By Matthew Russell Lee, for InnerCityPro.com
UNITED NATIONS, July 12 (InnerCityPro.com) -- Before ten candidates for Next UN Secretary General were asked questions in a General Assembly Hall given over to Al Jazeera, Inner City Press asked the UN and the President of the General Assembly (PGA) why there was no UNTV stakeout in front so other journalists could ask questions. None was provided but Inner City Press was told to just go there after the debate and ask questions.
The debate had questions mostly from Al Jazeera - no mention of Saudi / Yemen or the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case -- and from ambassadors. Whereas Al Jazeera had not asked the first panel of five candidates about peacekeeper sexual abuse, Liechtenstein to its credit did. But the follow up on the firing of whistleblower Kompass was not put to Susana Malcorra on the first panel, who was involved in the firing.
Likewise on Haiti cholera, without follow up Helen Clark said that she wouldn't comment on reparations because there is a case in the courts. But in this case, the UN - or really, the US for the UN which refuses to show up in court - is arguing for immunity. So the obvious question to candidates would be, would you waive immunity? Not asked.
Christiana Figueres raised her hand on giving an apology, but again said no to reparations. Ultimately, that's impunity. Here is a fast write-up of (some of) the debate, with Inner City Press / Free UN Coalition for Access commentary in italics:
Vesna Pusic: I’ve done a lot of jobs…but I truly believe in development, human rights. And I want to do this because I believe in countering cynicism. There’s a lot of cynicism in politics today.
ICP / FUNCA: Much cynicism about the UN springs from its impunity for rapes, cholera and corruption.
Gutteres: I want to help end human suffering, reduce conflicts. We have terrible threats like terrorism, climate change, and ordinary people don’t have enough of a voice. We need greater leadership and values. The Secretary General must be a solid, ethical reference. ICP / FUNCA: Currently not the case.
Malcorra: We need a UN that’s much closer to the people, driven by the issues. We need a secretary general who’s ready to lead and to listen.
Jeremic: We live in an era of great challenges: the UN is the only organization where we can address our global challenges. But there’s a great need for UN reform. ICP / FUNCA: On reform, agreed.
Gherman: ....Moldova…we must also work to find common ground and unity…
Vague question about what kind of leadership is needed at the UN
Pusic: In today’s world, there’s too much emphasis on being popular. Instead, we need deep conviction, perseverance, and courage.
Gherman: Secretary General’s job is to draw attention to issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Guterres: Communication is so important. And unfortunately, the UN does many important projects, but doesn’t communicate well. We need to speak clearly, in ordinary language, without relying so much on jargon. ICP / FUNCA: Gutteres has no Twitter handle, it seems.
Jeremic: When I was a young man, I witnessed the consequences of a catastrophic failure of diplomacy. I fought for democracy and human rights. We need an action-oriented leader, with concrete plans. This is not time for speeches, it’s time for action.
Question about the situation in South Sudan – should the UN peacekeepers be doing more? ICP / FUNCA: Question failed to included not only locked gate in Wau, but cover up of deaths.
Malcorra: What’s happening in South Sudan is “deeply disturbing”. There’s a lack of leadership. The UN mission has a mandate to protect people. But it doesn’t have a mandate to fight, or to try and stop the fighting between the parties. In the end it’s up to the leaders of South Sudan.
Question about whether “international justice” (the International Criminal Court) is biased against Africans
Guterres: The courts need to pay more attention to non-African issues.
Jeremic: This is a critical, significant issue, and we need to work towards a more perfect justice.
Malcorra: We need to do a better job of engaging with African countries to see whether the Rome Statute needs any changes. Africa needs to be more engaged, not less. ICP / FUNCA: Her Kenya example was nitty gritty.
Gherman: Peace is justice, and justice is peace…the current situation is regrettable.
Pusic: The system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.
Question about increasing the UN’s capacity to address violence
Jeremic: We need to devote greater resources to conflict prevention. We need to move a lot of staff away from New York, and into the field, so that there’s less paper shuffling and more action. ICP / FUNCA: Was Jeremic's 20% proposal the reasons Figueres at the end praised UN staff?
