Issue 318: Wikileaks Cable: World Food Program Letter warned Kofi Annan of UN Hunger Expert’s “Profoundly Immoral” Politics, “Harming Lives of the Hungry”

UN Watch urges Ban Ki-moon, Navi Pillay and Olivier de Schutter to speak out


The World Food Program pleaded with Kofi Annan to do something about UNHuman Rights Council official Jean Ziegler, pictured above in Eritrea in 1976, to stop him from harming the lives of hungry people.

GENEVA, October 24 — A letter discovered by UN Watch in a Wikileaks cable reveals that Kofi Annan was urged by the World Food Program in 2002 to remove the UN Human Rights Council’s hunger expert because he was engaging in “profoundly immoral” and “inflammatory” politics that had a “negative impact on the lives of the hungry.” See below text of letter sent today to Ban Ki-moon, or click here for PDF.

In reaction, UN Watch today urged Ban Ki-moon and UN rights chief Navi Pillay to investigate why nothing was ever done to stop Jean Ziegler, the UNHRC’s former “Special Rapporteur on the right to food,” and to call on Ziegler to resign from his continuing council mandates on hunger. As a member of the UNHRC’s Advisory Committee, Ziegler continues to participate on right-to-food drafting groups, and has been mandated to work on related reports, background papers and studies for the council.

Earlier this year, Swiss TV confirmed UN Watch’s findings that Ziegler has been covering up his key role as founder of the “Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.” A coalition of 45 NGOs led by UN Watch have called on Ziegler to resign. While many European and anti-Western journalists continue to treat Ziegler as a respected authority, the Salzburg Music Festival, citing UN Watch’s findings, disinvited Ziegler from delivering this summer’s keynote address.

UN Watch also called on Olivier De Schutter, the council’s current special rapporteur, who addressed the UN General Assembly today, to repudiate Ziegler’s politicized path.

Earlier this year, Mr. De Schutter, who has often expressed admiration for his predecessor, praised Syria’s Assad regime in a major report. His statements often blame the West and Israel.

In July, De Schutter launched a pre-emptive attack on Ban Ki-moon, protesting to the world’s media that the UN chief was about to issue a statement recognizing the legal and security justifications for Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

“Right to Food” official Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s successor to Gaddafi Prize founder Jean Ziegler, refuses to explain why he’ll be conducting a special visit to Canada in May, instead of to food emergency countries like Somalia.

De Schutter has refused to answer questions submitted by UN Watch as to why he is now planning a country visit next May to Canada, of all places, instead of spotlighting food emergency countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

Columbia University law school hosts De Schutter this year as a visiting professor. Columbia also hosted a lecture last week by Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council expert who supports the 9/11 conspiracy theory.

In 2008, De Schutter was appointed a “Special Senior Advisor” to then UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, a former Sandinista politician who notoriously embraced Iran’s Ahmadinejad and other anti-Western tyrants. Other appointees included Falk; Ramsey Clark, the defender of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Rwandan torturers; and Noam Chomsky, the guru of anti-Americanism. Brockman today sits on the UNHRC Advisory Committee, together with Jean Ziegler. We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.



UN Watch letter sent today to UN Chief Ban Ki-moon:

His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon
The Secretary-General
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017
October 24, 2011

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We write concerning the alarming revelation by Wikileaks that the World Food Program had sent urgent letters to your predecessor warning that Jean Ziegler, a UN Human Rights Council official tasked with combating hunger, has engaged in “profoundly immoral” actions and “inflammatory” politics that endanger the lives of millions of starving people worldwide.

We urge you to (a) commission an international and independent inquiry to determine who in the United Nations knew about this detailed warning, and why no remedial actions were taken to remove Mr. Ziegler, and prevent him from further harming the lives of hungry people; (b) demand that Mr. Ziegler immediately resign from all of his UNHRC responsibilities, especially those relating to hunger; and (c) take steps to ensure that Mr. Ziegler’s successor, Olivier de Schutter, refrains from following a similar path.

We enclose here one of the letters, dated 24 October 2002, from World Food Program Executive Director James T. Morris to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. An earlier letter to Mr. Annan by his predecessor, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini, is referenced therein but has not yet been made public.

