Benon Sevan — in his own words

…or at least, words written for him, and signed in his name [was former UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric responsible, when he worked for the Oil-For-Food programme?].  Here are excerpts from an op-ed piece that was published in the International Herald Tribune in September 2005:  “Oil-for-food: Far from a failure” —“After nearly a year and a half and more than $35 million spent, the Independent Inquiry Committee Into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program (IIC), led by the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, has faulted the management of the program, which I ran for six years. It is easy to apply formal management and audit criteria after the fact to a massive multibillion-dollar humanitarian program, but as the recent crisis in New Orleans shows, what is critical when people are dying is to bring food and medicine to affected populations as quickly as possible. This we accomplished. There are many thousands of people alive today because of the oil-for-food plan.  There is a misconception, reinforced by the familiar echo chamber of the Murdoch press, The Wall Street Journal, the UN bashers in the U.S. Congress, and neocon think tanks, that the program was a failure of epic proportions, riddled with corruption and pliant to Saddam Hussein’s every manipulation. The reality is that the oil-for-food program was highly successful in its fundamental mission of addressing the acute humanitarian crisis caused by sanctions imposed on Iraq, in channeling all but a very small percentage of Iraqi oil revenues into food, medicine, and other approved humanitarian supplies, and in helping to maintain international support for sanctions… 
Volcker’s ‘public’ and other political constituencies are nevertheless demanding heads on a platter, and the latest IIC report, sadly, appears to capitulate to that pressure by unfairly targeting the Secretariat, including the Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) and me, for problems that were essentially inherent in the design of the program and in the inevitable reality of politics among member states.  The program was created by a series of Security Council resolutions that carefully defined – and limited – the role of the Secretariat. In particular, the Office of the Iraq Program did not have responsibility for monitoring, policing or investigating sanctions violations. That role was specifically reserved to the Security Council; its so-called 661 Committee, which monitored the overall sanctions regime and oil-for-food; and member states. The IIC knows or should know this. Yet the IIC insists repeatedly on blaming the OIP for functions, such as investigating sanctions violations, that lay beyond its mandate.  The IIC also faults the secretary general, the deputy secretary general and me for failing to provide information regarding Iraqi demands for illicit kickbacks and surcharges to the Security Council through formal rather than informal channels. But in setting forth its charges, the IIC seems to confuse the decision not to convey information through official channels with a decision not to convey the information at all. On no occasion did OIP or I personally withhold material information from the Security Council members, the secretary general and his deputy. OIP informed the 661 Committee not only on surcharges but also on at least 70 occasions of contracts reflecting suspicious pricing (and hence possible kickbacks), yet the committee declined in every instance to act. Similarly, I informed the U.S. government, effectively the policeman for sanctions violations in the Gulf, of maritime smuggling on a massive scale that was occurring, to no avail… It smacks of hypocrisy to criticize OIP for a political compromise made to help the economies of American allies…The program was not perfect, nor was it ever expected to be. It was implemented within the context of a very rigorous sanctions regime, carried out in six-month extensions (and hence always on the verge of closing down), beset by conflicting political pressures, situated in a country in crisis and hindered by fundamental design problems – most notably, the Security Council’s decision to allow Saddam to select his own contractors for oil exports and imports of humanitarian supplies, as well as to implement the program in the 15 governorates in the center and south of Iraq, which all but guaranteed political manipulation…The people of Iraq desperately needed humanitarian relief in real time. Thanks to the oil-for-food program, they received it. That is the essential purpose of a humanitarian program, and we accomplished that purpose, in nearly impossible circumstances…Benon V. Sevan is former director of the oil-for-food program for Iraq. 
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/12/news/edsevan.php

The Washington Post carried an article by Colum Lynch on 17 January with details of the indictment:  “…The U.N. oil-for-food program was marked by scandal. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein siphoned at least $2 billion in illegal kickbacks from companies trading in the program, before it was placed under the control of the U.S.-led military coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003.  Kofi Annan, then the U.N. secretary general, appointed former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker to lead an inquiry into allegations that Iraq granted U.N. officials, including Sevan, lucrative rights to buy discounted Iraqi oil in exchange for favorable treatment.  Volcker accused Sevan of engaging in ‘a grave conflict of interest’ by using his contacts with the Iraqi leadership to steer millions of dollars in contracts to an Egyptian businessman. He accused Nadler — the brother-in-law of ex-U.N. secretary general Boutros Boutros Ghali — of channeling nearly $160,000 in proceeds from Iraqi oil sales to Sevan.  The indictment unsealed yesterday affirms some of Volcker’s findings, noting that Nadler is alleged to have helped an unnamed co-conspirator ‘obtain the right to buy Iraqi oil under the oil-for-food program in exchange for commissions from the oil sales, and then allegedly funnelled approximately $160,000 of these oil commissions to Sevan.’  Sevan is charged with bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft or bribery. Nadler is charged with seven counts of bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and the violation of a 1990 U.N. arms embargo and a 1979 law banning trade with terrorist states.”   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/16/AR2007011600706.html

News reports say Benon Sevan indicted — but why is there nothing on websites of the FBI or Manhattan District Attorney, or INTERPOL?

Fox news and the BBC World Service are both reporting that Benon Sevan has been indicted in connection with some kind of financial irregularities in the UN’s Oil-For-Food programme, which Benon Sevan directed — but why is there nothing yet on the websites of the FBI, or the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, or INTERPOL?

The Fox News story says: “Former U.N. Oil-for-Food chief Benon Sevan has been indicted in New York federal court for allegedly taking bribes under the program from Saddam Hussein’s regime, U.S. authorities announced Tuesday. The charges, detailed in a joint press release by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Manhattan district attorney, came over a year after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker completed an investigation for the United Nations into the massively corrupted Oil-for-Food program that operated in Saddam’s Iraq between 1996 and 2003.  According to the press release, Sevan allegedly received $160,000 generated from the sale of Iraqi oil under the program from one Ephraim Nadler, an associate who was also indicted, on behalf of the government of Iraq. The money was allegedly used to pay off overdue credit cards and bills.  Specifically, the two were charged with wire fraud, based on their depriving the United Nations of its right to Sevan’s honest services; bribery concerning an organization — the United Nations — that receives more than $10,000 annually from the federal government; and conspiracy to commit these offenses.  If convicted, Sevan would face a maximum sentence of 50 years’ imprisonment. Nadler, who was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud by engaging in prohibited financial transactions with Iraq and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, would face a maximum sentence of 112 years’ imprisonment if convicted.  Warrants have been issued for the two through Interpol.  Sevan, through his lawyers, has denied that any funds were obtained illegally.  The career diplomat is thought to be currently living in Cyprus. That nation’s extradition treaty with the U.S. does not cover financial crimes, so it is unclear as to what impact the charges would have on Sevan.” 
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,243909,00.html

There is something about these accusations that doesn’t really hold up.

If — as an Iraqi paper reported in January 2004 — Benon Sevan was given some piece of paper entitling him to some kind of discounted purchase of Iraqi oil under the UN’s programme that he ran, it’s more likely that he might have thought it was an amusing joke — maybe he might have even taped the paper on his office wall — than he actually took advantage of it.

