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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1587

UN’s Lynn Pascoe cannot avoid being influenced by US State Department agenda on Sri Lanka

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Washington, D.C. 30 April (

b_lynn_pascoe.jpgOn a December day in 2006 Lynn Pascoe received a telephone call from Washington, to be precise from the U.S. State Department, at his office in Jakarta, Indonesia asking him if he were interested in the position of under-secretary-general for political affairs in the United Nations, an influential slot under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Pascoe was the American ambassador in Indonesia, and the call to him from the State Department meant that the Americans have secured the most coveted and influential position in the UN system next to Ban Ki-moon.

After all, the United Nations would not exist without the United States. The US alone, contributes 22% of the budget for the entire organization. Only Japan, with 19%, is anywhere near the US level of contribution. China, for example only pays slightly over 2% of the total UN budget.

On the other hand, the United States, since sixties, has been vigorously canvassing and advocating, under US Congressional pressure, to increase its personnel in the UN system and wanted coveted and influential slots.
The position offered to Lynn Pascoe was the most influential slot an American received after a long gap.

The State Department played it well; Ambassador Pascoe, after a 40-year stint as a Foreign Service Officer, was about to retire; Ban Ki-moon whose election was largely due to the American support had agreed to give this top slot to an American; and after all the secretary-general knew Ambassador Pascoe well as they have worked together and had professional dealings when both men worked in their respective foreign ministries in the nineties.

Returned from Jakarta Pascoe met Ban Ki-moon on January 1 (2007), retired from the American Foreign Service in February and settled in the position of under-secretary-general for political affairs on March 1.

Mr. Pascoe was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia, from October 2004 to February 2007. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department in Washington, D.C., following postings as U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia and U.S. Special Negotiator for Regional Conflicts in the former Soviet Union.

In 1996, Mr. Pascoe served at the United Nations as a Special Advisor to the U.S. Permanent Mission to the UN. From 1993 to 1996, he was Director of the American Institute in Taiwan. He also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the East Asian and Pacific Bureau of the State Department, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department of State, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State.

In an almost forty-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Mr. Pascoe also held positions on the Soviet and China desks and has been posted to Moscow, Hong Kong and Bangkok, as well as to Beijing twice and to Kuala Lumpur.

The Congressional Accounting Office (GAO), an independent research arm of the U.S. Congress, has occasionally criticized the State Department not pushing for top slots in the UN system.

The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in the UN was established in 1992 and is headed by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs now occupied by Lynn Pascoe . The Under-Secretary manages the department, advises the Secretary-General on matters affecting global peace and security, and provides guidance to his envoys and political missions in the field.

The Under-Secretary-General also serves on the Secretary-General’s Policy Committee, the highest decision-making body within the U.N. Secretariat, and chairs the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, a high-level body for interagency and interdepartmental coordination. Where complex crises require contributions from a range of U.N. entities, DPA is often called upon to establish an overarching political framework within which political, developmental and humanitarian action can go forth.

The Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen the Department of Political Affairs received substantial support in the UN General Assembly, which approved nearly 50 new staff positions in DPA as part of its adjustments to the 2008-2009 budget.

The staff increases adopted in Resolution 261 of 24 December, 2008 go largely to the Department’s regional, mediation support and electoral divisions constitute the most substantial resource increases for DPA since its establishment in 1992.

For years, the State Department has emphasized quality of U.S. personnel--their rank and influence in the U.N. At many a time, compared with other countries, the U.S. has placed far lower. Staffing at the highest levels is, of course, especially important to the United States.

Arkady Shevchenko once explained that in his capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Political and Security Council Affairs, his advice was asked on key issues in the Security Council and the First Committee of the General Assembly. He had occasion to influence policy as well in the twenty-seven committees in his charge, whose agendas were drafted mainly by his staff.

Mr. Shevchenko said at that time the USSR was well aware that someone strategically placed in the UN system can be of considerable use to his government. The U.S. is well aware of this factor.

The General Accounting Office Report to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, May 16, 1977 on page 30 said: "In reply to our previous reports on the low number of Americans in the international organizations, the Department of State said that its primary emphasis is on placing Americans in key positions, with total numbers a secondary objective."

Despite the Assistant Secretary of U.S. State Department for International Organization Gregory J. Newell included as one of his "Five Priorities for U.S. Policy is to insist on increasing U.S. Personnel in international organizations”.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) in its May 16, 1977, study said: “In the area of improving the U.S. recruiting system in the UN the Department of State has done little to improve the situation.”

The report stated:

* The State Department should give higher priority to the quality of Americans it recommends for U.N. staffs.

* .The U.S. should consider cutting its funding to U.N. agencies that do not raise the level of U.S. staffing to in desirable ranges.

