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On Sri Lanka, UN Panel’s Problems, of Blackmail as Guatemala Cites R2P, NAM Games of Iran, Venezuela to Head G-77?

[Inner City Press, Saturday, 17 July 2010 18:30 No Comment]

Sri Lanka and the Non Aligned Movement letter it requested to oppose UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s advisory panel on accountability were inquired into at the UN throughout the day on July 16, at the UN noon briefing, in front of the Security Council and later upstairs at a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday.

The draft NAM letter, which Inner City Press first obtained and exclusively published, has now been stalled by a protest or demarche from Guatemala, which does not agree NAM should block inquiries into human rights violations.

  The word “Responsibility to Protect” was repeatedly heard. Most but not all NAM members opposed R2P. But NAM decisions require consensus.

To try to sweep the invocation of R2P under the rug, Sri Lanka and many NAM nations are ascribing the delay to contradictions with the Organization of the Islamic Conference about the inquiries into the attack on the flotilla to Gaza. But R2P is in NAM’s mix.

As an aside on NAM: that Iran will follow Egypt as the head of the group, reported yesterday by Inner City Press, may not be an entirely sure thing. A coalition of monarchies, ironically, from the Gulf States and a certain Maghreb non African Union member, are raising some objections.

At the time when Iran wants to lead NAM, Venezuela wants to lead the Group of 77. That would certainly lead to journalist fireworks, and there are those small countries which like to hide behind the bombast of the Venezuelas and Irans of the world. But others think it would ill serve their issues.

Inner City Press’ exclusive July 15 report on the staffing of Ban’s advisory panel - fully eight staff, led by Jessica Neuwirth, an official whose most recent now ended job as NY representative of Navi Pillay was at the D-2 level – gave rise to concerns not only about those focused on anti-corruption and anti-nepotism at the UN (count Inner City Press among them) but, perhaps cynically but predictably, among the Rajapaksas’ supporters.

These supporters go beyond the Inner City Press reporting and allege a very close relationship between Navi Pillay and Ms. Neuwirth, beyond the links at Equality Now. One expects these arguments to be advanced, though perhaps only privately to Ban Ki-moon.

Another argument they advance: that panel chairman Marzuki Darusman, at the end of his previous service on the Sri Lankan government’s own “international” panel, bickered with Sri Lanka in order to collect his fees.

  Whatever the merits, expect this too to be raised to Ban. In fact, Inner City Press is told that this WAS raised to Ban, but that “he didn’t care.”

  This is reminiscent of Ban not paying attention that the pairing of Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain as co-chairs of an MDG group would blow up and undermine the work.

Here, we expect Sri Lanka to try to blackmail Ban Ki-moon, saying they are willing to accept nepotism, corruption, conflict of interest “and worse” in the Panel, as long as it leads nowhere in terms of accountability.

UN’s Ban hands to Pakistan of NAM, Darusman at right, fee fight not shown

  That would be pure UN: what seemed a belated attempt to do the right thing, becoming a venue for corruption, blackmail and stasis. We may hope not, but this is the UN. Watch this site.

From Friday’s UN noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Mr. Buhne, I just wanted to understand, it seemed that earlier in the week it was said that he was at the end of his tenure. Did he say something while here to change it, and return or…?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: No, no. If you remember what we said in the statement issued last week — in the context of the disturbances and the inability of UN staff to go about their work, we put out a statement saying that he had been recalled. Since then, he has been here over the past week and since then, as you know, we have received a number of assurances from the Sri Lankan side that would allow us to continue to go about our work without any further hindrance. At the same time, you just heard what I read about the message that Mr. Buhne will convey back to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press: Sure, but I guess, what I don’t understand is what was the thinking earlier in the week — if it was so dangerous, then why would you only recall one individual? That would seem to be about a threat to the staff as a whole. I just wondered if something changed. Was his tenure coming to the end, as was said, and now has been revived or extended in some way?

Associate Spokesperson: I think what I just read right now speaks for itself. I can read it again for you, but the basic point I just said was…

Inner City Press: How does that compare to what was said earlier in the week? That was what I was asking.

Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, I understand. But if you notice what we said is — when I said that he will return to Colombo, the next thing is: “It is important to continue UN efforts to assist the people of Sri Lanka, particularly with regard to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the North.” So that task will continue, but at the same time, as I pointed out, Mr. Buhne will convey the Secretary-General’s strong expectations for better treatment of the UN family in Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press: And on the panel, there is an article out on Sri Lanka, saying that one of the outcomes of Mr. Buhne’s consultations with the Secretary-General was to further restrict the scope of the work of the group of Panel of Experts that they will now explicitly not consider information that comes in from either witnesses or anything like that. And I just also wanted to ask about the staffing. Can you confirm, as two Member States have now told me, that the head of the staffing will be Jessica Neuwirth, a D-2, and there will be seven other staff?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any details to provide for you right now on the staffing. Yes, they will have a small secretariat here that will assist them in their tasks, but I don’t have any confirmation of any names to give to you right now. But certainly, no, there was no limitation of the scope of [the Panel’s] work as a result of this.

Inner City Press: One of the Member States say, they said even Goldstone, maybe you can, I don’t know what the level of staffing was, but they said it was extraordinary that a D-2 level staff member would be assigned to run this panel, particularly given its relatively limited scope.

[Full Coverage]

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