- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

Bolton bolts

Newly arrived U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton spoke to the press on Wednesday, two days after his arrival in New York. Perhaps aware of his reputation as human flamethrower — or, perhaps, under strict orders from Washington not to feed his critics — the diplomat chose to embody congeniality.

“We had a lot of messages but mostly I was listening,” Mr. Bolton said after an hourlong meeting on U.N. reform with General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon.

“Former Secretary of State George Shultz once said, ‘Listening is a vastly underrated method of obtaining information,’ and I was following his advice today.”

With that, Mr. Bolton sailed past the reporters and off to a waiting sedan.

Cleaning house

Secretary-General Kofi Annan may be pulling the plug on the U.N. office charged with protecting children caught in armed conflict.

The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict has been run since its 1998 creation by Olara Otunnu, a former Ugandan foreign minister, but his term was not renewed.

Mr. Annan last week appointed former UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Karin Sham Poo of Norway as his interim special representative for children and armed conflict, but officials stress that the role is temporary and it is not clear what will happen to the office in the long run.

Mrs. Sham Poo’s appointment has fueled speculation in the building that the armed conflict office will be folded into UNICEF, ending a turf battle that has simmered quietly for most of the past eight years.

Although that could say something for U.N. reform and efficiency, Secretariat officials are not quick to take credit.

Few offices in the U.N. system exist only for advocacy. Most also provide services or assistance to vulnerable populations. The office on children and conflict was funded by the U.N. regular budget and some voluntary contributions, and did not rely on member states for its budget.

Just two weeks ago, with substantial effort by Mr. Otunnu, the Security Council passed a resolution agreeing to name and shame armies and militias that routinely press children into service.

The council will monitor national armies or rebel groups operating in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Somalia and Sudan, which already are subject to council resolutions.

Next year it will add Colombia, Burma, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

It would be politically difficult for UNICEF, which relies on direct contributions from member states, not to mention access for tens of thousands of local and international staff around the world, to press for that kind of measure.

The special representative’s office is funded through November, but its fate after that is not clear.

Two million children have been killed during war and civil unrest over the past 10 years, according to Mr. Otunnu’s office, and as many as a quarter-million boys and girls are forcibly conscripted to serve as soldiers, porters, sexual slaves and munitions handlers.

Flash appeal

The United Nations on Friday issued an $81 million flash appeal for Niger, most of that money earmarked to feed 2.5 million people with precarious access to food.

Niger, already one of the poorest nations on the planet, has suffered anew from an infestation of locusts and persistent drought, said Margareta Wahlstrom, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator.

The drought and locusts have sent the price of grains soaring in a country where more than half the population of 11.7 million survives on less than $1 a day.

The United States said it is airlifting more than 200 tons of high-energy food supplements to Niger, most of that to help children at risk of starvation.

Betsy Pisik may be reached via e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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