length, including that such sanctions "send a message" against impunity and that he will lead the Security Council's mission to Darfur in the week of June 4. He said that the Council would consider sanctions regarding south Sudan as well, "if necessary."

            Meanwhile according to the World Health Organization, over 95% of people in Sudan use solid fuels for cooking, leading to respiratory ailments and even death by fire. The WHO's Eva Rehfuess stated, "we are technology neutral" -- any purported improvement in cooking hardware must work for, and be embraced by, those who will use it. Asked about UNHCR's move for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal from kerosene to solar cookers, Ms. Rehfuess acknowledged the problems with this seeming green solution: it will not work at night nor early in the morning. When it works, it can easily burn children. Ms. Rehfuess related a failed program in India in the 1980s, to distribute 35 million stoves that were quickly disassembled and rejected.  If it doesn't work with the people, it doesn't work, she concluded. Which is true of UN spokespeople too.

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- On the eve of world press freedom day, the arrest of an inconvenient magazine editor in Congo-Brazzaville arose twice at UN Headquarters, with answers both tangential. The envoy of the Republic of Congo, Basile Ikouebe, who this month heads the Security Council, was asked to explain the April 21 arrest of Fortune Bemba, the editor of Thalassa, for having insulted the honor of President Denis Sassou Nguesso by publishing an article entitled "Were General Casimir Bouissa Matoko and Lekoudzou poisoned by Denis Sassou Nguesso?" Click here for sample articles in English and French.

   At his press briefing, Ambassador Ikouebe began by saying, there aren't any taboo questions. His answer was another an entirely different case, in which as he described it infighting in the human rights NGO FedH led to charges of embezzlement of $3000 (mistranslated into English in the briefing as "three million dollars" -- click here for streaming video of the briefing in Real Media, the exchange is around minutes 37-39 of 46).  While that case, too, might warrant inquiry, the matter of Fortune Bemba remains. Ambassador Ikouebe said that his country has signed many treaties and that he would be surprised if an individual journalist was arrested, as there are not prisoners-because-of-opinion in his country.  Among many other things, Ambassador Ikouebe expressed some skepticism about the Security Council's recent Darfur sanctions. You can say they can't travel and that  you can seize their assets, he said. But what if their assets consist of cows? "You can't put cows in Citibank," Ambassador Ikouebe concluded.

            Following the briefing, three hours before deadline, Inner City Press posed written questions to the official who ran Ambassador Ikouebe's press conference, "premier conseiller" Lazare Makayat Safouesse, providing "articles, including one in French, identifying what [Inner City Press] was asking about, the arrest on April 21 of Fortune Bemba, editor of Thalassa, reportedly for insulting the honor of the President. Will much appreciate an explanation of your Government's thinking on this arrest [before] 5 p.m. today, three hours and five minutes from now."  As of that time, no response was received. But Ambassador Ikouebe will be taking questions throughout the month, and so the matter of Fortune Bembe, slated for trial on May 17, may well arise again.

Nutrition: UNICEF head Ann Veneman presented a "Report Card on Nutrition" earlier on Tuesday, focusing on those countries in which women are not valued. When asked about Iraq, Ms. Veneman's colleague (including at USDA) Catherine Bertini emphasized that the problems existed also in 1997, when Carol Bellamy led UNICEF. The report's statistical final page states that, in the U.S., two percent of under-fives are under-weight, while "data were not available" for any other industrialized country, from Scandinavia to old and new Europe. While an aide replied that no household surveys were conducted in these countries, some questioned if some zeroes weren't withheld. The questions grew when Ms. Veneman's aide stress that 2% might well be "only genetic." There are many under-weight babies, even in New York, for example in the maternity wards of Montefiore and Lincoln Hospitals in The Bronx. Promised response about the European (non) reporting arrived mid-afternoon:

"I am responding to your question on why most developed countries do not have data in the Progress for Children  report.  Many developed countries do collect data on child nutritional status but the data are analyzed using different methods which are not comparable to the methods used for developing countries.  For example, industrialized countries may report mean weights or heights for a study population, whereas for most developing countries we report on the percentage which falls below minus two standard deviations of the median weight or height of the international reference population."

 A follow-up was posed: "it seems strange that a far higher percentage of 'Industrialized Countries' than those in the developing worlds are reported as 'data not available,' as least as to under-weight under-fives. Do you have the underlying data for some of the other industrialized countries?"  While this wasn't responded to by press time, the report states that "the lowest incidence of low birthweight in the industrialized world (4 per cent) is registered in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania and Sweden." The full text report (offered here in PDF) also states, not making clear what it means by comparable, that "the only industrialized country that has figures comparable to those of the developing world is the United States"...

Footnotes: The above-reported matter of Fortune Bemba was also raised during CPJ's briefing releasing that organization's listing of the 10 Most Censured Countries -- but Congo-Brazzaville was mistaken for the Democratic Republic of the Congo; CPJ's Africa Web site also does not list Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)...

End-of-day footnote, by the basement correspondent of Inner City Press: As sustainable developers smoked in the Vienna cafe, SRSG for Darfur Jan Pronk slipped in with a handler, sidling up to the deli counter to order some petit restauration. And then by six p.m. he was gone...

May 1, 2006 -- The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart

Byline: Inner City Press Correspondent in Belgium

BRUSSELS, April 28 -- Ears ringing with the talk of waste within the UN system, an Inner City Press reporter yesterday visited the consolidated, scaled back and renamed UN Regional Information Center (UNRIC) in Brussels, to see how an early attempt at cost-saving is working out.

            On narrow, car-filled Rue de la Loi, just passed the European Commission, the UNRIC is tucked in on the 7th and 8th floors of a stately building in the Residence Palace compound. Outside are construction zones, the city literally torn-up to build office space for the ten new EU members. Inside UNRIC it is spacious, with hardwood floors and uncaptioned photos of each Secretary-General. The UNRIC's deputy director is an engaging Dane who is among other things the answer to the UN system Jeopardy question: who was the spokesman for the president of the General Assembly when the World Trade Towers were demolished by hijacked plane? Who is... Jan Fischer. Mr. Fischer also served the UN in Iraq in 1993, along with a stint in Australia. He knows the System, and the context of the cost-cutting he's witnessed at the UNRIC.

            The travel budget the more than half-dozen country desk officers based in Brussels is $16,000 for six months. This has resulted in fewer trips to the countries covered by each desk officer, and even to them staying with family and friend on such trips. There's a striking correlation between surname and country covered: Carlos Jimenez for Spain, Fabio Graziosi for Italy, Dimitrios Fatouros for Greece and so forth. The desk officers were once "national information officers," which required this consonance. Now that they've had to move to Brussels, they've been "professionalized," in the parlance of the UN civil service. Still some stay with friends and family on their UN trips back home.

            In Brussels some 15,000 journalists cover the doings of the European Union and to some degree NATO. It is hard, Jan Fischer says, for UN news to break through. They hold press conferences, and briefings by visiting UN envoys, from conflict diamonds to the rights of the child. Across from the well-guarded United States embassy, there's a storefront for UNICEF, with its tell-tale blue sign. The UN's refugee agency, it appears from a list, has a dozen Brussels employees, seeking EU funding for their far-flung operations. UNRIC tries to get their stories told. Mr. Fischer says he'd rather say too much than too little; he suggests that the media not abandoned UN staffers who go off script and speak their minds. It's a plan that makes much sense, and one that we will follow. This series of occasional visits with continue from Inner City Press, consonant with the cost-cuts as they come.

April 24, 2006 - Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR in New York While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

BYLINE: Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

   UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- Reports from Burundi earlier today indicated that UNHCR had suspended its activities at Gasorwe camp in the northern province of Cibitoke, where over eight thousand Congolese refugees were transferred by UNCHR in August 2004 from Gatumba after the killing of more than 160 refugees at that camp. The basis for UNCRC's stop-work, as reported by the UN's IRIN service, was the protest by a denied Burundian applicant for UNHCR assistance, joined in by Congolese camp residents, that "damage[ed] several UNHCR vehicles." In the height of double-hearsay, the UN's IRIN quoted a UNHCR spokesperson, Catherine Lune-Grayson, that "the Congolese refugees who took part in the violence said they are dissatisfied with the assistance they have so far received from UNHCR."

            Inner City Press asked about events at the Gasorwe camp at the noon media briefing and UN headquarters. Anticipating referral to the same UNHCR office that only the day before proved less than responsive on a written question about returnees to Liberia from Sierra Leone, Inner City Press asked the Secretary-General's spokesman to make the inquiry into the events at Gasorwe camp.  At press time, Robert E. Sullivan of the OSSG was able to confirm the incident, providing these paraphrased details: 'the disturbance was caused by a Burundian family which had only recently transferred from the Mwaro Camp... It was 10 a.m. when the husband, NDUWAYEZU Fidele, entered the office. He asked that paperwork be provided to him for food assistance or he would be returned to his birth province, Mwaro. He was asked to wait, to return when it was his turn. At this point, the rest of the family entered the office. Then the husband grabbed the UNHCR personnel by the belt, and some ransacking of the office began. The UNHCR personnel with the help of camp security only narrowly escaped. While they left with the vehicle, rocks were thrown. The vehicle was damaged.'

  This more detailed and exclusive account varies from UN IRIN's story, which among other things stated that the UNHCR agent determined that the Burundian family's claim was invalid;  this version has only one vehicle, and no mention of the wider disgruntled Congolese refugee population. What did UNHCR staffer Catherine-Lune Grayson-C. mean, when IRIN quoted her that "the Congolese refugees who took part in the violence said they are dissatisfied with the assistance they have so far received from UNHCR"?  ICP continues to await response to the question heard by and forwarded to UNHCR's spokesman in New York.

   Immediately after the noon briefing, Inner City Press was told by UNHCR-New York to "please appreciate that UNHCR colleagues including myself, can't always drop everything else and reply to queries from journalists given other obligations and priorities." This from the individual identified by UNHCR-Geneva and the OSSG as the UNHCR's spokesman in NYC.  A New Yorker's response might be: what exactly would a spokesman be dropping in order to, burden of burdens, response to a reporter's question about the agency's field work? With all due respect for self-identified lawyers, maybe UNHCR needs a spokesperson in the world's media capital who views responding to reporters' questions as part of their job.

   UNHCR has in past years made many statements and claims about the Gosorwe camp, including for example about its "information program for reluctant Congolese." The Gasorwe camp has come up in previous noon briefing in New York by the OSSG, for example on August 24, 2004, stating that "the first of some 20,000 Congolese refugees living near the insecure border of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are set to move to a camp further inside Burundi. Tomorrow, UNHCR plans to start relocating the refugees from two transit centers (Rugombo and Karurama) in western Burundi's Cibitoke province to an existing refugee camp at Gasorwe in north-eastern Burundi."

