Egeland to co-chair international taskforce

ImageHead of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Jan Egeland, has been elected to co-chair the High-level Taskforce for the Global Framework for Climate Services. an international taskforce that is to compile and make available climate information.

The responsibility of this international taskforce is to compile and make available climate information.

Mr Egeland was elected at a meeting in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today. He is to co-chair a high-level taskforce charged with developing a global framework for climate services.

Jan Egeland has also held the post of special UN emergency relief coordinator, and was shortly thereafter appointed to head the new UN secretariat responsible for conflict prevention and facilitation of peace negotiations.

“Mr Egeland’s background and expertise make him eminently qualified for this important task. This is particularly important for the poorest countries, which are by far the hardest hit by climate change,” said Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim.

Jan Egeland will co-chair the taskforce together with Dr Abu-Zeid, former Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. Other members of the taskforce include Emil Salim, former State Minister for Population and Environment of Indonesia, and Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile.

In the coming year the taskforce is to prepare a report containing recommendations for proposed elements of the Global Framework for Climate Services. The report is to be presented at the WMO Congress in 2011.

“This will make information on current and future weather and climate change more readily accessible, which will benefit all those working on health, agriculture and disaster preparedness in poor countries,” said Mr Solheim.


By Judith Akolo

NAIROBI, Feb 26 (NNN-KBC) — The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is asking governments to integrate climate and weather information into their national development programmes.

The WMO head for Eastern and Southern Africa, Victor Simango, said Thursday that integration of weather and climate information into development programmes would help to mitigate impending disruptions in national programmes whenever extreme climatic events occurred.

Speaking at the 25th Climate Outlook Forum for the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA) region here, Simango said recent events which brought about severe droughts followed by floodings, were events which African governments would have to live with as climate change posed major challenges to sustainability of national programmes.

Simango said the recent El Nino weather event which was experienced in East Africa had caused major setbacks in the economies of the region.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula called for the integration of climate early warning information in all climate sensitive sectors, including security.

In his speech, read by the ministry’s Director of Political Affairs, Ben Ogutu, the minister said the La Nina weather event which was experienced over the last three years, had led to a serious drought, resulting in severe disruptions in development programmes.

He said the weather event also undermined regional harmony resulting in conflicts because of competition for resources, including water and pasture for livestock.

“As you may be aware, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region has an arid and semi-arid climate with highly variable rainfall and frequent droughts which often are followed or preceded by floods,” said the minister, who urged experts in climate to integrate early warning information in climate sensitive sectors, including security, in order to prevent incidents which could undermine regional harmony.

He said climate extremes impacted negatively on regional food security, pasture, water, hydro-electric power, health, wildlife, tourism and infrastructural development, making the region the most food insecure in the world.

“As a matter of fact, the GHA region is a recipient of close to 40 per cent of the annual global food aid due to frequent droughts,” said Wetangula.

He said climate change was also a major challenge facing humankind with the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing that human-induced climate change was real, presenting Africa as the most vulnerable region in the world.

Wetangula called for concerted efforts which would endeavor to address the problems facing the region and which would also provide solutions towards integrating adaptation and mitigation measures. — NNN-KBC

Climate change data will now face independent scrutiny

By Nicholas Kralev

World weather agencies agreed this week to enhance data-gathering significantly and allow independent scrutiny of raw figures used in assessing climate change amid charges by critics that global warming scientific data were skewed.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) made the concession after an outcry over e-mails revealing that researchers in Britain had suppressed certain data to bolster claims of global warming. Critics also said some of the manipulated data were included in a 2007 U.N. report on the subject.

Britain's Met Office formally submitted a proposal that scientists around the world undertake the “grand challenge” of measuring land surface temperatures as often as several times a day, and it was approved in principle by about 150 officials at a WMO meeting in Antalya, Turkey.

“This effort will ensure that the datasets are completely robust and that all methods are transparent,” the Met Office said, though it added that “any such analysis does not undermine the existing independent datasets that all reflect a warming trend.”

via Climate change data will now face independent scrutiny – Washington Times.

WMO to verify the global warming records again

The World MeteorologicalOrganization (WMO) has decided to come across the original temperature records from thousands ofweather stations around the world for a second time.

The readings will be checked once more so that WMO can avail auxiliary functional information to understand the atmospheric change determinedly. These supplementary data will be analyzed autonomously further. This research will take three more years.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, this new analysis will provide an additional comprehensive depiction of global warming. Such initiatives are hugely needed to regain the public confidence in the science of climate change.