Question about gender parity (should there be an emphasis on giving women more jobs at the UN) Everyone says yes, gender parity is important; the women candidates stress this a lot more than the men. Gherman: we have to lead by example – inspire member states towards gender parity by choosing a woman to be SG.
Pusic: I’ll answer the question about women in public positions: I’m a woman and a feminist, and I think this is important, because the UN was dominated for 70 years by men.
Gutteres: I’ve served at the UN for more than 10 years as high commissioner for refugees. I feel obliged to present myself as candidate for SG.
Malcorra: this is a time when the UN needs to INSPIRE. We need a leader who can inspire, listen, and deliver. I think I can do that.
Jeremic: we are living in difficult times, but I do believe in the UN.
If you want more of the same old things, I’m not your candidate. But if you want a rejuvenated, reinvigorated UN, then support me.
Gherman: Whatever we do, we have one major ally: the people. If we manage to bring back the relevance of the UN to the people, win their hearts and mind, we’ve created a good partnership.
Helen Clark -- with her own video edits -- The UN has many challenges – development, environment, peace and security. We have to work to implement the agendas on climate change and development. But we really have to get better at preventing conflict and resolving conflict. And I have the vision to lead this organization to make a better, safer, fairer world.
Danilo Turk: We need to renovate the UN. For that we need experience, commitment, and vision. And I have great experience in human rights, political issues. It’s important to develop partnerships with civil society, academia, and the business community.
Figueres: I know this work is difficult, because I’ve done it. I was behind the most ambitious, unanimous climate change agreement. That was possible because we worked together with patience and determination.
Igor Luksic: We have to be ready for the new challenges that the world presents. In my part of the world there were challenges, massacres. We have developed a transitional experience that can show the world examples of what the world today needs. The UN faces major challenges. We have to work on gender parity, but we also have to prepare the world for the youth.
Bokova: There are 2 reasons I became a candidate for this position. We in eastern Europe have gone through a profound change, we are deep believers in multilateralism and in democracy because of that. I think that this experience means that I can lead the UN.
Question about the importance of geographical rotation:
Bokova: Geographic rotation is very important, for the culture of the UN, for the representation of all the countries. And I have done it by example at UNESCO.
Clark: My country belongs to the group called “Western Europe and others.” My little country has never had a Secretary General. I think we need a global search for the best talent.
Turk: Geographical rotation is crucial. If we want fair and decent processes, we need to work on the basis of rotation.But the Secretary General must serve the whole UN, not only his regional group.
Luksic: I think it’s right for the Eastern European group gets the chance to offer candidates. But this is about the challenges we’re facing in today’s world
Figeres: we need to open up the field as wide as possible to all candidates.
Q about the practical functioning of the Security Council
Clark: The Council is outdated, it still reflects the reality of 1945 and not today’s reality. I’d like to help change that.
Figueres: A good SG will help the Council members move towards the true common goal of peace.
Q: How would you move things forward on Israel and Palestine?
Bokova: We need to build trust. There’s a lack of political process, lack of negotiations. Without trust, this will be impossible to resolve.
Q: on Syria, what would you tell people affected by this conflict?
Turk: The UN has really lost credibility in Syria. We need to step up humanitarian assistance, the Secretary General needs to work to come up with more specific proposals before September.
Luksic: Secretary General always needs to take the lead and be proactive. People are becoming disillusioned in the UN, the way it does nothing but issue press statements and express concern. We need more honest discussions.
Question about sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers - from Liechtenstein
Figueres: I believe in zero tolerance for sexual abuse. Immunity cannot be impunity. All those who’ve been found guilty of sexual abuse must be held to account.
Clark: We must make sure all troops are fully trained. Any hint of abuse must be reported and taken seriously, any suspected abuser must be suspended and sent home to be prosecuted and punished. If countries don’t do that, the UN has to stop accepting troops from those countries.