   A report from the UN's humanitarian arm OCHA in early 2005 stated that "as of 23 January, UNHCR reports 2,008 facilitated and 277 spontaneous returnees... With regard to refugees in Burundi, the local press has reported threats of attack against Banyamulenge refugees since 21 January. The alleged threats, which are directed against Banyamulenge refugees who are staying in Gihinga (Mwaro) and Gasorwe (Muyinga) camps."
  There are further background papers and photographs of Gasorwe camp here. What there's not, four hours after the question was posed, is any update on the status of the refugees in Gasorwe camp, much less of their complaints about their treatment.  We hope to have more on this and on related issues; watch this space.
Meanwhile, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly informed reporters that UN reform was discussed from Thursday until Friday, 4 a.m.. Asked for specifics by Inner City Press, the very fast response was that thirty to forty delegates met in Conference Room 5, especially on the Secretary General's (Report's) Proposals 16, 20 and 21. Notably, much of the discussion was Iranian-led...
 

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- In Liberia, on the same day that the United Nations celebrated the end of programs for internally displaced people by its Mission to Liberia (UNMIL), the refugee agency UNHCR declared that "we are not here to transport refugees back to their countries" and that "because of the increase of number of Liberian refugees all over that are requesting our assistance to return back home, now we are in logistics nightmare."At the noon briefing at UN headquarters, Inner City Press inquired into the specifics of this "nightmare," and immediately followed up with written questions to the spokesman at UNHCR's New York office:

"is UNHCR asking for additional resource for the return to Liberia of the 2000 refugees in Sierra Leone and Guinea that Representative Mengesha Kebede projects will seek this week to return? Is any other UN agency involved or being asked to become involved? Long shot: were any of the corporate CEOs on UNHCR's 'Council of Business Leaders' being asked to be of assistance?"

   Four hours later, UNHCR's New York spokesman sent a copy of this press release. From Annette Rehrl of UNMIL, these details:
"My assistant... who went with the Rep yesterday to another opening ceremony just confirmed that he made that statement, but the sentence is out of context... What Mr. Mengesha Kebede referred is firstly extremely poor road conditions in Lofa county, where most of the returnees from Guinea and Sierra Leone go to... UNHCR has had to engage itself in road and bridges repair... UNHCR is appealing to donor countries to continue supporting its efforts to bring Liberian refugees back home."

            The UN as many others view the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government installed in Liberia on January 16, 2006, as a a dream and not a nightmare. Ms. Rehrl suggests that rather than Mengesha Kebede's "nightmare," the situation in Liberia is more akin to a logistical "challenge." At least that's an answer. As to Uzbekistan, from which UNHCR has been expelled, the surreal of the day was the movement not of people but of spent nuclear fuel described as enough for two and a half bombs. While UNDP states that it will now deal with refugees in Uzbekistan, it also emphasizes that most of these are Afghans. But was of those deported to Uzbekistan, for example the eleven sent from Ukraine? Who is following up on that, or rather, on them? We'll see.

 Update of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund

April 20, UN -- After Jan Egeland briefed the Security Council about humanitarian issues in Africa, he took questions from reporters.  He spoke passionately about Darfur; asked by Inner City Press if Joseph Kony is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Egeland said he'd heard Kony is in Southern Sudan, and that he hopes Kony will soon be in The Hague.

            On March 9, 2006, Mr. Egeland announced there had been $256 million in contributions to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  The web site, as of April 20 (stating that it was updated on April 6), listed the same amount. Asked by Inner City Press for an update, Mr. Egeland said the number is now $260 million; he added that it is being well spent, in the Horn of Africa, Chad and Western Cote D'Ivoire.

            China's Ambassador Wang Guangya, asked "with all due respect" (by Inner City Press) why China has contributed only $1 million to the CERF, stated that this is the limits of China's capability, and that while below some countries, it compares favorably with other developing countries. As of press time, the CERF Donor List web site shows the China's contribution is doubled by India, and that the Republic of Korea's is fully five times higher.
Footnote: It was hurriedly announced on Thursday that the CEOs of ten companies have been named to the Global Compact's Board. Inner City Press asked if these CEOs will take questions from the media, on their human rights performance. Again it was stated that this would be a good idea. We'll see if it gets implemented. The Global Compact Board is slated to meet in New York this summer.

Basement footnote: a meeting in Conference Room 1, entitled "ICT as a Tool for Development," feature Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and a microphone with feedback. The speakers' bios had been garbled through late-night transmission, according to one of them. AOL's titan who owns every sports franchise in DC bragged that each day features two billion instant messages on AOL. Not for long, one wag was heard to say... 

A Tale of Two Citi's: Sandy Lives Richly While UN Begs for Refugees and Darfur is Debated

NEW YORK, April 18 -- In this capital city for finance and diplomacy (in that order), twenty block and twenty minutes can separate the self-celebration of a $1.5 trillion dollar bank and an international organization that's forced to beg to feed the starving and for permission to serve refugees. On Tuesday at Carnegie Hall a modern-day Pierpont Morgan, Sandy Weill, presided over his last annual shareholders meeting at Citigroup, handing the reigns to his understudy Chuck Prince. As reported by AP, questions were raised about predatory lending, money laundering and tax evasion. But the ritual rolled on, replete with videos of tributes to Sandy, from a craven Dan Rather to a gushing Robert Rubin, who called Sandy the "most knowledgeable" business leader he'd ever "engaged with." $45 million a year will buy these kind of plugs. Citigroup's directors, some on the board for more than twenty years, were each re-elected by Saddam-like margins of 98 percent. Chuck Prince intoned that Citigroup will open over a thousand branches or consumer finance outlets in the coming year -- "three a day," he bragged.

            Further east at the UN, the noon briefing was a tale of more marginal woe. There was talk of Chad and of Sudan's Darfur region.  The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees formalized its "regret" on being thrown out of Uzbekistan, to which people who demonstrated at Andijan are being deported, to face uncertain futures.  Inner City Press asked for comment on the Uzbekistan regime of Islam Karimov now publicly supporting the South Korean bid to succeed Kofi Annan. There was no comment. Perhaps none was needed, since South Korea simultaneously announced an energy deal with Uzbekistan. Most would call that buying votes. In Turtle Bay it is unremarkable, or at least, unremarked on. And while UNHCR decried Australia's new outsourcing of refugees from Papua, it stopped short of opting out. In a carefully worded statement, from Geneva it was said: "UNHCR would not normally substitute for a well-established national procedure such as Australia's."  But these are not normal times, nor is this a normal Citi.

            At press time the stake-out was like the bleacher for batting practice at Yankee Stadium: John Bolton's spokesman came out and whisper, and a dozen chased the ball. "People want to get out of here," he said. "So this will be fast."

            "And they'll do Chad after Sudan?"

            "I'll let you know."

            City of hurry up and wait, interchangeable crises on the Upper East Side's gold coast. Kofi strode in at four minutes to six, to personally brief on Chad. Like a ship in the night, Mr. Salim Salim came out, to take questions at the stake-out. He expressed optimism; he initially declined to say anything about Sudan's support of the rebels in Chad. Then he relented, acknowledging that the situations are intimately related, and that he'd spoken to the Security Council about this relation. And then he was gone.

            And in Darfur the tide of death continues, at a faster pace than the offices of Citigroup.

April 17, 2006 -- Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- Sustainable development, a talismanic buzzword in both the corporate and the UN worlds, was the focus of a report released Tuesday as a glossy pamphlet with accompanying Power-Point™ on CD-ROM. It's in preparation for 12 days of meetings on the topic at the beginning of May. JoAnne DiSano, director of the UN Division of Sustainable Development, stated that the CEOs for various companies will be attending. When asked by Inner City Press to name the companies and how they were chosen, Ms. DiSano named three: Shell US, Alcan and ESCOM. Subsequently a staffer named more: Electricity de France along with an "Italian utility," presumably Ente Nazionale per l'Elergia Eletrica and, subject to confirmation, the producer of nuclear reactors and fuels Areva <CEPFi.PA>.  Areva, it should be noted, is bidding on a contract to supply four nuclear reactors to China, while fending off questions about its domination of legislative and other processes, and its disposal of spent uranium and plutonium. Click here for Areva NC's recent 400-page disclosure on these issues -- released in response to a ruling by the Cherbourg county court to provide proof of its claim that it is not illegally storing foreign waste at its La Hague reprocessing complex.

            At the UN at Tuesday Inner City Press asked: "Are all of the invited companies members of the UN Global Compact?"

            Some are and some aren't, Ms. DiSano in essence answered. When asked if the CEOs will brief the press and take questions, both Ms. DiSano and her staff said it would be a good idea. That's what the head of the UN Global Compact, Georg Kell, told Inner City Press in an impromptu interview before his pep talk at a Fashion and Development event in the UN basement last week. Whether the Sustainable Development conference, slated for May 1-12, will including a corporate stake-out remains to be seen.

            In other UN corporate news, an inquiry to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, about what they called a financial "scheme" with Société Générale and derilab s.a., resulted in the following answer:

From: Olivier Pierre Delarue

To: [UN.correspondent at] innercitypress.com

Sent: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 14:18:54 +0200

Subject: Re: Fwd: Press inquiry concerning how Société Générale Corporate & Investment Banking, and derilab s.a were selected for participation with UNHCR

I work in UNHCR's Private Sector Fund Raising Service as Senior Corporate Relations Officer and your query about this fund raising initiative was forwarded to me... Based on the previous exchange of email you sent, your focus seems to be on the procurement and bidding process done by the UN. This particular initiative, however, is a fund raising project first proposed by  corporate entities and aimed at raising funds for UNHCR's humanitarian program.  Therefore, as with any fund raising project, we are not talking about the usual procurement procedure.

In my capacity as Senior Corporate Relations Officer, my role is to work on creating new partnerships with the corporate world in order to increase our donor base and receive greater financial and expertise from the private sector. In this particular case, Derilab s.a. approached us in the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia and proposed to assist us pro bono in finding new ways of raising donations from the financial market for this emergency. As this was never done in the past, a financial product which incorporated a charity/donation component was not easy to build. Derilab presented the project to all the major banks involved in structured and derivative products. Only Societe Generale showed a serious interest in working on this new concept.

As matter of principle, UNHCR screens all new partnerships with the private sector. Societe Generale, the only bank to show an interest for this project, was screened. As a result of our careful review, Societe Generale was screened positively for various reasons, including their participation in the UN Global Compact. Please note that in the case of this initiative, UNHCR is only a receiver of donations through this financial product -- but is not endorsing the product itself.

     Inner City Press responded with follow-up questions, including regarding Societe General's long embroilment in a money laundering scandal, and asked:

-is membership in the Global Compact the main screen UNHCR applies to its corporate engagements, whether philanthropic or in procurement? What are the other "various reasons"? Did your careful review of Soc Gen -- just as an example -- include the issues raised by the money laundering allegations sketched below, including those in Nigeria (we're aware that Soc Gen has not been convicted of anything, but that wouldn't seem to be the standards for a careful review).Again, these questions don't go to the merits of how the funds are used by UNHCR -- as an aside, hats off for your work in the Balkans and with Return, Afghanistan, etc.

- is derilab s.a a signatory to the Global Compact? (I'm aware I could look it up, but the question also includes -- if a company is not a signatory to the Compact, what else do you look at?) 

