Monday, August 31, 2009

In Norway, UN's Ban Silent on Sri Lankan Killings and Sudan, Dodges on Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Days after video footage of the Sri Lankan Army committing summary executions was broadcast on the UK's Channel 4 and then elsewhere, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Norway was asked if he acknowledges that he has been failing to address the problems in Sri Lanka. Ban's answer was the same talking points he has been using since his May "victory lap" visit to the the country:

"I have made it quite clear to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa that even though the fighting might be over, there are much more important things to be done. There is political reconciliation and reaching out to minority groups, including the Tamils, therefore, including the process for the accountability for any violation of international human rights law, international humanitarian laws. They must take all necessary measures. I have met already President Rajapaksa several times. I have called him to follow up my commitment after my visit."

Ban's entourage knew that questions would be asked during his visit to Norway, in the wake of the leak of that country's deputy ambassador to the UN Mona Juul's devastating critique of what she called his lack of "moral authority," about his performance in Sri Lanka, as well as Myanmar and Sudan. Ban's spokesperson was asked about and shown the Sri Lanka execution video. Yet with all this preparation, what Ban did was refer with jargon to "the process for the accountability for any violation of international human rights law, international humanitarian laws. They must take all necessary measures."

What does this mean? The Sri Lankan government, since Ban's visit, has canceled the investigation into killing such as those of 17 aid workers of Action Contre la Faim. It has rebuffed calls for any other investigations, and immediately denounced the airing of the execution video. Tellingly, its incoming ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona was quoted over the weekend in the Daily Mirror that "a winning side has never been subjected to such an inquiry, including after the World War Two."

Ignoring for example the indictment of still "winning" Sudanese president Omar al Bashir for war crimes, Kohona's appears to some to be a battle cry for impunity. Ban's response? The same talking points as three months ago.

Ban's answers came in response to the second of only two questions taken after Ban met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Prior to that, Ban was to be met at the airport by Norway's Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, who days ago said of the execution footage that "this is something I will discuss with Ban Ki-moon when he comes... even if the purpose of his trip is about climate and environment." Even after this, Ban had nothing but the same talking points to offer.

UN's Ban, about Norway, before leaving, Sri Lankan execution video not shown

The Juul memo zeroed in on what it characterized as Ban's failed trips to Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Tellingly, although asked about Sudan, Ban did not say a single word about that country. On Myanmar, he replied that

"I have visited Myanmar twice and I have met Senior General Than Shwe three times. I have laid out a very strong message, straightforward, directly to the Senior General and even to the general public, [saying] what expectations we have for the Myanmar people. We were able to open up this society so that humanitarian assistance could flow smoothly. Last year, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, together with the international community, particularly led by the Norwegian Government, we were able to save at least a half million [people] during the cyclone. Now, we need to work more for the democratization of Myanmar. I have made it quite clear, publicly and privately, that this election in 2010 must be a fair and credible and inclusive one. For that, all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should be released. I am working very hard to keep up pressure on the commitments they made and you have my full commitment on that."

When Ban was in Myanmar, a trip used by the government, he was not allowed to visit Aung San Suu Kyi. Shortly thereafter, a U.S. Senator, Jim Webb, was granted such a visit, and left the country with her co-defendant John Yettaw. The UN appears poised to offer what legitimacy it can to an election held under a Constitution pushed through after the Cyclone, which limits many seats and powers to those with military backgrounds. Still Ban claims he is pressuring Myanmar -- and that on Sri Lanka he has "met already President Rajapaksa several times. I have called him to follow up my commitment after my visit."

Only last week, the head of the Colombo-based Center for Policy Alternative told the Press at the UN of widespread disappointment in Sri Lankan civil society that all Ban offered was a 24 hour visit and "a few phone calls." These critiques do not appear to have sunk in, the same talking points get repeated again and again, even in the face of evidence of summary executions. What's next? Watch this site.

Somali Continental Shelf Filing Rejected by Parliament Has Norway "Embarrassed," UN Admits

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- The Somali parliament recently voted over 90% against a deal cut by UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, using Norwegian assistance, to make a joint Kenya - Somali filing about the Somali people's rights to the continental shelf and its natural resources. Even before the vote, Inner City Press had repeatedly asked the UNby what right Ould Abdallah had coordinated the filing,without getting a straight answer.

Now, with meetings about the Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea taking place in the basement of the UN's headquarters in New York, Inner City Press finally got at least some answers.

In a meeting on "The Regular Process of Marine Assessments" held by the UN's Office of Legal Affairs, Inner City Press asked a group of UN experts how they deal with a now-contested filing like the one about Somalia. At first, an expert tried to evade the question, saying it could only be asked and answered at another meeting down the hall about the Limits of the Continental Shelf. But those meetings are all closed.

The master of ceremonies Peter Gilruth, director of the UN Environment Program's Division of Early Warning and Assessment, said he would try to answer, although he felt it might put his "head in a difficult spot." He said that Norway paid for the filings of some 10 African countries but that in Somalia, some "other elements.... may have tried to take the information in a different direction, causing the difficulty you refer to." Gilruth that moved the proceedings forward, asking if there were "any questions easier than that one."