However some of the leading scientists have said that in spite of frequent efforts, there will be no end of man-made global warming. This will remain as a serious threat to the society and to the mankind.

Head of Climate Change Advice at Meteorological office Mr. Vicky Pope has also agreed with the fact that the fresh global temperature analyses would not change the tendency of globalwarming. But it may provide a better approach to adapt the climate change.

Dons reject WB proposal to increase varsity fees

University Academic Staff Union's national secretary general Muga K'olale (left) and colleague Richard Makhanu Wafula at a past function. Photo/FILE

University Academic Staff Union's national secretary general Muga K'olale (left) and colleague Richard Makhanu Wafula at a past function. Photo/FILE

By KENNEDY LUMWAMU Posted Saturday, February 27 2010 at 12:38

University lecturers have opposed a plan proposed by the World Bank to have fees for students under the regular degree program increased.

Speaking in Eldoret during the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) Moi University branch annual general meeting on Friday, national officials led lecturers into denouncing the proposal.

Secretary general Muga K’olale said there was likely to be discontent among students if the government goes ahead to implement the plan.

“It is bad policy which is likely to lead to student unrest”, he said at the Moi University Guest House.

He added that only vice chancellors were consulted leaving out the union and a majority of lecturers.

Professor Sammy Kubasu who is the UASU national chairman said the academic staff should be consulted on major policy issues . Present also was the national organising secretary Musalia Edebe.

Dr K’olale admitted that some lecturers were receiving bribes from well to do students in the self sponsored program to pass examinations.

“The students mainly from the disciplined forces and provincial administration do not have time to attend classes and are paying some lecturers to do theses and projects for them”, he added.

He asked where a district commissioner got time to attend to official duties and at the same time go to class.

He said he knows that this revelation would not go down well with those involved but that if he did not talk against it, then the Kenyan universities would be rated lowly.

He said the declining standards of education also had something to do with the creation of more colleges under the main universities.

“A lecturer attends a class in Mombasa, flies to Nairobi for another and again to Kisumu leaving him or her with little time to attend to classes. He said most lecturers had decided to prepare notes for students instead of physically attending classes.

PAKISTAN CORRUPTION: - WB panel may probe violation of policies

ISLAMABAD: A two-member team of the World Bank’s inspection panel, currently on a visit to Pakistan, has held meetings with secretaries of the finance and establishment divisions and chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue to ascertain if an investigation should be initiated into the alleged violation of the bank’s operational policies in implementation of the $83 million tax reforms programme.

The World Bank’s representative office in Islamabad and the FBR tried to give a new spin to the controversy in an apparent move to ward off looming investigation by the inspection panel.

The chief of the FBR, Sohail Ahmed, told a news conference that the team, led by Alf Morten Jerve of Norway, was visiting Pakistan to ascertain if the complaint registered at the request of the Pakistan’s Customs and Excise Officers Association needed an investigation.

The association alleged that by pressing the government for creation of an inland revenue service (IRS), the World Bank had violated its own operational policies and the country’s Constitution to their disadvantage.

The FBR chief said his prediction that the World Bank’s decision to delete steps relating to a new integrated tax administration from the policy matrix would result in unwelcome negative media attention proved correct and was needlessly reported by the media.

He said media reports about his letter to the finance minister were incorrect. But when asked to show the letter for fair judgement, Mr Sohail declined to oblige and said: “It was an internal note and not a letter.”

He said that if the panel decided to go for an investigation into the complaint it would be against the World Bank staff, and not against the government of Pakistan or the FBR because the panel could not launch an investigation against a sovereign state.

The FBR chief took pains to maintain that the creation of IRS was originally decided by the government in 2004 and was later picked up by World Bank staff as part of the tax administration and reforms project. He said the IRS was a home-grown agenda and not dictated by the World Bank.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had turned down his proposal to withdraw a request for extension in the WB funding for the project till Dec 2011, he added. He quoted the finance minister as saying that the government should let the World Bank complete the process.