   Neither question has yet been answered. A Web search for derilab reflects that nearly all of the "hits" are about its recent "scheme" with UNHCR. It's own web site says only

"derilab® was recently founded by experts in the field of financial derivative and structured products. derilab's focus is to provide it's [sic] customers with key information on derivative and structured products. derilab also advises on the structuring of financial products."

            It might well be on the level. But it's not yet clear that if it weren't, the scheme would not proceed. It would help if the follow-up questions were answered. Or, for purposes of the corporate stake-out (idea) Soc Gen's CEO is Daniel Bouton.

            Footnote: the main press interest at UN headquarters on Tuesday was the freeze-out of Hamas. Political contacts, said Kofi Annan's spokesman, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Is this a new policy? The policy is in evolution, it is fluid.  It is, in a word, developing. Sustainably or not, only time will tell.

            One of the (James) bones of contention at the noon briefing was how much UN special coordinator Alvaro de Soto confers with UN headquarters, before engaging in "political contacts." Often, appeared to be the answer.  Which led into the following colloquy:

            Did the UN resident coordinator in Tashkent, Fikret Akcura, check in with UN HQ before on Tuesday praising the Karimov regime's progress on the Millennium Development Goals? I haven't seen his statement, the spokesman replied. (It's online, click here

 The praise can be contrasted with Karimov ordering the exit of UNHCR by April 17, while continuing to demand the return of those who protested in Andijan. (Click here for more.)   At press time, the OSSG proffered an answer, that both agencies are part of a UN country team and as such share information, including with Headquarters. Despite the prompt response, we're still left with a question: at the UN, at least in Uzbekistan, does the left hand know what the right hand is shaking?

 * * *

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond (French) Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? On Asylum and the Uzbeks, the Shadows of Stories to Come

Byline: Inner City Press' UN correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, April 13 -- As Chadian rebels seeking to oust President Idriss Deby reached the capital N'Djamena, and published reports quoted a French Ministry of Defense spokesman that a French Mirage fighter dropped a bomb "near" a column of the insurgents, France's Ambassador to the UN, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, told reporters that French soldiers in Chad are only there to protect French citizens. When Inner City Press asked Amb. de La Sabliere what the French troops' rules of engagement are, Mr. de La Sabliere referred only to an earlier statement by the Minister of Defense, made before the Mirage and bomb reports emerged. After explaining why France intends to demand whoever succeeds Kofi Annan must speak French, Amb. de La Sabliere left the stake-out. An hour later Inner City Press posed written questions to the media attaché of the French mission:

-could you confirm that there at now 1350 French troops in Chad (1200 plus the new 150), and that that the statement on your web site that "the French community in that country which numbers about 1,500 people" means 1500 non-military French citizens and also, how many of those more or less remain in Chad right now? 

   Two hours later, the French mission responded that the Ministry of Defense communiqué, twice referenced as an answer by Amb. de La Sabliere, is not in fact online; an AFP report, in French, was provided, in which Defense Minister Jean-Francois Bureau confirmed the bomb-drop from the Mirage but said it had no military target. Rather, he said, it represented a signal addressed to the belligerents, of a psychological or political character translating France's preoccupation with the situation. [Translation by Inner City Press; the original direct quote was "un signal adressé aux belligérants", de "caractère

psychologique ou politique traduisant notre preoccupation"]. The response also stated that it "can confirm the figures of the French troops in Chad."

            As UN Headquarters emptied out for a three day weekend, there was a OSSG written statement on Chad, that Kofi Annan "strongly condemns once again any attempts to seize power by force or other unconstitutional means and appeals to the protagonists to resolve their political differences through peaceful negotiations."

  But how wide is the cast of protagonists? Does the roster include France, with its fifteen hundred citizens and troops, and now a bombing interest? Does it include Exxon Mobil and Chevron, which own 40% and 35% respectively of the Chad - Cameroon pipeline? Developing...

  Footnote (then foreshadowing) -- on April 11, Inner City Press asked if the UN resident coordinator in Tashkent, Fikret Akcura, check in with UN HQ before that day praising the Karimov regime's progress on the Millennium Development Goals. The question was in light of Karimov ordering the exit of UNHCR by April 17, while continuing to demand the return of those who protested in Andijan.  We now have a not-kurt response directly for Fikret Akcura:

From: Fikret Akcura 
To: [UN.correspondent at] InnerCityPress.com
Sent: Thu, 13 Apr 2006 19:00:44 +0500 (Ekaterinburg Standard Time) 
Subject: Re: Question re your 4/11 statement re Uzbek progress toward MDGs, relation to expulsion of UNHCR, etc.
 Dear Mr. Lee, 
 Yes, strictly speaking, the MDGs do not include the good governance dimension. I guess this was by design in order to reach consensus and be able to hold the Millennium Summit in September 2000. Otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult to agree to a set of goals so clearly described.  For many of the MDGs, Uzbekistan is indeed in a good position if one considers that this is a country with no more than $500 per capita. For an as-if least developed country, the absence of hunger, the equal access to schooling for boys and girls, a literacy rate around 97%, the relatively wide availability of electricity & gas & water, wide availability of primary health care are all very impressive indeed. If we compared the MDG indicators of Uzbekistan with those of many African and Asian countries of similar GDP per capita, the favorable situation in this country becomes most evident.  Much of this owes to the Soviet infrastructure inherited by the CIS countries. However, the dislocations of transition has made it very difficult for them to maintain let alone build on that inheritance. In the case of environmental indicators, we should mention the terrible legacy that was also inherited - such as the Aral Sea disaster that affects both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan deeply. Another disadvantage for these countries is the base year of MDGs (1990) which coincides with the breakup of the USSR and their involuntary birth. As a result, they faced many problems that detracted from moving steadily up to better indicators by the MDG target year of 2015. A byproduct of the slower transition path taken by Uzbekistan is reflected in the better MDG performance compared to some of the faster reformers. However, MDGs have to be fed by sustained high economic growth and the faster reformers may start showing higher MDG returns soon. The international community is formulating a PRSP process with the Government in order to ensure steady reforms, sustained economic growth and the meeting of the MDGs by 2015. I hope the above is somewhat helpful to your article. I am sorry I could not respond more broadly or earlier - I was busy with arranging for UNDP's take over of UNHCR's work with the almost 1,800 refugees who will be looked after by UNDP once UNHCR closes on 17 April. 

    It was that incongruity -- UNDP praise while UNHCR is being thrown out of the country that led to the initial inquiry.

            Foreshadowing: in the wake of Australia further tightening its policy on asylum seekers, to now exclude and "out-source" even those who reach the Australian coast by boat to Nauru and two other islands, UNHCR has been asked for its position, and about what role, if any, it would play in assess these asylum claims, particularly of Papuans. A response has been promised, though perhaps only next week. Watch this site.

April 10, 2006 -- Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers

Byline: Inner City Press' United Nations Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- On a day when UN envoy Jan Egeland was barred from entering Sudan, Mine Action and Awareness Day events were held in that country, with the involvement of the UN Mine Action Service. The UN Mission in Sudan put out a statement that "Egeland’s flight into Sudan was not given authorization to land yesterday" and "the Wali (governor) of South Darfur stated that he strictly opposes Mr. Egeland’s visit. The Sudanese Permanent Representation to the United Nations in New York further stated that Mr. Egeland would be welcome neither in Darfur nor in Khartoum." Simultaneously, the UN Mine Action Office in Sudan put out a press release entitled " The UN in Sudan Celebrates the First International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on 4 April 2006." The celebration apparently took place without Mr. Egeland, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator. A week earlier, UNMAS led a trip to Damazin, Sudan, to which refugees currently in Ethiopia are slated to return. The trip was led by Richard Kollodge, who in an April 3 interview with Inner City Press stated that the government in Khartoum has not blocked the work, at least in South Sudan, of the UN Mine Action Service.

            Back in New York, a Mine Action fact sheet was distributed stating that in 2005, three governments used landmines. The fact sheet didn't name them, but a question during the press briefing yielded two of the names: Nepal and Myanmar. In the hallway after the briefing, once the cameras were off, the third name emerged: Russia. In fact, the 2005 report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines states unequivocally:

"Russia has used mines on a regular basis since 1999, primarily in Chechnya, but also at times in Dagestan, Tajikistan, and on the border with Georgia. Russia has generally argued that its mine usage has been necessary to stop the flow of terrorists, weapons and drugs... Russian forces have used mines extensively in Chechnya since the renewal of armed conflict in September 1999. Federal troops have laid mines around and leading up to bases, checkpoints, commanders’ offices, government buildings, factories and power plants; on roads and mountain paths in the rebel-dominated south; in fields running from Grozny to Alkhan-Kalu; in the estuary of the River Sunzha; along various borders. Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that all minefields are mapped, marked, and removed when troops relocate. [Source: report of Deputy Chief of the Military Engineering University, Maj. Gen. A. Nizhalovskii, during a virtual roundtable discussion of engineer equipment in military operations in Chechnya. Armeyskiy sbornik (Army collection), No. 6, June 2000, pp. 35-40.] These assertions have been contradicted by statements from both civilians and military officers. In addition to Chechnya, there appears to have been a considerable increase in rebel mine attacks in Dagestan, especially in May-June 2005. According to the Minister of Interior of Dagestan, Lieutenant-General Adilgerei Magomedtagirov, 58 terrorist acts (bombings) have been committed in Dagestan since the beginning of 2005, 40 of them committed in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. [Russian source]

  Some in the press corps wondered not naming Russia during the on-the-record press conference was a coincidence, given that two smaller (and less powerful) state-users of mines were named. During the briefing, Inner City Press inquired whether the type of cluster munitions most recently in the news from use by the United States in Afghanistan qualify as "mines."  No, was the answer given at the briefing by Max Gaylard, the director of the UN Mine Action Service, who added that such cluster munitions are "just as dangerous" and constitute a "next important issue." One wag noted how members of the Permanent Five can contort a debate, leading to fact sheets missing basic facts, and definitions with glaring loopholes.

            At an earlier press briefing, Ela Bhatt of SEWA Bank in India spoke about microcredit, in the run-up to a (late-starting) Fashion for Development event. Inner City Press asked whether Ms. Bhatt would agree with Citigroup's characterization of its own consumer finance lending in India as "micro-finance." In response, Ms. Bhatt emphasized that it is the organizing of the poor that is important, and not merely the provision of credit for interest. [Editor's note: these differences are made all the more stark by the worsening disparities in Citigroup's just-released 2005 mortgage lending data, click here for an analysis].

April 3, 2006 - At the UN, Dues Threats and Presidents-Elect, a Missing Foreign Minister

BYLINE: Inner City Press' United Nations Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 -- It was a surreal scene Monday at the UN Security Council stakeout, as U.S. Congressmen Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) took questions from reporters on their legislation providing for the withholding of UN dues. Rep. Hyde spoke softly and evaded a number of questions, including about documents from Paul Volcker's Oil-For-Food inquiry reportedly seized by Rep. Hyde's office.  "We only spoke of Mr. Volcker in laudatory terms, not about his report," Rep. Hyde said. Behind him stood a half dozen other members of Congress, including Rep. Smith (R-NJ) who strode off past the Trusteeship Council and ECOSOC Chambers without taking questions about a matter he's held hearing on, Sudan.  In London reports have surfaced of Sudanese Maj.-Gen. Salah Abdullah Gosh meeting earlier this month with British and U.S. officials, despite being accused of responsibility for deaths in Darfur.

  At the same time, incumbent Haitian president Préval briefed reporters in Room S-226, speaking of the need for private investment and for the continuation of the UN mission there. Presumably he will be raising the first matter with the IMF and World Bank in his meetings later this week. On the mystery of the 17 skulls found over the weekend in an affluent Port au Prince suburb, no question was allowed. The President-elect's entourage swept out of the room by the side door (as had Mr. Qazi, after declaring that events in Iraq fall short of civil war, a position seemingly later contradicted by his position in Khartoum).

   Nearly lost in all this was the Greek Foreign Minister's canceling of her scheduled press briefing at 11:30.  Inner City Press asked about this at the regular noon briefing and was told to contact the Greek mission. As of press time, the Greek mission had not responded to questions put to it in writing, including a request for an update on the case of Professor Takis Alexiou, and this:

"in the Foreign Minister's meetings in Washington before coming up to New York, was the matter of Greek troop participation in Afghanistan raised? What is Greece's position on this matter?"

    Watch this space.

Footnote: In a sparsely attended Human Rights Committee meeting in Conference Room 2, a proposal was made to release documents to the public without the footnotes (without noting this omission). This was followed-up with a suggestion that this open meeting, at which the suggestion was made, should be re-classified as a closed meeting. Then in the afternoon, for a meeting to for "consideration of communications under the Optional Protocol to the [ICCPR] that had been listed as open (including on the video screens just outside Conference Room 2), a paper sign went up on the entrance doors: "Closed meeting, members only." And so it goes...

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 -- From Iraq's Mission to the UN, there's finally an answer to the months-old oil metering mystery.  Shell has been given the contract, and it will take from one to two years to implement. How the accountability of oil flows and sales until then will be tracked has not yet been addressed, nor has why it will take two years. For an oil port in Basrah, the process will be faster, but it remains unclear which company has been awarded the work. This follows a December 2005 statement by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for the Development Fund for Iraq that the oil metering contract had been awarded to an American firm, followed by a January 2006 IAMB statement that nothing was being done. Now named are a Dutch-based company and a "project" agreed to by the U.S. Pentagon's Project and Contracting Office, recently in the news for its dealing with Halliburton.  Written questions have been put to both IAMB and Iraq's Mission to the United Nations.

            In a March 22 letter, the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs was informed that

"the Iraqi Ministry of Oil has concluded an agreement with the American Project and Contracting Office (PCO) to include a project for rebuilding the metering system in the Basrah oil port of the Southern Oil State Company, as part of the other projects that are funded by the American grant to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. This project is in progress now and is expected to be finalized by 2006. Furthermore, a preliminary agreement was reached with the Shell Group to act as a consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on matters related to metering and calibrating which would include the establishment of a measuring system for the flow of oil, gas and related products within Iraq, as well as the export and import operations. This long-term development project will be implemented in stages that may be fulfilled in one or two years."

  The letter is signed by Iraq's Alternate Permanent Representative to the UN Feisal Amin Al-Istrabadi, (self-) described as "an American lawyer of Iraqi origin." His curriculum vitae, via Depaul's law school, reflects that his legal practice has been in Indiana, although the c.v. refers to hazardous chemical spills and Petroleum Marketing Marketing Act cases. Inner City Press has put written questions -- for the second time -- to the Iraqi mission's listed press attaché, including:

"For this [Basrah] project, to be completed by the end of this year, has a contractor been designated? PCO was in the news earlier this week with regard to their audits of Halliburton's performance (as well as Foster-Wheeler). Direct question: does the above quoted mean that Halliburton has gotten or could get this 'included' project? Secondarily, why does the nationwide oil metering contract described in the second paragraph of the letter need to take two years? And what will be done in the interim?

  The same questions have been put to the chair of IAMB, the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs. Watch this space.

UN Round-up: upstairs at the UN headquarters on Thursday, Secretary-General Annan met at noon with the chairman of Turkey's Koc Holdings which holds, among other things, a joint venture with Shell and 87,000 employees, on the occasion of Koc Holdings joining the UN Global Compact.  At the noon briefing, it was asked how it is decided which of the Global Compact's signatories get to meet with the Secretary-General, and whether these companies -- including Koc Holdings -- might take questions from the press on their adherence to the Compact's principles, including human rights, perhaps at a new Corporate Stake-Out. 

  The Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General (OSSG) responded that while it is rare for Kofi Annan to meet with CEOs when they sign on to the Global Compact, "Mr. Koc was one of the rare exceptions because of the significance of the company's commitment to the country as a whole (Turkey) and the broader region. Also, Koc has deep partnership relations with UN agencies in the areas of health and education." Through the OSSG, a media relations and public affairs staffer of the Global Compact Office indicated a willingness to try to connect reporters with questions to the public relations staff of corporate CEOs who are slated to meet with the Secretary-General. He added that the Global Compact Office will discuss if and how they can make information about Global Compact events and meeting available ahead of time, and will be willing to forward interview requests to the involved corporations. [Note: since the Secretary General's schedule is only released the night before, this may not solve the problem. The paragraph above was revised upon UN request to remove an informal characterization of corporate public relations staff and their advice. Inner City Press will going forward endeavor to obtain from the Global Compact or OSSG prior notice of CEO-Secretary General meetings and pose pre-meeting questions as appropriate.]

Sidelight on the (UN) literary beat: One CEO in a hot tub at a time, will the world be changed? The confessed (ex-) economic hit man John Perkins spoke Thursday before the UN Correspondents Association, urging the assembled journalists to make sure that marginalized voices from outside what he called the corporatocracy are heard. Of a current hot topic at the UN, attempts to censure Iran's moves for atomic energy, Perkins opined that the real rub is Iran's threat to start selling oil in Euros rather than dollars, and the United States' status as a debtor nation. Asked about realism of a particularly upbeat (or naïve) line on page 261 of the paperback version his book --

"Imagine if the Nike swoosh, MacDonald's arches, and Coca-Cola logo became symbols of companies whose primary goals were to clothe and feed the world's poor in environmentally beneficial ways" --

Mr. Perkins responded with stories about purported environmental changes at Citigroup, and of a night in California in which the CEO (well, SVP) of a corporation sat in a hot tub the director of an environmental activist group and thanked him, for providing the opportunity for the SVP to go to management with proposed green improvements. Perkins said that none of the CEOs whom he met in his years as an economic hit man were bad people, or didn't want a better world. In response to a question whether all CEOs are benign given, for example, Dick Cheney's time as CEO of Halliburton, Perkins asked, "Are you saying that Dick Cheney is not benign?" Rhetorical question: will the world really be changed by CEOs changes of heart (or of clothes) in a hot tub? Or by more stringent legislation and oversight? Mr. Perkins said that his next book will address corporation and what he called "democratic capitalism," so we'll see.

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- The "a dog ate my homework" defense proffered to the UN Human Rights Committee by the Democratic Republic of the Congo was discredited on Friday, in questions and follow-up at the UN Headquarters in New York. At a March 16 open meeting, the Congolese representative claimed that the question-letter of the Human Rights Committee had never been received. But on March 31, UN spokesman Robert Sullivan confirmed that the question-letter had been given directly to the DRC's permanent representative in Geneva.  If the homework was eaten, it was not by the dog.

            At a March 31 press briefing, the chairperson of the Human Rights Committee Christine Chanet was asked by Inner City Press how the Committee sends its question-letters to state parties. "We use notes verbales," she said. "We can send mail and email." Asked to assess the DRC's statement that it did not receive the question-letter, she said, "We have to suppose that it is true." The other two Committee members conducting the press briefing both weighed in. Sweden's Elizabeth Palm opined that the issue arose in connection with an "individual communication" -- that is, a complaint -- to which DRC never responded, leaving the Commission to consider only one side of the complaint, and in closed session at that. Ivan Shearer of Australia ascribed DRC's lack of response to "administrative disorganization" that he said he hoped would soon end.  Elections are scheduled for the DRC in June; as Ms. Chanet noted, issues have arisen about the release prior to the election of voter information.

            Access or no-access to information also came up at the briefing. As previously reported on this site, at least one of the Human Rights Committee's meeting that was listed as "open" was abruptly closed, by means of a piece of paper taped to the door of Conference Room 2. Asked about this, Ms. Chanet said that often the non-governmental organizations that make presentations to the Committee need to be protected by keeping the meetings closed.  But the Committee earlier this month solicited and heard testimony from NGOs about the United States' compliance with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights -- did the testifying NGOs ask to be confined to closed sessions? They didn't ask that it be open session, Ms. Chanet replied. Perhaps in the future this will change.

Friday footnote: following the UN Security Council's vote, without hearing from the Republic of Georgia, to extend the UN Peacekeeping mission there for six months, Inner City Press asked outgoing Council president Cesar Mayoral why Georgia had not been permitted to speak (as Georgian permanent representative Revaz Adamia has been complaining for months).  "One member blocked it," Amb. Mayoral said.

"That you be Russia?" asked Inner City Press.

"You're saying that," the Argentine Ambassador replied.  With a smile.

March 27, 2006 --Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

BYLINE: Inner City Press' United Nations Correspondent

     As Kofi Annan visited Congo-Brazzaville and then Congo-Kinshasa, it was reported that Joseph Kony and others in the Lord's Resistance Army have taken refugee in Garamba National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Speaking in Nairobi, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has threatened to send soldiers across the border after Kony "to the Garamba National Park of Congo-Kinshasa [which] is under the control of the United Nations and the Kinshasa government." DRC spokesman Henri Mova Sakanyi told AFP that Museveni is threatening to continuing looting Eastern Congo. "Museveni can still recollect how Uganda looted from our country's northern region for five years and what he did through militia who remained on the ground," Mova said.  The looting of the Congo has included everything from timber to the coltan used in cell phones. Indictative on the continuing chaos, Mova added that the DRC authorities have "no means of establishing whether the LRA were present in the country."

            The United Nations has 17,000 peacekeepers in the DRC, and Joseph Kony has been indicted by the UN's International Criminal Court. On Monday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman at the noon briefing if the UN / MONUC could confirm Joseph Kony's presence in the DRC, and if so what action would be taken.  The response, given after the briefing, was that "We're not in a position to confirm Kony's whereabouts" and "we continue to encourage the resolution of this matter through political rather than military means. Also, the international community would find it very difficult to condone any violation of the DRC's territorial integrity by any of its neighboring states." Other incursions into the DR Congo have been directed by the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame.

