Saturday, 20 December 2008

At UN, Korean Staff Rise from 51 to 70 in Ban's Two Years, on Pianos and Lobbyists, An Evolution

UNITED NATIONS, December 20 -- As Ban Ki-moon approaches his third year UN Secretary-General, the tug of his home country South Korea remains in evidence, which some around him seek to change. During a trip last month to Bangladesh, India, Nepal and the Philippines, South Korean business representatives sought repeatedly to meet Ban, and even got themselves listed on his schedule, until a staffer took them off. The just-released List of UN Staff as of July 1, 2008 shows 70 South Korean UN staff, up from 51 two years ago. Of the top five official in the Office of the Secretary-General, three are Korean, including Kim Won-soo, the advisor sometimes called Ban's brain, in a reference to Karl Rove and George W. Bush.

   In Ban's first half-year at the UN, questions about whatsome called the Koreanization of the UN were met withdenials and even threats. Inner City Press sought the List of Staff as of July 1, 2006 and was told that it would not be released. Obtaining a copy nonetheless, Inner City Presspublished the list of Korea staff, as a baseline. Ban's Spokesperson's Office complained, saying that the list could not be published. As an accommodation, Inner City Press then redacted the names from the list, and is not running most full names in this then-promised update article.

  We note, however, that for the last name Choi, there were three UN staff in mid-2007, and seven in mid-2008.  The new hires include Under Secretary General Choi Young-Jin, head of the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire, and Assistant Secretary General Choi Soon Hong, Ban's chief technology officer. To be fair, Han Seung-Soo has fallen off the list, as he returned to South Korea to serve as Prime Minister. Some predict more of this eastward migration.  More generally, a Ban administration shake-up is predicted for early 2009, on which we will report.

UN's Ban on recent trip, un-scheduling of Korean businessmen not shown

  At Ban's December 17 holiday party, he told the press that only the day before, a Korean company had donated a piano for his Sutton Place residence. Some sought to snoop around to see the renovated kitchen used, it has been reported, by Ban's own Korean chef. Inner City Press chose not to look around, and as luck would have it handed Ban a wine glass when he needed one to make a toast. Ban's scheduler, Yoon Yeocheol, joked genially that "you are taking over my job." Ban introduced a pianist, also Korean, who played with energy his own classical composition. 

  South Korea's contributions to UN Peacekeeping have gone up; statements have been made about the Millennium Development Goals and climate change. Relations between North and South Korea have not meaningfully improved, what with North Korea's recent expulsion of Southerners.

   An internal Ban administration memo strategizing how Ban's UN could take a central role in Korean Peninsula mattersInner City Press' reporting on which also led to push-back and a refusal to comment on leaked documents, has not borne fruit. One if left wondering if, just as Team Ban never announced the appointment of Robert Fowler as their envoy to Niger, there might be a stealth envoy to the Korean Peninsula whose existence and name has not been announced.

   Other than on some officials' voluntary public financial disclosure, the UN's transparency has yet to improve under Ban. Only this week, Inner City Press was told that the list of UN envoys should not be publicized or provided, and thateven the terms of Robert Fowler's mandate are confidential. Click here for more. In connection with this month's Middle East Quartet meeting in New York, letters to and from Tony Blair in his UN role on the Quartet were not disclosed or even summarized.

  Speaking of letters, at his holiday party Ban told the press of a Korean saying, that if you really love a girl, a potential girlfriend, you should write her ten love letters before getting some answer from her. While his point was not entirely clear -- other than his obvious and endearing love for his wife -- it appeared to concern persistence, which among with independence is needed not only in running but also in covering the United Nations.

In Ban's UN, Withheld List of Staff Shows 51 South Koreans As a Baseline, Series Will Continue

Despite the UN being a public institution, and despite Ban Ki-moon having run for Secretary-General on a platform of transparency, his Spokesperson on May 22 for the third time in five days denied access to a list of UN staff sorted by nationality.

            An Associate Spokesperson who came along with Mr. Ban's transition team declined to provide even the nameof another new hire from the transition team but now in the UN Department of Management (DM).

            In the face of this stonewalling, Inner City Press has put in a formal freedom of information-type request to the chief of the DM. Inner City Press has also, without the assistance of the UN Department of Public Information, reviewed a copy of the presumptively public data in the List of Staff of the UN Secretariat, and sets forth below, including as a sample to review Mr. Ban's "managed mobility" plan, a list of the 51 South Korean UN staffers in mid-2006. It should be noted that while the Spokesperson began, on May 17, by saying the List is only for member states, "and you are not a member state," the Swiss Ambassador, for example, has been clear that the List should not be kept secret.

            Going forward, in the spirit of transparency, this list should be periodically updated, beginning now, specifically with the name of the still-unnamed person brought into the UN along with Mr. Ban's transition team and placed in the Department of Management. Team Ban refuse to provide the name; in five days, the only argument advanced is that since the person is not technically on the 38th floor, unlike the other three the name need not be provided. This argument is inconsistent with the platform Mr. Ban ran on. Practically speaking, given Team Ban's (non) response, it appears that the only way to proceed is by comparing the list below, from mid-2006, to current, real-time information and identifying the new staff members. Consultants, as noted, are in their own gray zone.

   Mr. Ban is nearly entirely free to hire nearly whomever he wants. But to decline to provide names of senior appointments and people brought in with the transition team, and to withhold in full this basic information, militates for an ongoing investigative project.

            Mr. Ban's Spokesperson on May 17 chided Inner City Press for being interested in names, when "other correspondents here are interested in burning political questions." Inner City Press does cover political questions -- but generally directs its questions in this regard to members of the UN Security Council, which acts on questions of international peace and security. Mr. Ban ran on a platform of managing the UN better, and not speechifying as much as his predecessor.

            Half a year in, there are daily statements about far away issues, many of which the UN Secretariat has very little influence over. On political items directly in his control, such as whether toexpand the use of peacekeepers from Fiji despite December's military coup, a question has gone unresponded-to for two days. And basic management information is being withheld. Despite attempts to dissuade, including by holding reporting on UN management and reform to a higher standard than other UN reporting, