Saturday, 28 May 2011

Laughing at the UN

headshotBenny Avni


Here's your multilateralism at work: Susan Rice, our UN ambassador and other members of the United NationsSecurity Council went to Africa to celebrate the coming peaceful independence of southern Sudan.

Oops. Just as the ambassadors arrived, Gen. Omar al-Bashir decided to invade Abyei -- an oil-rich, disputed city on the north-south border. The invasion may renew the war and turn into yet another Sudanese genocide.

Did Bashir -- the president who reluctantly let the south secede -- deliberately time the invasion to coincide with the visit?

"There's no cause and effect," a Western European diplomat on the Security Council told me.

Huh? The most prominent international institution didn't even enter Bashir's calculations as he planned this land grab?

Then again, maybe Bashir calculated his move specifically to thumb his nose at the Security Council.

After all, why should he fear the vaunted "international community"? So far, the only significant Security Council punishment for his genocidal deeds has been to refer his case to the ineffectiveInternational Criminal Court -- which has issued a warrant for his arrest that nobody will ever act on.

Here's a recap of how we got here, with the Security Council trapped like a deer in Bashir's headlights:

For decades, troops under the command of the northern, Islamic Sudanese government fought southern, mainly non-Arab, Christians and animists seeking independence from Khartoum. The war ended in January 2005, after the Bush administration hashed out a peace agreement.

That accord dictated a referendum in the south, which duly took place last winter. As expected, southerners voted in droves to break away from the north. Their state is scheduled to become independent in July.

The Security Council and the Obama administration declared it all a huge success for multilateralism as Bashir, under much pressure, said he'd let the south go.

But international diplomacy left one detail unresolved: Who gets Abyei? For centuries, local southern farmers have battled northern nomadic herders in that area, so the sides couldn't agree on who resides there and thus could vote on independence. So Abyei's separate referendum got delayed, and the area remains disputed.

Now add oil to the mix. As it becomes independent, South Sudan stands to control 75 percent of Sudan's petroleum production of nearly half a million barrels a day. And the Abyei area is home to several more lucrative fields.

All this was a perfect recipe for the Bashir Special. Just as his government did last decade in Darfur, it's now sending nomadic tribes into Abyei -- bent on ethnically cleansing to create facts on the ground that will assure northern control.

And what are we doing? Nothing.

Oh, we did issue tough statements: Khartoum's withdrawal from Abyei "ought to be immediate, unconditional and complete," Rice announced on Twitter yesterday.

The South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, said the north's latest invasion shouldn't renew war. Instead, he asked international troops to prevent bloodshed in Abyei. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon obliged by proposing to reshuffle the 10,000 peacekeepers now stationed in southern Sudan.

But while UN troops perform heroically at times, they also lack the training, discipline, hardware or even legal mandate to match determined foes like Bashir. And the recruitment of troops from around the world has reached a ceiling.

Let's face it: The UN is unequipped to stop genocide in Africa or anywhere else.

Nor is any Western country prepared to add Sudan to its military to-do list. (Uncle Sam is already quite busy with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and whatever crisis the Arab Spring springs on us next.)

So we pretend we're doing something -- that is, we talk up the supposedly miraculous powers of multilateralism. But this week's Security Council fiasco shows how ineffective that is.

And here's a question for those who claim we have a "responsibility to protect" against war atrocities and genocide: Would world powers be more responsive and effective in confronting tyranny if they didn't have institutions like the UN to hide behind?

Of course, with a White House enamored with multilateralism, we're unlikely to find out anytime soon. As Rice proudly tweeted from Africa this week, "New poll: Americans (85 percent) understand sharing burden of global challenges."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Global Fund halts payments to China


GENEVA — The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has halted payments for programmes in China amid mismanagement by a public agency, a spokesman said on Monday.

"In May, we froze all disbursements in China," said Andrew Hurst, spokesman of the Global Fund, confirming media reports.

"We have identified weaknesses in the quality of the implementation of the finances in China," he added.