            The Kampala newspaper New Vision reported on a meeting in Washington last week between Ugandan journalists and the U.S. Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, Cindy Courville, quoting Ms. Courville that "We know that you are challenged by Kony. Many people feel frustrated but we have to work with you and get a solution. We feel that it is probably not right to deploy 2,000 American soldiers to fight one man." (How this relates to Osama Bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein for that matter, is not clear, noted one wag.)

            A question here is how much involves pretexts to access DR Congo's resources, versus a commitment to human rights and end to impunity. Another question involves how credible, even with the EU force agreed to earlier today, the results of the elections slated for June can be. A third question involves reports of avian flu in both DR Congo and Uganda. And a fourth question, ongoing, concerns MONUC's "Operation Ituri Engraver," regarding which Inner City Press was informed on March 20 by an OSSG staffer: "heard back from the Mission on Operation Engraver... not much to report there except that units are still in position and a few skirmishes but that's pretty much it -- no change in deployment or serious encounters." We will continue pursuing these questions - watch this site.

An update: on Monday UNHCR disclosed that it has been asked to leave Uzbekistan in one month's time, noting that "[t]he fate of an increasing number of Uzbek asylum seekers who have been detained in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and forcibly returned to Uzbekistan is also of continuing concern to UNHCR." Inner City Press, which reported last month on the eleven Uzbeks deported from Ukraine, has asked UNHCR how many more Uzbek asylum seekers have been detained in CIS countries and, separately, have been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. It would seem to be a question that can be answered in the next month.

March 20, 2006 -- Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

 Byline: Inner City Press UN Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- The plight of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal was discussed Tuesday at the United Nations in New York, while further east Denmark's ambassador to Nepal clarified that he equally blamed Bhutan and Nepal for the decade-long limbo of these 105,000 people. A report on the response of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the fuel needs of the refugees notes, on its 19th page, that "[u]nder Nepali law, income generation activities are prohibits -- even within the camps." In response to a question from Inner City Press, it was clarified that this restriction was imposed to counter the attempts of refugee women to work and sell goods outside the camps, and that now the surrounding community makes money selling items to the refugees, who are themselves prohibited from any enterprise.

An analogy even in more developed countries without explicit refugee camps is to communities which lobby to become the location of prisons, as sources of income and employment. While reasons may exist to restrict entrepreneurialism among the incarcerated, refugees it would seem should be treated differently, particularly long-term refugees like the Bhutanese in Nepal.

   The executive director of the UN Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid stated in response to Inner City Press' questions that barriers to income generation by refugees is a problem worldwide; she told stories from two African nations, Liberia and the Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. In neither situation, she said, was the obstacle to work fixed in law. She urged that refugee-host countries allow refugees to attempt self-sufficiency, and that the host countries be pushed in this regard by donors and UNHCR.

            Footnotes: Speaking of UNHCR, at the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked if UNHCR has re-thought in light of the March 10 African Union meeting its announcement the day prior that it will reduce service to Darfur by 44%.  No, the spokesman said, there is no update and no change.

            Speaking of no change, in a press encounter after briefing the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said in response to Inner City Press questions that poppy and heroin production have not been reduced in Afghanistan, and that the reports of avian flu in the country are still unconfirmed. 

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

   UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- Kofi Annan's representative to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, on Thursday described to the UN press corps a country on the upswing, where people view each other in secular terms and there is little to no danger of violence spreading over any of the country's borders.  Ashraf Qazi said, "I don't personally believe they are anywhere close to a civil war" and "the situation has so far been under control." Ashraf in Wonderland, said one wag at the briefing. Out in real world, 1500 troops and 50 helicopters were conducting assaults near Samarra, part of "Operation Swarmer."

      In New York, Mr. Qazi arrived more than half an hour late for the scheduled press briefing. He was accompanied by a staffer from the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, who made a list of the reporters who raised their hands to asked questions, but then went out of order for the final two allowed questions. Inner City Press, which has sought since December to get an answer regarding oil metering in Iraq, was passed over, for a question that elicited from Ashraf Qazi statements that "on the streets, Iraqis don't deal with each other as Shia and Sunni," but such fissures in governance "haven't allowed ministries to become professional and competent." As the briefing ended and Mr. Qazi and his entourage made for the side door, Inner City Press' reporter shouted out, "Is oil in Iraq being metered?"

            "I don’t know."

            "That's too technical."  

            "We'll try to get Mr. Halbwachs to answer." This last was from the Spokesman's Office staffer, who acknowledged having gone out of the order on his list.  "I thought you were going to ask that question," he said.

            While inappropriate, this was not mind-reading: Inner City Press began asking this question about oil metering in December 2005. There's a new context, including reports that Iraq's Oil Ministry is warning Western Oilsands of Canada against bypassing the Ministry and seeking oil directly in the Kurd-dominated north of the country, presumably unmetered.

  At the December 2005 press briefing at the United Nations, regarding oil metering, the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs stated that we “understand that a recent agreement has been reached between the Government of Iraq and a U.S. company to undertake the task.” See, http://www.iamb.info/trans/tr122805.htm

   The minutes of the Jan. 23 meeting (also online at www.iamb.info) vaguely state that “the IAMB was informed that no progress had been made with regards to the metering contract.”

            Midday on March 16, Inner City Press sent an email to Mr. Halbwachs at the address he gave at the December press briefing, and raised the matter -- and others -- at the regular noon press briefing, including the report about Western Oilsands of Canada and oil in the Kurdish north. The spokesman had no response about oil metering, stating that the oil belongs to the people of Iraq. That's the point -- if the oil is continuing to flow unmetered, it makes the use of the revenue to benefit Iraq's people ever less likely. 

            Finding no answers from the United Nations, which chairs the International Advisory & Monitoring Board on the Development Fund for Iraq, Inner City Press will also be pursuing these issues elsewhere, including in Washington with the International Monetary Fund, whose Bert Keuppens sits on the Advisory & Monitoring Board. Watch this space.

   Elsewhere at the UN on March 16, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was critiqued at length before the human rights panel in Conference Room 2. DR Congo's representative claimed that some of the question-letters had gotten lost. One wag thought, even on human rights, it's like the dog-ate-my-homework defense...

March 13, 2006 UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

Byline: Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- A plan for management reform of the United Nations system was presented Tuesday to the General Assembly, including a proposal for outsourcing of work and improvement procurement procedures. A senior UN official who asked not to be named emphasized that the UN currently spends only $20,000 a year to train its 70 procurement staffers; the proposal would raise that figure to $10,00,000. It's unclear whether that training would extend to entities like the UN's World Food Programme, which on March 6 announced a $930,000 contract with the French financial services company AXA Re, to insure against drought in Ethiopia.

   At an on-the-record briefing Tuesday afternoon, Inner City Press asked how AXA had been selected for this contract. It has been reported that there were four other bidders, left unnamed.  Inner City Press was referred to WFP's New York based spokesman, who said he didn't know who else bid for the contract, and said that "if you are suggesting that there's something inappropriate, you're barking up the wrong tree."

            To ask for information about a near-million dollar contract is not to suggest anything. Among the questions: while it was initially said that the selected insurer would pay out $15 to $20 million in the event of drought, the AXA contract calls for a $7.1 payment. To ask for an explanation of the difference is not to cast aspersions. But there is a climate of paranoia and defensiveness these days at the UN, at least in New York. Inner City Press immediately emailed written questions to the WFP in Rome and to Richard Wilcox, the WFP's Business Planning Director, who was asked what screening procedures the WFP uses in procurement. (As simply one example or question, AXA founder Claude Bebear and its CEO Henri de Castries have been caught up in a money laundering investigation, the point being not the outcome but the WFP's procedures).  At press time, only the following was received:

-----Original Message-----

From: Senior Public Affairs Officer, World Food Programme

To: innercitypress.com

Sent: Tue, 7 Mar 2006 20:08:05 +0100

Subject: Re: Press inquiry

AXA won the contract with WFP through a competitive international tender. Five re-insurance companies bid for the contract, and AXA was chosen on the basis of price and technical competence. I'm afraid I don't have the details of the other four bidders, and while we publish the winners of tenders, we don't make the bids themselves public.

            Not even the names of the bidders? The Secretary General's March 7 reform proposal states, at page 28, that "in May 2006, I shall submit... a detailed policy proposal containing new and clear rules on public access to United Nations documentation." That will or would be not a moment too soon.

            Also at the UN headquarters on Tuesday, ex-Knicks player John Starks spoke in advance of a March 15 event scheduled Madison Square Garden, Dunk Malaria. The sponsor is Hedge Funds Versus Malaria, whose founder Lance Laifer also spoke, along with the UN's Djibril Diallo (himself a malaria survivor, from Senegal). When asked by Inner City Press which hedge funds are involved, Mr. Laifer mentioned several including his own (Hilltop Partners), and Seneca Capital. He agreed that recruiting the area's other (more winning) team, the (Bed) Nets, makes sense. A Knicks representative said that the wider NBA will be involved, and that the NBA wanted to attend but was focused Tuesday on the first sporting event in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. The press release, reiterated by public address system five minutes before the event, said Alan Houston would be there. John Starks filled in ably, even joking that he'd better dunk carefully, given his shooting percentage...

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

Byline: Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

  UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- Jan Egeland, who for many became a poster boy for the UN in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, on Thursday launched a major post-tsunami humanitarian mechanism, the Central Emergency Response Fund or CERF.  The fund's goal is $500 million, to allow for more rapid responses to crises. At a press briefing at the UN in New York, Mr. Egeland said that so far $256 million has pledged. He was accompanied by Dr. Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of Grenada, a nation to which previously-pledged disaster support "never materialized," according to Dr. Mitchell.

            Mr. Egeland spoke about the Darfur region of Sudan, for which UNHCR had earlier reduced its budget by 44 percent, citing the ongoing lack of security for its personnel. One wonders if the reduction is meant to send a message (or be symbolic, see below) to the African Union meeting on March 13, at which possible changes to the peacekeeping force in Darfur will be discussed. Mr. Egeland reported that the 14,000 humanitarian workers in and around Darfur are now in retreat, and that the situation is not improving, despite the inclusion of the SLA from South Sudan in the government. (Relatedly, the UN's Jan Pronk speaking from Paris earlier on March 9 reiterated that in Sudan, oil revenues are available but the capacity to deliver remains low. Mr. Pronk has stated he is awaiting from the International Monetary Fund specifics about oil and revenue in Sudan; Inner City Press submitted this Sudan question in writing to the IMF at its March 9 briefing but it has yet to be answered.)

            Whether corporations are or will be involved in the CERF was asked, by Inner City Press. Mr. Egeland cited the two non (central) governmental contributions listed in a prior press release: $850,211 from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, and $10,000 from the Disaster Resource Network, which Mr. Egeland specified is a project of the World Economic Forum. The WEF, known for its annual confab in Davos, lists among its industry partners such financial institutions as Citigroup, Barclays, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, UBS and JP Morgan Chase -- at which, the press release notes, CERF has its bank account. Mr. Egeland characterized the joint $10,000 contribution as "symbolic."  (Symbolic of what, wondered one wag.)