Afterwards, Inner City Press approached Mr. Gilruth, who said that the whole Somali filing snafu "involved embarrassment to the government of Norway."

Next to him Patricio Bernal, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, said that he had been working on this for ten years, he had coordinated with the Somali "government in exile" in Nairobi, and he could not understand the stink made in Somalia itself. He emphasized that the decisions in Continental Shelf meetings -- behind closed doors, mind you -- are "unappealable."

UN's Ban, Jean Ping and Ould Abdallah, Somali Parliament's rejection not shown

Perhaps the ongoing snafu reflects that to deal with the Somali government in exile, or the TFG, or Ould Abdallah, is not to deal with the Somali people, and is no guarantee of support or legitimacy. Ould Abdallah, meanwhile, is reported trying to invite into the TFG process a notorious war lord. Inner City Press asked about this last week at the UN's noon briefing, and the Spokesperson said an answer would be sought from Ould Abdallah. But still none has been received. Watch this site.

As first reported by Inner City Press, the filing states that Ould Abdallah

"initiated the preparation of preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf of Somalia beyond 200 nautical miles... In the preparation of this material the SRSG accepted an offer of assistance from the Government of Norway... Both the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have been involved in the preparation...

Inner City Press wrote about this and asked the UN and Ould's spokesperson Suzie Price, but never received an answer.

On May, the question was put to Ould Abdallah and he said he is "no specialist," that he was unfamiliar with the filing that states that he prepared it. "Ask Norway," he said. Video here, from Minute 12:30.

Like Kofi, like Ban Nepotism returns to United Nations

By Judi McLeod

Canada Free Press

Original Source:

Qualifiers bound to get you a “jammy job” at the high-handed, diplomatic immunity protected United Nations? Other than being a bureaucrat down to the core, it helps if you are mealy-mouthed, politically correct and good at hiding when challenging times demand decisions. Think Kofi Annan in Rwanda.

Well, as the French would say, the more things change the more things remain the same at the world’s largest bureaucracy.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo used Daddy’s name to get his green Mercedes sent back home to Ghana on the cheap, and somehow landed himself a job with a firm then connected to the Oil-for-Food scandal

According to UN watchdog Inner City Press, rookie UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s son-in-law Siddarth Chatterjee has been announced as his wife’s father’s chief of staff.

Inner City Press picked up “a small item” about this latest UN nepotism from the Washington Post and ran the gamut on it.

That’s Ban’s fancy footwork in the looking after the family department.

In the Getting by with a Little Help from my Friends Department, there’s Ban’s former colleague in the South Korean foreign ministry, Choi Young-jin, recently named Ban’s envoy to the Ivory Coast.

The UN, which relies more on the media communique than even the U.S. government, teaches all “spokespeople” how to handle embarrassing questions from the media.

“For weeks it had been rumored that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s son-in-law would get a high post with the UN in Iraq, and that Mr. Ban’s former colleague in the South Korean foreign ministry, Choi Young-jin, would be named Ban’s envoy to the Ivory Coast.” (Inner City Press, Oct. 19, 2007). “About the latter, Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas, after hearing from Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo that the envoy had been mutually selected. Ms. Montas had no comment at the time. Then on October 18, the Choi appointment was announced, and the following morning’s Washington Post carried a small item noting that Ban’s Iraq envoy Steffan de Mistura is naming Ban’s son-in-law Siddarth Chatterjee as his chief of staff. There are stories behind each, portions of which we’ll endeavor to tell in this end-of-week column.

“On Friday Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas about Chattterjee’s appointment in Iraq, and she responded that it is strictly a matter between Mr. de Mistura and Chatterjee, that it is a lateral move and not a promotion, and that “we feel the publication of any information that increases the risk to any staff member and to the mission as a whole is not very helpful.”

”Inner City Press asked, “Are you saying that the Washington Post’s publication puts the mission at risk?”

“I’m saying what I said,” Mrs. Montas replied.

“An aside: Inner City Press often takes and presents UN Spokesperson Montas’ objections to the legitimacy of questions at face value. But in this case, we have reason to believe, and have decided to report, that the responsibility for the above-quoted dig at press freedom lies on the 38th Floor, and not the third (where the Spokesperson’s Office is housed). Apparently from the highest levels, attempts were made that this widely-rumored story not be published.

“But since it is journalistically legitimate, even imperative, to report on what some are calling possible nepotism in public institutions, security concerns would have militated (sic) against this assignment of the Secretary-General’s son-in-law to Iraq.

“`It’s a big world,’” as one source fearing retaliation put it, adding that Chatterjee was initially going to be promoted from P-5 up into the “D” ranks, but that it was decided to forego this for now, to present the move as lateral.