In November, the Global Fund had halted the disbursement of funds for the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Hurst.

"We believe that the main recipient, the CDC, had violated an accord of the Global Fund which said that a part of the financing accorded, at least 35 percent, must go through community organisations," he added.

The spokesman noted that its representatives and Chinese authorities held "high-level talks" last week in China to find a solution.

Hurst said the CDC agreed to meet the Global Fund's requirements by certain deadlines.

"If it respects these deadlines, the disbursement to China can restart," he said.

Launched about 10 years ago, the Global Fund is the world's biggest single source of funding to tackle three of the world's greatest killer diseases, with an overall budget of $21.7 billion drawn from 150 countries and private donors.

However, the public-private partnership has been hit by corruption problems over the past few months.

In December, the Geneva-based organisation said that $34 million went missing in four African countries -- Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia.

It has since appointed a team to improve its financial control and oversight procedures.

The Global Fund has disbursed over $539 million in China where it has been active since 2003.

GAVI Suspends Grants in Four African Countries

Africa: Concerned About Misuse of Funds, GAVI Suspends Grants in Four Countries

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) has suspended funding for three cash-based programmes in Niger, Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon after its oversight processes raised credible concerns about possible misuse of funds. GAVI will investigate further.

The announcement was made in a GAVI news release issued on 30 March 2011. Earlier, GAVI had announced that it was investigating two cash-based programmes in Mali.

GAVI's cash grants to countries, which support immunisation services, strengthen health systems and fund civil society organisations, represent about 15% of its annual disbursements. The other 85% are spent on the purchase of vaccines and other related supplies that are centrally procured and delivered to countries.

Previously, GAVI did not make a public announcement when a cash programme was suspended. GAVI said that it has changed its policy in order "to further increase transparency of the oversight of its cash-based support."

The amount under investigation in the suspended programmes totals approximately $18 million.GAVI said that the governments of Mali, Niger and Cameroon are fully cooperating with the investigations. Because of the political turmoil in Cote d'Ivoire, the investigation in that country has not yet started.

GAVI has taken steps to ensure that, despite the suspensions, children in the affected countries continue to receive life-saving vaccines.

Three of the four countries whose programmes are being investigated by GAVI have also been the subject of audits or investigations by the Global Fund's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The Global Fund has terminated or suspended several grants in Mali following findings of extensive fraud by the OIG.

The OIG is investigating several grants in Cote d'Ivoire; the OIG said preliminary indications are that there has been systematic fraud in at least one grant in that country. In 2010, an OIG audit on grants in Cameroon revealed some misappropriation of funds and significant deficiencies in financial management controls.

The GAVI news release is available here.

AID POLICY: Donor transparency - winners and losers

DAKAR, 20 May 2011 (IRIN) - Norway, Sweden, Finland and several UN agencies including the World Food Programme, the UN Population Fund, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) rank among the lowest out of 42 bilateral and multilateral donors measured for aid transparency, according to just-published research by New York University Economics Professor William Easterly and Claudia Williamson.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) scored highest.

Researchers measured transparency by analysing donor reporting data to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC); publicly available information; how fully donors responded to direct requests for information concerning how many people they employed; their administrative costs; salaries and benefits; and total development assistance disbursed.

Finland, Norway and Sweden were found to be poor on data sharing. UNDP fared worst partly because it published no information online, nor would it respond to any requests for information.

Williamson recognized it is hard to accurately measure transparency of all donors, but stressed that nevertheless their findings show progress on donor transparency is moving too slowly.

Contradictory findings

Sweden fares far better - coming third top after Denmark and the UK - in a separate assessment of aid effectiveness of European donors, undertaken by Aidwatch. In this case, Aidwatch assessed the availability of 35 types of information at organizational, partner country, and project level.

In the Aidwatch analysis, France, the EU’s second largest aid donor, came bottom alongside Hungary, Greece and Poland.