In his letter to the finance minister, Mr Sohail had said: “It was informed by Ms Satu Kahkonen, the lead economist of World Bank, that action relating to the new integrated tax administration is being deleted from the policy matrix. The reason given by her was that on certain complaints received by the World Bank in the context of merger of CE and IT groups into the IRS, the inspection panel had taken cognisance and registered the matter for investigation.” The FBR chief had further stated: “It is totally inappropriate and undesirable for the World Bank to initially press the FBR to undergo these reforms and make them as benchmarks in GoP’s negotiations with IMF, and to now take adverse notice of successful implementation by the FBR/GoP. This development has put the FBR/GoP in a needlessly embarrassing position, especially since the FBR has kept the World Bank completely informed about the process.” Meanwhile, commenting on a Dawn report, the WB Islamabad office tried to correlate its position on creation of the IRS with the overall tax administration reforms. It said the World Bank had not “distanced itself from the tax administration reforms project”.

However, WB office did not comment on whether or not it had supported the creation of IRS which was earlier part of the tax administration reforms project and the main issue under debate.

World Bank Country Director Yusupha Crookes said the FBR had demonstrated a strong commitment to increase efficiency of tax collection, improve the level of service to taxpayers and ensure a fair and more equitable application of tax laws. “The World Bank is committed to continuing our support to the FBR for the implementation of this ambitious reform strategy, primarily through the tax administration reforms project,” he said.

UN to train ex-militants, others in Niger Delta

THE United Nations is to support the Federal Government amnesty programme through a mindset and technical education programme for ex-militants, as appropriate solution to youth restiveness and unemployment in the Niger Delta.

The reintegration programme for the ex-militants and unemployed youths, is to be executed by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States.

UNOPS Programme Co-ordinator, Wirba Alidu Yongye, stated this at the presentation a report on job creation and skills' needs assessment covering Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa states, to the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) members and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt recently.

Yongye explained that the Niger Delta job creation and conflict prevention initiative was conceived in recognition of the fact that reintegration of the ex-militants and vulnerable youths into the community is a critical factor and necessary component for sustainable peace and development in the region.

The UN findings according to him, indicated that past reintegration initiative not only in Nigeria, tend to focus more on economic reintegration, forgetting the mindset and socio-psychological disposition of the ex-combatants.

This particular initiative, he said, would include social, economic, psychological development, responsible citizenship, individual and social responsibility, basic human rights, understanding conflict impact, leadership development and access to market opportunities.

He said that the UN intervention was aimed at training the ex-militants and other vulnerable youths in the Niger Delta in technical and vocational skills so that they could make use of opportunities in their communities and to make better choices that could help them develop their livelihood "by engaging them in vocational training, we will be reducing the number of youths that would be idle.

"We will be reducing the number of youths that are not productive and not contributing to the development of their environment. We will be contributing to the self development of these youths so they will be able to make better choices," said Yongye.

He said that the UN would carry out a profile of those who had given up arms and ascertain the kind of training they desired to undergo. He also stated that the number of those to be trained would depend on the capacity of the selected training centres in the three states.

Yongye added that UNOPS was establishing linkages with national and international institutions including the National Institute of Welding, the National Board for Technical Education and international institutions including the United Nations Vocational Education Centre and the Loughborough College, United Kingdom to ensure international accreditation for the technical and vocational education training.

Yongye explained that the UN was already talking with some companies in these three states, as part of their corporate social responsibility, to provide opportunities for the ex-militants and beneficiaries of the programme to undergo industrial attachment.

He observed that most companies corporate social responsibility existing in the Niger Delta did not take into account job creation opportunity for young graduates either from universities or vocational centres. He then called for a change of policy.

OPTS Chairman, Harrison E. Onwo, lauded the United Nations for the initiative which he observed was in tune with the organisation's job creation programme for the region.

He said that the UN intervention simply meant that the OPTS and the government must move fast to solve the problem of youth restiveness and unemployment in the Niger Delta.

UNDP delegations meet with President Rayaale

HARGEISA (Somalilandpres) — Somaliland President, Dahir Rayale Kahin, met today with delegations from the United Nations and other international development agencies in the presidential palace. They discussed development projects in Somaliland. The president’s spokesperson issued the following statement:

“President Dahir Rayale Kahin met today in presidential palace with a large delegations of diverse international organizations, which are planning to implement development projects in Somaliland.”

President Dahir Rayale pointed to the need to implant development projects in Somaliland in areas of job creations for the youth, water irrigation, health, education and providing emergency aid to areas affected by lasting drought. The president emphasized that the International community should not place Somaliland in the same basket with Somalia when it comes to funding development projects and aid. He added that Somaliland has enjoyed stability and shown commitment to democracy for the last 18 years.