Even more, there is nothing now on the website of either the FBI or the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, about this reported indictment.  There’s nothing on the Interpol website, either.  [Interpol is an organization of member states, just like the United Nations — and, interestingly, the current President of Interpol is Jackie Selebi, the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service.  Selebi was also formerly South Africa’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, who was elected Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva in 1998 — and, as such, would certainly have been acquainted with Barzan al-Tikriti, Iraq’s former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, and half-brother of Saddam, who was gruesomely decapitated during his executition by hanging earlier this week.  Selebi was a large presence in the Human Rights Commission — and presided in a booming baritone, in an effort to make the meetings start on time, and be less noisy:  “Will the lady in the red dress — yes, you, in the back of the room — please sit down“, he would command.   It is now easier to find information on the Human Rights Commission, which has been superseded by a Human Rights Council, through a google search than from the UN’s own website.   Selebi, meanwhile, is currently involved in a complicated controversy in South Africa over his friendship with a person who is suspected of murdering a suspected “drug lord”, according to reports in the South African press…]

A lot of funny stuff happened in the UN’s Oil-For-Food programme — and almost all of it was with the full knowledge of the members of the UN Security Council — all of them, including the five Permanent Members (U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and France) who supervised the programme. 

The UN set up the Oil-For-Food Programme, and made up the rules as they went along — not very well, as it turned out.

Benon Sevan narrowly escaped death in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 when he left a room where he was meeting Sergio Vieira de Mello — to smoke a cigarette.

Is it really unimaginable that his (now-deceased, killed in an elevator accident) aunt is the source of some $160,000 that she reportedly hand-carried from Cyprus to Sevan in New York over a period of some five years?

The Volcker inquiry said that Benon Sevan was at least responsible for a serious conflict of interest, when he recommended a friend and / or relative of then-UNSG Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.  Is it really unimaginable that Benon Sevan was just doing what would at the time have seemed a routine favor for the former UN chief?

One of last acts in office: ex-SG ANNAN declined to send team to Beit Hanoun

As a result of a question from an informed journalist in the regular UN Noon Briefing in NY last Froday, we now know that on 21 December 2006, in one of his last acts in office, former UN SG Kofi Annan told the UN General Assembly that he would not be sending a team to investigate what happened in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, as a result of Israeli shelling in early November:

“Question:  Since the Secretary-General has declined to send an investigative team to Beit Hanoun, as required by the General Assembly emergency session, can the Secretary-General elaborate, on the record, on his reasons not to comply with the resolution?  Or could you ask him?  I would have asked him myself, but I was one of those who raised their hands and didn’t get a chance. For documentation.  I believe, a letter has been sent out by the Secretary-General that he will not be reporting to the General Assembly on the implementation of sending the fact-finding team.  So, whatever documentation there is, can that be made available?

Spokesperson:  I will enquire for you.”  [She later noted that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had written to the President of the General Assembly on 21 December to say he was not able to send a team to Beit Hanoun.]

It’s still way too early to tell …

…whether or not new SG BAN KI-MOON is unable to break away from old traditions, as the NY Sun suggests in an article today.  In the first place, it would be almost impossible for even the canny BAN, and even with his sharp South Korean-led transition team, to be well-versed, yet, in the UN’s “old traditions”.  BAN’s nomination of a Mexican, Alicia Barcena, to head the U.N. management team, is cited by the NY Sun as one example.  

The NY Sun is reporting that “Ms. Barcena, who was the chief of staff for a former U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, got an early boost in the early 1990s, when she became an aide to the Canadian oil tycoon and U.N. environmentalist Maurice Strong. Before resigning in the aftermath of the oil-for-food scandal, Mr. Strong served as Mr. Annan’s personal envoy to the Korean peninsula.  Mr. Ban told the London Times recently that in his official capacity as South Korean foreign minister, he met Mr. Strong only a few times. Nevertheless, diplomats saw Ms. Barcena’s appointment yesterday, to a position in which she will be responsible for internal changes, as a gesture toward Mr. Annan’s old circle of friends.  Staffers expressed disappointment that Ms. Barcena received a promotion just a day after the president of the U.N. staff union, Stephen Kisambira, met with Mr. Ban and called for a ‘fundamental change in the mind-set of senior management,’ demanding an end to a relationship between staff and management that has been based on ‘dominance, disregard, and fear’.”  http://www.nysun.com/article/46082

The former UN spokesperson announced at the UN’s daily Noon Briefing for journalists on 23 October 2006 that “from our end, the people who will lead on that issue [the transition to the new SG] are the Chef de Cabinet, Alicia Bárcena Ibarra; and Robert Orr, the Secretary-General’s Director of Strategic Planning.  In this task, Barcena apparently made a good impression on BAN.

The influence of Canadian Maurice Strong through a number of UN Administrations has been somewhat of a mystery.  He was the first Senior Adviser named by Kofi Annan after he became UNSG ten years ago.  And, there was a recent unexplained [the former UN spokesman said he didn’t have to explain this, it was private] Kofi Annan-Maurice Strong walk-in-the-woods with no aides present, somewhere in Asia, just before Annan left office.  The one thing that can be said with some certainty is that Strong has a remarkable international network of “friends”. 

One commentary that I read mentioned, interestingly, that Kofi Annan had good relations with the U.S. Democratic Party, while BAN KI-MOON also had links to the Republicans.   While readers in the rest of the world may not care about the intricacies of American politics, the UN is still based in New York, the American media by default has become the main concern of the UN bureaucracy, and Washington is still the major contributor to the UN budget — even though it forced through a reduction in its scale of assessment from 25% to 22% of the regular budget, and from 30% to 25% of the Peacekeeping budget.

Maurice Strong and Ted Turner (whose cash donation resulted in the establishment of the UN Foundation) are only part of the many layers of influence affecting UN.  George Soros had a strong link to just-departed Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown.  And, there are many, many others.  Who affects what in any given situation probably more closely resembles a diagram of atomic molecules bouncing around.

In any case, a baby-faced Briton, John Holmes, who is reportedly [the NY Sun says so, for example, in the article cited above] close to Prime Minister Blair, and who is also currently UK Ambassador to France, has also just been named to head the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA), replacing the Scandinavian Jan Eliasson. 

One important imminent decision concerns who will head the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which is currently being “led”, if that term could properly be used, by Jean Marie Guehenno of France.  

On this, The NY SUN article reports today that “Americans have traditionally overseen the U.N. bureaucracy [this means the Department of Management, in recent years — not long ago, the traditional American post was heading the Department of General Assembly Affairs; so-called UN “traditions” are actually quite ephemeral] , but as soon as Mr. Ban emerged as the front-runner for secretary-general last year, America, which supported his candidacy, told the Korean diplomat it was seeking the leadership posts of other top U.N. offices.  America particularly had its eye on the increasingly powerful peacekeeping department, which for decades has been led by French officials, or the political affairs department, which traditionally has been considered British domain.  Mr. Ban is said to be weighing several structural changes. One option is to split the peacekeeping department into an operational arm and support and logistics arm; another is to unite peacekeeping with the political department; and yet another to mix in an office currently charged with disarmament, which may add to its roster the responsibility of dealing with terrorism and proliferation…But U.N. officials say the signals from Washington about which of the offices it seeks aren’t clear, as Mr. Ban is making the major decisions.”

As reported here yesterday, there is already a de-facto division of DPKO into two branches — one headed by Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi of Tunisia, who had been in the Department for years and had risen through the ranks; the other one headed by relative new-comer Jane Holl Lute [and guess where she came from?  According to an official UN bio, Ms. Lute Immediately prior to her appointment with the United Nations, Ms. Lute was “Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund; the entities established to administer Ted Turner’s $1 billion contribution to support the goals of the United Nations“].  She is a former U.S. Army officer [official UN bio: with a Ph.D in Political Science from Stanford University, and a J.D from Georgetown University, who also served frin 1991 to 1994 as director of European Affairs in the National Security Council staff at the White House], for whom a second Assistant Secretary-General post was created, to handle day-to-day operations, including sexual exploitation and abuse scandals.  