Four European donors - Denmark, the European Commission, Finland and the Netherlands - have agreed to join the UK in meeting the aid transparency standard set by the International Aid Transparency Initiative, by the end of 2011. The goal entails making aid spend information easier to access, use and understand.

The World Bank just became the first multilateral to attain this goal.

Donors will discuss aid transparency challenges when they meet in Busan, South Korea, at the fourth annual aid effectiveness forum at the end of 2011.

As part of an accountability drive in 2005, donors promised to open up their financial flows and policies for greater scrutiny, by signing the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sexual-Harassment Cases Plague U.N.

The United Nations, which aspires to protect human rights around the world, is struggling to deal with an embarrassing string of sexual-harassment complaints within its own ranks.

Many U.N. workers who have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment say the current system for handling complaints is arbitrary, unfair and mired in bureaucracy. One employee's complaint that she was sexually harassed for years by her supervisor in Gaza, for example, was investigated by one of her boss's colleagues, who cleared him.

Cases can take years to adjudicate. Accusers have no access to investigative reports. Several women who complained of harassment say their employment contracts weren't renewed, and the men they accused retired or resigned, putting them out of reach of the U.N. justice system.

[Ban Ki-moon ]Getty Images

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls sexual harassment a 'scourge.'

"No matter which way the cases go, they mishandle it," says George G. Irving, a former U.N. attorney who now represents clients on both sides of such cases.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the system is troubled. "I fully share your concerns regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination," he wrote in February to Equality Now, a women's rights group that had complained to him. "This scourge remains a high priority issue for me."

On July 1, the U.N. plans to make changes to its internal justice system for handling all employee disputes, including harassment complaints.

Yasmeen Hassan, an Equality Now attorney and former U.N. employee who met with Mr. Ban in December to discuss the issue, says she has "no faith" that the new system will be better, in part because complainants apparently still won't have access to investigative reports to help them with appeals.

The Wall Street Journal examined the U.N.'s handling of five sexual-harassment cases, reviewing hundreds of pages of confidential U.N. documents and interviewing U.N. employees who brought the complaints, supervisors they accused, the lawyers involved and U.N. officials.

It is impossible to know whether sexual harassment is a bigger problem at the U.N., whose global staff numbers about 60,000, than at other large multinational organizations. Officials in the secretary-general's office say they don't know how many sexual-harassment cases are filed at the world body because each U.N. entity tracks cases separately, and confidentially. The secretariat, the U.N.'s main administrative body, says it handles between five and eight cases a year. But those figures include only cases referred to its human-resources department for possible disciplinary action, not complaints that have been dismissed.

Changes to Internal Justice Coming

The planned overhaul of the United Nation's internal justice system is set to take effect July 1. Its goal is to create a more independent and professional system for resolving disputes, including sexual-harassment claims. ( Read more .)

A spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said it has handled 15 complaints since 2004. Five alleged perpetrators in those cases have been dismissed, and two others were issued lifetime employment bans from Unicef because they resigned during investigations. Disciplinary proceedings are being initiated against another accused staffer.

In one important respect, the U.N. handles such problems differently than other large organizations, such as multinational corporations. Many U.N. managers have diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Except when the U.N. lifts immunity, its internal justice system is the only one workers can turn to.

Bewildering System

The current system, which dates back to 1946, has a bewildering array of investigative channels and appeals processes. Many of the 10 U.N. agencies, programs and funds have their own investigative systems. A multilayered appellate process includes "joint appeals" boards that can review departmental decisions. The U.N. Administrative Tribunal is the final authority.

The system gives the secretary-general the authority to rule on appeals. Confidential U.N. records in two cases show that Mr. Ban rejected the recommendations of an appeals board and ruled against the women who brought those cases. A spokesman for Mr. Ban declined to discuss any specific cases. Under the new system, the secretary-general no longer will play a major role in the process.

Last year, Mr. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister who became secretary-general in 2007, issued a bulletin stating that "any form of discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuse of authority is prohibited." A spokeswoman for the secretary-general said in a statement that the U.N. has "zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. And we take seriously every single case."

