Sunday, May 21, 2017

In WHO Race, ICP Asks UK About Lobbying UN Staff, In Wake of Jeff Sachs' WTO Endorsement

By Matthew Russell Lee, Series
UNITED NATIONS, May 17 – In the endgame of the race for the World Health Organization's top position, Inner City Press on May 17 asked the UK's Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft about his government's lobbying for David Nabarro, and whether the involvement of UN staff isn't inappropriate. Video here. Rycroft said that most of the work is being done in Geneva, and that he wasn't aware of the e-mails including UN staff. (So, here are two.) From UK transcript: Inner City Press: Q: Is the Mission doing any work here with other member states on the election of David Nabarro? Some documents have come out showing the Mission in Geneva. Some people say it’s inappropriate. I just wanted to give you a chance, what is the work of the UK Government in trying to get Mr. Nabarro elected as head of WHO?

Amb Rycroft: So this is a decision which will be taken in Geneva, after a vote on the 23rd. The British Government supports David Nabarro. We are proud that he has got in to the final three. We continue to support him. I have been involved, not nearly as directly or with as much activity as my colleague in Geneva, but you know, around the British network we have all been playing a role. And we look forward to the vote on the 23rd. I think David Nabarro is the candidate who has got the experience to run the World Health Organisation and to push it through the reform that recent years have demonstrated it needs.

Inner City Press: But should UN staff be involved in electioneering?  An email has come out that shows, basically, UN staff being involved in – it seems like – campaigning. Is that appropriate or not?

Amb Rycroft: I’m not aware of that. David Nabarro has a campaign, which is running his campaign. The British Government is supporting him.Amid the rush to take sides, however, Inner City Press' focus is on the increasing corruption of the UN system, where high profile Special Adviser Jeffrey Sachs was allowed to openly endorse the South Korean candidate to head the World Tourism Organization, with no repercussions.

We ask: facing US budget cuts, how does today's UN react? It extended the UN contract of Jeffrey Sachs, for example, then refused to explain his quotes or what the upside of extending his contract is. Inner City Press had to repeatedly ask the UN to get it to acknowledge the contract extension, which was then re-reported and added to by Fox, here, which noted Sachs did not explain himself. Now on April, citing and using his UN role, Sachs has issued this endorsement of Dho Young-shim to head the UN World Tourism Organization. After she lost, to the Georgian candidate Zurab Pololikashvili, Inner City Press on May 12 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric again what the UN had done about Sachs' inappropriate endorsement, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about the World Tourism, WTO, Organization, now the Georgian candidate has been at least recommended by the Executive Board, I wanted to ask you again, maybe you saw it, at the time I raised it to you; you said you had seen it, Jeffrey Sachs issued an open letter supporting the South Korean candidate?

Spokesman:  I think I answered the question on it.

Inner City Press:  Other than your statement here from the podium that, as with WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization], that I guess they are listening here, but was anything actually conveyed to Jeffrey Sachs or to the head of WIPO these activities were inappropriate?

Spokesman:  As far as Jeffrey Sachs is concerned, whatever conversations he and the Secretary-General had, I'm not privy to.  
  Then who is? Sachs' letter says "in my capacity as a senior UN advisor." On April 24 Inner City Press put the question to the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric who as before claimed he didn't know but would look into.  UN transcript here. But a day later, nothing. So on April 25 Inner City Press asked again. UN transcripthere Inner City Press: on the Jeffrey Sachs thing, yesterday, you said you'd look into it.  I'm staring… I mean, it's been published.  It's an open letter that he wrote saying that this candidate do should get the job.  Have you seen it?  Have you used your Google machine to see that…?

Spokesman:  I have used the Google machine.  I love the Google machine.
Inner City Press: Okay.  What's… is… now… yesterday, you said you wouldn't say if it's appropriate or not because you hadn't seen it.  Now that you have, is it appropriate?

Spokesman:  No, I don't think UN officials should endorse other UN officials.

Inner City Press:  So what's going to be done?

