Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ICP Asks UN & Next SG of CAR Rapes, DC Hearing, Final Eviction Notice Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization?
First, how low has the UN fallen, in terms of corruption, not stopping rapes, and retaliating against the Press that asks the questions? On April 12, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about an April 13 hearing in the US House of Representatives about impunity for UN rapes. Just as the UN skipped court hearings on bringing cholera to Haiti, Haq's answer did not say that the UN would attend the hearing. Video here.
  A few hours later on April 12, after Inner City Press asked Next SG candidates Antonio Guterres and Irina Bokova about UN rapes and corruption, the UN's Department of Public Information emailed to Inner City Press a final eviction notice.
  All of Inner City Press' files, from covering and investigating the UN for ten years, will be thrown and moved out on Saturday, April 16 - when no one else is in the building. Email below.
  This came after the head of DPI, Cristina Gallach, was shown in the Office of Internal Oversight Services audit, full text exclusivley put online by Inner City Press, to have allowed corrupt events in the UN Visitors Lobby and even to commemorate slavery. This is retaliation.
  And what about the current, outgoing Secretary General? We'll have more on his response in the coming days. Here's what the UN sent:
Subject: Office
To:matthew.lee [at]
From: Tal Mekel [at]
Date: Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Dear Mr. Lee,

Further to the letter to you from Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, on 30 March 2016, we note that you did not remove your belongings from the office by the 6 April deadline as required.

As you have still not removed your belongings, we wish to inform you that your belongings will be packaged on Saturday 16 April 2016 at 10:00 a.m.

After carefully packaging them up, your belongings will be forwarded to Bronx NY headquarters address for Inner City Press that you had listed in your media accreditation application. If you wish us to forward your packaged belongings to another address instead, please let us know as soon as possible.

We request your presence during the packing. Please contact the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) to make the necessary arrangements. If you are not present, the packing and forwarding will still take place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday 16 April 2016.

Best, Tal

Tal Mekel
Acting Chief
Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit
United Nations - S-250
New York, NY 10017
  Given that all Inner City Press did was seek to cover an event of the UN Correspondents Association in the UN Press Briefing Room which was nowhere listed as closed, this is retaliation and censorship. We will have more on this. 
Inner City Press: a few questions about peacekeeping.  Number one, and just to see if you have a comment on it, the first candidate, the Foreign Minister of Montenegro, spoke this morning, made a proposal or an idea of a tribunal to directly try UN peacekeepers that are accused of sexual abuse.  And I wanted to know, can you either compare that?  Is that something that the current Secretary-General thinks is a good idea?  And I also wanted to know, there's… tomorrow a house committee is having a hearing on sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and lack of accountability from 2 to 5 on Capitol Hill.  I know that a Better World Campaign will be there.  Is the UN sending anyone to that hearing, or is it monitoring the hearing?  Do they think the hearing is going to be useful?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  We'll try to keep apprised of the results of the hearing as it happens.  But, regarding accountability, the Secretary-General has been very forthright in talking about the steps we're taking to pursue greater accountability.  You've seen them laid out in his various reports, in the response he made to the Panel headed by Marie Deschamps, and we'll continue with that.  We believe that the United Nations is trying to improve on accountability, and you're hopefully going to be able to see the effects of that on the ground.

Inner City Press:  What he was trying to say… I mean… at least it sounded and I was unable to ask him this one, but the tribunal would be like the UN setting up its own accountability mechanism rather than encouraging countries to do their own proceedings.  And I wanted to ask you, the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] has now put three people on trial.  Some people are saying the victims aren't represented,where the victim can say: "This is my testimony."  So, do you think it would be more useful to have these things be done in-country?  Do you think it should be done not necessarily by the TCC [troop-contributing country]?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we, of course, are trying to get the troop-contributing countries to do everything they can to make sure that there is accountability that is pursued at all levels when these allegations surface.  Ultimately, the Secretary-General has been working with the troop countries and the Member States as a whole to push what we think of as a higher standard of accountability, and we're going to continue pushing that.  We've made some successes and including, of course, the recent trials that you just mentioned.  And we're trying to push for greater accountability at all levels.
   On April 12, when Irina Bokova of UNESCO came to answer media questions, to many it was bland, perhaps as selected. Inner City Press, which had been told by President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft to ask the candidates about finances and corruption, did -- it asked Bokova what she thinks of the John Ashe case, see below. She did not answer. Nor did Antonio Guterres, perhaps not his fault, answer what he would do about peacekeepers' sexual abuse.
  The stakeout questions were selected not by the candidates or their campaign staff, but by Lykketoft's spokesperson, who began by mistaking one reporter for another -- while still awarding the question - and ended by calling on the same (state) media twice. In a flurry of diplomacy, we are not naming the media companies, much less reporters, at issue.
  Mid-afternoon Inner City Press tweeted that Vuk Jeremic might join the race, noting that his latest tweet was a Madonna song. Now he has announced: "It is a great honor to be a candidate for the post of @UN Secretary-General. Looking forward to presenting my candidacy to the Member States." He will speak on Thursday.
   While it was initially withheld, here now is the list of whom picked the civil society questions:
Civil Society Committee Members

Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu - A World at School - Cameroon
Kate Lappin - Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) - Australia
Kashmiri Stec - AYUDH - Poland
Parsu Ram Rai - Blue Diamond Society - Nepal
Sabine Saliba - Child Rights International Network - Lebanon
Olumide Idowu - Climate Wednesday - Nigeria
Melina Lito - Equality Now  - Albania
Volker Lehmann - Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung - NY / Germany
Leonardo Párraga - Fundación BogotArt - Colombia
Mohammad Hassan    Mashori - Fundamental Human Rights & Rural Development Association FHRRDA - Pakistan
Peter van Tuijl - Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)    Netherlands
Mark Ross - Global Youth Movement - Guyana  - Guyana
Angela Muthama - Human Rights and Information Forum  - Kenya
Ben Homer - Innovation & Planning Agency - Switzerland / USA
Sandra Creamer - International Indigenous Womens Forum - Australia
Eleanor Openshaw - International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) - UK
Pefi Kingi - PACIFICWIN - New Zealand
Federica D'Alessandra - Public International Law & Policy Group    Italy
Hugh Dugan - Seton Hall University, School of Diplomacy, Center for UN and Global Governance Studies - USA
Kirthi Jayakumar - The Red Elephant Foundation - India
Eleanor Blomstrom - Women's Environment and Development Organization - USA INGO
Ritah Muyambo - World YWCA - Zimbabwe
Guterres made light of the financial question, saying that his campaign is cheap, he is not worried. But will he disclose the budget?  
When Inner City Press asked Igor Luksic if he will disclose the budget for his campaign, from the Montenegro government and otherwise, he made a point saying yes, if he's going to speak about transparency he has to practice it.
Earlier, Lykketoft took a half-dozen questions before kicking off the informal dialogues, starting with Montenegro's foreign minister Igor Luksic, Inner City Press asked him if questions about UN rapes, and the John Ashe case audit, will be asked.
  Lykketoft replied that the "John Ashe" were already being dealt with, or were fixed. Inner City Press pointed out the Office of Internal Oversight Services audit of the Secretariat, how the Department of Public Information allowed a corrupt event in the General Assembly lobby, and a corrupt organization to play a role in the UN's event on slavery, as well as associating with another corrupt organization through "Friends of the UN." Video here.
  Lykketoft then said, these questions could come up. We'll be here.
     On April 11, Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft if Lykketoft will ensure that financial disclosure questions are or can be asked, and who chose the “civil society” questions. The affable spokesperson told Inner City Press to ask Lykketoft, and that the list would be provided after the briefing.Video here.

  But it was not. Even who chose the people who chose the question was unclear: some in the UN who work with civil society, presumably meaning from the Department of Public Information which we must note is the most criticized UN department in the so-called John Ashe case audit the full text of which Inner City Press exclusively put online on April 6, here.

  DPI has shown a willingness to retaliate, so we are reporting this as diplomatically as possible: once a spokesperson has said on camera that a list will be given, it probably should be. At  minimum, the excuse for not providing it should not be, it would be misunderstood. Isn't it the job of the UN Department of Public Information to provide and if necessary explain information, rather than withhold it?
   That said, Inner City Press will be covering the "informal dialogues." First up on April 12 is Montenegro's foreign minister Igor Luksic. Beyond some bank bailout controversies, the fact that Montenegro has participated in peacekeeping in Somalia and Afghanistan, with the UN in Liberia and, it was debated, with the European Union in the Central African Republic gives rise to questions.
  What would Luksic do about the scandal of rapes in UN peacekeeping, in the Central African Republic and elsewhere? Merely mouthing "zero tolerance" is clearly not enough. What does Luksic think of a current head of UN Peacekeeping who links the rapes to "R&R"? Video here. To the critical Press being physically ousted from, then restricted within, the UN?
 Relatedly, what would he do, in light of the John Ashe case and audit, to ensure that the UN is no longer for sale? Watch this site.
  At the end of the April 11 noon briefing Inner City Press was told that the list of who chose the civil society questions will be put online on April 12, after the “interviews” of candidates has already begun. We'll be there - or as close to there as DPI allows. Watch this site.
(Inner City Press also asked Lykketoft's spokesperson if, in fact, DPI has at least belatedly complied with the John Ashe audit's Recommendation 5. The spokesperson said he will check. We're waiting.)

On April 8, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon what are the rules governing current UN system officials running for NextSG, in terms of their use of UN time, resources and staff. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to know what the UN's rules are given that there are now two candidates that are currently employed by the UN system, Irina Bokova of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], Helen Clark of UNDP [United Nations Development Programme].  I wanted to know, what rules apply as to how they devote their time, how resources of the agencies and of other staff in the agencies are devoted to helping their campaign.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, for UNESCO, that is something for the UNESCO governing body to decide.  As far as UNDP, obviously, we would expect that and our understanding is that this will have no impact on her… on Ms. Clark's leadership of UNDP and that, obviously, that no staff resources would be used for that.

Inner City Press:  No, and I mean, I… I guess I mean it with all due respect, but inevitably, she's going to be spending time devoted to this.  So, the question is, like, how much time should she…?  It's an obvious…

Spokesman:  No, no, I'm saying it's a… I'm not debating the obviousness of the question.  That's what I have to say at this point.

On April 4, New Zealand announced for Helen Clark. But nowhere in it did New Zealand's announcemeone find financial disclosure, nor a vision statement.

And with Clark's UNDP embroiled in the the corruption scandal unveiled by the indictment of John Ashe, none of the correspondents NZUN invited for the launch even asked about that. And while anyone with a passing knowledge of UNDP knows Clark has a problem with staff relations, to put it mildly, no one asked about that either.