Mark Bowden, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia led the delegations, which included delegation from the World Bank, the European Union and number of UN organizations. The delegations conducted number of meetings and discussion panels in Ambassador Hotel for the last few days, where they discussed current UN projects and implementation of future development and humanitarian undertakings in Somaliland. Around 100 people representing various government agencies, political parties and civil Somaliland organizations participated in these meetings.

U.N. create Independent panel to review IPCC

U.N. has formed an independent panel of scientists for reviewed the work of world’s top climate science panel. Which has faced recriminations after it published errors, United Nations environmental spokesman said.

Scientists are working with the United Nation-sponsored group. That has raised questions about the panel’s objectivity in assessing one of today’s most hotly debated scientific fields.

“The problem stems from the IPCC’s thorny mission: Take sophisticated and sometimes inconclusive science, and boil it down to usable advice for lawmakers,” according to the interviews with scientists and review of hundreds of panel documents and emails.

The IPCC said that the Himalayas may melt by 2035, but an original source said the world’s glaciers will melt till 2350 not till 2035.

A criticism has faced by IPCC. U.K. climate lab hacked Emails and posted online late last year. Scientists trying to squelch researchers who disagreed with their conclusion that humans are largely responsible for climate change. The IPCC admitted its celebrated 2007 report contained an error: a false claim that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. The IPCC report got the date from a World Wildlife Fund report.

Mainstream scientists and the United Nations said repeatedly that the evidence indicates that human activity is playing major role in global warming remains unshaken.

Mr. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program said, “I think we are bringing some level of closure to this issue.”

Pachauri’s statement said that the panel consulted with the United Nations and plans to find “distinguished experts” to review.

As UN Holmes Confirms Return to UK, Ripert for the Job, and US for Peacekeeping?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- Top UN humanitarian John Holmes has confirmed to The Times that he will leave New York later this year, setting off a major powers game of musical chairs for senior UN posts. This comes ten days after Inner City Press reported that Holmes would be returning to the UK, and Holmes denied the story vociferously on the margins of a press stakeout about Haiti and Somalia.

According to the Times' James Bone, Sir John will take over from Jeremy Greenstock at the Ditchley Foundation, consider once of the easiest UK Foreign Office sinecures: putting together conferences on a country estate in Oxfordshire.

The UK initially said it would not be seeking to retain the humanitarian post but rather seek Political Affairs, currently held by American Lynn Pascoe, or the S-G chief of staff post, currently held by India's Vijay Nambiar. But the UK has clarified that no decision has been made to forgo OCHA for one of the two other posts.

Francophone sources predict that former French Ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert, who last year was given a temporary post as the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, may return to New York to take over Holmes' OCHA post. Bernard Kouchner, Ripert's mentor, is said to want to control UN Humanitarian Affairs. But this would require Alain Le Roy, also French, to step down as head of UN Peacekeeping.

There continue to be rumors that the Obama administration would like to take over UN Peacekeeping. During the last General Debate in September, Obama convened a meeting about peacekeeping -- which India boycotted, as they want the top post based on how many troops they contribute to the UN. (If India somehow got Peacekeeping, Nambiar would have to leave.)

Obama's UN Ambassador Susan Rice, headed through bad weather from DC to the UN for Wednesday's Security Council briefing on drug trafficking -- she began her statement at 11:40 am-- spoke earlier this week on Peacekeeping, and Tweeted it too.

Factual footnote: Susan Rice and and U.S. General Fraser are scheduled to meet with Holmes on February 24 about Haiti.

Sir John Holmes smiling as he gets on a plane, musical chairs not shown

For the US to take Peacekeeping, Lynn Pascoe would have to go. Then the UK could take Political Affairs, and Ripert's France take over Humanitarian Affairs. The Western Permanent Three play musical chairs.

But what of Nambair? What of India's aspirations for the Peacekeeping post? What of Egyptian USG Shaaban Shaaban, currently under fire in the UN Dispute Tribunal? If Shaaban is removed, perhaps Egypt's Permanent Representative will get the UN post he has long sought. Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on the UK tip, when Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman came to New York she targeted invitations to female Permanent Representatives. But some countries responded that their PR is otherwise occupied, and proposed that the Deputy come instead. So the UK had to ask, or look up: is the Deputy a female?