The enclosed WFP letter makes the most severe accusations against Jean Ziegler, who was the UN Human Right Council Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the period 2000-2008. Mr. Ziegler continues to serve the UN Human Rights Council as a member of its Advisory Committee and to perform mandates for it concerning the right to food.

As you know, the World Food Program is the food aid arm of the United Nations system, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, feeding more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.

In the enclosed letter, the World Food Program—the genuine expert on hunger—accuses Mr. Ziegler of making it “harder rather than easier for WFP to help hungry people fulfill their right to food in emergencies.” Mr. Ziegler, says the WFP, is “playing politics with aid,” and his actions and statements are “profoundly immoral” and “unconscionable.”

According to the World Food Program, the “clearly inflammatory politics played by Mr. Ziegler has had a negative impact on the lives of the hungry.” Moreover, Mr. Ziegler’s “public statements and the reports he has submitted to the General Assembly show a serious lack of understanding of economics and the details of the food situation in the areas he professes to analyze on behalf of the High Commissioner.”

The Wikileaks cable also reveals that the late UN rights chief Sergio de Mello, in a meeting with WFP Acting Deputy Executive Director Jean Jacques Graisse, reportedly expressed “considerable exasperation with Ziegler,” saying that “the man had taken up half of [de Mello’s] time since entering office.

In 2004, UN Watch published detailed reports on Mr. Ziegler’s record which corroborated the World Food Program’s disturbing findings, including our report “Blind to Burundi: Jean Ziegler’s Neglect of the World’s Food Emergencies.” We also documented Mr. Ziegler’s propaganda on behalf of the Gaddafi regime, including his key role in founding, managing and receiving the “Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.” Tragically, even as the UN was in possession of WFP’s expert substantiation of this information, the world body ignored our appeals for action. Millions of hungry people have suffered as a result.

In light of the above, we respectfully urge you (a) to create an international and independent commission of inquiry to determine who in the United Nations knew about this detailed warning, and why no remedial actions were taken to remove Mr. Ziegler and prevent him from further harming the lives of hungry people; and (b) to call on Mr. Ziegler to resign from all of his ongoing UNHRC responsibilities, especially those relating to hunger.

In addition, we are concerned about actions by Mr. Ziegler’s successor, Mr. Olivier de Schutter, which seem to follow at least some of the same politicized agenda and misplaced priorities. For example, Mr. de Schutter is planning to conduct a special country visit to Canada in May 2012. However, he has refused to answer questions by UN Watch as to why a UN champion for starving people should be wasting precious time and resources visiting Canada, instead of spotlighting countries that do have food emergencies, such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudanand Zimbabwe.

Like Mr. Ziegler, who was often confused by media agencies with being the UNHRC expert on Palestine, Mr. de Schutter has repeatedly misused his mandate on hunger to make one-sided and political attacks on Israel that lack a genuine nexus to his mandate. For example, on July 7 of this year, Mr. de Schutter went so far as to issue a pre-emptive attack on one of your own statements, in a press release marked “Urgent” and entitled “UN Special Rapporteur opposes Ban Ki-Moon’s conclusions on flotilla.” It is rare for a UN rapporteur to attack a statement by the UN Secretary-General, and unprecedented to do so by anticipatory action.

Mr. de Schutter’s recent report on Syria, while mentioning several problems there, raises serious questions about his approach. The report takes pains to repeatedly praise and “commend” the Assad regime. “The Special Rapporteur commends the Government of the Syrian ArabRepublic for its cooperation during the mission”; “The Special Rapporteur commends the efforts made to support agri-food economic activities with added value (for example, cheese-making)”; and the Special Rapporteur “applauded the efforts of the Government of Syria in seeking to provide food security to its population.”

Instead, Mr. de Schutter reserves his harshest language to attack the international community for its “unacceptably poor” response to Syrian drought, and to attack Israel for controlling the Golan Heights, which de Schutter inexplicably categorized as one of Syria’s three “huge challenges” regarding hunger.

Accordingly, we urge you to take steps to ensure that Mr. de Schutter refrains from following the same path as his predecessor.

There are millions of hungry people worldwide. They need the UN’s urgent help, not inflammatory politics. Thank you for your consideration.

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

UN Watch