“The subtext to Ms. Montas’ statement that this was a matter between Mr. de Mistura and Mr. Chatterjee is that these fearful insiders report that Mr. de Mistura made the appointment in order to curry favor on the 38th floor, just as, the sources say, he previously hired the son of Kofi Annan’s close aide Iqbal Riza. What makes it unrealistic to expect this story not to be explored is that de Mistura was so recently given the Iraq envoy post.

“The new envoy to the Ivory Coast, Choi Young-jin, assumes a difficult position. The previous two envoys were essentially thrown out by president Gbagbo after they pushed to compliance with the elections time-table and spoke about corruption. While it is said that Gbagbo initially rejected the suggestion of Choi as the new envoy, his subsequently changed position leads many to question how assertive he will be about compliance with the revised elections time-line, to say nothing of corruption.”

The United Nations has proven it is the kind of place where, when the first sign of corruption raises its ugly head, friends are called in to investigate.

Paul Volcker, who headed up the Independent Inquiry Commission into the Oil-for-Food scandal, held a seat on Power Corp’s international advisory board. Power’s founding father, Paul Desmarais is a major shareholder and director of TotalFinaElf, the biggest oil corporation in France, which has held tens of billions of dollars in contracts with the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein--originators of the largest scandal in world history.

Meanwhile over at Turtle Bay, the age-old axiom “like father, like son” could have added, like Kofi, like Ban.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reports of Nepotism for UN's Ban Ki-moon Removed From Internet After Legal Threats by Ban's Son in Law

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- The son in law of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Siddarth Chatterjee, had used threats of legal action to force the removal from the Internet of comments that he may have gotten his promotion with the UN Office of Project Services in Copenhagen due to nepotism, Inner City Press has learned.

In preparing its exclusive August 14 article on nepotism at the UN and Ban's position on and in it, Inner City Press ran across an article in the Indian Star online, which cited Inner City Press' previous piece on Chatterjee's promotion with the UN in Iraq. Recently, that Indian Star article and comments were taken off the Internet -- following a threat from Chatterjee and then by his India-based lawyer. Click here for the now-empty page.

Free press advocates express concern at the threats, noting that in such matters "the cover-up is always worse that the crime," and demanding that Ban Ki-moon rebuke and renounce them. But will it happen?

Here for the record, and as requested by free press advocates in several continents, are comments which were on the Indian Star page which Ban's son in law, not stopped and presumably encouraged by Ban, got removed from the Internet by legal intimidation:

(Replied: Saturday, May 02, 2009, 06:05 am EST)

Interesting indeed. Some of us have, until very recently, had the misfortune of being exposed to this man, in a professional sense, in Iraq. Spineless is a very appropriate term to use in describing this individual. There are more, but few are fit for publication. He is, indeed, a discredit to India, the Indian Army, and now the UN (where, incidentally, he has recently moved on significant promotion - despite already being totally over-promoted in the opinion of all that know, and have to work with, him). The recent recruitment of this man to the United Nations Office of Project Services in Copenhagen is yet another example of the ineptitude, nepotism and corruption which is so prevalent within the UN system, even at the highest levels (in this case, within UNOPS). But those in Baghdad are delighted that UNOPS has taken him away from Iraq all the same.

It is a shame. And it would appear people are still being fooled.

and Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2009, 06:34 am EST


Siddharth Chatterjee is a spineless man .He could not even pass the staff exams in Indian Army ... IT IS A SHAME THAT United Nations... GET FOOLED

After the Indian Star article and its comments went offline, they still remained available in the cache of Google and other search engines. Ban's son in law's lawyers made more legal threats -- "this is round two of the Bans and Google," said one observer of plans by the UN to get Inner City Press removed from Google News, click here for the most recent -- to get it out of cache.

Now even that censorship of questions of nepotism within Ban's UN has been accomplished -- click here for the now empty cache page.

Siddarth Chatterjee a public figure, and thus his legal threats are spurious, even an abuse of process. He is the son in law of the UN Secretary General, he was awarded a job at the UN's D-2 level (see below. Now, after refusing to answer Inner City Press' repeated questions referred by Ban's Spokesperson's Office if Chatterjee is a D-2 or a D-1, UNOPS tells other journalists that he is a D-1, in order to forestall other media coverage. Will it work?

UN's top lawyer O'Brien and Ban Ki-moon, legal threats of son in law not shown

Most recently, UNOPS in Copenhagen has told a Nordic newspaper what Chatterjee is a D-1, without explaining that the post was described by UNOPS' deputy director, in writing, as a D-2 post:

Sent: 03 March 2009 11:09
Subject: Welcome to the new mailgroup

As you know, yesterday EUO and MEO formally merged into a new regional office called EMO (Europe and the Middle East) based in Copenhagen...I will be acting Regional Director of EMO until we have recruited a “permanent” replacement. In response to our advertisement for the D-2 regional director job, we received some 130 applications. Five candidates were short-listed for interviews: four were interviewed last Friday and the last interview is scheduled for Thursday this week. We’d like to make a decision by mid-March.