Spokesman:  Abdelhamid?
 So a UN official, recently extended by Antonio Guterres, is making an endorsement in a contested election to head a UN agency. We'll have more on this. Back on April 18 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about not a quote but an article Sachs had published the night before on CNN, "How Trump Could Make the US a Climate Pariah over Paris Pact." From the UN Transcript: 
Inner City Press: I'd asked you before about some comments by Jeffrey Sachs, the UN Special Adviser on the SDGs, and you said you hadn't seen them.  I don't know if you have yet, but I want to ask you about an article that was published last night, yesterday evening, by Jeffrey Sachs entitled How Trump Could Make the US a Climate Pariah over Paris Pact.  Given that it's directly within the scope of his mandate, is this a statement as a UN official?  You said the other ones weren't so…

Spokesman:  No, his…

Inner City Press:  It's on climate change.  It's on the SDGs…

Spokesman:  It's not, as far as I know, it is not a statement made in his… in… in his capacity as a UN envoy.

Inner City Press: You said at the time that you hadn't seen the other comments.  Have you taken any time to actually take a look at them?

Spokesman:  I'm aware of his comments. 
  And? On April 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: you'd said previously that the Secretary-General had decided to extend the contract of Jeffrey Sachs as a Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.  So I wanted to ask you, he has been quoted that the US President is "the quintessential short-term populist and a nonstop font of lies."  So I wanted to know, in what capacity does he speak?  Is this something that the Secretary-General considered?

Spokesman:  If, indeed, he said those things, that would not be in his capacity as a UN envoy, but I haven't seen those quotes myself.

Inner City Press:  Well, there's a story

Spokesman:  Okay.

Inner City Press:  He didn't choose to answer about them either to deny them, and he has written an article talking about climate change fantasy, and he called… there's a number of things that he said.

Spokesman:  He has a role.  When he speaks as a UN envoy, it's fairly clear.

Inner City Press:  Right.  But my question is, do you think as a recent article says, do you think this is a wise thing, by the Secretary-General, if he’s, in fact, so concerned with continuing US funding, that he's even making post decisions for that basis, is this… what's the upside to Jeffrey Sachs that justify this downside?

Spokesman:  A number of people have been extended for, for a year during a transition period.
  Why is Sachs needed, for an entire transition year? We'll have more on this.  Generally Guterres' UN has been cautious; many have portrayed Guterres' acceptance of David Beasley as an attempt to keep the US funds flowing. But there are more surprises. For weeks the UN has refused to answer Inner City Press if the UN has kept Jeffrey Sachs on as a UN official. Finally on April 4, when Inner City Press asked yet another time, Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed that Sachs is still a UN official -- even after he stood on the steps of the UN residence on Sutton Place when Ban Ki-moon used it for a campaign announcement, and said he would advise Ban's campaign for South Korean president (which quickly collapsed.). Vine Camera video here. From the April 4 transcript
Inner City Press: Yesterday, I e-mailed you about Jeffrey Sachs.  Does he remain in his position?

