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Cablegate: Acting a/S Brian Hook Meets a Range of Officials

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGV #0526/01 1921222
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101222Z JUL 08
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6701
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2786

UNCLAS GENEVA 000526

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SECSTATE FOR IO-RHS, DRL-MLGA, L-HRR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM UNHRC
SUBJECT: ACTING A/S BRIAN HOOK MEETS A RANGE OF OFFICIALS
ON VISIT TO GENEVA

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On a June 26-27 visit to Geneva, Acting
A/S Brian Hook met with officials from a range of
international organizations. With the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees, Hook brainstormed about innovative
fundraising for international organizations. Officials from
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights shared
their views about where the U.S. can best support their work.
The UN Office of Geneva laid out infrastructural support
needs for UN operations in Geneva, and the Director General
of the International Labor Organization introduced Hook to
his vision for the ILO. Hook reiterated USG positions on the
activities of all these organizations, from concerns about
the independence of OHCHR from the Human Rights Council (HRC)
to support for ILO's field work successes. End Summary.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
-----------------------------------------

2. (SBU) A/AS Hook discussed a range of reforms and changes
ongoing at UNHCR with Executive Director for External
Relations Nick Van Praag. Van Praag laid out several
objectives that will improve UNHCR's responsiveness to the
needs of its beneficiaries. He highlighted innovative
private sector fundraising, human resources restructuring,
efforts to move UNHCR ever more into the field, and efforts
to increase contributions from non-traditional donors
including the Persian Gulf states. In terms of donor
diversification, partnerships and donations from consulting,
marketing and software firms would broaden UNHCR's support
base. Van Praag said he was also pushing Persian Gulf States
to recognize that refugee aid would be an admirable way to
distinguish their foreign policy. He said the UNHCR-wide
reform program, Structural and Management Change (SMC), had
moved about 20 percent of its staff out of Geneva, partly by
shifting much of the logistical and administrative support to
the less costly location of Budapest. SMC has also reaped
huge cost savings; for example, 75% of the salary and benefit
costs of an archivist job were saved by moving the position
to Budapest. Ongoing surveys of the personnel structure
would analyze the balance between field offices in capitals
versus in the "deep field", as well as the seniority of staff
in the "deep field." The goal was to get more expertise
closer to populations of concern, where it was most needed.
Van Praag concluded the meeting by noting that UNHCR as an
organization, and the High Commissioner in particular, saw a
need to rethink the international approach to refugees, given
increasingly higher urban refugee populations as well as the
impact on humanitarian operations from factors like climate
change, the food crisis, and security.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
--------------------------------------------- -----------

3. (SBU) Accompanied by DCM Storella, Hook focused on
continued U.S. human rights engagement with Deputy High
Commissioner Kung Wha-Kang (who has since become the Acting
High Commissioner) and Charles Radcliffe, Chief of Donor and
External Relations. Engagement with a strong new High
Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) was essential for moving
concrete human rights protection forward, said Hook,
emphasizing the need for the HCHR to maintain independence
from Human Rights Council oversight. Kang replied that there
was no statutory justification for HRC oversight authority,
and in reality, most OHCHR work took place entirely without
HRC knowledge. In addition, Kang said she was sure that, in
selecting the next High Commissioner, SyG Ban would take into
account the need for strength of character to resist a
Council inroads on OHCHR independence. Radcliffe said it was
important to remember that 92 percent of OHCHR's funding goes
to programming that had absolutely nothing to do with HRC
initiatives, and that work went on entirely regardless of HRC
approval or lack thereof. Hook affirmed U.S. readiness to
support OHCHR's work in whatever manner would be most
effective.