In 2002, Joumana Al-Mahayni, a Syrian, was working as a secretary to Yusuf Mansur, then chief of the Kuwait office of the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, the U.N.'s global development network.

The following year, U.N. records show, she filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Mansur had made sexual advances, including grabbing and kissing her hands while saying "my darling, my darling" -- then refused to renew her contract when she didn't respond to his advances.

[Ex-U.N. official Ruud Lubbers was accused of sexual harassment.]Associated Press

Ex-U.N. official Ruud Lubbers was accused of sexual harassment.

In an interview, Mr. Mansur, who now lives in Jordan, denied the allegations, calling them "baloney."

'Unnecessary Touching'

U.N. documents state that the UNDP's investigative report found evidence that Mr. Mansur had subjected Ms. Al-Mahayni to "physical assault," "verbal abuse," "unnecessary touching," "patting," "constant brushing against a person's body" and "pressure for sexual activities." The coordinator of the UNDP's investigative panel asked its human-resources director, Brian Gleeson, to take "appropriate action" against Mr. Mansur. In April 2004, 10 days after the investigative report was filed, Mr. Mansur resigned, U.N. records show.

Mr. Gleeson later told Ms. Al-Mahayni, in an email reviewed by the Journal, that the internal probe "vindicated your allegations and directly contributed" to Mr. Mansur resigning. Mr. Gleeson wrote that he "possibly" could have refused the resignation and pursued disciplinary action, "but advice from legal sources and past practice strongly suggested that it is better to get the person out of the office and the system asap" and avoid litigation. He also stated that "no further action can be taken after a staff member resigns." Mr. Gleeson declined to comment.

Mr. Mansur says he resigned because he was "disgusted" with the U.N., including its handling of the case. "The way the system deals with it, you become accused right away, the person becomes a monster right away," he says. He says he provided evidence that he wasn't in Kuwait when some of the alleged incidents occurred. "I should have hired a lawyer and sued back," he says.

Ms. Al-Mahayni requested compensation for being harassed and losing her job. UNDP rejected the request, saying, in part, that her contract had simply expired. She appealed. In April 2006, the U.N. Joint Appeals Board found that she had "no legal expectancy" that her employment contract would be renewed. But it unanimously recommended that she be awarded $10,000. Kofi Annan, then U.N. secretary-general, accepted the recommendation.


Ms. Al-Mahayni appealed the decision before the U.N. Administrative Tribunal. She argued the compensation was inadequate and she shouldn't have lost her UNDP job. She also requested reimbursement of $8,000 in legal expenses. On Jan. 30, 2009 -- more than five years after she first filed her complaint -- the tribunal rejected her appeal "in its entirety," arguing that the $10,000 award was "adequate in view of the harm caused to her."

Ms. Al-Mahayni, who in November 2006 got a job with the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Sudan, didn't respond to a request for comment.

In a written statement, the UNDP said it regretted that Ms. Al-Mahayni's supervisor "was allowed to resign before disciplinary action could be initiated."

U.N. records detail other cases in which internal probes supported women's claims of sexual harassment, but the employees they accused went unpunished.

A French woman who worked as a legal officer in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East shared records from a case she initiated.

According to the records, in November 2004 she complained that she was sexually harassed by Lionel Brisson, then director of operations for the Palestine Refugees unit. She alleged Mr. Brisson had used binoculars to spy on her while she was in her Gaza apartment, and repeatedly made sexually explicit comments and groped her buttocks, according to a subsequent report by the U.N.'s main investigative unit, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS.

'Completely Ridiculous'

In a telephone interview, Mr. Brisson denied the allegations, calling them "completely ridiculous." He said he had tried to help the French woman advance her career, and "this is the kind of thanks you get."

