By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 1 -- It was a tale of two UNs, with a peace mural and Peter Yarrow in the Conference Building hallway, amid talk against colonialism, compared to Herve Ladsous and self-serving talk of UN work in the Central African Republic and Haiti in the General Assembly lobby on April 1.
In the GA Lobby, a "virtual mine field" was presented, first to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who was told he was the first SG to face this danger - on an iPad.
A French photogrraph spoke movingly about CAR, said what an honor it was to work for the UN. It was unclear if she's heard UN Peacekeeping brought cholera to Haiti, killed more than 8000 people then refused to accept any responsibility.
But this is not to (entirely) be a nay-sayer. The ideals of the UN still draw people to it, like around the corner at the Peace Mural. Those attending that event could ignore today's UN, not speaking out against airstrikes on Yemen,helping cover up rapes in Darfur and the DR Congo.
It was Ladsous who did those and refused to answer questions, video here, Vine here. Ironically it was Ladsous who, leaving the virtual reality of the GA Lobby, passed by the Peace Mural event barely looking at it. Colonialism indeed.
Earlier on April 1 when the UN Mine Action Service held its annual press conference, Inner City Press wanted to ask UNMAS Director Agnes Marcaillou about landmines in South Sudan and UNMAS' promotion of multiply-accused deminer David Bax from Somalia to Gaza.
But also at the press conference were Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative and the Dutch Permanent Representative Karel van Oosterom, who it was said had to leave early, to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
So Inner City Press first asked van Oosterom if Dutch Queen Maxine, in Myanmar, would be raising the landmine issues in that country.
No, van Oosterom said, the Queen is in Myanmar in her capacity as UN Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. But he (and UNMAS' Marcaillou) assured that she and other Dutch official raise the landmine issue wherever they go.
Later, Inner City Press asked Marcaillou about the reported use of landmines in South Sudan and about the disposition of the investigation(s) into David Bax, who whistleblowers in Somalia alleged shared DNA information about Somalia bombers with US intelligence, as well as engaging in conflicts of interest. (Video and background here.)
Marcaillou spoke passionately about South Sudan, where UNMAS found cluster bombs were used but could not find by whom. She said UNMAS coordinated a statement on the landline allegation, by IGAD with the UN Mission UNMISS. Later she said that UNMAS dogs were used to check if explosives were being brought into UNMISS protection of civilians site.
On Bax, the answer was less convincing. Marcaillou as she did last year pointed to an investigation by the UN Office of Project Services - but this time acknowledged that she had not seen the whole UNOPS report.
This is the case even though Bax is a UNMAS employee - it's that UNMAS outsources its human resources activities to UNOPS. But shouldn't Marcaillou as UNMAS director have access to investigative reports about UNMAS staffers? We'll have more on this.
Footnote: After the briefing, Inner City Press mused whether the Netherlands, running for one of two Western European and Other Group seats on the UN Security Council against Italy and Sweden, would be upping its contributions to UNMAS.
Karel van Oosterom replied that “currently, tender process under way for for years 2016-20. Share UNMAS will depend on quality its proposals.”
This level of detail is appreciated. And wouldn't one think that assessment would include UNMAS' transparency, including whether it demands and gets access to investigative reports about UNMAS staff like Bax and the issues raised? We'll have more on this.