It is not her fault, however, that the administrative division of DPKO into two parts has done little or nothing to improve either the management of the Department, nor the handling of its scandals.

In a press conference on 11 January, SG BAN was asked directly by a journalist about his appointment of Alicia Barcena:

Journalist:  Can you please explain the appointment for the position of UN management, Ms. Bárcena, the selection process that you went through specifically with her, and how that selection can explain concerns out there that this individual does not have the financial wizardry and other skills that perhaps her predecessor, Mr. [Christopher] Burnham, had, to ensure that the Organization is moving along financially in the right direction, and also to assure the global taxpayers that they are getting their money’s worth with your selection of managers, and staff itself, to ensure that your staff ? many of whom have complained about issues, from accountability to the justice system and other key areas to ensure that there is proper accountability within the Organization ? how does that person fit that particular role?

SG: If you want to find a perfect person who would be able to know everything about what is happening in the world, it may be impossible. Even for the post of Secretary-General, you may not be able to find a perfect person. I do not claim to be a perfect person, to know everything that is happening within the UN system.   As for the post of Under-Secretary-General for Management, one can have strength in finance; one can have strength in human resources; one can have strength in overall management leadership. I have valued her longstanding management experience while she was working as Vice-Minister in Mexico, while she was working as Deputy [Executive Secretary] of ECLAC and while she has been working as Chef de Cabinet. The post of Chef de Cabinet is one of the most important positions in the United Nations system, who deals with almost all aspects of the United Nations, advising the Secretary-General. Therefore, I have full confidence that Ms. Bárcena will perform her duties more than anybody else, than her predecessors.”

One of Kofi Annan’s main purposes in office was to make Israel feel more comfortable in the UN. his aides say

In the last few hours of Kofi Annan’s administration as UN Secretary-General, it is worth noting that his main achievements, according to him and his team, were (1) the Millennium Development Goals (which I treat elsewhere on this site), (2) getting the UN Security Council to proclaim that UN Member States have a responsibility to protect (human rights, I think), and — most strategically significant — (3) making Israel feel more comfortable in the United Nations.

Why is this important? Because Israel loves to pretend that it is mistreated in the UN. The passage of the 1974 “Zionism is Racism” resolution was the high-point of Israel’s discontent, and Israel succeeded in making this resolution the particular focal point of U.S. neo-conservative criticism of the UN. The resolution was repealed — something which was for years said to be impossible — but it took years to make the neo-cons shut up about this.

How sincere the Israelis were in their outrage is something open to question, however. Israeli officials complain, for example, that the UN Security Council has NEVER condemned an attack upon Israel — but neither has Israel ever brought a complaint to the UN Security Council itself. They could easily do so. Last week, Israel mentioned that they would go to the UN to complain about the resumed missile attacks out of Gaza — but they still have made no move to convene the UN Security Council. Why not? It is not simply fear that any resolution they propose would not pass — in fact, it just might pass. So why do the Israelis not choose to use this channel that is open to them?

What was more-or-less an inchoate suspicion was confirmed to me in one of Salim Lone’s post-UN opinion pieces, written last August in the service of Shashi Tharoor’s campaign to become the next UN Secretary-General (because Tharoor didn’t try to savage the winner, BAN KI-MOON, maybe he’ll get to stay on in his post as Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, instead).

Salim Lone, in his special apparently-anti-American-but-really-the-opposite style, wrote in The Guardian of London on 22 August 2006 — in a piece entitled Shashi has the vision — that: “Since 9/11 the US has demanded complete fealty from the organisation and Kofi Annan has been even less able than previous secretaries general to be seen as independent. But in his first term, he was as effective a leader as any the organisation has had. The key to his success was a single-minded clarity about his central goals: to strengthen the UN by building an intimate relationship with the US, and to ease Israel’s isolation at the world body…The relatively unknown Annan quickly became a statesman more popular than most world leaders. Three exceptional individuals made this transformation possible. John Ruggie was the strategic agenda-setter. Edward Mortimer was the speech writer who brought intellectual gravitas. Shashi Tharoor was the communicator who mesmerised media and public alike with his articulation of Annan’s vision – and with his own brilliance… But if elected, Shashi could make a difference to the institution’s future. His skills of persuasion might convince the US that its constant demands for compliance are counterproductive: a UN without credibility is of no use to the US, as we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. And the backing of a strong and independent government such as India’s, which enjoys the additional advantages of being a leader of both the Non-Aligned and the Group of 77 developing countries, would also enable him to resist undue US pressure. …His being an insider is not a problem. Indeed, if the goal of overhauling this immensely complicated institution is not to gut it but to strengthen its ability to be a more effective player, then the right person from within is needed…Shashi’s being an Indian Hindu should not worry Pakistanis or Muslims. From what I know of Shashi, being Indian has made him much more, rather than less, sensitive to Muslim suffering. And also as an Indian, Shashi would be very keen to promote better relations with Pakistan, which the vast majority of the two peoples ardently desire. Before his recent retirement from the UN, Salim Lone worked closely with Shashi Tharoor for more than 10 years http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1855350,00.html

Two articles published in the venerable Jewish Daily Forward on 22 December — effectively, the last working day in the UN before the transition to the new administration of BAN KI-MOON, confirm the point. Eve Epstein — a New York Public Relations (or, as she puts it “Strategic Communications”) Professional, with close ties to major American Jewish organizations and to the Israeli Mission and Government, was brought into the UN by Therese Gaustaut (Ms “Strategic Communications” herself) with the approval of Shashi Tharoor — who is actually now Under-Secretary-General for “Strategic Communications” and Public Information.

Eve Epstein, in her Jewish Daily Forward Opinion piece, lays the whole thing out: Annan Made the Nations a Little Less United Against Israel: “On January 1, Ban Ki Moon officially begins his term as secretary general of the United Nations. Regrettably, the world body he inherits has not lived up to the noble principles enshrined in its charter.
Instead, we have witnessed sustained efforts by certain member states acting within U.N. bodies to de-legitimize the State of Israel and to denigrate the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Well before the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had been denied many of the rights and privileges accorded to other member states. Governments have manipulated the organization to propagate the worst kinds of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.
When Kofi Annan took office in 1997, no previous secretary general had publicly criticized or sought to redress these wrongs. The U.N. was created in the shadow of the Holocaust, yet previous secretaries general remained mute on the subject, referring instead only to World War II.
The first secretary general of the U.N., Trygve Lie, described his job as ‘the most impossible one in the world.’ Then, there were fewer than 60 member states. Now there are 192, and the secretary general is held to account by all of them. The majority are former colonies of European powers, which tend to identify with the Palestinians and to follow the lead of Islamic states. Other governments simply find it easier to remain silent rather than voice any dissent.
This means that the secretary general is under unremitting pressure to denounce Israeli actions, and to suppress or soft-pedal any condemnation of the attacks to which Israel is responding. It is a real constraint under which all secretaries general operate. It is not surprising then, that Kofi Annan, along with the rest of the U.N., is perceived by Israel and the Jewish community as a harsh critic.
The world’s chief diplomat is obliged to uphold the highest standards expressed in the U.N. Charter. When the secretary general is thought to be using his moral authority unwisely or unfairly, especially in instances where a moral equivalence between victim and aggressor is suggested, there are periods of huge disappointment.
But some who follow U.N. affairs closely have detected important changes in the world body’s attitude toward Israel and the Jewish people during the last 10 years. Two years ago, during the U.N.’s first official seminar on antisemitism [n.b. one of Shashi Tharoor’s major initiatives as a “Strategic Communicator”], Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis told a packed auditorium at U.N. headquarters, ‘We used to chain ourselves outside the gate at the U.N. when we wanted to protest — now we’re (protesting) on the inside.’
And in August this year, when Israel’s counteroffensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon had clearly failed to achieve its objectives, the Israeli government turned to the U.N. for help in ending the conflict. The world body responded with a Security Council resolution blaming Hezbollah for the war and with a strengthened peacekeeping force.
Just 10 years ago it would have been hard to imagine such a scenario taking place, and some are inclined to give Annan much of the credit for the change. As Shimon Peres put it at a recent farewell dinner for Annan, ‘there are things a secretary general must do, and there are also things that he is free to do. We shall remember Kofi Annan — and thank him — for the things he did that he was free to do.’ ”

