UNITED NATIONS, April 27 – What reforms or commitment to human rights or transparency, or even consistency or savings, has UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres shown in the 113 days he's been atop the UN, surrounded by officials and spokespeople from the previous Secretary General Ban Ki-moon? Inner City Press keeps asking Guterres' spokesman, but get no description or explanation of any reform, no action on UN retaliation, nothing. Inner City Press now publishes UN staff unions' letter to Guterres about retaliation by WIPO's Director General Francis Gurry, here, a topic on which Inner City Press has repatedly asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric. On April 26 Inner City Press asked, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:
The question on CEB is… there’s many questions, but one… the only one I’ll ask today is this. Is there a discussion… can you confirm a discussion by the Secretariat led by António Guterres to outsource some mixture of IT, finance and procurement from New York to Malaysia and other countries? And, if so, what’s the status of the proposal?
Spokesman: No. I’m not aware.
Inner City Press: And did… What is the agenda? Can we get an agenda of the CEB meeting?
Spokesman: The agenda is broad. It’s on strengthening the UN system and improving coordination, and I think it’s an important meeting because it’s the Secretary-General’s first opportunity to address all the member… the heads of the UN system.
Inner City Press: And when he met with Mr [Francis] Gurry at WIPO — I’d asked you this before — you’d said that everyone is aware of the charges of retaliation. Did this come up at all? I’ve seen a picture of him smiling on the podium.
Spokesman: I have no readout of the meeting.
And presumably, never. While on April 22 Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a read out of Guterres and the World Bank, there is still no read-out of the "stop by" meeting on April 21 with US President Donald Trump. On April 24 Inner City Press asked Dujarric again for a read-out, and for a copy of the letter Guterres sent to Syria's Bashar al Assad. Video here, UN Transcript here: Inner City Press: I want to follow up on the Washington or the Secretary-General. He… I saw that he did an interview with Bloomberg television, and he said that… that, for example, climate change didn’t come up. So I just wanted to ask you, what… it seemed like he didn’t have any aversion to doing a kind of a readout in that interview. So can you give… what did come up and what didn’t come up?
Spokesman: I can’t go any further than what I’ve said to you and what the Secretary-General said publicly.
Inner City Press: And al… I guess, on one of the topics, he said that Syria did come up. So just, as a matter of transparency, I wanted to ask, have you… I’m sure you’ve seen the stories that say that the Secretary-General wired a congratulatory cable to President [Bashar al-]Assad of Syria. Is that true? And, if so, did… what… is the text thus far quoted by… by Sana’a accurate and complete? And will you release the letter?
Spokesman: There was… it was not a letter… personalized letter that was signed. As a matter of practice that has been going on for decades in this Organization, there is a message that goes out to every Member State on the occasion of their National Day. It is the same message that goes out… so, in 2017, there’s a message that will go out… the same message will go out to every Member State. There’s no reason why we can’t release the text of this generic letter. It goes out through our protocol service to the Permanent Mission. As I said, it’s not a signed letter. It’s a generic message. And I think it is about peace and, I think, you know, there… no one would disagree that, after more than six years of conflict, I think the Syrian people deserve peace.
Inner City Press: So they’re not tailored in any way? It’s not the complete…?
Spokesman: They’re not tailored. No, it’s a gen… as I said, I’ll release… We’ll send out
In fact, it was never sent to Inner City Press. Hours later Inner City Press, not even seeing it on the Spokesperson's Office counter, asked and there was a general letter, with not even the country name on it, behind the counter. Tweeted photo here. This is today's UN. Guterres, who rarely takes questions at the UN, sat down with Bloomberg and said it was only a "brief encounter" with Trump and that climate change did not even come up. (Dujarric told Inner City Press it was "15 to 20 minutes." Others say, "three minutes." Also, his rationale for no read-outs is eviscerated by Guterres' read out to Bloomberg, whose owner remains a UN official, like Jeffrey Sachs, under Guterres.) On April at 11:25 am Inner City Press reported the stop by would happen. At the day's UN noon briefing after Dujarric pre-released adjectives spinning the meeting to his friendly scribes, Inner City Press asked him, from the UN transcript: Inner City Press: you said it was in the same meeting but Sean Spicer said at 11:25 that the Secretary-General had already met with McMaster and would be having a, quote, drop in in the Oval Office with President Trump? So…
Spokesman: The way I interpreted Evelyn’s question and the way I answered it is: Was General McMaster in the meeting with President Trump? Yes.