So even assuming that, as in Iraq, the UN decided even if only belatedly to keep Mr. Chatterjee a level below the grade of the post they awarded him, that is only being done to discourage press coverage of nepotism.

Even this raises questions of whether Ban, who came into the UN system promising reform and to run things cleanly, is due to his relatives' promotions so paranoia and angry about questions of nepotism that he has a conflict of interest in dealing with charges of nepotism against others in the UN, for example his own envoy to the Congo Alan Doss -- click herefor that.

Inner City Press broke the story about Alan Doss asking the UN Development Program for "leeway," to bend hiring rules and give his daughter Rebecca Doss a job in UNDP's Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific leading to a "man bite man" incident which was the focus of other media's follow up coverage. After Inner City Press' story about Ban and nepotism early on August 14, Ban's Deputy Spokesperson wrote to Inner City Press that:

Sent: 8/14/2009 7:57:02 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: your latest entry

What I said was that queries on the biting incident should be directed to the NY County DA Office.

On the allegations, we take the matter very seriously.

"The Secretary-General is aware of the situation. He has been assured that a thorough independent investigation is underway, He takes this matter very seriously, and expects to see a report upon his return to NY."

Ban Ki-Moon returned to New York from his South Korea vacation and delivered prepared remarks at a World Humanitarian Day event in the UN's visitors' lobby on August 19. He took no questions. On August 21, after waiting two days, Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe if Ban had as he expected now received the report on nepotism, and what would he do about it?

Ms. Okabe answered that although Ban had returned to New York, he had gone on leave again. So finally, what will he do?

Footnotes: in the course of legally threatening the Indian newspaper -- but not U.S. based Inner City Press -- it was argued that the Indian Star report which triggered the two comments Chatterjee and Ban did not like was "based only on a blog." The response was that Inner City Press is better read, at least online, than the Indian newspaper they threatened.

On that, Reuters of August 21 reported that "U.N. officials also complain bitterly about the indefatigable bloggerMatthew Lee, whose website Inner City Press regularly accuses Ban and other U.N. officials of hypocrisy and failing to keep their promises to reform the United Nations and root out corruption." Later, a telling second phrase was added: "(Some U.N. officials accuse Lee of not always getting his facts right, but his blog has become unofficial required reading for U.N. staffers around the world.)"

Ironically, on August 20 a UN under secretary general approached Inner City Press about the anti-Ban memo by Norwegian deputy permanent representative Mona Juul, having "just read it on your blog." For all of Ms. Juul's criticism of Ban, from Myanmar to Sri Lanka to climate change, Juul missed the nepotism and family connection angle. Her husband Terje Roed Larsen works for Ban, as another of his Under Secretaries General who has refused to make any disclosure of his finance or to answer Inner City Press' questions about them.

This is run for the proposition that as well as being a nepotism cover up scandal, this is a story about new media. Ban and his son in law have lawyers threaten ill-read newspapers for daring to carry a report based on what they call the "blog" Inner City Press and two resulting comments. They urge what they view as "real" or mainstream media not to cover stories which are broken by Inner City Press -- which, for example, had the world exclusive, acknowledged on Associated Press and in Japan media amog others, of the final draft of the Security Council's North Korea sanctions.

Inner City Press, which writes more about Myanmar than other UN based correspondents, was never even told of the opportunity, given to others, to accompany and report on Ban's ultimately failed trip there. Some say that in all this, Ban is being ill-advised by those around him. The question remains: is this anachronistic media strategy of cover up, deployed by Team Ban, working? Watch this site.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Awww, Snap! Leaked U.N. Memo Calls Ban Ki-moon 'Spineless and Charmless'

Katie Paul

If you don't have something nice to say, you probably shouldn't say it at all. And if you're a senior diplomat at the United Nations, you certainly shouldn't write it.

But write it she did. Mona Juul, Norway's No. 2 at the U.N., wrote a confidential internal memo slamming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's leadership as weak, ineffective, lacking in charisma, and—more often than not—just plain absent. Yesterday, the memo leaked to the Norwegian press. Ms. Juul, on vacation with her husband, was unavailable to mop up the mess.

It's sure to be an unpleasant episode for all involved, but it's about time someone said it. As the memo's juiciest tidbits point out, this opinion has been the word on the street at the U.N. for some time. It's no secret that the previous U.S. administration was more than content to have an ineffective leader steering the U.N. ship. That may not be the case anymore. In the most noteworthy paragraph, Ms. Juul reveals rumors that Washington may not be keen to keep Mr. Ban on for second term. They may run into opposition from China, which is perfectly happy to maintain the organization's status quo. If President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and U.N. Ambassador Rice are serious about engaging with the U.N., this is a development to keep an eye on.