UN Official, "Elated" by Rapes, Says Corruption Watching is Up to Haiti's Preval

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24, updated -- "Three rapes? That almost elates me," the UN's second in command in Haiti Tony Banbury told the Press on Wednesday. "There are rapes in New York, in any refugee camp in the world." Video here, from Minute 34:17.

Some were surprised at this UN official's statement. While he may say that the quote -- caught on film -- is out of context, Inner City Press would counter that the quote was created by, and reflects, the context.

Banbury's presentation, billed as a description of the situation in Haiti, was in fact a defense of the UN's performance. Banbury said the earthquake in Haiti was harder to deal with than the tsunami or Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, in which he was involved.

Inner City Press asked Banbury how the UN, which has made appeals for over $1 billion, will ensure that rubble removal contractors are transparently selected based on merit, and that the landowning elite in Haiti doesn't gain super-profits from the move to acquire land for new housing.

Banbury said that both of these are up to the sovereign Haitian government. He derided procurement rules as causing delay. But US-based companies like Ashbritt, under fire for post-Hurricane Katrina profiteering, have already held private meetings with President Rene Preval.

UN's Banbury on Feb. 24, 2010: elated?

To be fair, Inner City Press reiterated the question: was Banbury saying the UN would do nothing to try to ensure that money donated to help poor Haitians wasn't grabbed by profiteers? Yes, Banbury said, we have an interest in that, and the UN will pursue it "on a political level... with the World Bank." But by leading with the UN's deference to sovereign Haitian decisions, a message is sent.

In fact, Banbury's involvement in the UN's and World Food Program's response to Cyclone Nargis involved knowing, but keeping quiet, about currency exchange losses of up to 25% to the Than Shwe military government of Myanmar.

What correspondents were and are looking for is facts, not UN spin. And if one is the UN's spinmeister, it might be better not to say, "Three rapes? That almost elates me." What happens next? Watch this site.

Update: two days after Banbury's comments and the article above, and one day after the UN was asked about the comments, and promised an update, the following came in:

On Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 2:40 PM, UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply wrote:

At the noon press briefing on February 24, Assistant Secretary-General Banbury was asked about a report by Human Rights Watch on security and protection conditions in IDP camps in Haiti, including a report that there had been three cases of women being raped.

ASG Banbury adds the following comment: “My remarks make clear my strong commitment to human rights protection issues, and my conviction that three rapes is "far too many". I said that reports of only three rapes "almost elates me" because of deep concern--by myself and human rights protection experts--that the large numbers of people who are living in cramped and onerous conditions in displaced persons camps could lead to serious protection issues, especially with regard to sexual violence against women and children. If the total number of rape cases is indeed three, while "far too many", it would show that efforts by the UN and our partners to enhance protection measures for women and children in the camps were working to a large extent, and our worst fears were not materializing. This would be a source of encouragement. I have dedicated many years to protecting the human rights of vulnerable populations, and my career to public service. Far from belittling the crime of rape, my clear intention was to convey a sense of UN commitment and concern about human rights protection.”

Media outlets which heard but never wrote about Banbury's comment about being "almost elated" at three rapes were quickly to publish his subsequent statement.

At UN, Misdirection on Census in Iraq and Congo, of Kirkuk and the Kivus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 -- The UN helps countries like Iran, Liberia and the Congo conduct their census, but glosses over the tough questions. On February 25 Inner City Press asked Nuha Al-Sharma, Executive Census Director of Iraq's COSIT, if the October census will take into account the two or more rounds of ethnic cleansing around Kirkuk and its oil fields, regarding Kurds. Video here, from Minute 42:45.

"There is no ethetic data," she responded. This seemed to mean no "ethnic" data. But after the briefing, UNFPA's Mr. Luay Shabaneh confirmed that the census will ask if a person is Kurdish, Turkenman or Arab. He said a curfew will be announced, then people counted in their homes, with fingerprinting is necessary. So why wasn't that said during the briefing?

When Inner City Press asked the DR Congo's Gregoire Kankwanda Ebuleland is the census there will count FDLR rebels from Rwanda, he bristled that "outsiders" often "do not have good information." He insisted that there are only "pockets" of resistance in the Congo.

Inner City Press asked Paul Cheung the director of the Statistics Division of UNDESA if the UN would be helping Haiti with a census, given the current failure to even register the birth of children. No, he said, Haiti has not asked for help.

