Posts Tagged ‘Ban Ki-Moon’

A mealy-mouthed apology from Ban Ki-moon for UN cholera in Haiti

December 4, 2016

The  behaviour of the UN, as an organisation, far too often is a case of when the lowest common behaviour of the  collective prevails. Ban Ki-moon’s term has been distinguished by his cowardice. He makes politically correct noises as told to by his staff. I get the impression that during his term he put his own mind on the shelf and gave up on thinking. About lapses of UN behaviour, – whether about sexual predation by UN troops in Africa or about UN incompetence in Haiti – he has been remarkably circumspect.

Now Ban Ki-moon has made a half-hearted, mealy-mouthed apology about UN behaviour after the outbreak of UN cholera in Haiti but has, again, lacked the courage to address the fact that the UN introduced the cholera.

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New York Times:

After six years and 10,000 deaths, the United Nations issued a carefully worded public apology on Thursday for its role in the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti and the widespread suffering it has caused since then.

The mea culpa, which Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered before the General Assembly, avoided any mention of who brought cholera to Haiti, even though the disease was not present in the country until United Nations peacekeepers arrived from Nepal, where an outbreak was underway.

The peacekeepers lived on a base that often leaked waste into a river, and the first cholera cases in the country appeared in Haitians who lived nearby. Numerous scientists have long argued that the base was the source of the outbreak, but for years United Nations officials refused to accept responsibility.

Even though Mr. Ban’s office has acknowledged that the United Nations had played a role in the outbreak, his apology on Thursday was limited to how the world body responded to the outbreak, not how it started. 

“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” Mr. Ban said on Thursday. “We are profoundly sorry about our role.” ………

……. The United Nations has not yet met its promise to eradicate cholera once and for all from Haiti, though Mr. Ban’s aides said on Thursday that they were close to raising the $200 million they say they need to fix Haiti’s water and sanitation system and treat Haitians for cholera. Nor has the United Nations yet raised an additional $200 million it wants for “material assistance” to families and communities that have suffered; donor nations have not yet come forward with the funds.


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UN evades responsibility for at least 9,000 cholera deaths (supported by Obama)

June 30, 2016

Haiti-cholera-UN1

The UN introduced cholera to Haiti which caused the deaths of at least 9,000 (officially 9,000, unofficially about 30,000 and with a possibility of being up to 100,000 deaths). The UN culpability and incompetence is clear. The outbreak could have been prevented “if the UN had spent just $2,000 for advance health checks and preventive antibiotics for their troops from Nepal who carried the disease. The cost of the UN incompetence in addition to the 9,000 lives lost is now estimated to be over $2 billion”. But the UN denies responsibility. In March this year came reports that “the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has been chastised by five of the UN’s own human rights experts who accuse him of undermining the world body’s credibility and reputation by denying responsibility for the devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti. In a withering letter to the UN chief, the five special rapporteurs say that his refusal to allow cholera victims any effective remedy for their suffering has stripped thousands of Haitians of their fundamental right to justice”.

The US has been supporting Ban Ki-moon both in his denial of responsibility and in his claim of immunity for all UN actions. “Naturally anybody on UN duty is immune from any prosecution – even for blatant incompetence or gross negligence”.

Now The Guardian reports that a bipartisan group of 158 members of Congress have criticised Obama for his stance:

A bipartisan group of 158 members of Congress has accused the Obama administration of a failure of leadership over the cholera scandal in Haiti in which at least 30,000 people have died as a result of an epidemic caused by the United Nations for which the world body refuses to accept responsibility.

A joint letter highly critical of US policy – and devastatingly critical of the UN – has been sent to the US secretary of state, John Kerry, signed by 12 Republican and 146 Democratic members of Congress. Led by John Conyers, a Democratic congressman from Michigan, and Mia Love, a Republican congresswoman from Utah, the letter’s signatories include many of the most senior voices on foreign affairs on Capitol Hill.

The missive takes the Obama administration to task for failing to admonish the UN for its refusal to accept responsibility for the cholera outbreak. “We are deeply concerned that the State Department’s failure to take more leadership in the diplomatic realm might be perceived by our constituents and the world as a limited commitment to an accountable and credible UN,” the letter says.