            Not on WEF's list of industry partners is the French conglomerate AXA, which as previously reported has been awarded a $930,000 drought insurance contract by the UN's World Food Programme.  Since Inner City Press' last report, the WFP in Rome has answered Inner City Press' question "on why the payout on the insurance contract from AXA was lower than predicted, the answer is that our original estimate was based on a premium of US $2 million for an estimated payout of $20 million. WFP is a voluntarily funded agency, and since we only received $930,000 in donations for the premium, the best offer (from AXA) was for a payout of $7.1 million... Potential suppliers register with the UN Global Market, and are screened by a vendor selection committee according to their ability to provide the goods/services WFP requires as well as to ensure they meet UN standards (e.g. they do not produce landmines, do not use child labor and are not included on the Security Council's list of known terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda/Taliban suspects)."

   Inner City Press is inquiring further into the standards of the UN Global Market. We'll have more on these topics; watch this space.

March 6, 2006 -- In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Byline: Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 28 – The UN’s Jan Pronk, briefing reporters on Tuesday about developments in Sudan, said that his mission is underfunded and that as regards Sudan’s oil sales, there is no transparency and little benefit to the Sudanese people. In the North –South conflict, according to Mr. Pronk, the North claims to have forwarded $700 million in oil revenues to the South, as a sort of peace dividend. But the South says the money has not been received. Mr. Pronk said, “Where is the oil? How much is there? How much is being produced? What is the reference price?”  Mr. Pronk said he is awaiting information from the International Monetary Fund. “There is no transparency,” he said.

            When asked by Inner City Press if he could, within the bounds of diplomacy, provide guidance to countries which are economically engaged with Sudan, Mr. Pronk declined, limiting his response to the Security Council’s consideration of a list of responsible individuals (but not corporations). Unstated at the briefing was the well documented engagement in Sudanese oil by Security Council member China.

  Mr. Pronk also spoke of Chad, into which the conflict has spread, and where the government recently reneged on its previous commitments that the revenue from the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, run by ExxonMobil, would be devoted to social welfare programs. Mr. Pronk stated that Chad is blocking action on cease-fire and other issues in the Abuja process.

  Mr. Pronk referred several times to Al Qaeda. On the one hand he stated that a force from the UN, rather than NATO, would be less likely to “set off a jihad.” On the other hand he referred to death threats in letters – not against him, he said, but unnamed others. This is based on intelligence, he said.

   Interviewed after the briefing by Inner City Press, Mr. Pronk elaborated on his earlier comment that NATO has “boots on the ground” in Darfur. Asked about press reports that NATO has been providing air support to the African Union force in Darfur, Mr. Pronk shook his head. “They have a few helicopters,” he said. “But nothing more than that.”

 Logistically, while Mr. Pronk had planned to meet with the African Union at a meeting about Darfur on March 3, that meeting has been postponed for a week. Mr. Pronk will be in Paris on that day at what he called “his” Consortium meeting, but said that “we” will be represented at the March 10 AU meeting. We’ll see…

In Congolese Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 – In the eastern Congo, a joint operation between UN peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers to drive militias out of the town of Tchei has been called off, following a mutiny by dozens of Congolese soldiers. The soldiers fired on a UN helicopter carrying General Padiri of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, or FARDC. What this means for the DRC elections scheduled for later this year, and for the 17,000 UN peacekeepers in the DRC, is not clear.

            At a noon briefing at UN headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General’s spokesman described the operation to re-take Tchei.  In response to a question by Inner City Press, he also described Congolese army officers taking refuge from their troops in a UN compound.  The questions of implications for UN peacekeeping and DR Congo’s slated elections were left open. Following the briefing, a staffer tracking developments in Ituri confirmed that shots had been fired at UN helicopter.  He reported that a UN camp had been looted of foodstuff, saying that might explain the mutiny. He added that despite some reports that rebels were using human shields, there is no evidence of that.

            The mutiny by the FARDC troops in Tchei is not a one-off or primarily food-driven event. Further south, there have been reports of desertions from the FARDC’s 109th brigade, by soldiers refusing to fight the Burundian National Liberation Front Hutu rebels. In Ituri, the major groups are not Hutu and Tutsi but rather Hema and Lendu, and the largest rebel group is the Congolese Revolutionary Movement, which claims 18,000 militiamen.

            In terms of natural resources, the DR Congo has many, including but not limited to the coltan which is used in cellular phones; its resources have been up for grabs during the last years of chaos. Now some politicians in the Congolese Rally for Democracy (CRD) party are demanding immediate implementation of provisions concerning the share of the tax revenues between the central government and the provinces. Joseph Kabila’s People's Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD) has refused. Meanwhile, there’s been a recent leak of a report by the DRC's National Assembly's Special Commission on the war contracts reporting up to $10 billion may have been embezzled by the regime of Kabila père and the other warring parties.

            While public announcements of financial arrangements are few, in a rare and surreal November 2005 press release, First Canadian American Holding Corporation (FCAHC)  announced that its CEO Sandy Winick had “met with the Chargé d'Affaires -- Madam Louise Nzanga Ramazani of the DRC at their Embassy in Ottawa with First Canadian's consulting firm Quathemetin Consultants, to discuss furthering the development of low-cost housing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. First Canadian American Holding Corporation is the international licensee for Terrablock building products, a construction and development firm based in Orlando, Florida.” FCAHC describes itself has having “operations in areas of digital television, radio and building and construction” and as “actively looking at several other opportunities in many different industries such as natural resources, wireless, technology and biotechnology.” 

            In terms of housing, or the re-housing of those displaced, amid reports that hundred of civilians have fled Tchei, Inner City Press inquired with UNHCR in Geneva regarding provisions for refugees but was still awaiting a response at press time. From Kinshasa, MONUC issued a press release stating that civilians in Tchei are or were being “held against their will,” but distinguishing this from human shields since “due to their rules of engagement, blue helmets have to identify their targets before opening fire with light or heavy weapons, such as attack helicopters.” Meanwhile the rebels in Tchei have fired at UN helicopters.  The Congo war and its four million dead, already barely covered in major media, can barely hit the news even when a UN helicopter is fired upon. This is a developing story that we will continue to follow.

From Kinshasa, the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUC) issued a press release stating that civilians in Tchei are or were being “held against their will,” but distinguishing this from human shields since “due to their rules of engagement, blue helmets have to identify their targets before opening fire with light or heavy weapons, such as attack helicopters.” Meanwhile the rebels in Tchei have fired at UN helicopters.  The Congo war and its four million dead, already barely covered in major media, can barely hit the news even when a UN helicopter is fired upon.

February 27, 2006 – In Locked Down Iraq, Oil Flows Unmetered While Questions Run in Circles

Byline: Inner City Press UN Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 24 – While Iraq is on lockdown, that country’s oil continues to flow unmetered. Basic information about the issue continues to be shrouded in mystery by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for the Development Fund for Iraq. In just-released minutes of IAMB’s Jan. 23 meeting in Paris, it is vaguely stated that “the IAMB was informed that no progress had been made with regards to the metering contract.”

            IAMB had previous stated, in December 2005 press briefing at the UN, that it “underst[ood] that a recent agreement has been reached between the Government of Iraq and a U.S. company to undertake the task.”

            Faced with questions on Feb. 24, at the UN Secretary-General’s Spokesperson’s press conference, and in writing to the International Monetary Fund and Iraq’s UN mission, none of these officials would answer these questions:

-does a contract or agreement for the oil metering exist? If so, with which company? If not, was IAMB’s public-stated December understanding inaccurate? If so, why?

      Inner City Press raised these questions at the Feb. 24 noon briefing by the UN Secretary-General spokesperson.  The UN’s Jean-Pierre Halbwachs is the Secretary-General’s representative on the IAMB, and chairs the IAMB. Inner City Press was encouraged to ask the Iraqi mission to the UN. Despite submissions of written questions, as the UN emptied out on the afternoon of Feb. 24, no answer had been received. The online minutes of IAMB’s Jan. 23 meeting name all of the participants at the meeting except for the Government of Iraq / IGI, of which it is only stated “Adviser, Ministry of Finance.” Inner City Press then bypassed the Iraqi mission’s press attaché, and was referred to a staffer who while not providing the name of the “U.S. company,” speculated that his government’s representative to IAMB might be one Mr. Turki of the Supreme Board of Audit, whose contact information he said would be provided next week.

    Subsequently the IAMB’s spokesman at the IMF informed Inner City Press that since Iraq’s first representative to IAMB was assassinated, it has since been the policy not to name subsequent representatives, nor even the venues where IAMB meets. He stated that prior to the December 2005 press briefing, IAMB had been informed that a contract had been let, but that in Paris in late January, the unnamed Iraqi representative(s) now said that no contract was awarded. He committed to asking IAMB to make some public statement regarding the contract, prior to IAMB’s next meeting in late May. What was the identify of the referenced “U.S. company”? ICP was told that IAMB’s spokesman has no direct access to IAMB’s chairman, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, regarding whom questions should be directed to the UN: full circle.

  Elsewhere at the UN headquarters on Feb. 24, at a Black History Month presentation in Conference Room 8 in the basement, names were named: a call was made, to Attorney General Gonzalez and to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama to convene a grand jury regarding a murder on February 8, 1965 of Jimmy Lee Jackson. The name named as Jackson’s killer was Alabama state trooper James Bernard Fowler. A reporter who’d faced a day of Iraqi oil metering run-around sighed, it’s not so hard to name names…

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Byline: Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 21 – It emerged last week that Ukraine has arrested and deported eleven Uzbeks, at the request of the Prosecutor's Office of Uzbekistan, alleging involvement in the demonstrations in Andijan last May. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva last week issued a press release stating that “UNHCR wrote to the Ukrainian authorities [and] requested access to the detained Uzbeks.” It was unclear if the request was only made to Ukraine, prior to the deportation of the eleven, or whether such a request has been made in Tashkent as well.  On Feb. 20 in Tashkent, Uzbek prosecutors demanded a 12-year sentence for opposition activist Nodira Khidayatova, for “economic crimes.” While Ms. Khidayatova’s trial was ostensibly open to the press, authorities have barred journalists due, they say, to a lack of seats.

            On Feb. 21, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for the Secretary-General for an update, as well as contacting UNHCR in New York, and submitting questions in writing to Ukraine’s and Uzbekistan’s permanent missions to the UN. By day’s end, the Secretary-General’s spokesman’s office had obtained a response from UNHCR in Geneva:

“On Friday UNHCR’s office in Tashkent officially sought / requested access to the 11 Uzbek asylum seekers deported from the Ukraine [sic]. We have not had any official response yet.”

    Observers note that there are others who could make inquiries. Last week the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced the completion of the sale of the second largest mobile phone operator in Uzbekistan, UNITEL, to Russia’s Vimpel-Communications for $200 million, noting that “EBRD was the smallest shareholder in the equity consortium selling the company. The others were Germanos SA, the leading Greek retail network of mobile service and equipment centers, and its leading shareholder Mr. Panos Germanos.”  Last month, Uzbek president Islam Karimov announced that Russia’s Gazprom plans to invest $1.5 billion in gas projects, including exploring seven prospective fields on the seabed of the environmentally-ravaged (and shrinking) Aral Sea.