* Congress should require the Secretary of State to report annually on his implementation of a more aggressive plan for improving participation (in the UN system) and to determine whether the massive U.S. funding of U.N. personnel is being used effectively, efficiently, and in American interests.

* Congress should commission a study of U.N. personnel. Such steps would lead to a clearer understanding of the role of the United States at the United Nations, of the problems inherent in U.S. staffing, and of the U.S. staffers' position relative to friends and enemies.

The GAO report in conclusion said: “Thus armed, the U.S could improve its quantitative and qualitative status within the United Nations by positive measures--or by withdrawal from significant participation and financial support.”

The Lynn Pascoe Factor and Sri Lanka

It is now very clear the manner in which the United States was and is seriously interested in placing its nominees in most influential positions in the UN system.

The most influential area is the Secretary-General’s Secretariat to which Ambassador Lynn Pascoe is attached as the under-secretary-general for political affairs.

We noted the jurisdiction this office holds for the reader to understand the ‘clout’ the person who holds that position is entrusted with.

Can the State Department and the US Permanent Mission in the UN have their ‘clout’ in this UN office? Yes, if their nominee presides over the affairs of the office of under-secretary-general for political affairs who is directly under the UN secretary-general.

Can their agenda be made part of the holder of this UN office? In the case of Ambassador Lynn Pascoe he is well aware of the foreign policy objective/agenda of the U.S. State Department on various field, issues and those applying to individual countries as he was Foreign Service Officer for almost 40 years.

Does Mr. Pascoe maintain contacts with officials of the State Department and the Permanent Mission? If the answer is negative why should the U.S. Congress and its independent research arm the General Accounting Office encourage the State Department to engage in ‘improved American participation’ at the highest level of the UN system? And “to determine whether the massive U.S. funding of U.N. personnel is being used effectively, efficiently, and in American interests.”

Can the U.S. State Department work through Ambassador Pascoe to achieve certain foreign policy goals the Department officials so far have failed to achieve?

That is exactly what Mr. Pascoe is engaged in dealing with the situation in Sri Lanka, and one could see some similarity between the agenda Robert Blake’s South-Central Asia Bureau of the State Department is promoting and what Mr. Pascoe is engaged in regarding the issues connected to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Blake and Ms. Rice of the US Permanent Mission in UN have had many serious dialogues with the representatives of the U.S.-based Tamil Diaspora on Sri Lankan issues such as (1) War Crimes (2) Genocide (3) Discrimination of minority Tamils (4) bringing Sri Lankan official before war crimes tribunals.

One need not have any doubts that UN under-secretary general for political affairs Lynn Pascoe is unaware of these issues and the dialogues that progressed and what the agenda of Robert Blake’s office developed on Sri Lanka.

We do not suggest here that Mr. Pascoe cannot independently act on many Sri Lankan issues his political office and Mr. Blake’s office consider most important. But the affinity between Mr. Pascoe and the operating style of the U.S. State Department cannot be broken because of his very long association with the U.S. foreign policy.

In fact, when the State Department places experienced Foreign Service Officer in the caliber of Ambassador Lynn Pascoe it expects to gain far reaching foreign policy goals through the office he holds in respect to major foreign policy issues or issues that are confined to individual countries.

Neither Sri Lanka nor Ambassador Pascoe could escape this reality.

It is reported in Sri Lankan media that the United Nations has sought permission from the Sri Lankan government to facilitate a visit by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe in mid May to discuss the developments in Sri Lanka.

While the purpose of Pascoe’s visit earlier was to discuss the appointment of the UN’s panel of experts, it is unsure if such discussions are still on the agenda, reports the media.

The ‘panel of experts’ the UN means is to assess the culpability of the Sri Lankan authority of war crimes and atrocities committed between the months of January and May 19 of 2009 in its military offensive against the separatist/terrorist Tamil Tigers.

Robert Blake’s South-Central Asian Affairs Bureau of the State Department wanted the GSL to allow an independent international panel to undertake the same task.
Since the Sri Lanka government has taken a pugnacious approach to this U.S. position Blake seems to have soft peddled the issue.

The GSL previously dismissed this proposal that came from Ban Ki-moon. The so called representatives of the U.S.-domiciled Tamil Diaspora who maintain constant dialogue with Blake’s office, Democratic senator Patrick Leahy and other USG officials were largely responsible for bringing up the ‘war crimes and atrocities’ and ‘genocide’ issues to the forefront. Last November an attempt was made to corner former Sri Lanka army commander General Sarath Fonseka by the Human Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland to get a statement on the issue, and implicate Sri Lanka’s defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

It is in this context that the Government of Sri Lanka needs to be extra cautious about its dealings with Ambassador Lynn Pascoe in the light of his background and his indestructible relations with his former employer and the foreign policy goals of that employer and the State Department enforcers of the foreign policy whether they be serious global issues or issues connected to individual countries.

- Asian Tribune -

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