It continues: “We respectfully urge the Department of State to treat the issue of a just and accountable UN response to Haiti’s cholera with the urgency that 10,000-100,000 deaths and catastrophic damage to the UN’s credibility deserves.”

….. As part of the UN’s dogged denial of culpability, the organization has made a blanket rejection of calls for compensation contained in a class action lawsuit filed in New York by victims of the disaster. The world body is claiming immunity from damages in the case. The US government chose to represent the UN’s defense in the litigation in front of the federal second circuit appeals court. That prompted the three-member panel of judges to question US lawyers over the Obama administration’s apparent unwillingness to use its diplomatic muscle to force the UN to shift its contentious position. …..

With cholera still raging in parts of Haiti, and aid groups on the ground reporting ongoing suffering amid inadequate provision of medical help and sanitation, the Congress members called on the state department to “immediately and unreservedly exercise its leadership … Each day that passes without an appropriate UN response is a tragedy for Haitian cholera victims, and a stain on the UN’s reputation.”

Of course the US claims the same kind of immunity for its troops on active missions abroad (and the US has even tried to claim that kind of immunity for those accused of rape on Okinawa but had to give way eventually). So perhaps the Obama government’s defence of Ban Ki-moon is just a self-serving but unprincipled exercise to protect their own position regarding the responsibility of their troops when abroad.

But it is a shameful position.


 

Ban Ki-moon and the UN lose it as they try to hide sexual exploitation of children by UN troops

May 1, 2015

I find Ban Ki-moon embarrassing as the Secretary General of the UN. More often than not, I find his pronouncements generally lacking any indication of personal moral fibre. He parrots the prepared statements of his aides and advisors and his own values are invisible. Certainly the UN, and this Secretary General in particular, have little moral authority left. I find him an even sorrier figure than Kurt Waldheim – and Waldheim with his tacit support of Idi Amin’s applause for the Munich massacre – still leaves a bitter taste. In a sense, what else can we expect? The UN is not an organisation for the dissemination of best practices. Just like in the EU, it is the worst behaviour of a member state which becomes the common standard. The best of the UN, like that of the EU, can only be as good as that of its worst member state. When all UN personnel enjoy immunity from any liability for incompetence, gross negligence and even criminal acts, it is hardly surprising that the “bad apples” get away with it. Not everybody who serves on UN missions is a “bad apple” but there is no shortage of such people. Personnel on UN missions – be they scientists or doctors or peace-keeping troops or administrators – have no incentive from the UN to act responsibly. Nobody will be held accountable for introducing cholera to Haiti just as Dutch troops will not have to face any liability for the massacres in Srebrenica (and a Dutch court refused to act against the Dutch general just a few days ago).

And in the case of the sexual exploitation of children by French soldiers (and soldiers from Chad) in the Central African Republic, there will be many fine speeches from the UN and from the French government, but nobody will be held responsible or brought to account. But in this case where the abuse was known in July 2014 and covered up by the UN, the UN is throwing the book at the whistle-blower. Anders Kompass leaked the internal report on sexual abuses by French troops to French prosecutors. But Ban Ki-moon is talking about the procedural crimes of the Swedish whistle-blower rather than why the UN has kept this hidden for so long. Even the French PM has made a fine speech about pursuing wrong-doers but he has done nothing about this case which the French first knew about 9 months ago.

Expressen:

The Swedish Foreign Ministry’s legal chief Anders Rönquist and Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog have both defended the whistle-blower Anders Kompass. 
But now the UN Secretary General has come out criticizing the Swede who leaked the report on sexual abuse. “Our preliminary assessment is that the behavior is not the same as whistle-blowing”, says Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson.
Anders Kompass is still employed at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on the OHCHR, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. But he will be absent from his job till 31st July.

Presumably he has been suspended by the UN. His suspension is with the knowledge – if not at the instigation – of the UN  high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

The Guardian:

The United Nations is guilty of “reckless disregard for serious allegations of wrongdoing” in its treatment of a whistleblower who disclosed details of alleged child abuse by French peacekeepers in Africa, according to a former staff member.

James Wasserstrom, a veteran US diplomat who was sacked and arrested by UN police when he exposed suspicions of corruption by senior officials in Kosovo, said the case of Anders Kompass revealed how the organisation turned on the whistleblower rather than dealing with the wrongdoing he had revealed.