            While as of press time neither the permanent missions to the UN of Ukraine or Uzbekistan had responded to questions, UNHCR from Geneva also replied concerning related events in Kyrgyzstan:

“The Kyrgyz authorities have for the time being not taken (and will probably not for a month) any formal political decision on the fate of the two Uzbek refugees who were not recognized as refugees on Friday… Today the appeal of the two other Uzbek refugees in detention in Kyrgyzstan will be reviewed on the second instance. If the appeal is rejected the cases will go to the Supreme Court.”

            This is a developing story that bears following – not least, for the sake of the eleven deported Uzbeks.

  Also at the UN Headquarters on Feb. 21, there were dueling statements from the United States’ Ambassador John Bolton (speaking, he said, in his capacity as president of the Security Council) and South Africa’s Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo (in his capacity as head of the G-77). Amb. Bolton smirked at the press stake-out and said any country is free to speak at the Security Council’s hearings on corruption in the Peacekeeping procurement systems. Half an hour later, Amb. Kumalo denounced encroachments on the General Assembly’s turf. Several reporters asked why none of the G77 members on the Security Council opposed the encroachment; Amb. Kumalo said he is not privy to the inner workings of the Security Council. Inner City Press asked if, going forward, the G77 members including those on the Security Council would meet and agree to vote the G77 position. “They don’t run on a G77 slate for the Security Council,” Amb. Kumalo concluded. Big times at the United Nations…

February 20, 2006 -- Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

   UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 14 – Following the UN Security Council meeting on the status of Kosovo,  the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Soren Jessen Petersen, took brief questions from reporters. He was asked, by Inner City Press, about the status of electricity in Kosovo, in light of reports that some areas are without power for up to 20 hours a day. He and then his spokeswoman said that is not true. The spokeswoman, Marcia Poole, described a system in which “areas” which have a record of slow or no payments for power receive less frequent service that other, “better areas.” Prior to the recent cold weather, the best paying areas, referred to as “A,” received uninterrupted power (“theoretically,” the spokeswoman added). B areas received five hours on, one hour off.  The spokeswoman said proudly that now the A areas have this five on, one off schedule, so that the worst-paying areas, called “C,” now have two hours on, four hours off. So rather than being without electricity for twenty hours a day, the correct figure is fifteen…

   The allocation of electricity that an individual or family receives is not related to the individual’s record of payment, but rather the records of those among whom he or she lives. It is quite literally a form of profiling – a practice that, given the history of Kosovo and the region, one would think should be avoided. It is excused as related to the old wiring system.

            Neither Mr. Jessen Petersen nor his spokeswoman would answer questions about the progress and transparency of the UN-overseen privatization of Kosovar socially-owned enterprises. An early quasi-privatization inside deal involved US AID’s creation of a bank in November 2001, and sale of the institution in 2003 to Raiffeisen Bank. The most recent troubles involve the conditional (and controversial) sale in November 2005 of the Ferronikeli mines to Alferon/IMR, reportedly dominated by oligarch’s elbow-deep in Kazakhstan. Three months later, the $40 million sales price has yet to be paid. The reason given is the Kosovo Energetic Corporation’s offer to Alferon, to let it import its own electric power, has not been accepted. Close observers speculate whether Alferon is in fact angling to buy a chunk of the Kosovar power system, Korporata Energjetike e Kosovës. Inner City Press will continue to report on this; the response to its questions was a referral to UNMIK Pillar IV in Pristina. Developing…

At the previously scheduled noon press briefing, which Soren Jessen Petersen had been slated to attend, the spokesman for the Secretary General, when asked by Inner City Press about the recently screened video of British soldiers beating Iraqi teenagers, said that such footage is “always disturbing” but that “it is positive that the British government is investigating.” We’ll see…

February 13, 2006

  Is the oil sold from Iraq being metered or not? On February 8, United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq answered a question that Inner City Press had posed a week previous, being reiterating the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for the Development Fund for Iraq is still asking the Iraqi government about oil metering, and is awaiting the Iraqi government’s response.

At a December 28 press briefing at the UN, the UN’s representative on the IAMB, Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, said that IAMB “understands that

“That still holds,” UN spokesman Haq said on February 8.  When asked if there is a “U.S. firm” and if so for its identity, Mr. Haq declined to comment.  “You can refer to the December and January statements,” he conceded. Links to each are below (see Report of February 1, 2006).  Someday, we’ll get an answer…

February 6, 2006 -- Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives, by Inner City Press’ U.N. Correspondent

  In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, human rights are being violated, including in at least one instance with funding from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

            In a report released February 1 at the United Nations in New York, three non-governmental organizations identify land-grabs, loss of livelihood and forced relocations. While Sri Lanka’s shifting proposals for “buffer zones” prohibiting rebuilding on the short are the subject of some controversy (and reporting), less known is the UNDP-funded “safe islands” initiative in the Maldives. At the Feb. 1 report-launch briefing, a video was shown of the Hulhumale refugee came for people displaced from the islands of Villifushi, Madifushi and Kadholhudhoo. The camp consists of tin long houses with faulty plumbing that become so hot it is impossible to sleep, according to residents.

            Both during and after the briefing, Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to the UN Commission on Human Rights, was asked by Inner City Press whether this UNDP-funded program in the Maldives runs afoul of application human right standards, including the Commission’s 1988 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which state that “Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence… Displacement shall last no longer than required by the circumstances.”  During the brief, Mr. Kothari replied that “human rights standards apply to everyone, including UN agencies.” He said that the report has been sent to “Bill Clinton’s office” (the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery).  After the briefing, Mr. Kothari added that the issue will be raised directly to UNDP.

            On the other side of Manhattan island – after a 4 p.m. fire drill cleared the UN Secretariat – the Outreach Officer for the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, Annie Maxwell, gave a lecture about the Office’s work, noting that while all are in favor of coordination, no one wants to be coordinated. When asked about the report, and the UNDP-funded displacement project in the Maldives, Ms. Maxwell replied that the report is “in her inbox,” and that she will look into it. She spoke movingly about accountability to the beneficiaries of aid. Outside, the lights of the condos of the Upper West Side twinkles. It’s a long way, from Manhattan to the Maldives…

* * *

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia, Even Terror’s Haven  --By Inner City Press’ U.N. Correspondent

    The situation in Abkhazia should be internationalized, said Georgia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Revaz Adamia, on February 1. Briefing reporters at the UN Headquarters, Mr. Adamia characterized the plight of ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia as one of ethnic cleansing and even genocide. He cited a figure of 10,000 dead (as well as 100 Russian soldiers killed). His prepared remarks referred to “de facto annexation” and that “acquisition of property in the conflict zones, including property of refugees and IDPs, by the Russian entities is underway at full steam.”

            As Inner City Press reported in December, the President of Georgia's National Bank Roman Gotsiridze has accused Russian banks in Abkhazia of money laundering and of financing terrorism. At the Feb. 1 UN briefing, Mr. Adamia responded to questioning by reiterating the allegation, and specifying that the perpetrator of particular terror attacks in Turkey is living in Abkhazia, “he has a shelter there.” Mr. Adamia promised to provide Inner City Press with further information and evidence; watch this space.

            On January 31, the Security Council extended the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until March 31. The mission consists of 122 military observers and 13 civilian police officers.

After the briefing, in an interview with Inner City Press, Ambassador Adamia provided an update on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline. He stated that the Georgian section pipe is full of oil, but that this is not yet the case in Turkey. He stated that Turkmenistan wants to use the BTC pipeline, but that the Kremlin for now is blocking it. This, Adamia said, makes more likely the construction of an underwater trans-Caspian pipeline. Pipe dream? Rose (revolution) colored glasses? Only time will tell.

Updated February 1, 2006: Halliburton Repays $9 Million, While Iraq’s Oil Remains Unmetered

Jan. 31-Feb. 1, NEW YORK – The U.S. government has required Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root to repay only $9 million on a controversial contract, and promised information about the metering of Iraq’s oil output has still not been provided, in the stealth January 30 release by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq.

            The IAMB last took questions from the media, including Inner City Press, on December 28 at the United Nations in New York. At that time, IAMB stated that an oil metering contract had recently been let. It promised to provide more information shortly. Inner City Press twice asked the IMF for this additional information, but none was provided. Then on January 30 a summary of a January 23 meeting in Paris was placed online. The release tersely states that at the meeting, the IAMB

“reiterated its concern that key actions, especially the installation of an oil metering system, were taking a long time to implement. The IAMB urged the Government of Iraq to implement all IAMB recommendations promptly."

  Apparently, the December 28 statement that the oil metering contract was in place was incorrect. No one has apologized, and the (unmetered) oil continues to flow.  On January 31 Inner City Press requested clarification from the IMF, by email, fax and phone; on February 1, Inner City Press in person requested clarification from the UN (or its representative on the IAMB). This will be updated. The Jan. 30 release also states, in the nature of disclosure:

“The U.S. Government informed the IAMB that a global settlement of all six DFI funded task orders under the KBR contract was reached between the U.S. Government and KBR on December 22, 2005. The settlement provided for a reduction of contract costs of US$9 million.”

  This is much less than had been contested, and previously reported.  Given the costs, most importantly in lives, of this Iraq war, what kind of transparency is this?  It also raises questions, on timing and other issues, in light of Halliburton's January 27 announcement that it intends to sell off a stake in Kellogg, Brown & Root in an initial public offering of stock. Developing...

January 30, 2006

In Davos, the Public Eye rogue prize has been awarded to Citigroup, this time for tax evasions and money laundering. IPS recited along with reigning-dates that “In October 2004, Chilean authorities brought a suit for tax evasion against former dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). One of the banks that laundered Pinochet's money was Citibank…A report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said that Citibank laundered at least $ 5 million for Pinochet, "and perhaps millions more." The list of questionable characters who engaged in similar shady deals with Citibank includes Raol Salinas, brother of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas (1988-1994); Asif Ali Zardari, husband of deposed Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto (1988-1990); and the dictator of Gabon, Omar Bongo, who has held power since 1967. [ICP note: For those keeping track, Omar Bongo only last week swore himself in for another seven year term…]Citigroup clients also include the three grown children of Nigeria's late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha (1993-1998); former Venezuelan president Jaime Lusinchi (1984-1989); two daughters of former Indonesian dictator Suharto (1967-1998); and former dictator of Paraguay, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989).”

            A veritable roadmap to dictatorships. Citi could just as easily been given the award for global predatory lending. In Brazil, for example, Citigroup has been involved in the largest restructurings of the country's high-cost cards industry. On February 1, 2005 Citigroup agreed to divide equally with Itau the assets of Credicard, which added 3.8 million cards to Citibank's cards portfolio in Brazil, increasing it to 4.7 million and making Brazil Citigroup's second-largest cards market outside the United States after South Korea. Gustavo Marin, “country officer” for Brazil, bragged or threatened that Citigroup is  also adding a number of high cost CitiFinancial branches to its network in Brazil. And so it goes at Citigroup...