Norwegian memo sparks PR crisis for UN’s Ban Ki-moon


Ban Ki-moon isn’t having a good year for public relations. Halfway through a five-year term as U.N. secretary-general, he’s been hit with a wave of negative assessments by the Financial Times, The Economist, London Times, Foreign Policy and other media organizations. In a March 2009 editorial entitled “Whereabouts Unknown,” the Times said Ban was “virtually inaudible” on pressing issues of international security and “ineffectual” on climate change, the one issue that Ban claims he has made the biggest difference on. The Economist gave him a mixed report card, assigning him two out of 10 points for his management skills while praising him on climate change (eight out of 10 points).

This week, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper made an unpleasant situation much worse. It published a confidential memo assessing Ban’s 2-1/2 years in office from Oslo’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Mona Juul, to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Juul’s report is scathing — and it comes from a representative of one of the world’s body’s top financial contributors. She says the former South Korean foreign minister suffers from a “lack of charisma” and has “constant temper tantrums” in his offices on the 38th floor of the United Nations building in midtown Manhattan.

She describes Ban as a “powerless observer” during the fighting in Sri Lanka earlier this year when thousands of civilians were killed as government forces ended a 25-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, trapping them on a narrow strip of coast in the country’s northeast. In Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Congo, she wrote, Ban’s “passive and not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears.” She says that his recent trip to Myanmar was a failure and that some people in Washington refer to Ban as a “one-term” secretary-general.

Juul’s letter could hardly have come at a more inopportune time. Ban is planning to visit Norway in the coming weeks, where he intends to meet with government officials and visit the Arctic circle to see for himself the effects of global warming and the melting polar ice. Now U.N. officials fear reporters will be more interested in what he says about Juul’s memo than climate change.

So far Ban has not reacted to the letter. However, a Norwegian diplomat told Reuters that Ban’s press office had been instructed to hold off on confirming his visit to Norway shortly after the news of Juul’s memo began to spread.

Ban’s PR difficulties didn’t start this year. In March 2008, his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar sent a memo to U.N. employees explaining how to say his boss’s name. “Many world leaders, some of whom are well acquainted with the Secretary-General, still use his first name mistakenly as his surname and address him wrongly as Mr. Ki-moon or Mr. Moon,” Nambiar complained.

Then came Ban’s own speech to senior U.N. officials in Turin, Italy last year, in which he described how difficult it was to improve the working culture inside the United Nations. The secretary-general seemed to acknowledge that his internal management style had failed. “I tried to lead by example,” Ban said. “Nobody followed.”

Ban’s aides vehemently defend him, saying he’s being treated unfairly by the press. One senior U.N. official suggested privately that Ban could very well turn out to be “the greatest secretary-general ever.” They complain that people continue to compare him to his predecessor Kofi Annan, who was a very different U.N. chief and relied less on “quiet diplomacy” than Ban. Annan became a hero to many people around the world for standing up to the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Annan called the March 2003 invasion illegal. U.N. officials also complain bitterly about the indefatigable blogger Matthew Lee, whose website Inner City Press regularly accuses Ban and other U.N. officials of hypocrisy and failing to keep their promises to reform the United Nations and root out corruption. (Some U.N. officials accuse Lee of not always getting his facts right, but his blog has become unofficial required reading for U.N. staffers around the world.)

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, diplomats in New York say, is among those supporting a campaign against a second term for Ban. Juul’s memo said Helen Clark, New Zealand’s former prime minister and current head of the U.N. Development Program, “could quickly become a competitor for Ban’s second term.” But diplomats say they expect the United States, Britain and other major powers to reluctantly back a second term for Ban, if only because there appears to be no viable alternative whom Russia and China would support.

A recent article in the Times of London said the best U.N. chief in the organization’s 64-year history was not Swedish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dag Hammarskjold but the Peruvian diplomat Javier Perez de Cuellar, who held the top U.N. post for 10 years until 1992. Nicknamed “mumbles” because he was so difficult to understand, Perez de Cuellar kept a low profile and, like Ban, preferred backroom diplomacy, not Annan’s bully pulpit. Among the Peruvian diplomat’s successes were managing the end of the Cold War, leading a long-delayed revival of U.N. peacekeeping and encouraging member states to back a U.S.-led military operation to drive Iraq’s invading forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

Whether Ban’s preference for quiet diplomacy will produce similar successes remains to be seen.

Friday, August 21, 2009

At UN, Norway's Trashing of Ban Stirs Rumors of Endgame: Full Text

Exclusive by (Click here for more)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons fruitless visit to Burma at the beginning of July was emblematic of a Secretary-General and an organization that is struggling to show leadership. At a time where the UN and the need for multilateral solutions to global crises is more necessary than ever, Ban and the UN are conspicuous by their absence. In the last half-year, follow-up to the many crises that dominated last fall’s General Assembly should have brought the Secretary-General and the UN fully into the fray, but the opposite seems to have occurred.