At first, a probe by the Palestine Refugees agency cleared Mr. Brisson. An agency official says the man in charge of the investigation, the agency's health director, was a "colleague" of Mr. Brisson, and was assigned to investigate because he headed the agency's human-resources committee.

The French woman had also complained directly to the OIOS, which began its own investigation. Mr. Brisson reached his mandatory retirement age and left in December 2005, before that probe was complete. One month later, his accuser's employment contract ran out and wasn't renewed.

In February 2006, the OIOS reported that the evidence "tends to support a finding" that the complainant was sexually harassed. If Mr. Brisson "was still with the Organization," the report said, "we would recommend counseling."

Mr. Brisson, who is French, said the U.N. had rejected his requests for a copy of the OIOS report, and he hadn't seen it until one was provided to him by the Journal. He called its conclusions "very vague" and noted that it didn't recommend any disciplinary action. He said he had pressed the OIOS to investigate because "I wanted to clear my name."

In February 2008, Mr. Ban weighed in on the dispute. The French woman had appealed her case to the U.N. Joint Appeals Board, seeking an equivalent job and compensatory pay. It had urged Mr. Ban to allow her to pursue her case elsewhere in the U.N. system "to ensure both fairness and impartiality." Mr. Ban's office rejected that recommendation, saying that the secretary-general had no "competence" over the Palestine Refugee agency's internal justice system. Her appeal there is pending.

In another case, Fatima Moussa, a U.N. translator in Lebanon, had accused a U.N. security officer of raping her. A probe by the U.N. commission where she worked did not substantiate her allegations. She appealed, and calls the investigation a "travesty." The appellate board unanimously recommended that Mr. Ban extend her employment contract until her appeal was heard. On July 15, 2008, Mr. Ban rejected the board's recommendation and Ms. Moussa's contract expired. U.N. records show that Mr. Ban didn't accept the board's findings that Ms. Moussa would suffer "irreparable injury." The man she accused now works for the U.N. in Darfur.

Impetus for Change

Much of the impetus for the U.N.'s effort to change the way it handles sexual-harassment cases stems from a 2004 case. An OIOS investigation concluded that Ruud Lubbers, then head of the U.N.'s main refugee agency and the former prime minister of the Netherlands, had sexually harassed Cynthia Brzak, a longtime American staffer. The probe found that Mr. Lubbers engaged "in serious acts of misconduct" of a "sexual nature."

Justice in Limbo

Unicef employee Archana Pandey accused the organization's top officer in India, Cecilio Adorna, of sexual harassment. Mr. Adorna denied the allegations; Unicef investigated. On Jan. 16, 2007, Unicef's top personnel officer sent disapproving letters to each of them. See the letters.

Mr. Annan, then secretary-general, didn't accept an OIOS recommendation that Mr. Lubbers be disciplined. He said at the time that the findings could not be sustained. Mr. Lubbers, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, resigned in 2005. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Ms. Brzak said she faced retaliation, including threats to abolish her position. She filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan seeking damages from the U.N., Mr. Lubbers and others. Last year, a federal judge ruled that U.N. officials had diplomatic immunity, and dismissed the case. Ms. Brzak has appealed.

Diplomatic immunity also factored in a more recent case at Unicef in India. In October 2006, Archana Pandey, an assistant communications officer in New Delhi, accused Cecilio Adorna, then Unicef's top officer in India, of sexual harassment. She alleged he threatened not to renew her contract, which was due to expire at year end, if she didn't grant him sexual favors, according to U.N. records and Ms. Pandey, in an interview. She said she suffered an emotional breakdown and had to take sick leave. Mr. Adorna denied all the allegations. That December, Ms. Pandey's Unicef contract wasn't renewed.

Unicef investigated. On Jan. 16, 2007, the agency's top personnel officer sent her a letter stating that its probe failed to find "clear and convincing evidence" to support her claims. The letter, which was reviewed by the Journal, accused her of misrepresentation, and said "if you were still a staff member, Unicef could consider taking disciplinary actions against you."