UN flies census materials, Sudan 2008: straight answers not shown

Mr. Cheung was listed as the moderator of the press conference, but no one seemed to have organized anything. The Liberian representative Edward Liberty droned on for fifteen minutes -- who could stop him?

The DRC's Gregoire Kankwanda Ebuleland spoke only in French, although no translation was provided. After he finished -- and Inner City Press asked its question in French -- Mr. Cheung asked, does anyone need translation? It was classic UN -- unrealistically upbeat, badly organized, barely covered and thus unaccountable. And yet here is this report.

As UN Accused of Cover Up of Zimbabwe Cholera, Belated Response, Memo to Holmes Unaddressed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 -- The UN often sides with and even pays money to authoritarian governments, either as a cost of remaining in the country or simply out of habit, as a social club of governments. But in Zimbabwe, former UN humanitarian worker Georges Tadonki has alleged in a case in the UN Dispute Tribunal in Nairobi, the UN falsely predicted only 2000 cholera cases, when nearly 100,000 resulted, with 4000 deaths.

On February 23, Inner City Press asked for the UN's response to the

Inner City Press: exposé by George Tadonki, who is OCHA’s head in Zimbabwe, saying that he tried to raise the alarm about up to 30,000 cases of cholera in Zimbabwe and was told by Mr. [Agostinho] Zacarias, as the country team leader, to downplay the number, such that it was projected here that it would only be 2,000. I’m assuming that you’ve seen it and I’m wondering what the UN’s, since this really seems to say that the UN radically underplayed the number of people that would die in Zimbabwe, what the UN’s response to what this former UN employee is saying.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the specific details of the case, as the proceeding is under way at a tribunal in Nairobi, we cannot comment on the specific details. As for the broader question of “did the UN cover up the scale of this cholera outbreak”, OCHA has given fairly detailed guidance, which I have here. I don’t propose to go through absolutely everything, but I’m sure if you contacted them they will be able to give you more details. It’s fairly extensive guidance.

While it seemed strange to have to separately request from OCHA a document that UN spokesman Nesirky said that he had at the February 23 noon briefing, later on February 23 Inner City Press emailed OCHA's spokesperson asked to be sent the guidance.

But another OCHA spokesman responded, saying to call to be spoken to. Inner City Press sent another email, asking for the "detailed guidance" in writing. The next day, the OCHA spokesman still declined to provide the promised guidance, asking Inner City Press what question it wanted answered.

Back in May 2008, Inner City Press had reported that

In Harare, the Herald newspaper controlled by the Robert Mugabe government this week quoted UNDP's "Resident Representative Dr Agostinho Zacharias that 'We welcome reports that the authorities are intensifying the anti-violence campaign, we encourage them to continue to do so and ensure that violence is totally removed in all parts of the country... there are also reports indicating that MDC supporters are also resorting to violence and intimidation. This state of affairs is unacceptable to the UNCT.'"

For the UNDP's resident coordinator to be, on behalf the rest of the UN, "welcoming" the Mugabe government's "anti-violence campaign" seems more than a little strange. The UN Spokesperson said that Zacharias' written statement is available, but did not answer if the UN or UNDP has sought any correction of Mugabe's newspaper's use of Zacharias' comments. The Spokesperson called Zacharias' comments "balanced." But in some cases, particularly of violence, balance is not what's called for.

On February 24, 2010, Inner City Press forwarded the above quoted question, from the UN noon briefing transcript, and asked again for the answers.

UN's Ban and Zim's Mugabe in Feb 2009, cholera deaths not shown

Finally, on February 25 the following arrived from OCHA's Deputy Spokesman:

As Martin said, we cannot comment on any specific aspects of the case.On the general allegations about the UN’s response in Zimbabwe, the facts in this situation clearly showed that there was an acute crisis on the ground and the UN and its partners responded accordingly. There was never any attempt at covering up – the WHO surveillance which informed all decision making was publicly available, as were the OCHA sitreps and those of other agencies involved in the response. The prevailing situation was described starkly in the 2009 Appeal document launched in November 2008.

On the question of why the November 2008 appeal predicted 2,000 cholera cases, this appeal was launched when the cholera outbreak was just starting. Zimbabwe’s last cholera outbreak before this one was in 2002, when 3,125 people were infected and 192 died, so the prediction of 2,000 was realistic when it was made. The appeal document spoke very clearly about the possible risks posed by the situation in the country.