Inner City Press: And was it a drop in? And how long did the meeting take if it was described as a drop in?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General and General McMaster took, walked the Secretary-General to the Oval Office and they met, I think, for 15-20 minutes with the President.
As to the World Bank, the UN said: "This framework, signed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, is in response to global calls for our institutions to work more closely together on prevention and reducing needs, risks, and vulnerability as the world faces a spike in violent conflict.. Under this framework, the UN and World Bank will work in complementary ways to: reduce the multi-dimensional risks of crisis and help prevent violent conflict; develop joint analyses and tools for more effective solutions; coordinate support to address protracted crises including forced displacement; and scale up impact by leveraging financing."
On April 21 as Guterres prepared to fly again to Europe, to Geneva and then Montreux, he sent a letter to all UN staff, many of whom forwarded it, outraged, to Inner City Press. Guterres wrote, "I expect all of us to be frugal in the acquisition of supplies, materials, furniture and equipment." One staff member marveled, "Guterres, or The Goot as some now call him, is telling us to scrimp on office supplies while he's flying to Montreux and often Lisbon." Inner City Press pointed out that that Guterres has reduced his travel delegations and might merge the Department of Political Affairs out of existence, and might even - it's unclear why this hasn't happened yet - reverse indefensible decisions by the Department of Public Information, from the Smurfs to ongoing censorship and restrictions on the critical Press. On the response, we'll have more. Guterres put on his website job vacancy notices to the Department of Management (unfilled) and rector of UN-University and even deputy of UN HABITAT. But for Youth Envoy, an ostensibly important position, no notice was placed on Guterres' website. Instead, Maher Nasser the Officer of Charge of the Department of Public Information, which evicted and restricts Inner City Press which asks these questions, tweeted a link to a Survey Monkey site two days before the deadline. When Inner City Press asked about the disparity, and about why it is still restricted to minders 14 months after trying to covering the UN corruption story in the UN Press Briefing Room, Nasser replied "Matthew - This is same process through which first youth envoy nominations were solicited. U have same access as 3000 other journalists." The last is false - Inner City Press has minders while even other non resident correspondents walk down the hallway, and no-question state media from Egypt and Morocco have full access - and the former doesn't explain the disparity. On April 21 Inner City Press put the question in person to Maher Nasser, Periscope here - without answer. At the April 21 noon briefing, Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric would only defend the non-publication on the UNSG site of the Youth Envoy position by saying it was done that way in the past. Another correspondent mutter, Slavery. On April 20 Dujarric refused to confirm that for the position of Special Adviser on Children and Armed Conflict Guterres had chosen Virginia Gamba, without much background in human rights or child protection, over Canada's Allan Rock and Myanmar rights expert Yanghee Lee. Dujarric did not deny it, and typically did not explain it. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: can you confirm that those considered for the [CAAC] position involved Yanghee Lee and also Allan Rock? And how would you respond to the idea that Ms. Gamba, despite her work on the JIM [Joint Investigative Mechanism], is not really viewed as a child advocate?
Spokesman Dujarric: I think Ms. Gamba will stay on at the JIM for another few weeks or couple of weeks. I don't know the exact date of her start time. In the meantime, the Secretary-General is… we're looking at people to succeed her. The office… the Special Representative isn't alone in that office. There is a Deputy Special Representative. There's a Chief of Staff. They're continuing their work, obviously, in preparation for the report, which will come out later this year. And so she will be… as soon as she assumes her job, she will take over the position and assume that responsibility as the Secretary-General's principal adviser on issues of children and armed conflict. I think Ms. Gamba is an extremely experienced and talented international civil servant who's had wide experience and I think will be a great leader to that office and a great advocate for children and for the protection of children.
Also on April 20 Dujarric announced that Guterres wants a review of the UN's air travel costs; Dujarric also belatedly confirmed what Inner City Press asked the day before, about Guterres traveling to Switzlerland later this month from the UN Chief Executives Board meetings. Inner City Press asked for Guterres' view on retaliation by host WIPO's Gurry - again, no answer - and specifically what the costs of this CEB meeting, culminating in old haunt Montreux, will be. Dujarric did not provide any number, thinking that mentioning Swiss government support resolves it. It does not.