Luksic: We have so many more peacekeepers than we used to, and the peacekeeping budget is huge. But there’s nothing more shameful than the idea that peacekeepers abused civilians. Those contingents should be removed right away and the guilty should be punished. The UN has to be a moral leader.
Turk: We have to learn a lesson from the story of Anders Kompass... I hope we can bring Kompass back to the UN.
ICP / FUNCA: But Al Jazeera didn't put the Kompass question to Malcorra, who was involved
Q about implementing the agenda for development
Bokova: adopting the sustainable development goals was a very big achievement. But to make the system adequate and comprehensive, we need involvement of the Secretary General.
Q: about the migration crisis
Figueres: We have 65 million migrants today, the largest number ever. Migration isn’t just a humanitarian issue; it has to do with peace and security and development. We have to make sure migrants are treated with dignity. We have to share global responsibility for the situation, and we have to look at the root causes of migration.
Turk: We have to implement and enforce international law on migration. We have to make sure migrants have the right to work.
Clark: The refugees who have come to my country are good people, looking for a fresh start. People don’t flee their homes for no reason. Any of us in their situation would flee. Turkey has allowed refugees to work; other countries are moving in that direction, and I give them credit.
Luksic: We need to focus on development.
Q about reducing gender discrimination and violence against women
Bokova: there is nothing more important than education – for girls and women. It empowers girls to continue with their lives.
Q about Haiti and the UN’s involvement in bringing cholera to Haiti: Raise your hand, would you take responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti and apologize to the Haitian people?
Only Figueres raised her hand, and said the reputation of the UN has been tarnished. It was unintended; but we have to be responsible even for unintended consequences.
The UN is not in a position to pay compensation. But it is in a position to make sure the disease is eradicated.
ICP / FUNCA: Isn't this still impunity, then?
Clark: We have a case before the courts in this country. We can’t comment on that yet. Cholera is still in Haiti, and the critical thing now is to rally support now.
ICP / FUNCA: Moderators should have asked, Would you waive immunity?
Q about UN reform, Banburry piece
Bokova: we need to become more efficient. We need to give a bigger part of the budget to human rights and political missions.
Turk: We welcome criticism of the UN, we have to find ways to address it and reform. I’d like to meet with the Office of Internal Oversight to find ways to improve.
Clark: many people working in the UN are upset by the culture of waste and bureaucracy; this needs to be reformed.
Luksic: We need to review the budget and identify inefficiencies. It was recently found that 70 percent of development funding is mis-spent.
Bokova: I did a great job at UNESCO managing with a reduced budget, I could do the same as Secretary General.
Bokova: I will fight for dialogue, tolerance, peace. The UN should instill the feeling of a common community of values.
Luksic: We need to bring back a sense of optimism, engage with young people, extend partnerships.
Figueres: The UN staff has called for increased leadership, and I would be deeply honored to lead that team.
Turk: The UN can be criticized, but we have wonderful, hardworking people in the secretariat. We have to be humble, but also proud.
Clark: These are issues I’ve worked on all my life, and I’d relish having the chance to carry on that work and try to build a better future.
After the “debate,” which entirely omitted the obvious question of outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dropping Saudi Arabia from the UN's Yemen Children and Armed Conflict list was never asked by Al Jazeera, and even the name of former PGA John Ashe indicted for bribery including of Ban's Secretariat, Inner City Press ran to go ask those questions in front of the GA.
But it was not possible: the UN Media Accreditation office was closed, and no UN security officer on duty at the turnstile that Inner City Press' Ban-reduced pass no longer opens.
The eviction was for seeking to cover an event, nowhere listed in writing as closed, to pursue the Ng Lap Seng UN briber case; the ouster and eviction order were by Cristina Gallach whose participation in Ng's South South Awards Inner City Press asked her about, and whose lack of due diligence of Ng's Global Sustainability Foundation as it sponsored the UN's slavery memorial are criticized in the UN's own audit. This is today's UN: it must be cleaned up.