Saturday, November 5, 2016

As Norway's Brende Meets Outgoing & New UNSGs and US Power, Changes Needed

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- It was a slow Friday afternoon at the UN when Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende met with outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on November 4. 
The evening before, Brende met with Ban's successor Antonio Guterres as part of the UN70 delegation, along with Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico and New Zealand. They made five recommendations to Guterres:
“Be your own boss: invest in your relationship with member states but be independent
Be our number one diplomat 
Be our chief global activist 
Be the advocate for the world’s 65 million displaced people 
Be a leader in integrating human rights into all UN activities.”
  Earlier on November 4, he met with US Ambassador Samantha Power, about Syria, Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and Israel/Palestine.
   On South Sudan, follow Ban Ki-moon's November 2 firing of UNMISS' Kenyan force commander Lt-Gen Ondiek, Kenya has announced an intent to pull its peacekeepers out of UNMISS. One wonders what Brende and Norway think of how it was handled -- and how Guterres views it, for that matter. Time will tell.
   In advance of the Ban - Brende photo op, Inner City Press tweeted the South Sudan question, along with photos from the 38th floor of the UN and updates about being the only independent media covering the event. 
    Brende came in, said genially “I saw your tweet,” and then while signing Ban's visitors' book recounted that his son told him never to show his handwriting, and never to speak in French. Vine video here. Ban said that applied to him too. Then Inner City Press was ushered out.
   For all the geniality, this year Ban's UN has ousted Inner City Press after ten years as a resident correspondentwatch-dogging the UN.
The head of Ban's Department of Public Information Cristina Gallach ordered Inner City Press without due process (as noted by UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye) to leave the UN on two hours notice, then had its files evicted from its long time office (which is being given to an Egypt state media Akhbar al Yom which never comes in to the UN and never asks any questions).
   Even after some outcry, coverage (here in German) and a petition, for eight months Inner City Press has been confined to a “minder” to cover the General Assembly and ECOSOC, its resident correspondent status not yet returned. All this for seeking to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room which was nowhere listed as a Closed meeting. 

Perhaps there is another thing Ban's UN does not want to show: it has descended into censorship and targeting of the investigative press, echoing the very regimes the UN purports to criticize. We'll have more on this.