Eve Epstein continues, in her article in the Jewish Daily Forward, with an enumeration of Kofi Annan’s mitzvahs while SG — without mentioning that she herself worked on these developments. She writes: “What follows is a list, in chronological order, of some of those things:
March 25, 1998: On his first official visit to Israel, Annan drew attention to the exclusion of Israel from the system of regional groupings in the U.N., and said that this must be corrected. Annan’s call for normalizing Israel’s status in the U.N., his reference to the U.N. resolutions blaming Israel and only Israel for violations in the region, his acknowledgement that the 1991-repealed General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism was a ‘low point,’ and his unprecedented denunciation of antisemitism were welcomed as a sea change in U.N.-Israel relations.
His statements were the first public criticism by a secretary general of Israel’s unfair treatment in the U.N. and of what he called the ‘lamentable’ resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1975. While in Jerusalem, the secretary general made a solemn pledge to ‘usher in a new era of relations between Israel and the United Nations.’
December 8, 1998: Annan used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 Genocide Convention to vow that the ‘Holocaust of the Jews’ must never be repeated and linked the Holocaust to the U.N.’s founding mission. For the first time in U.N. history, a secretary general addressed the Holocaust in a Jewish context and spoke about the relationship of the Genocide Convention to the Holocaust.
December 12, 1999: In his address to the American Jewish Committee, the secretary general again spoke out about the need for Israel to join a regional group at the U.N., and said, ‘We must uphold the principle of equality among member states.’ He promised to continue to work with all parties to find a solution.
May 2000: Israel was accepted as a temporary member of the Western European and Other States Group in New York. This allowed Israel to be elected to a variety of U.N. bodies. Israel was originally asked to reapply for membership to the group every four years, but in 2004, the first time Israel reapplied, it was granted an indefinite extension. During 2003-2004, Israel successfully presented candidates for six different U.N. inter-governmental positions, and it currently serves as a vice chair elected to the U.N. Commission on Disarmament. Twice, Israel has been chair of the Western European and Other States Group.
June 16, 2000: In a report to the Security Council, the secretary general concluded that Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with Resolution 425. Two days later, Annan’s conclusion was endorsed by the Security Council in a presidential statement.
October 1, 2001: At a special session of the General Assembly following the September 11 terrorist attacks, secretary general Annan urged member states to adopt a universal definition of terrorism, saying: ‘In the post-11 September era, no one can dispute the nature of the terrorist threat, nor the need to meet it with a global response. Some of the most difficult issues relate to the definition of terrorism. I understand and accept the need for legal precision. But let me say frankly that there is also a need for moral clarity. There can be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of innocent civilian life, regardless of cause or grievance. If there is one universal principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.’
March 27, 2002: In an address to a summit-level meeting of the League of Arab States, Annan challenged the region’s leaders ‘to confront the menace of extremism, hatred and intolerance, and to ensure that they find no place in your school curricula, or in the minds of your young people.’ During his time in office, the secretary general delivered similar messages to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and to U.N. media conferences on the Middle East, including one in Cairo on June 13, 2005, where he appealed to media representatives to refrain from myths, stereotypes and hate propaganda.
July 1, 2003: For the first time at the U.N., a senior staff member in the secretary general’s office was designated as a ‘focal point’ for relations with the Jewish community.
June 21, 2004: The United Nations held its first official full-day seminar on antisemitism, and the secretary general declared that ‘Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home too.’ Annan urged all member states to declare unambiguously that ‘international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify antisemitism,’ and called for the U.N. human rights special rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to actively explore new ways of combating antisemitism more effectively, adding that ‘all parts of the Secretariat should be vigilant.’ The conference began the positive momentum leading to General Assembly Resolution 60/7 on Holocaust Remembrance — a resolution that was cited by the Security Council when it condemned the remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Israel and Holocaust denial.
January 24, 2005: The U.N. General Assembly convened a special session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the first official General Assembly session to address the subject. For the first time, the General Assembly heard a first-hand account from a person designated to speak as a Holocaust survivor. In his remarks to the General Assembly, the secretary general honored the victims and survivors of the death camps, and in another first stated, ‘The tragedy of the Jewish people was unique.’
At the secretary general’s request, the U.N. set aside its 60-year protocol prohibiting national anthems or prayers at U.N. events so that ‘Hatikvah’ and ‘El Malei Rachamim’ could be recited at the opening of the exhibit, Auschwitz: The Depth of the Abyss,’ held in the U.N. lobby in the presence of the secretary general and representatives of U.N. member states.
March 15, 2005: On a visit to Israel to inaugurate the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem, the secretary general welcomed the breakthrough of Israel’s membership in Western European and Other States Group in New York, and said, ‘I will do whatever I can to encourage corresponding groups in Geneva and Vienna to follow suit. We need to correct a long-standing anomaly that kept Israel from participating fully and equally in the work of the organization.’ This helped set the stage for the increased participation of Israel in the work of the U.N. Ambassador Daniel Gillerman was elected by the 191 member states to serve as a vice president of the 60th Session of the U.N. General Assembly.
March 21, 2005: In his report titled ‘In Larger Freedom,’ the secretary general said that ‘the moral authority of the United Nations’ had been ‘hampered’ by the failure to agree on a definition of terrorism. It was time, Annan said, to ‘set aside debates on so-called “state terrorism”.’ Annan also said that resistance to occupation ‘cannot include the right to deliberately maim or kill civilians,’ and that ‘any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.’
Throughout his two terms, Annan consistently condemned suicide bombings targeting Israelis. In a December 2006 General Assembly tribute, American ambassador Alejandro Wolff said of Annan, ‘He has been a strong voice condemning terrorism, and has pushed the U.N. to do its part in the global struggle against extremism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist threats.’
May 2-3, 2005: The secretary general met with the first-ever international delegation of Jewish leaders to the U.N., organized by the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute and the United Nations Foundation. Annan discussed issues of mutual concern with 50 Jewish community leaders from 24 countries. Subsequently, he conducted other meetings with Jewish leaders from around the world, organized by B’nai Brith International, the U.N. Foundation, and the World Jewish Congress.
November 1, 2005: The U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/7 designating 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, and rejected ‘any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part.’ The secretary general strongly supported efforts to establish the annual international day.
The resolution requested the secretary general to establish a program of outreach on ‘the Holocaust and the United Nations,’ and to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education. The resolution also called on the secretary general to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the outreach program, which he did in June 2006, in his report A/60/882. The Department of Public Information was assigned responsibility for the outreach program, which focuses on activities aimed at remembering the victims of the Holocaust, and helping to prevent future acts of genocide.
December 9, 2005: The Security Council issued a press statement condemning remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that threatened Israel and denied the Holocaust. In its statement, the Security Council fully supported a statement made the previous day by the secretary general, in which he recalled the General Assembly resolution and urged all member states to educate their populations about the Holocaust. The Security Council statement also reaffirmed the rights and obligations of Israel as a full and long-standing member of the U.N., and reaffirmed that under the U.N. Charter ‘all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.’
January 26, 2006: A candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was held on the eve of the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day at U.N. headquarters in New York.
January 27, 2006: The U.N. held its first annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. On this occasion the secretary general said, ‘Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated. Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made.’
May 17, 2006: Citing the secretary general’s report on Lebanon, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1680, dealing with Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. American ambassador Bolton explained the significance of the secretary general’s report saying, ‘I view the references in the secretary general’s report to Iran’s disruptive and unhelpful role in Lebanon to be extremely important. It’s the first time Iran was mentioned.’
August 11, 2006
: The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1701, which effectively ended the fighting in Lebanon. Gillerman said that the resolution was ‘an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and to create a genuine new reality in our region’”
September 3, 2006: In a joint press conference in Tehran with the Iranian foreign minister, Annan said, in reference to a notorious Holocaust cartoon exhibit on display in the city, ‘the tragedy of the Holocaust is a sad and undeniable historical fact, so we should really handle that and accept that fact, and teach children what happened in World War II, and ensure that it is never repeated… And we should be careful not to say anything that can be misused as an excuse for incitement and hatred.’
November 29, 2006: The secretary general, who had pressed for the creation of the new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights, publicly chastised the members of the council and warned them to handle the Arab-Israeli conflict ‘in an impartial way, and not allow it to monopolize attention at the expense of others where there are equally grave or even graver violations.’
December 7, 2006: The secretary general issued a press statement about the Holocaust conference to be convened the following week by the government of Iran which stated, ‘The secretary general would deeply deplore any conference whose purpose is to question or deny the Holocaust. Only a year ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution which “rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part.” The secretary general personally believes that any attempt to cast doubt on the reality of this unique and undeniable horror must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill and of whatever faith. He spoke to President Ahmadinejad about this when he met him in Tehran in September. In the same resolution, the G.A. designated January 27 as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the Holocaust.’
December 12, 2006: The secretary general used the opportunity of his last major speech on the Middle East to the Security Council to draw attention to — and publicly question the value of — the numerous General Assembly resolutions on Israel: ‘Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel’s behavior. But one should also ask whether such steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians. There have been decades of resolutions. There has been a proliferation of special committees, sessions and Secretariat divisions and units. Has any of this had an effect on Israel’s policies, other than to strengthen the belief in Israel, and among many of its supporters, that this great organization is too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process?’ The secretary general cited the three special sessions of the Human Rights Council on the Arab-Israeli conflict as an example of potentially ‘counterproductive’ actions by U.N. bodies.
Responding to Annan’s report, Israeli ambassador Daniel Carmon told the Security Council, ‘It is of course impossible in the allotted time to fully reflect on the secretary general’s legacy. But I nonetheless want to thank him for his many years of dedication to this organization and the nations of the world. Allow me to commend the secretary general on his remarks this morning, where he comprehensively addressed the complexity of the conflicts in our region, in an unbiased, balanced, manner — turning to both sides — constructively, which I must say, is not the traditional narrative we hear at the U.N. and its organs. We offer you, Mr. Secretary General, our deepest appreciation.’
Eve Epstein is a former consultant to the Executive Office of the United Nations secretary general and professor in the Jewish Theological Seminary’s rabbinical school. She is a vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and president of Epstein & Associates, a strategic communications management and training company
http://www.forward.com/articles/annan-made-the-nations-a-little-less-united-agains/