U.N. records also show that the same Unicef personnel officer sent Mr. Adorna a written reprimand that same day. That letter, which was also reviewed by the Journal, stated that while nearly all the allegations couldn't be supported, the inquiry found that he "at times touched female staff in a manner they considered inappropriate" and had a tendency to tell jokes or make comments with sexual connotations.

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"The Investigation Committee itself witnessed one of such comments during your interview when you stated that you would not have invited anybody for romantic drinks in your hotel room, because you 'can't do sex without food first,' " the letter said. "Such a comment is highly inappropriate, particularly in light of the fact that you were being interviewed on sexual harassment allegations." The letter threatened Mr. Adorna with disciplinary action for "any further misconduct."

In a written statement to the Journal, Mr. Adorna said Unicef later wrote to him stating that it couldn't find "clear and convincing evidence" to support Ms. Pandey's allegations. He said the Unicef letter also said: "Insufficient evidence does not necessarily mean that the allegations were found to be false." He accused Unicef of "negligence" for failing to defend him.

In 2007, Ms. Pandey, who is Indian, filed a criminal complaint with the New Delhi police that accused Mr. Adorna, a Filipino, of attempted rape, among other allegations, according to Indian court filings. The police declined to take action because U.N. employees have diplomatic immunity. She has continued to press her case in Indian courts. She also filed an appeal within the U.N. system.

In December 2008, the U.N. appeals board, while not addressing the sexual-harassment allegations, found that Unicef had "let go" Ms. Pandey "wrongfully" and "illegally" while she was on sick leave. It recommended that the secretary-general award her two years' pay, plus interest, or $76,800. In March, Secretary-General Ban accepted the recommendation.

Mr. Adorna retired from Unicef last month. He has filed an appeal with the U.N. seeking, among other things, a public statement of exoneration and monetary damages. He accuses Unicef of making him "its sacrificial lamb" and urging him to resign.

Unicef declined to comment on Mr. Adorna's appeal or his allegations.

Write to Steve Stecklow at

Israel to UN: You say innocents, I say villains

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Posted By Colum Lynch

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, today lodged a complaint against the U.N.'s top humanitarian relief official Valerie Amos, following Amos' highly critical assessment of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and along its borders.

Amos, a former British politician who serves as the U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, issued a series of highly barbed public statements and tweets criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians during a four-day visit to the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

She also took issue with Israel's shooting deaths of about 15 "innocent" Palestinians who crossed the defacto border into Israel Sunday from Syria and from southern Lebanon. Thousands of Palestinians sought to cross the borders to commemorate the 1948 Naqba, or catastrophe, which marks the displacement of Palestinians during the birth of the state of Israel.

"I am extremely concerned at the level of violence today, and at the number of deaths and injuries in the region" Amos said on Sunday. "The situation cannot continue in this way. It is innocent people who are losing their lives."

Israel maintains that the border-crossings were instigated by the Syrian government as a way of distracting attention from its bloody crackdown on nation-wide protesters challenging the government rule. The White House has stated that Israel has the right to defend its border from unauthorized border crossings, and that Syria and Lebanon have an obligation to prevent them.

In a meeting today with Amos, Ayalon challenged her characterization of the victims as innocent. "Those from enemy countries who breach our borders while using violence and calling for Israeli's destruction, cannot be considered innocent, but an immediate and present danger to the citizens of Israel," he said, according to a statement released by the Israel foreign ministry. "Israel has the right and duty, as does any nation, to defend itself and its borders. It is disappointing that the person in charge of humanitarian affairs at the UN requires explanations on why defensible borders are a fundamental right of Israel's citizens."

Ayalon also took issue with Amos agency's characterization of the plight of Palestinians, saying "there is not now, nor has there been, a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, these reports are inflaming the atmosphere and hurting regional stability."

Amos, meanwhile, faulted what she called restrictive Israel building practices which prevent Palestinians from rebuilding crumbling schools and other vital facilities in Israeli controlled lands. "Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives. They are evicted from their homes Their homes are regularly demolished," Amos said. "I don't believe the people of Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass communities and families. They would not like to be subjected to such behavior."