The UN responded actively as the worsening assessments came in through late 2008 and early 2009, repeatedly revising upwards the 2008 appeal for Zimbabwe which ultimately reached a total of $502 million, reflecting the changing circumstances on the ground. The 2008 Zimbabwe CAP became the third best funded CAP in the world that year. The surveillance showing the increasingly alarming figures was widely published - and the UN and its partners advocated widely and regularly as the figures increased.

A brief timeline of what was done by the UN around the appeal launch time is:

September 2008 - the humanitarian partners led by the UN put out a “Emergency Humanitarian Gap Analysis” requesting US$ 250 million, of which cholera was $37 million and food security was $186 million.

November 2008 - Zimbabwe 2009 Consolidated Appeal was launched requesting $550 million including $67 million for health and WASH sectors, a large part covering cholera response

December 2009 - The Minister of Health & Child Welfare (MoHCW) declared a national emergency and called for international assistance to respond to the cholera outbreak. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator and WHO played a critical advocacy role in influencing the Zimbabwe MoHCW to declare the out outbreak.

December 2008 - The Cholera Command and Control Centre (C4) was established.

January 2009 - The Cholera Operational Response Plan was developed in November and December was issued, requesting a total of USD 17 million in addition to USD 24 million already received.

Combined with the logistical and financial challenges of mounting a response in this environment, there were problems of access for humanitarian organisations, an unstable political environment, and significant difficulties in getting proper assessments of the situation. Taking all these factors together, that the cholera epidemic was brought under control and that there is now almost no cholera in Zimbabwe was a major achievement. We would always like to have saved more lives – that is the raison d’etre of humanitarian work – but the significant challenges that had to be overcome to make that happen must not be minimized.

But back on April 7, 2008 Tadonki sent to OCHA Undersecretary-General John Holmes an assessment that the UN "not prepared to face the consequences of an emergency silently in the making" and cited "hesitations of the U.N. in responding to acts of political violence," warning that the coming months would see "dire consequences." How doesthat figure in the timeline OCHA has provided?

Some noted that on February 24, the UN's Anthony Banbury when asked about three rapes in a UN camp for IDPs in Haiti said "three rapes? I'm almost elated." Nesirky was asked about this on February 25, and said that Banbury was "in the air" but that a statement from his was expected. Eleven hours later, no statement had been provided. Watch this site.

Censorship Omitted From UN Study of Internet Access by ITU, No Comment on Cuba, Dissident's Death

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- Access to the Internet in 161 countries was compared by the UN's International Telecommunications Union in a recent report, Measuring the Information Society 2010. Inner City Press asked ITU's Susan Teltscher whether her agency considered the quality and content of the internet provided -- that is, censorship -- noting the exclusion from the final data tables of such countries as Turkmenistan, Cuba and North Korea.

Ms. Teltscher said that ITU did not consider internet censorship. Why not? It "cannot be captured in statistics," she replied. Video here, from Minute 18:18.

To some, any UN study of access to the Internet should take into account the varieties of Internet censorship, from China's Great Firewall to more total bans in countries like North Korea. The press conference's moderator, ITU's New York representative, said that the ITU like the rest of the UN system supports Article 19, on access to information across frontiers in all media.

But when Ban Ki-moon's two envoys Lynn Pascoe and Kim Won-soo recently visited Pyongyang, they did not even raise the issue of press and internet freedom. Click here for that story. Likewise, in November 2009 when protesters raised a banner about China's net blocking at a UN conference in Egypt, UN security removed the banner. Click here for thatstory.

It is important that someone study the pricing of Internet access. But an entirely amoral investment bank could do that, as a business proposition. For the UN to fail to include some measure or mention of censorship in its more than 100 page study of
ITU's Susan Teltscher on Feb. 23, internet censorship not shown

Footnote: while Cuba was omitted from the ITU final tables, on February 24 UN spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked:

Question: On Cuba, yesterday, a Cuban political prisoner called Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after 85 days on hunger strike in prison. And people in Cuba and Latin America in general are very shocked by this event and they consider it as a clear human rights violation. My question is, does the UN have a comment on this issue or will have a comment on this issue?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Secretary-General is aware of the case. We don’t have anything to say at the moment. But he is aware of the case. We don’t have anything to say at the moment.

Question: But will you say something?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I said he doesn’t have anything to say at the moment

Well, Orlando Zapata Tamayo is dead. Even Raul Castro has "lamented" it. But the UN's Ban Ki-moon is aware but silent.