Turtle Bay
Simonovic memo to Navi Pillay on U.N. response to The Whistleblower

To: Navi Pillay/UNCHR/UN@UNCHR
From: Ivan Simonovic/NY/UNO
Date: 07/05/2011 
Subject: S-G’s senior advisers’ meeting this morning: Tunis and The Whistleblower

Dear Navi, and colleagues,

During the meeting of the S-G’s senior advisers today, with thanks for the information provided by Shahrzad, I informed the participants on your upcoming visit to Tunis and the planned signing of the MoU with the Government for the opening of our country office there, which was welcomed by everyone.

I also raised the issue of “The Whistleblower”, a high-profile Hollywood movie to be released in August dealing with peace-keepers’ involvement with human trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina - see http://turtlebay.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/06/29/the_whistleblower_the_movie_the_un_would_prefer_you_didnt_see .

The ensuing discussion absorbed us for the remaining 40 minutes of the meeting. OHCHR’s position that the UN should be proactive and condemn unacceptable practices in Bosnia, inform on improvements of UN policies since then and firmly commit ourselves to continue doing so in the future was supported by UN Women (Bachelet) , DSS, OCHA (Bragg) and the SRSG on CAAC (Coomaraswamy) who was at the time Special Representative for violence against women.

DPI (Akasaka) and OLA (O’Brien) thought that a proactive approach, and especially ASG Bragg’s proposal of a public screening of the movie at the UN, to be followed by a frank discussion -  is counter-productive and would contribute to the film’s impact. They preferred downplaying the film and instead preparing answers on an if-asked basis.

The EOSG (Meyer, Mandiyan and Nambiar) was well informed of the issue and supported our initial position, opting for a proactive approach - with Nambiar exposing his personal knowledge of the events and with Mandiyan speaking very passionately. The S-G[Secretary General] considered this a very serious matter and was obviously [s]hocked by the honest assessments of his senior advisers on the past involvement of some national contingents in human trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as some other instances that were raised.

A small group (including OHCHR) will be established to prepare the UN’s proactive approach, which will most likely include a public screening and public statements.

Taking into account that there was no time for prior consultations, I would appreciate the matter to be discussed between colleagues in Geneva and New York and further input provided into the overall UN response. I believe that our strong ethical position on this is complementary to our approach to the human rights due diligence policy, which both will contribute a more ethical UN peace-keeping.