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The East Timorese prime minister has lashed out at the United Nations mission in East Timor, saying it should leave the country.

In a fiery response to a UN-leaked document accusing him of being an obstacle to democracy, Xanana Gusmao proposed the UN mission in East Timor be wound up and its staff be sent to the Middle East to support democracy there.

The United Nations has distanced itself from the document and says its relationship with East Timor's government is strong, but it is not the first time the government and the UN have been at odds in recent months.

The document, published by an East Timorese newspaper, was written by an employee of the UN mission and part of a presentation at a UN meeting in January this year.

During a speech in Dili this week, Mr Gusmao vigorously defended his record of fostering democracy in East Timor.

President Jose Ramos-Horta has leapt to the prime minister's defence, calling the document pseudo-analysis.

Dr Ramos-Horta says many UN staff in East Timor do not speak the local language and rarely mix with East Timorese.

The government accused the UN of producing a report based on out-dated data.

The chief communications officer with the UN peacekeeping mission, Sandra McGuire, says the leaked UN document does not reflect the views of the mission.

The row comes just months after East Timor's government criticised a crucial UN report on progress in the country.

Mr Gusmao also has fired a broadside at aid-donating countries like Australia, saying the billions of donated dollars have failed to produce any physical development and have instead created even more poverty.

Michael Leach, an associate professor in politics at Swinburne University, says the attack is another sign East Timor is keen to stand on its own two feet.

"The government has taken the view that - and it has expressed it at various times - that while they appreciate the international assistance that has been going on since independence, that perhaps there hasn't been as much to show for that assistance as some might think over time," he said.

"They certainly are looking forward to taking full control ... They are a sovereign nation."

Today East Timor marks nine years since independence from Indonesia.

The United Nations is planning to withdraw from East Timor by the end of next year but before that, it will help oversee elections in the country.

Associate Professor Leach says these latest developments will not help, but believes all parties will be able to work together to ensure smooth elections.

"I suspect that these issues will be resolved but certainly it is a high point in the tension that we've seen in the last week," he said.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Secretary General Ka-who? A peek at the U.N.'s high-flying rumor mill

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Posted By Colum Lynch

Let's face it -- there is a certain mystique surrounding the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.You get the feeling that they give access to troves of privileged information straight from foreign dignitaries whose credibility is further bolstered by their exotic names and high-flying titles.

In reality, those movers-and-shakers sometimes have no idea what they are talking about. Take a look at this cable, marked "confidential": it recounts a June 25, 2006 meeting at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania between U.S. officials and Yves Horent, at the time head of the European Commission humanitarian aid office.

Entitled "Next U.N. Secretary General predicted by UNHCR and EU Aid Commissioner," the cable describes Horent passing on the latest rumor he had picked up on the much anticipated race for U.N. Secretary General. Both Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, and Louis Michel, European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, believe that the next United Nations Secretary will be Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Pakistan's Foreign Minister," the cable noted. "Horent noted that both officials, who visited refugee camps in western Tanzani June 15, were certain of Kasuri's selection."

The revelation must have come as something of a surprise to the Americans. Ban Ki moon, the South Korean foreign minister who ultimately won the race, was more than four months into an active campaign for the job, canvassing leaders of the key Security Council members. In a meeting with US official in Seoul the following month, Ban "reports no major opposition at this point" to his candidacy, though he fretted that his candidacy might have problems if the US didn't soon show support.

The U.S. seemed to be quite happy with the prospects of Ban's appointment, though in anothercable released by WikiLeaks they did detail some potential "remaining hurdles" to a successful campaign. They included a serious deterioration in South Korea' relations with North Korean, a possible campaign by Japan to thwart his candidacy, or the prospects of an Asian dark horse emerging with the power to win he blessing of the permanent five members.

As for Kasuri, the name didn't come up.

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