Spokesman:  Yes, he does.
 That position is "Special Adviser to the SG on the Sustainable Development Goals." According to the UN website, Sachs has been a UN official since 2002: that is, for 15 years. As a UN official, beyond flacking for the Ban even as corruption scandals enveloped him, Sachs has written "Donald Trump’s Climate Fantasies." This is apparently a series: there is also "Why Millennials Will Reject Trump." Sachs' forays into politics have not been limited to South Korea. From March 31: "Trump Calls Congressional Inquiry a ‘Witch Hunt.'  We obviously need a special prosecutor at this stage." Sachs is quoted, on Trump: "'I have to live with this idiot every day' #pageberlin."
  This contrasts to the UN's parallel M.O. of stealth and stonewalling, with a limited and carefully picked media, describing lobbying for funds as "UN advocacy." When Secretary General Antonio Guterres went on a trip to Kenya, in New York the Press was not informed of any chance to go. But there Guterres appeared with Al Jazeera, and then in a profile in the Washington Post from a usually hard-hitting reporter, this time quoting the UN's Herve Ladsous, who has mismanaged UN Peacekeepingand the Press for five years. The article described the UN Foundation as "advocating for UN causes." But shouldn't issues like accountability for victims of UN cholera in Haiti, and opposing censorship in the UN and for example in Western Cameroon, with no Internet for more than 70 days, be "UN causes"? In fact, UN Foundation lobbies against US budget cuts to the UN, even if targeted and designed to bring about reform. The UN's cause, it seems, is to perpetuate itself.
  Recently in the UN basement as Inner City Press came in late through a long line of tourists and students at the metal detectors Inner City Press must now use everyday since the UN evicted it for covering corruption, a meeting in a windowless side conference room was ending. Outside in the hall it was labeled, Congressional Group. But inside on a TV screen it said, “UN Foundation: Congressional Learning Trip.” UN Foundation was set up, with Ted Turner's money, to help and now defend the UN. The UN's point person on sexual abuse, long a topic of interest for such Republicans as Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), is Jane Holl Lute, who before that was a high official of the UN Foundation and of the Obama Administration. She was notably absent when a “new” sexual abuse strategy, immediately critiqued by the group Code Blue and others, was announced. On March 13, Inner City Press asked UN Spokeman Stephane Dujarric, UN Transcript here: 
Inner City Press: last week, I saw a meeting in the basement 1B held by the UN Foundation.  It was called Congressional Learning Trip.  And so, I guess I wanted to know, number one, what is the relationship between the UN and UN Foundation?  Can it hold a meeting of its own accord with congresspeople?  Are you aware whether it was only… you know, was it a bipartisan meeting?

Spokesman:  It was a bipartisan… I mean, it wasn't… it was far from a stealth meeting as you described it, because, obviously…
Inner City Press: On the outside, it was congressional group, and then, when you opened the door, it said UN Foundation, so it was stealth.

Spokesman:  Right.  It was a programme run by the Better World Campaign, and they often bring up staffers.  And it was very much a bipartisan group of staff members who work with senators and House members, both Democratic and Republican, an information tour of the UN.

Inner City Press:  Can groups that are more critical of the UN or do… or are seeking UN reform, such as Code Blue, such as Government Accountability Project, can they schedule their meetings in 1B?

Spokesman:  I think we've… I think… I've been here for about 16 years.  I think often groups that are very critical of the UN are able to speak at the UN.

Question:  No, but in… can they sponsor congresspeople in 1B?

Spokesman:  That's… it's up to them to see who they're willing to invite.
  This is a bogus answer: could GAP and Code Blue book UN Conference Rooms to instruct US Congresspeople about what needs to be reformed at the UN? We'll have more on this.
  (One of Guterres' team is quoted that Guterres' goal is to say out of Trump's Twitter feed. Is telling a newspaper that the best way to make it come about? And if Trump or Rex Tillerson eschewed a traveling press corps for hand-picked coverage, there would be and is outcry. The Free UN Coalition for Access asks, Is it acceptable by the UN?)
   Down in Washington, Democratic sources on the Hill told Inner City Press of a visit by the Obama administration's appointee to the UN, Jeffrey Feltman. Strangely, perhaps, they list the topic not as involving only Feltman's specific UN job, the Department of Political Affairs he has been held over to head until April Fools Day in 2018, but “budget cuts to peacekeeping.” The head of that Department, held by France for more than 20 years, should be the one lobbying. But Herve Ladsous is unappealing in the best of times; now he lefton March 31, replaced by his fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Lacroix. Will Lacroix be able to stave off cuts? Will he continue to use public funds, more than a quarter of it from US taxpayers, to pay peacekeepers accused of rape such as in the contingents from Burundi and Cameroon?
   Inner City Press on March 10, still under censorship restrictions imposed without any hearing or appeal after it sought to cover the fallout from the UN bribery indictment of Macau-based businessman and former Clinton funder Ng Lap Seng, was Banned from a simple photo opportunity on the UN's 38th floor. The Ban's by the Department of Public Information. When asked the basis, the UN's holdover Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq gave no reason or definition being used; he barely looked up from his computer, from which he never did answer Inner City Press' questions on Cameroon abuses and the UN's Cameroon Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi blocking it on Twitter, nor how much "extra-budgetary" funds the UN proposes to use on Louise Arbour's D1 head of office.
   The moves are stealth, like much in the UN these days - and have the potential of backfiring. Watch this site.