NGO urges Ban Ki-moon, Navi Pillay and Olivier de Schutter to speak out
GENEVA, October 24 — A Wikileaks cable circulated for the first time today reveals that Kofi Annan was in possession of an urgent World Food Program request to remove a UN Human Rights Council’s expert on hunger because he was playing “profoundly immoral” and “inflammatory” politics that “had a negative impact on the lives of the hungry.” See detailed letter to Ban Ki-moon below. Click here for PDF.
The Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch today urged Ban Ki-moon and UN rights chief Navi Pillay to call on Jean Ziegler, the former UNHRC special rapporteur on the right to food, to resign from his continuing council mandates on hunger. As a member of the UNHRC Advisory Committee, Ziegler has participated 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 reported that Ziegler covered up his role as founder of the “Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights,” and 45 NGOs called on him to resign.
UN Watch director Hillel Neuer also called on Olivier de Schutter, the council’s current special rapporteur, who reports today to the General Assembly, to repudiate Ziegler’s “politicized path.” Mr. de Schutter, who has expressed admiration for Ziegler, this year praised Syria’s Assad regime in a major report, often attacks the West and Israel, and has refused to explain why he is planning a country visit next May to food-secure Canada, instead of spotlighting food emergency countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.
In 2008, Mr. de Schutter was appointed a “Special Senior Advisor” to UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, a former Sandinista politician who often embraces Iran’s Ahmadinejad and other anti-Western tyrants. Other appointees included Richard Falk, supporter of the 9/11 conspiracy theory; Ramsey Clark, who has defended Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Rwandan torturers; and Noam Chomsky, the anti-American guru.
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, Sudan and 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 Arab Republic 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