Kompass, director of field operations at the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, has been suspended for passing to prosecutors in Paris an unredacted internal UN report detailing allegations of the sexual exploitation of boys in the Central African Republic by French peacekeepers.

When the Guardian revealed details of the allegations this week, the French authorities admitted publicly for the first time that they had begun an investigation after receiving the report last July. It details accounts from children as young as eight and nine of serious sexual abuse at a centre for internally displaced people in the capital Bangui.

At the time, the French troops stationed there were part of their country’s peacekeeping mission run independently of the new UN operation Minusca. The UN had commissioned the report following claims on the grounds of sexual misconduct. It was completed in June last year but not passed on until Kompass leaked it directly to the French.

On Thursday, the French president, François Hollande, vowed to pursue the allegations vigorously. “If some soldiers have behaved badly, I will show no mercy,” he said. French judicial authorities said more than a dozen soldiers were under investigation. ………. In France, the claims against more than a dozen soldiers who were part of the peacekeeping mission in CAR continue to cause shockwaves.

The report contains interviews with six children who disclose sexual abuse predominantly at the hands of French peacekeepers. Some children indicated that several of their friends were also being sexually exploited.

The interviews were carried out by an official from the OHCHR justice section and a member of Unicef between May and June last year. The children, who are aged between eight/nine and 15, disclosed abuse dating back to December 2013.

But of course nobody will be held accountable.

And the behaviour of the UN and Ban Ki-moon is – once again – not very edifying.

Ban Ki-Moon: Puppet without a string ….

January 22, 2014

The UN Secretary General is a puppet on many strings. And when the puppet tries to write the screen-play or to manipulate the puppeteers, the play usually suffers.

Ban Ki-Moon seemed to have forgotten that when he issued his invitation to Iran to the Geneva II talks about Syria last week and tried to write his own script for the talks. It didn’t take long before he had to backtrack.

Iran has insisted all along that it would only attend if it was without conditions. The US has long held that Iran could attend only if they accepted the results of Geneva I (where Iran was not present). So why Ban Ki-Moon tried act independently is not very clear. Presumably he was persuaded to by his staff who believe that the UN has some legitimacy beyond what is provided by the puppeteers.

(Also inviting Australia and Mexico and Korea and Luxembourg leaves me mystified.)

I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux. They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian Government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

I have spoken at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif.  He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.

Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers.  It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.

Therefore, as convenor and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate.

It didn’t take very long before the US made it impossible for his invitation to remain valid:

NY TimesMr. Ban announced the Iran invitation on Sunday a little before 6 p.m. Eastern time. By that time, it was the middle of the night in Tehran — way too late for government officials to respond, but early enough for Washington to do so. …. 

Less than two hours after Mr. Ban’s briefing, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in a statement: “The United States views the U.N. secretary general’s invitation to Iran to attend the upcoming Geneva conference as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities.”

As the New York Times puts it “But in diplomacy, there are no dress rehearsals. Mr. Ban’s choreography went awry, forcing him into a corner. Less than a day after issuing the invitation, the secretary general reversed course. Iran could not attend the talks, he said, because it had not affirmed the ground rules as he said he had been assured.”

It could be that even Ban Ki-Moon’s perception of his own independence was manipulated. Whether the invitation and its withdrawal were orchestrated by the US State Department, and whether the US was reacting to the fears of the Sunnis in the Middle East is unclear. (The report published with great fanfare yesterday about the human rights violations, detentions and executions by the Assad Government yesterday was apparently commissioned by the Government of Qatar. The timing of the publication of this report was also dictated by Sunni interests). I believe that the invitation and its withdrawal – paradoxically – strengthens Iran’s hand since they are conspicuous by not being present – and through no fault of their own.

The barbarism in Syria continues. I have no great expectations of Geneva II but it is part of a necessary process. If Al Qaida is to be kept in check, I think the involvement of Iran is both necessary and unavoidable. Without Iran not all of the Syrian opposition groups will be represented. And without Iran the Al Qaida factions could dominate the opposition.

A puppet with a broken string does not gain an extra degree of freedom. The UN Secretary General cannot entertain any delusions of grandeur or any thought that he can act independently of his puppeteers.


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