In relation to the financial crisis, neither the Secretary-General nor the General Assembly – despite the major meeting on the financial crisis at the end of June – have distinguished themselves as the most important arena for discussion, and the vacuum has been filled by the G-20 and other actors. Ban's voice on behalf of the G-192 and the poor has hardly [there’s a misspelling in the original; “kapt” is not a word but “knapt” means “hardly”] registered. An at times invisible Secretary-General in combination with a rather special President of the General Assembly has gone far to sideline the UN, and the organization hasn’t realized its limits. On the environment/energy area the UN is also struggling to be relevant, despite the planned high-level meeting on climate change at the opening of the General Assembly this fall. Even though the Secretary-General to the point of boredom repeats that Copenhagen is supposed to “seal the deal,” there is widespread worry that the UN-high-level meeting won’t contribute notably to the process leading up to Copenhagen.

In the many political/security crises around the world, the Secretary-General’s leadership and ability to deliver on behalf of the UN is still being sought. Burma is a shining example of this. There was no lack of warning that the Secretary-General shouldn’t go at this time. The Americans were among the most doubtful to his trip, but the British thought he should go. Special Representative Gambari was initially also doubtful, but Ban insisted. Gambari pointed to the fact that recent negative press coverage (headlines like “Whereabouts unknown in The Times and “Nowwhere Man [sic]” in Foreign Policy) had made Ban even more set on visiting Burma. After an apparently fruitless visit by the Secretary-General, the UN’s “good offices” will become even more problematic. Special Representative Gambari will have big problems continuing after “the top man” has failed and the generals in Yangoon [sic] no longer want to meet him.

Another example of weak handling from the Secretary-General’s side is the war in Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General was a powerless observer to civilians in their thousands losing their lives and being driven from their homes. The authorities in Colombo refused to receive the Secretary-General while the war was going on, but he was an honored guest -- and he accepted the invitation -- once the war had been “won.” Even though the UN’s humanitarian effort had been active and honorable enough, the Secretary-General’s moral voice and authority have been absent.

Also in other “crisis areas,” for example Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and not least Congo, the Secretary-General’s passive and not very committed appeals seem to fall on deaf ears. Many would also claim that the handling of the inquiry commission after the war in Gaza ended up with an unsteady and too-careful follow-up.

More surprisingly, and therefore more disappointingly, Ban Ki-moon has been almost absent on the disarmament and non-proliferation area. This was a field he himself presented as one of his priority areas before he started his post. The reorganization of the department of disarmament to an office directly answerable to the Secretary-General, led by a High Representative indicated a big stake in this area, also given the Secretary-General’s own background on the Korean peninsula. With a new nonproliferation treaty review in 2010 and an American administration which has put the team much higher on the agenda, it’s cause for concern that the Secretary-General isn’t more committed.

The common thread in all these cases is that an unclear Secretary-General with a lack of charisma is not compensated for by high-profile and visible colleagues. Ban has consistently chosen special representatives and leaders in the Secretariat who don’t distinguish themselves, except for the case of Afghanistan. Furthermore, he seems to prefer to be in the center himself, without competition from his colleagues, and lets it shine through pretty clearly that commenting to the media is a privilege belonging to himself. The result is that the UN becomes a less visible and relevant player in areas where it would have been natural and necessary for an active UN-engagement. A notable exception is the selection of Helen Clark as the new leader for UNDP. She has in her short time on the job shown promise. It will be interesting to follow if she is given room to distinguish the UN’s development side. As a woman from that part of the world, Clark could quickly become a competitor for Ban’s second period.

It was common knowledge that it was a conscious choice [NB! The Norwegian word “bevist” which is written here means “proven,” but in this context it appears to be a misspelling of the word “bevisst” meaning “conscious.”] from the then-current American administration that an activist Secretary-General was not wanted. The new American administration hasn’t yet signaled any change in their attitude to Ban, even though there are rumors that some people in Washington are now referring to Ban as “a one-term SG”. It’s said that the people around both Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton are very negative to Ban, but the two are yet to speak on the matter. China is probably pretty happy with him and it’s primarily China which holds the key to whether Ban will be renewed for a second term. Russia has for a long time been dissatisfied with the Secretary-General both in terms of his handling of Kosovo and Georgia, but also because of a lack of recruitment of Russians to important positions. At the same time, Russia is well served by a Secretary-General who isn’t too interventionist.

Among the remainder of the member states one notices that the perception of Ban at the midway point is growing steadily more negative. Among the many who thought he should be given some more time, that everything would get better once he warmed up, and that the comparison to his predecessor’s charisma was unfair, the tune is now that the beginner’s goodwill [direct translation: “learning potential”] appears to be spent and that a lack of charisma is actually a problem. The Secretary-General seems to function well enough when he sticks to the script, and shows up to a lot of meetings and other events. The problem arises when he’s “on his own” where he can’t manage to set the agenda, create enthusiasm and show leadership – not internally either. Ban’s lack of engagement and lack of interest in mastering the issues means that he doesn’t become an effective player or negotiator in the many conflict situations he is expected to handle.