4. (SBU) Kang thought the Egyptian and Pakistani push for
oversight (and especially for HRC approval of OHCHR field
presences) would likely show up in this year's UN General
Assembly (UNGA) Third Committee, but had probably not yet
reached the point of a serious call for a UNGA resolution on
the issue. Kang also asked for information on U.S.
initiatives in the Third Committee. She said she was
disappointed with the USG withdrawal from the HRC but looked
forward to further cooperation in other fora. She also
expressed gratitude for USG contributions to OHCHR. Kang
hoped that Radcliffe's upcoming move to NY, where he is to
work in OHCHR's New York office, would increase awareness of
the dynamics involving the Office.

5. (SBU) A meeting with the directors of OHCHR field offices
covered the range and placement of those offices. Fabrizio
Hochschild (Chief of Field Operations), Jong-Gil Woo (Human
Rights Officer, Asia-Pacific Unit), Maggie Nicholson (head of
the Europe, North America, and Central Asia Unit), and Elio
Tamburi Quinteiro (head of the Latin America and Caribbean
Unit) attended the meeting. Hochschild informally
recommended that USDel weigh in heavily with the next High
Commissioner on the importance of field work. As OHCHR is
relatively new to a heavy field presence, he said some in the
organization still had questions about whether there should
be more activity at Geneva headquarters, e.g., on treaty
bodies. Hochschild expressed greater concern than had Deputy
High Commissioner Kang about continued HRC attempts to
oversee OHCHR's work. The new Nigerian Council President's
early emphasis on resolving control questions was also
troubling, especially in light of the absence of U.S.
counter-influence. Hochschild had also heard that
delegations favoring greater Council control of OHCHR work
are beginning to be more active in NY (where any oversight
mandates would originate).

6. (SBU) Hochschild also addressed OHCHR's action on Zimbabwe
and in Central Asia. He expressed concern that the
government in Zimbabwe might grant amnesty for serious human
rights abuses in the name of national reconciliation. He
hoped for a good investigation of the circumstances of the
Zimbabwe election. Hochschild requested USG support in
Central Asia, where the OHCHR has had limited access (though
the recent establishment of a Bishkek regional office -- over
the strong objections of Tashkent -- was a success).
Nicholson pointed to Uzbekistan as a particularly hard nut to
crack. OHCHR was trying to engage on small matters as an
entree to a more cooperative relationship, but had not yet
gotten much traction with the government there.

United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG)
--------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Jan Beagle, Deputy Director General of UNOG,
reviewed the increasingly dire renovation needs of the Palais
des Nations complex in Geneva. Calling the Palais the
largest conference center in the world, Beagle noted that
flooding and electrical and plumbing problems due to outdated
equipment were becoming difficult to manage. Beagle hoped
her exposure to the renovation process in NY would help in
coping with the Geneva complex's problems. Hook encouraged
her to think about commercial partnerships and seek lessons
learned from addressing the infrastructure problems in the
New York complex. Beagle also noted the need for better
coordination in Geneva among UN programs as well as with
specialized agencies on a variety of policy and program
issues.

International Labor Organization (ILO)
--------------------------------------
8. (SBU) Accompanied by Ambassador Tichenor, Acting A/S Hook
met with Director General Juan Somavia and discussed the
positive achievements of the ILO in Colombia and Burma. The
ILO was monitoring the possibility of the use of forced labor
by the Burmese government for cyclone reconstruction.
Somavia argued that the ILO's strength lies in analysis and
promoting constructive dialogue, leaving actual sanctions to
others. He pointed to the U.S. Congress using ILO
assessments to recommend sanctions, and to companies' use of
positive imprimatur by the ILO to remain invested in
Cambodia. Ambassador Tichenor reiterated our previous call
for the appointment of George Dragnich to become Executive
Director of Social Dialogue. The Ambassador also mentioned
hearing that some countries would prefer to tie Somavia's
third term to a firmer commitment to a two-term limit in
future. Somavia noted that he was running for a third term
at the behest of the member states, and would not block any
consideration about stricter term limits as it was up to the
constituents.

9. (U) This cable has been cleared by Acting A/S Hook.
STORELLA

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