Wrangling has already begun to continue this unprecedented access during the term of office of the new UN Secretary-General, BAN KI-MOON, as another article published in the Jewish Daily Forward on the same day (22 December) shows — U.N. Chief Pressured To Bypass Businessman, by Marc Perelman:
“The incoming United Nations secretary-general has yet to take office, but a controversy is already engulfing his nascent relationship with the American Jewish community.
South Korea’s Ban-Ki Moon, who will begin his term January 1 with little experience regarding Israel and its supporters, is coming under fire for his team’s relationship with a little-known Orthodox businessman and activist named Michael Landau. The head of a local Orthodox group in Manhattan, Landau has been actively courting the new secretary-general’s entourage and presenting himself as a go-between to help Ban navigate the U.N.’s notoriously fraught relationship with Jewish groups.
But several diplomats and major Jewish organizations are questioning whether Landau’s business activities could influence the advice he would give Ban, pointing to his courtship of African ambassadors at a time when he was involved in mining activities on the continent. Some critics fear that a backlash would be damaging to the Jewish community, Israel and the new secretary-general.
Landau is reportedly backed by Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, though he is not affiliated with the umbrella group, widely viewed as the Jewish community’s leading voice on Middle Eastern affairs. Critics claim Hoenlein is pushing Landau as a go-between in order to become the community’s main interlocutor to Ban.
‘It is inappropriate for any of us to promote a specific individual as a liaison without consulting the community leadership,’ said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. ‘The secretary-general should reach out to all of us.’
The ADL, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International have refused to attend meetings with Ban and his close circle proposed by Landau in recent weeks, sources familiar with the situation told the Forward. On the other hand, they added, Landau has garnered some support from the World Jewish Congress. Landau declined several requests for comment. Hoenlein did not return calls.
On the day of his swearing-in, December 14, Ban made an appearance at the annual dinner of the Presidents’ Conference. Even while acknowledging that attending the event was a good way for Ban to show his willingness to engage the Jewish community, some observers fretted that this was in fact a nod to Hoenlein.
In a series of interviews, several Jewish communal leaders, U.N. officials and diplomats expressed deep misgivings about entrusting a little-known entity like Landau with a prominent intermediary role. Although no one produced evidence about the incompatibility of his business activities and his advocacy work, critics stressed that the recent trauma of the Iraq oil-for-food scandal required extra caution to avoid adverse consequences for Ban and the Jewish community.
Landau, who by all accounts is an engaging character, has been active in computer software companies and advised at least one mining company in recent years. His advocacy work is centered on the Coalition of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side, which caters to local community needs. He is the group’s chairman. He was also involved in the Jerusalem Coalition, which brought together Orthodox Jewish Republicans, helping to organize a trip by Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer to Israel in 2003. In recent years, Landau has been involved in U.N. affairs, organizing meetings, trips and receptions for ambassadors — often, communal sources said, working with the President’s Conference. Landau has attended meetings between Jewish groups and visiting foreign dignitaries on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly during which he was presented as representing the Presidents’ Conference, according to participants in the meetings. ‘I don’t have a problem with one or several go-betweens,’ said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations at the World Jewish Congress. ‘No one should be cut out, there is room for everyone, be it an individual or a group.’
Landau also received strong backing for his advocacy work on behalf of the Orthodox community of the Upper West Side. Rabbi Alan Schwarz, religious leader of a local Orthodox congregation and president of the group chaired by Landau, praised his boundless energy and his ability to solve mundane issues. Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant, described Landau as a tireless advocate for the Orthodox and the larger Jewish community, saying that his cultivating of ties with African ambassadors was smart diplomacy.
One area of concern for some critics is Landau’s close work with several African ambassadors at a time when he was in business with a Canadian company mining gold on the continent back in 2005.
In January 2005, a Landau-run company called Vango Holdings was hired by Searchgold Resources, a Canadian mining firm active in Gabon and Guinea, to become responsible for its investor relations. At the time, Landau was on good terms with Jean Ping, the foreign minister of Gabon, who held the position of president of the General Assembly. [n.b., wait a minute, wasn’t Michele Montas spokeswoman for Jean Ping when he was UNGA President???]