The mood at “the house” is still characterized as not very motivated, with a culture of decision-making which is marked by information both up and down the system being filtered by the omnipresent assistant chief of cabinet Kim. After recent negative media stories about the Secretary-General, the mood on the 38th floor is said to be pretty tense. Ban has constant temper tantrums [direct translation: outbreaks of rage] which even levelheaded [the Norwegian word “sindig” is untranslatable and describes a quality of being capable and calm as well as having common sense] and experienced colleagues have trouble handling. The relationship with next-in-command Migiro is as strained and her sphere of action appears to have shrunk even further. There are constant rumors of replacements and switch-overs. In addition to rumors that Migiro is on her way out, it’s rumored that OCHA-boss Holms [sic], who is roundly praised, is taking over as Chef de Cabinet, and that Nambiar is quitting. The same is said about the head of the political department, Pascoe, and that Holms [sic] is also a candidate to taking over his job. The British are probably still very concerned about getting that post back. These are, however, only rumors and most probably, Ban will continue with the same crew – at least ‘till the end of this year. If that’s good enough for a second term only time will tell.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Report: Secret Norwegian letter blasts UN leader

OSLO — Norway's ambassador to the United Nations has accused Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a confidential letter of weak leadership, lack of charisma and angry outbursts, the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten newspaper reported Wednesday.

The newspaper published what it said was a letter to Norway's foreign ministry from Mona Juul.

"At a time when the U.N. and multilateral solutions to global crises are more needed than ever, Ban and the U.N. are notable by their absence," the letter read.

Juul and her husband Terje Roed-Larsen — now a U.N. special envoy — had key roles in secretly brokering the now-failed 1993 Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Juul wrote that Ban showed "weak handling" of international challenges. She said he was a "passive observer" to Myanmar's arrest of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and she blasted his slow reaction to the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marte Lerberg Kopstad refused comment on the authenticity of the letter. She referred reporters to Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere's comment to Aftenposten that he had noted the matter, and that he saw Ban as "hard working" and a "good listener."

Juul's Norwegian-language letter was published halfway through Ban's term as U.N. secretary-general. He is due on an official visit to Norway starting Aug. 31.

She continued: "In other crisis areas, such as Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and not in the least the Congo, the secretary-general seems irresolute."

"Ban routinely has angry outbursts that even levelheaded and experienced co-workers have trouble dealing with," the letter said. Juul added that the mood among Ban's staff is "very tense."

A spokeswoman for Ban, Marie Okabe, said at U.N. headquarters in New York that his office would have no comment on the newspaper's report Wednesday. She said Ban's office was aware of the report but had not yet confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

Okabe noted, however, that "preparations are still ongoing" for Ban's trip to Norway's Arctic polar ice rim between Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, which has not yet been formally announced.

Asked by reporters whether Ban's trip might be canceled or affected in any way because of the letter's criticisms, Okabe declined to speculate but did not rule anything out.

The trip to various scientific research stations and retreating glaciers is intended to draw attention to the earth's warming as the U.N. prepares for a climate summit in September and tries to build momentum for a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.

South Korean Ban became U.N. leader in January 2007. Roed-Larsen is his special envoy for implementation of a 2004 Security Council resolution on Syria and Lebanon.

Associated Press Writer John Heilprin at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Sources: UN watchdog hiding evidence on Iran nuclear program

The world's nuclear weapons watchdog is hiding data on Iran's drive to obtain nuclear arms, senior Western diplomats and Israeli officials told Haaretz.

The officials and diplomats said that the International Atomic Energy Agency under Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was refraining from publishing evidence obtained by its inspectors over the past few months that indicate Iran was pursuing information about weaponization efforts and a military nuclear program.

ElBaradei, who will soon vacate his post, has said that the agency does not have any evidence that suggests Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. But the sources told Haaretz that the new evidence was submitted to the IAEA in a classified annex written by its inspectors in the Islamic Republic. The report was said to have been signed by the head of the IAEA team in Iran.

The classified report, according to the sources, was not incorporated into the agency's published reports. The details, they said, were censored by senior officials of the IAEA in the organization's Vienna headquarters

American, French, British and German senior officials have recently pressured ElBaradei to publish the information next month in a report due to be released at the organization's general conference.

"We expect the details to appear in the new report and to be made public," a senior Western diplomat told Haaretz.

The efforts to release the allegedly censored report is being handled in Israel by Dr. Shaul Horev, director general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and the Foreign Ministry. Asked about this sensitive subject, several Israeli diplomats declined to comment. The Prime Minister's Bureau also declined to comment, but the report was not denied.

Israel has been striving to pressure the IAEA through friendly nations and have it release the censored annex. It hopes to prove that the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons is continuing, contrary to claims that Tehran stopped its nuclear program in 2003. A confirmation of these suspicion would oblige the international community to enact "paralyzing sanctions" on Iran.

Throughout his term, Israel has accused ElBaradei of not tackling the Iranian nuclear issue with sufficient determination. As the end of his term in December nears, Israeli diplomats are concerned that he will become less responsive and continue to hide the classified report.

Jerusalem is hoping, however, that his successor, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, will take up a tougher line on the Iranian nuclear program.

