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UN Budgets Votes On Durban III & Iran Sanctions Panel, R2P & Staff Treatment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 22/23 -- With the UN Budget committee at work at 2:30 am on December 23, the number of issues on which a contested vote would be called was whittled down to two, or three at most. The main achievements, though, would be under or unreported, committee members complained to Inner City Press.

  Surprising to some, Iran is still calling for a vote on the funding of the Panel of Experts of its Sanctions Committee. On the other side of the coin, the Durban III event in September will be voted against by, among others, Canada -- which has already said it won't participate.

  Also causing agita at 2 am is a merger of functions of the offices for the Prevention of Genocide and of the Responsibility to Protect. The opponents of R2P say it has never been approved, and oppose the merger.

  As the Fifth Committee members mill around past midnight, with bottles of wine and pizza boxes on tables, a deal is said to be near on R2P, while votes are predicted on Iran's Panel of Expert and on Durban III.

Meanwhile some Committee members bemoan the lack of coverage of the bigger ticket items: continuing contracts and so-called common system. As one heart felt developing world committee member told Inner City Press, staff are 70% of the UN's costs and therefore its major asset.

  They need to be given security, especially working in some of the most dangerous places in the world. And to pay funds and programs staff more than Secretariat makes no sense. This too, they say, will be part of the package.

  The votes, it is predicted, still come December 23. Watch this site.

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In UN Budget, Iran Wants to Cut Sanctions Group, UNICEF to Pay More

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- The UN budget committee has begun its ritual of all night meetings to finish before Christmas. This year the global financial crisis has finally hit home, as one delegate put it to Inner City Press, in the discussion of the “common UN system” or “harmonizing contracts.”

  There are additional political issues around the UN's funding of a Durban conference review day in September, and Iran trying to defund the Panel of Experts of its Sanctions Committee.

Harmonizing UN system contracts has been a theme since September in the budget committee. UNICEF came and argued that it should be allowed to pay its people more, since it needs “better” people in order to attract private sector support.

  UNHCR and the World Food Program, among others, came to make the same pitch. The phrasing, and the arrogance, troubled many.

But the argument grew more subtle with example of staffers leaving UN peacekeeping missions in order to work for UNICEF to earn more money. There are also examples of seeming UN peacekeeping officials, like Alan Doss when in Liberia and the Congo, secretly being under better paid UNDP contracts.

To avoid at least some of these scams, the proposal is to harmonize contacts, with some sort of a phrase in or grandfathering period. This may raise costs, and countries which are cutting back pay to their own workers are hard pressed to vote increases for UN system staff.

  Similarly, the Permanent Representative of Tunisia recently admitted to Inner City Press that his country's announced plans for a Youth Conference have fallen through due to lack of funding. Still, a deal is predicted for December 22 or 23.

Member states are complaining about Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat not doing enough of the heavy lifting on “continuing contracts,” leaving Missions like Singapore having to do the calculations.

A recorded vote is predicted on funding the Durban III day in September, and perhaps on Iran's proposal to defund its Sanctions Committee. Why aren't North Korea and Sudan, for example, making the same proposal to undercut their Sanctions Committee?

   At Tuesday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq for any comment from Ban about Durban III. "The member states decide," he said.

UN's Ban and Controller Yamazaki, (not) taking the 5th

   Also referred from the Third Committee is the question of Myanmar. Despite evidence that staff time has been redevoted from Myanmar to other uses in the Department of Political Affairs, nothing has yet been done.

   Tuesday night in the North Lawn, the new venue for budget committee rituals, included two diplomats from Cote d'Ivoire chatting nervously with the Press. Earlier Ban Ki-moon urged the General Assembly to disaccredit Permanent Representative Djedje. What would this mean for others in the Ivorian mission? Their budget expert just keeps working. It is the Fifth Committee ethic. Watch this site.

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As UN Seeks to Decertify Gbagbo Diplomat, Le Roy Reconfirms Mercenaries

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- After Cote d'Ivoire's UN Ambassador was targeted in a General Assembly speech by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le Roy again told Inner City Press that Laurent Gbagbo is using mercenaries, and the ports of Abidjan have been blockaded.

Inner City Press asked Le Roy if the UN is asking other member states, like Nigeria or others in ECOWAS, to help break the blockade, as Ban implied. Le Roy said there is a Friday meeting of ECOWAS at which response will be decided.

Both Ban and Le Roy spoke about state media preaching hate and attacking on UN peacekeepers. Inner City Press asked if the UN would move to shut down the radio, as some in the UN say should have been done in Rwanda in 1994. Le Roy answered by contrasting a speech by Gbagbo ostensibly calling for peace with what the media is doing.

Inner City Press asked Le Roy to confirm that UN Peacekeepers have shot and killed at least one Ivorian. He said only that they had responded appropriately, but that there are more threats.

It was Le Roy's second confirmation to Inner City Press of Gbagbo's use of mercenaries. After the first one, still Ban's acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday at noon that it had NOT been confirmed. Video here.

  But Le Roy confirmed it again four hours later. Why did Haq deny it?

UN's Ban & Gbagbo, mercenaries and blockade not shown

In the hall of the UN's North Lawn building, Sudan's Permanent Representative greeted Ban and his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, and then the Ambassador of Nigeria and ECOWAS, and Le Roy. At the stakeout, Inner City Press asked Le Roy about Sudan's destruction of IDP camps in Darfur. We are aware of that, Le Roy said. UNAMID is on the scene. We'll see.

Footnote: Inner City Press interviewed Cote d'Ivoire's Deputy Permanent Representative both before and after Ban's speech. Before, when Inner City Press asked if he would speak, he said “nous ne sommes pas mandate.” Afterward he said Ban's speech was only about the Permanent Reprentative Djedje, and that the new Ouattara Perm Rep Mr. Joseph previously represented Gbagbo: “He's a career civil servant.” Oh, diplomacy.

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Once Ocampo Told Susan Rice of Bashir's $9 B in Lloyds, What Was Done?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- Sudan's Omar al Bashir has stashed $9 billion overseas, in Lloyds, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has told last year by International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

  The March 2009 meeting was memorialized in a cable Wikileaked over the weekend, see below.

  One wonders what Ambassador Rice did with this information. While Lloyds responded that it is unaware of such Bashir accounts, in January 2009 US authorities fined Lloyds $350 million for concealing the origins of wire transfers from Sudan, Iran and Libya in violation of US sanctions against the countries.

  A cynic might surmise that Ocampo chose to name Lloyds to US Ambassador Rice because of this US fine of the company, only two months before his meeting with the US Mission.

  But Lloyds so recent fine, for concealing the source of money from Sudan, would have given Rice and the Obama Administration leverage to get Bashir's accounts confirmed or denied by Lloyds at that time. Did they?

Susan Rice & UN's Ban, action on ICC report of Bashir #9 B not shown

  At issue is not only corruption by a leader indicted for war crimes and genocide: under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, oil profits were to be split between North and Southern Sudan. Southerns have alleged that the Bashir government had improperly kept and hid revenue.

  Could this have been the money? Or just a story Ocampo tried to float? What did the US Mission to the UN, State Department and Obama administration do to find out? Watch this site.

Footnote: the cable may cause major problems for Ocampo with the ICC. This explains Ocampo's fast December 18 press release putting his spin on the cable. If the Court does not hold a hearing on it, credibility will again be at issue. What do the Court's supporters have to say? The holiday seasons is no excuse.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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