“Landau organized receptions and meetings for Ping. Searchgold’s activities in Gabon picked up in early 2005, with the company announcing that it had raised more than $1.1 million, resumed drilling at its Bakoudou mine and obtained a new exploration permit. But Searchgold parted ways with Landau four months later. Searchgold director Maurice Giroux told the Forward that Landau was not a good fit and that his contacts in Gabon did not prove useful. He declined to elaborate. Requests for comment to the Gabonese mission to the U.N. were not returned.
Several sources said on condition of anonymity that Landau had openly bragged about his clout with sub-Saharan African ambassadors. ‘He is a businessman, first and foremost,’ said a person familiar with Landau’s interactions with African diplomats.
Sources said that Landau helped set up a trip to Israel in early 2004 for six African diplomats sponsored by the American-Israel Friendship League, a nonprofit chaired by Kenneth Bialkin, a former chairman of the ADL and the Presidents’ Conference.
Several Jewish communal activists speaking on the condition of anonymity said that they have heard directly from Israeli officials about concerns regarding Landau. At least one top Jewish communal leader passed his concerns to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents. Israeli diplomats at the U.N. mission declined to comment
.

” ‘Ban should get a sense of the diversity of our community,’ said Sybil Kessler, director of U.N. affairs at B’nai B’rith International. ‘I would like him to appoint a senior official as a focal point.’
This is a reference to the ‘focal points’ created by outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan within his secretariat to facilitate dealings with a variety of groups or interests not formally represented at the U.N. One of Annan ’s lieutenants served as a liaison to the American Jewish community, a position Annan saw as a key to improving the U.N.’s historically strained relationship with Israel and, cynics would add, to currying favor in Washington during hard times.
The current ‘focal point’ is Edward Mortimer, a U.N. official from Britain who will return to Europe when Annan officially finishes his term in the next few weeks. Much speculation has centered on whether Ban will maintain the position
. ‘I briefed the new S.G. and his team and advised them to keep the focal point, which was appreciated by the Jewish community,’ Mortimer said.

“A senior secretariat official also said Ban was leaning toward appointing a point-person on his staff and steering clear of an outside fixer. Some U.N. officials have quietly discouraged Ban’s team from granting Landau a prominent role. While no personnel announcement has yet been made, the message seems to have been heard.
Yeocheol Yoon, a political counselor at the South Korean mission to the U.N. and an adviser to Ban, told the Forward that the new secretary-general was talking to a variety of Jewish groups and representatives and that Landau was merely one interlocutor. He added that the secretary was likely to appoint a focal point within his office. ‘We’ll do it our way, but we’ll certainly have someone on the inside and we never had the idea of tapping someone from the outside.’
http://www.forward.com/articles/un-chief-pressured-to-bypass-businessman/

[all emphasis added…]

UN Special Representative delivers letter from UNSG to Sudan’s President

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, senior UN official sent to Khartoum by the Secretary-General to follow up on the three-phase approach to the deployment of peacekeepers in Darfur, met with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir Thursday and delivered a letter from UN SG Kofi Annan (the letter has since been circulated to the members of the UN Security Council).

The UN Spokesman told journalists at UNHQ/NY that Abdallah would wait in Khartoum for a response.  

On Tuesday, the UNSG said in his farewell news conference that the UN troops would not be “going to Darfur to arrest Sudanese leaders. Their responsibility and mandate will be to help create a secure environment in Darfur that will allow us to protect the internally displaced, allow access to the needy by the humanitarian workers, as well as give us time to speed up the political process and strengthen the ceasefire and ensure that we have an effective ceasefire commission that monitors it. But we are not going there to arrest; that is not our mandate. And, so, I don’t think one should keep the troops out because they think we are coming there to arrest them.”

The SG also said that: “Ould-Abdallah is going with very specific questions and clarifications, which will allow us to move forward expeditiously. I have also made it clear to him and to the African Union that the possibility that the United Nations will pay for the operations will only happen if the Council has confidence that the arrangements that are being put in place will make a difference and there will be a credible force on the ground to do what is required. So when Ahmedou comes back, we will have a sense of whether he’s got the commitments or not.”

The Associated Press reported on Friday that a Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested that his Government has agreed to a UN peacekeeping role in the troubled Darfur region, but in a mission with mostly African Union troops — and he added that the force would be commanded by the African Union.  Sadeq Al-Magli said the UN would mainly provide technical assistance, consultants and military and police experts.  Al-Magli’s comments reflected his government’s longstanding opposition to the deployment of 20,000 UN troops as proposed by the UN Security Council.  Though the UN had been pushing for a much larger role in Darfur–where AU peacekeepers are already operating– in an effort to put an end to fighting, the UN scaled back its plans to replace the current AU force of 7,000 troops in Darfur with a much bigger UN operation; since early November, the UN has been talking about putting in smaller numbers of UN personnel as well as technical and financial assistance to reinforce the AU troops.  Earlier on Friday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was encouraged that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will shortly agree to a hybrid AU-UN force, along with a ceasefire and renewed peace efforts.”

Jan Eliasson named as another Special Envoy for Sudan’s “war-torn Darfur region”

UNSG Kofi Annan told journalists that “Jan Eliasson would work the diplomatic channels. He will be working mainly outside Sudan, working with capitals and Governments and encouraging them to stay engaged to support our efforts and to work with us in Darfur in our search for a solution.  We will designate a new Special Representative to replace Mr. [Jan] Pronk. That individual will be jointly appointed by the African Union and the United Nations as part of this proposal that we have on the table: the three-phased proposal. We are looking at names, and we haven’t decided on anyone yet, but if it’s not done by the end of the year, my successor will have to do it.”

SG Annan said that he and Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon had agreed to ask Mr. Eliasson – who served as president of last year’s General Assembly – to serve in the new post. “I expect him to [assume] his activities [on Sudan] at the beginning of the year,” Mr. Annan said at his farewell press conference in New York.

(Earlier, the UN Spokesman had told journalists that no high-level appointments would be made before the new SG, BAN KI-MOON, takes office on 1 January.)

The multiplicity of UN Special Envoys is meant to emphasize the urgency of the matter.

At Wednesday’s Noon Briefing, the UN Spokesman told journalists that “Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the senior UN official sent to Khartoum, Sudan, by the Secretary-General, has arrived in the Sudanese capital and met this morning with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti.  Ould-Abdallah, who is seeking clarification on the proposed United Nations-African Union (AU) joint peacekeeping force in Darfur, is expected to deliver a letter from the Secretary-General to Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir. That meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.  The UN Mission, meanwhile, continues to report that the security situation in much of Darfur remains tense. In the last two to three weeks, a total of 25 vehicles, mostly belonging to the humanitarian community or to the AU Mission, have been stolen or car-jacked.  At UN Headquarters yesterday afternoon, the Security Council called on all parties to facilitate the immediate deployment of the United Nations Light and Heavy Support Package to the AU Mission in the Sudan, with backstopping and command and control structures provided by the United Nations.”