In its recent references to Iran, the IAEA criticized Iran for barring inspectors from its nuclear facilities, but did not accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons. Most of the reports were concerned with efforts to enrich uranium or to produce heavy water, without making conclusions as to where these resources might be applied.

The international community is expected to examine the issue of nuclear proliferation during three major international conferences over the next six months.

On September 14, the IAEA general convention will commence in Vienna, where the next report on the Iranian nuclear program will be officially presented.

On September 24, the UN Security Council will meet for a special discussion of weapon control and nuclear weapons proliferation, at the initiative of U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama is also calling an international conference on the security of nuclear installations in Washington on March 9, 2010.

Israel says UN covering up Iran's nuclear arms drive

JERUSALEM — Israel is accusing the UN nuclear weapons watchdog of holding back incriminating evidence of Iran's drive to obtain nuclear weapons, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday.

It cited unnamed Israeli officials as saying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was refraining from publishing data obtained in recent months that indicates Iran is pursing information about weaponisation efforts and a military nuclear programme.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who is to vacate his post in December, has said the UN watchdog does not have any evidence suggesting Iran is developing a nuclear weapons programme.

But Haaretz cited officials as saying the new evidence was presented to the IAEA in a classified annex written by its inspectors and said to have been signed by the head of the inspection team in Iran.

The document was not included in the final report, it said.

British, French, German and US senior officials have recently pressured ElBaradei to publish the information, the newspaper said.

Israel has often criticised ElBaradei in the past, accusing him of being lax towards Iran, and asked in 2007 that he be fired.

A government spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed power, Israel, along with Washington suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran denies.

Israel considers the Islamic republic to be its main foe due to repeated statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map."

UN Secretary General criticised

ImageIn a clasified report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian UN Ambassador Mona Juul has strongly criticised UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, saying he is not well suited to lead the UN.

The report, which has been obtained by the newspaper Aftenposten, is an evaluation of the Secretary General's work after he has completed half of his first term in office.

The report describes the UN Chief as "irresolute, invisible, powerless and short-tempered", according to the newspaper.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere does not want to comment on the report, nor does he himself want to evaluate the UN Secretary General, only two weeks before Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit Norway.

- Norway must be a critical friend, and the UN must receive honest feedback, says Stoere, who describes Ban Ki-moon as both "hardworking" and "attentive".

Blistering norsk Refsnesstranden head of the UN

UN Ambassador Mona Juul believes that the top manager in the world organization is suitable as a bad leader. In a secret letter to UD hudfletter she UN commander.

Juul, who is one of the two Norwegian ambassadors at the UN delegation in New York, describes in the letter to a top Foreign Ministry as "struggling to show leadership" and that "the enduring rage outbursts," which makes it difficult to work with him.

Ban Ki-moon is coming to Norway 31. August. The report from the Norwegian UN envoy is not the best welcome.

Aftenposten has acquired all of the secret command temp document, as Juul sent to the Foreign Ministry a month ago. It is an evaluation of Ban Ki-moon in connection with that he is halfway through his first term as Secretary General of the United Nations.

-In a time when the United Nations and the need for multilateral solutions to global crises is more necessary than ever, Ban and the UN are outstanding with their absence, writes Juul.


Point for point, she elaborates on the argument. In relation to the financial crisis, she writes that Ban has not managed to make the United Nations to the main arena, and that the so-called g20-group has filled the "vacuum".

On the environmental front "struggle with the United Nations to be relevant," says Juul, who adds that "Bans vote on behalf of the poor hardly NOK have been registered."

Political crises are not Bans force, according to UN ambassador, describing the Secretary General's trip to Burma in the summer as "a shining example" for his lack of "leadership and ability to deliver on the world body's behalf."

Neither trip to war-torn Sri Lanka in May impresses Juul, which refers to him as a "powerless observer" if "moral voice and authority have been absent."


And slaughter continues. Juul draw a picture of Ban as both irresolute, not engaging, not willing to share the limelight and ukarismatisk. In addition, the UN chief to have a mentality that makes it very difficult to work with him:

-Ban has enduring rage outbursts, that even sober-minded and experienced workers have to cope with problems, she writes.

Ban Ki-moon has had to endure criticism about since he was appointed for two and a half years ago. As foreign minister of South Korea, he was known as "bureaucrats", and his soft-spoken style is in contrast to the dedicated predecessor Kofi Annan.

Bans low profile was also one of the reasons why the U.S. wanted him as UN chief. But now even the Americans have probably received NOK, Juul writes, which suggests that many in the Obama Administration is already talking about that Ban will not get a new five-year term as Secretary General.

Sources BBC has spoken to referred to as "embarrassing" for the Foreign Ministry that the UN delegation's positions on Ban is known, but that the large problem lies in the consequences of the contents of the note.

-The United Nations has always been a very important arena for Norway. A weaker UN makes it more difficult for Norway to maintain its image as a peace nation, "said Eli Stamnes senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

Mona Juul desired yesterday to comment on the matter to Aftenposten.