January 23, 2006

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

  If the president of a lesser-known former Yugoslav republic calls for coordinated global action in Sudan, does anybody hear?

  At the United Nations on Jan. 18, Slovenia’s president Janez Drnovsek briefed reporters about the initiative he began two weeks ago by writing letters to the presidents of other, mostly larger countries, highlighting the crisis in Darfur. So far few countries have responded. Just prior to the press conference, the U.S. representative to the UN, John Bolton, told Slovene media he hadn’t heard of Mr. Drnovsek’s plan. When asked by Inner City Press if he still intends to go to Washington to meet with members of Congress, Mr. Drnovsek said no, since “some Senators have not come back from their holidays yet.” Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito might disagree.

  Mr. Drnovsek compared Darfur with Rwanda and, closer to Slovenia, to Bosnia. He stated that in the past three years in Darfur, three million people have been displaced, and 100,000 killed. He proposed, in the short term, opening a refugee camp for up to 10,000. He mentioned China’s business involvements in Sudan, without mentioning the word oil. Without mentioning Iraq, Mr. Drnovsek noted that the U.S. might not be in a position to send soldiers, but should otherwise contribute. “Mr. Bolton,” he said, “has surely heard of Darfur.” But apparent not of the Slovene president’s plan, nor perhaps of the Slovene president himself.

  Several reporters noted the relative importance of what is said, and who does the saying. John Bolton can ignore a Slovene proposal.  Similarly, for readers of Inner City Press’ recent UN reporting, the International Monetary Fund and the IAMB can apparently ignore questions from the smaller, more independent media about the oil metering contract in Iraq with a still unnamed U.S. company that was mentioned at their December 28 press conference. The U.S. company has still not been named, despite a public commitment to do so by early January. Inner City Press will continue to follow this and other UN-related issues. [On January 19, ICP was told that the referenced IAMB meeting of early January didn’t take place, but will next week, in Paris, to be followed by a press release. We’ll see.]

  Janez Drnovsek is not the first Slovene president to trod the UN stage in Turtle Bay. Janez Stanovnik, president just after the collapse of Yugoslavia, served for years at the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe, and at UNCTAD. Mr. Stanovnik told the UN Intellectual History Project that “it is completely illogical that the operational decisions be carried out under the principle of one country, one vote,” given the difference in population between countries. Perhaps that is why some can ignore current Slovene president Drnovsek. But as he pointed out, what role is the world’s most populous nation playing in Sudan? The power-players at the UN are all otherwise occupied, with Iraq and now Iran (and, much further down the list, bird flu).  Egypt still has imprisoned several hundred Sudanese refugees, including from Darfur. In these swirling news cycles in which Africa is so often an after-thought, Mr. Drnovsek’s lonely voice is welcome. But will it be enough?

January 17, 2006

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

The United Nations’ expert on avian flu, Dr. David Nabarro, briefed reporters in New York on January 11. He named a target figure for the upcoming “pledge conference” in Beijing -- $1.4 billion. He then asked reporters not to quote him, or to leave this figure “vague” and not have it appears in the headlines. But already the number had gone out over the wires, and it is in the headline of most reports.

            Who is being asked to pledge the needed funds? When asked by Inner City Press for his view of HSBC Banking Corporation’s projection that half of its workforce in impacted countries might not show up for work, Dr. Nabarro said much thought is needed on how best to communicate the risks posed by bird flu. He added that planning for “continuity” is needed among health, electricity and banking systems, among others.

            When asked if any corporations have pledged fund to the bird flu fight, Dr. Nabarro said no. Some, or perhaps only one, have offered employees’ time, but no money. After the formal briefing, Inner City Press suggested to Dr. Nabarro that at least such food companies as KFC might see it in their interest to pledge (and to be seen to have pledged). There was some laughter, but no response. A close observer of the United Nations might wonder, if the UN’s Global Compact with corporations can’t be mobilized for the global bird flu threat, which would impact companies’ workforces, when then would the Compact be useful?

            In Turkey, the bird flu H5N1 has been discovered in poultry over 20% of the country's 81 provinces and thus far over 300,000 birds have been culled, a process Dr. Nabarro described as putting the birds in a bag, killing and then most often burying them. When asked why cremation was not being used, Dr. Nabarro alluded to factors he could not explain. Of children’s deaths in Turkey by bird flu, Dr. Nabarro said the children were abnormally close with the birds, giving rise to some muffled laughter in the briefing room. “This is serious,” Dr. Nabarro said. And it is. Since December 2003, at least 147 cases of H5N1 in human have been reported, from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization, leading so far to 78 deaths.

            Dr. Nabarro praised governmental responses to bird flu in Turkey and other countries that he would not name. “In some countries there is more reliance on the United Nations,” he said, emphasizing that nations should promptly diagnose and disclose cases of H5N1. While Dr. Nabarro declined to name any countries in which such disclosures might not be forthcoming, one reporter jotted such nations as Myanmar and North Korea.  The pledge conference is in Beijing, January 17-18, 2006. There’ll be a need to follow up.

* * *

Endnote and Global Inner Cities UN Update: Following the December 28, 2005 briefing on the Development Fund for Iraq, neither the International Monetary Fund and it spokesman nor the UN have provided any information about the metering of oil production in Iraq, for which they stated a contract had been let out to an American corporation which they left unnamed. The wait continues.  Meanwhile, in UN facility news, the delegation computers in the basement hallway have been changed, to newer machines that still work slowly, if at all, with the Internet. In the UN’s second language, plus ca change

January 9, 2006

Royal Bank of Scotland Has Repeatedly Been Linked to Terrorist Finance and Money Laundering, Not Only in the Current Brooklyn Case

            Royal Bank of Scotland, which is moving to dismiss litigation against it for allegedly providing financial services to terrorist organizations, has something of a history of doing business with groups designated as terrorists.  In the wake of the 9/11/01 attacks, it emerged that RBS’ Citizens Bank unit had transferred money for Al-Barakaat, which even RBS later acknowledged to the Federal Reserve “appears to have provided funds to Al-Qaeda.” RBS’ defense was that its wire transfers had been to the United Arab Emirates which “was not at the time of the wire (or today) in the high-risk for anti-money laundering category.”

            It also emerged that up to and after 9/11/01, Royal Bank of Scotland’s NatWest unit was a correspondent bank for Banke Millie Afghan Kabul, a nationalized company of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Banke Millie was among seven corporations blacklisted by the United Nations in April 2000 as part of a sanctions regime against the Taliban. RBS’ NatWest, however, continued to be listed as a correspondent for Banke Millie long after the UN designation. While RBS’ chairman Sir Fred Goodwin characterized the issue, then raised by Inner City Press, as “nonsense,” even the Federal Reserve grilled RBS about it. A Federal Reserve memo obtained by Inner City Press reflects that

“Reserve Bank and Board staff called Greg Lyons, counsel for Citizens, to ask him to provide the following information in writing to the Reserve Bank: (1) an explanation of RBS's relationship with Afghan organizations, (2) a description of RBS's due diligence process regarding banks for which RBS offers correspondent services, and (3) a list of RBS's correspondent banks. Mr. Lyons agreed to provide a written response to our request. Staff also requested that a copy of the written response be provided to Inner City Press.”

  RBS withheld its list of correspondent banks. RBS was subsequently hit with the highest fine issued by the UK Financial Services Authority, for lack of anti-money laundering controls. The FSA's December 17, 2002, press release stated that its

“investigation revealed weaknesses in RBS's anti-money laundering controls across its retail network. The investigation found that RBS failed either to obtain sufficient 'know your customer' ("KYC") documentation adequately to establish customer identity, or to retain such documentation, in an unacceptable number of new accounts opened across its retail network.”

      Despite this history, RBS spokesman Mike Keohane has stated that that the issues raised against RBS have “no merit,” and RBS is arguing that it cannot be sued in the United States, despite its ownership of Citizens Bank in the Northeast, Charter One Bank in the Midwest, and RBS Greenwich Capital Markets, which does business nation- (and world-) wide, including with high-cost mortgage lenders.  The current case is 05-CV- 4622, before Judge Charles Sifton of in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, brought by plaintiffs including Tzvi Weiss, regarding RBS NatWest Account Number 140-00-08537933, for Interpal.  RBS has told Judge Sifton it will file a motion on January 26 seeking dismissal of the case, in which the plaintiffs are seeking treble damages.

   A separate case is pending in New Jersey against Credit Agricole’s Credit Lyonnais unit, which claims that it closed the account at issue in September 2003. RBS, on the other hand, will not confirm or deny with whom it currently banks – just as it would not disclose after 9/11/01 its correspondent banking relationship, even in Afghanistan.  Similarly, after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, U.S. currency transferred to Iraq in violation of the sanctions and rules of the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control was traced to a Royal Bank of Scotland vault in London. When the issue was raised to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Fed deferred to vaguely-defined (and not yet disclosed) “confidential compliance examinations.” Seeing the now-ubiquitous RBS “less talk, more action” advertisements around New York City, including in the corridors of LaGuardia Airport, one wag suggested a modification: “RBS means less standards, more profits.” 

January 3, 2006 -- Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

            On December 28, four of the five members of the oversight board of the Development Fund for Iraq answered reporters’ questions for an hour at the United Nations in New York. Missing was the representative of Iraq on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. The explanation offered by the IAMB’s chairman Jean-Pierre Halbwachs was that the Iraqi representatives had not been able to obtain U.S. visas in time. Their absence proved convenient, as questions soon arose about a line in Mr. Halbwachs prepared remarks, regarding the ongoing lack of metering on oil production in Iraq. Mr. Halbwachs read out: “we understand that a recent agreement has been reached between the Government of Iraq and a U.S. company to undertake the task” of oil metering. 

            When asked for the name of the U.S. company, the IAMB chairman’s response was that only the Iraqi representatives would have that information.  When a question arose about the Iraqi representative’s written reference to the cost of metering being covered by “donations,” no answer was forthcoming. When asked why it has taken two years to make even this gesture toward metering, the representative of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development Khalifa Ali Dau shrugged and smiled. Finally, the IMF’s deputy press secretary said he will be providing follow-up information about the metering contract (presumably on the IAMB’s web site, www.iamb.info).

            There were questions about KPMG’s partial audit, and Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root.  The IMF’s representative Bert Keuppens confirmed reports of oil smuggling out of, and in some cases back into, Iraq.

            When asked in conclusion to assign a grade to the transparency of the spending process at the Development Fund for Iraq, the World Bank’s representative Fayezul Choudhury declined to assign a grade, and pointed out that even most European Union countries, and also the United States, have only qualified opinions from their auditors.  The press conference ended with many questions unanswered.  The IMF’s Bert Keuppens rushed out of the briefing room. He returned a few minutes later and handed out two business cards.  It would have made sense, one wag said, to provide contact information for the representatives to the IAMB from Iraq. And to have thought more deeply about this question of their visas. Again, the IAMB’s web site is www.iamb.info...

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