UN Security Council did little to support me in Sudan, Jan Pronk says

In an article about the evacuation of 71 UN workers from the largest refugee or displaced persons camp in Darfur on Wednesday, following a raid on their compund by gunmen, the AP (Associated Press) is reporting that the former UN Special Envoy for Sudan, Dutch politician Jan Pronk said in an interview with Al-Jazeera that “Khartoum denies backing the janjaweed — who are blamed for the worst atrocities in the Darfur conflict…[but] The U.N. Secretary General’s former representative in Sudan said Tuesday that the government had massively armed the janjaweed and supported their killing of civilians.  Jan Pronk, who was expelled from Sudan in October for saying government troops had twice been beaten by rebels, said the U.N. Security Council had done little to defend him when he was expelled. As a result, ‘the U.N. (staff) are being marginalized and harassed by the government’ in Sudan, Pronk told the Al-Jazeera English TV channel.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061219/ap_on_re_af/darfur_aid

East Timor Inquiry chastises big fish, recommends prosecution of small fry

The Special Commission of Inquiry also recommends against the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal, but urges international reinforcment and aid to the domestic justice system.

These recommendations in the report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste, which UNSG Kofi Annan sent to the UN Security Council in October, were make public today at UNHQ/NY. 

The Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste, headed by Paolo Pinhiero, a Brazilian [and therefore Portuguese-speaking] professor who has done a lot of work for the UN Human Rights Commission, the Special Commission of Inquiry concluded that “The crisis that occurred in Timor-Leste between 28 April and 25 May can be explained largely by the frailty of State institutions and the weakness of the rule of law. However, this explanation can only be understood fully in the historical and cultural context of the country. Both the Portuguese and Indonesian eras created and subsumed internal divisions within Timor-Leste. Political competition within Timor-Leste has been historically settled through violence. Accordingly, many Timorese view the events of April and May 2006 as a continuum starting from the decolonization process in 1974/75 and encompassing the violence and factionalism of the Indonesian occupation and the violence that accompanied the United Nations-sponsored Popular Consultation in 1999.”

The Special Commission of Inquiry reported it had looked into all the rumors and decided that “on the basis of all of the evidence before it, no massacre occurred” at the end of April. 

The Special Commission of Inquiry noted that “an issue arose with respect to the standard of proof that the Commission would apply in its investigations. In view of the limitations inherent in its powers, the Commission decided that it could not comply with the normal criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt.  Rather, the Commission concluded that the most appropriate standard was that of reasonable suspicion.”

  The Commission suggested that Timorese President Xanana Gusmão had been impulsive and undisciplined — for example, finding that President Gusmão was in contact with Major Reinado following the latter’s desertion — but that “there is no evidence that an armed group of men under the command of Major Reinado carried out criminal actions on the orders or with the authority of the President.”   It also found that “The speech given by the President on 23 March 2006 was perceived as divisive and the President should have shown more restraint and respect for institutional channels by exhausting available mechanisms before giving the speech and in communicating directly with Major Reinado after the latter’s desertion”.

Concerning former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who was obliged to resign during the crisis, the Commission said that there was no basis on which “it could recommend that Mari Alkitiri should be prosecuted for being involved in the illegal movement, possession or use of weapons. Nevertheless, there is information before the Commission giving rise to a suspicion that Mari Alkatiri knew about the illegal arming of civilians with PNTL weapons by Rogerio Lobato. Accordingly, the Commission recommends further investigations to determine whether Mari Alkatiri bears any criminal responsibility with respect to weapons offences…”

The report also says that “The evidence before the Commission establishes that Prime Minister Alkatiri was aware of allegations of transfer of weapons to civilians at least by 21 May…The Prime Minister failed to use his firm authority to denounce the transfer of weapons to civilians. No further steps were taken by him to address the issue.”

The Special Commission of Inquiry also decided that “An international tribunal is not considered appropriate given that the crimes under consideration contravene domestic law. The Commission has concluded that criminal cases should be handled within the domestic judicial sector. However, measures are needed to strengthen the ability of the domestic system to handle high-profile cases involving political actors in a manner that will be considered credible by the population.” 

A whole list of names are mentioned as persons who bear individual criminal responsibility and who should be prosecuted.

Yet, it said, “there are particular challenges which much be addressed”, including the issue of security in the courts, which the Special Commission of Inquiry found to be “extremely limited, exposing judges, prosecutors, defenders, the accused, witnesses and court staff to risk. Concern has been expressed by court actors about security arrangements outside the court premises.  Security mechanisms for the appropriate safekeeping of information and records are also inadequate.”

The Special Commission also pointed out that “The courts face significant challenges with translation facilities, now compounded by the involvement of further international players in the form of international police actors…The current level of translators and interpreters will not be adequate to provide the requisite support for the court, the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Office of the Public Defender, nor to assure that the accused will understand the proceedings.”

The Special Commission of Inquiry gave strong support to the UN Development Programme’s “strategic plan” to improve the court system, developed in conjunction with the Timorese Ministry of Justice, and made an appeal for funding: “It is evident that further resources are required to implement these strategies.” 

It recommended that “international actors play a central role in handling cases arising out of April and May 2006”, and noted that it would be “vital that experienced and qualified personnel be available and deployed rapidly to undertake these functions. The United Nations Development Programme has already launched an appeal for funding to support an additional three judges, three prosecutors, two public defenders and corresponding support staff (in terms of clerks and interpreters) to deal with the anticipated cases. The Commission strongly supports international assistance in this regard.”

It added that it had heard “from a number of interlocutors that the current process of recruitment of international personnel is unnecessarily limited by language requirements and lacks flexibility and timeliness. In order to expedite the process and ensure that sufficient qualified personnel are available, the Commission supports exploring means of broadening the base of potential candidates. For instance, use could be made of professional legal networks to disseminate vacancy notices. The Commission notes that the requirement that candidates be fluent in Portuguese is a constraining factor. Consideration should be given to relaxing this requirement.”

When the UN Mission to East Timor was first established, there was tension between advocates for its official language to be either English or Portuguese — and Portuguese won; the late Sergio Viera di Mello, who was later murdered in the car-bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003, was the first head of the UN Mission in East Timor.

I am still at work, SG Kofi Annan tells journalists on Wednesday

“I am still at work. I shall be in the office all this week, and I will still be available next week if I am needed.  And of course I will continue until midnight 31 December”, outgoing UNSG Kofi Annan told journalists at a farewell press conference at UNHQ on 19 December.

In remarks to the UN General Assembly, who paid tribute to him last week at  the formal swearing-in ceremony of his successor, BAN KI-MOON, Kofi Annan told the Member States that “It is humbling to be recognized for simply doing what you love to do.” 

Kofi Annan said again on Wednesday, in the farewell press conference, that his greatest regret while in office was having been unable to avert the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He warned Wednesday that any military operation in or against Iran would be “unwise and disastrous”.

When he was just an ordinary UN staff member, before he became SG (as the spokesman said on Monday, the SG is not a UN staff member), Kofi Annan lived with his wife in a middle-class apartment on New York City’s Roosevelt Island — in the middle of the East River between Manhattan and Queens.  Along with everybody else, he used to ride the “tramway” or cable car into Manhattan each morning, at more or less the same time.  He then would walk the 12 blocks from 59th Street down to UN Headquarters, usually with the guys, while the women (many who were mothers, who had just gotten their kids off to school, and were always rushed) would share taxis.

Once, in the 1992 or 1993, during the tram ride, moving along on a cable strung across the East River, I was part of a group of UN staff members chatting about the news of the day — the warfare in the former Yugoslavia.   Kofi Annan’s contribution to the conversation was to say, “I am afraid that history will judge us harshly”.  

In Wednesday’s press conference, he said that the UN should not be judged, however, by the Oil-For-Food Scandal: “I think that when historians look at the records they will draw the conclusion that, yes, there was mismanagement and there may have been several UN staff members engaged but the scandal, if any, was in the capitals and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with Saddam behind our backs and of course I hope the historians will realize that the UN is more than oil-for-food…That was a very special programme, the oil-for-food we were asked to implement. So please don’t generalize from the particular”.

History, however, has been judging Kofi Annan for several years now.

These three “wrap-up” articles published in several media today, were sent in UN Wire’s daily e-mail, courtesy of the UN Foundation — set up to manage the private financial contribution to the UN from ex-CNN Chairman Ted Turner:

(1) Chance for Asia to step into spotlight, by Michael Fullilove, published in yesterday’s Financial Times: “A certain historical distance has always existed between the Asian region and the international organisation. Most of New York’s energy is consumed by the Middle East and Africa, not Asia. The UN is Atlanticist in structure and sometimes in orientation. Certainly, it has contributed to the Asian security order, most notably when the Security Council authorised military intervention on the Korean peninsula in 1950. In the 1970s and 1980s, UN agencies took the lead in resettling 3m or so Indo-Chinese refugees. However for the most part, the UN has operated at Asia’s margins.  This is not just due to standard power politics: the strict view of state sovereignty adopted by many Asian capitals has helped keep the UN at arm’s length. The colonial history of many Asian states has left behind a strong residual respect for territorial integrity and national sovereignty, a lack of fealty toward international institutions (magnified by the International Monetary Fund’s performance  in the 1997 financial crisis) and a preference for bilateral resolution of disputes.  There have been several signs in recent years, however, of a quickening of interactions between the UN and Asia. First, the end of the cold war broke the superpower deadlock in the Security Council, conjured up new confidence about the organisation’s place in international relations and was followed by the establishment of two of the UN’s largest and most complex peace operations, in Cambodia and East Timor. The East Timor operation showed that, for Asian states as for much of the world, Council decisions play a very significant role in conferring legitimacy on the use of force, or denying it – which in turn affects the risks and costs of an operation. How would the Australian-led Interfet force have fared in East Timor in 1999 without the cover of a Council resolution?  Second, the emergence of new and interconnected security threats in the region – including infectious diseases, resource scarcity, environmental catastrophes such as the 2004 tsunami, trafficking in drugs and people, and state failure – has demonstrated the advantages of international co-operation. As these threats escalate, so will the work of the UN and its agencies.  Third, as the locus of international power moves towards them, Asian states are stepping up their engagement with the world body. The top five contributors of peacekeeping personnel are all from the UN’s Asian regional group. Both Japan and India remain intent on permanent membership of the Security Council. Most striking of all is China’s increasingly savvy behaviour in New York. China was once poorly represented, defensive in the Council and hostile to peacekeeping: now it is ably represented, confident and skilful in the chamber and before the media, and deploys more peacekeeping personnel than any other permanent five member. Beijing even voted for two tough resolutions condemning its ally North Korea’s nuclear provocations, which marked the return of a core Asian security issue to the Council agenda sheet…” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/f03301e4-8ec1-11db-a7b2-0000779e2340.html
 

(2) Five Easy Fixes for the U.N., by Bret Stephens, published in The Wall Street Journal today: “Shortly after John Bolton became ambassador to the United Nations, his staff asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office for a simple count of all the organization’s undersecretaries-general. The Secretariat’s first reply was that it didn’t know. Eventually it came up with a list of about 100 positions, each of them fetching a tax-free salary of $176,000. Among them is an undersecretary for — get this — the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries and Small Island Developing States, or OHRLLS for short.  That’s a story that Ban Ki Moon, who replaced Mr. Annan last week, might usefully dwell on as he attempts …”  THE FULL WSJ.com ARTICLE IS ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS http://users2.wsj.com/lmda/do/checkLogin?mg=wsj-users2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB116650126857054253.html%3Fmod%3Dopinion_main_featured_stories_hs

And, an AFP [Agence France Presse] story posted yesterday on  Economist.com, Kofi Annan’s UN leadership comes to an end: “WHATEVER disadvantages Ban Ki-moon brings with him as he takes his seat as the eighth secretary-general at the UN on January 1st, he at least lacks the baggage that burdened the man heading out of the door, Kofi Annan. Mr Annan took the top job at the UN, a decade ago, already battered from his years in charge of UN peacekeeping, after the organisation (and everybody else) failed to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He leaves weighed down by a miserable relationship with the world’s most powerful country.  Mr Annan’s record, inevitably, is a mixed one. Enjoying few powers of his own, the secretary-general has influence only when strong states co-operate. Mr Annan, who is seeing out his final days with a series of high-profile speeches, last week used a talk in Missouri to scold America for not working better with other countries—a lament that might be seen as a sign of his own frustrations. He referred repeatedly to Harry Truman, a Missourian and an early fan of the UN, quoting the former president as saying that “no matter how great our strength, we must deny ourselves the licence to do always as we please.”  In some areas Mr Annan and the superpower have been of one mind. The UN can claim significant successes in encouraging Nigeria to give up military rule and in deploying a peacekeeping force to East Timor. On Mr Annan’s watch the UN also contributed to peace efforts in Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia and elsewhere. In 2001 Mr Annan and the organisation picked up a Nobel peace prize.  At other times Mr Annan’s office and the White House agreed on what should be done, but achieved little. In Sudan, where horrors in Darfur have been compared to genocide (by American officials, for example) Mr Annan wants the deployment of a powerful UN peacekeeping force. Darfur is a case study for his principle of the “responsibility to protect”, which argues that outside powers should act if states fail to guard their people from genocide and the like. Taken seriously, that would undermine traditional notions of sovereignty. Although the member states endorsed the idea at a summit in late 2005, it has yet—in the absence of a standing army deployed by the secretary-general, or of substantial military support from member states—to translate into anything meaningful. In Darfur, disappointingly, it has amounted so far to almost nothing.  But Mr Annan experienced his greatest difficulties when in opposition to the United States. After America and its allies failed to get Security Council endorsement for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, hostility towards Mr Annan grew in Washington, DC.  By September 2004 Mr Annan was openly calling the invasion of Iraq illegal, which in turn provoked complaints from Republicans that he was trying to influence that year’s American presidential election. Some of Mr Annan’s American critics called for his removal as secretary-general and cast around for sticks to beat him with. Late in 2005, an American investigation into the UN’s oil-for-food programme in Iraq concluded that waste, inefficiency and corruption had cost billions of dollars and could be blamed (in part) on UN staff at headquarters and in the field, though it failed to show any evidence that Mr Annan himself was involved.  Given such frosty relations and the ongoing debacle in Iraq, it is perhaps remarkable that there have since been any substantial attempts at co-operation at all. Yet the UN and America have striven to find the killers of a former Lebanese prime minister; there is joint opposition to nuclear proliferation, for example in Iran; and, as mentioned, there is a shared approach to Sudan. And in a conciliatory gesture, also last week, Mr Annan used a speech to the UN to express sympathy with the notion—widely held in America—that the organisation, especially its General Assembly, is too often mindlessly opposed to Israel. Such efforts to reach out to America, along with the removal of John Bolton as America’s representative at the UN, may mean a friendlier start for Mr Ban in 2007. And that may, possibly, mean a greater chance of getting America’s help for protecting the weak in Darfur and elsewhere.  http://www.economist.com/daily/news/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8418122 

At yesterday’s DPI Noon Briefing, journalists were not able to get any useful comment from the UN Spokesman on questions about whether or not Kofi Annan was going to take a post-retirement position with the Alliance of Civilizations, a project that he set up while in office.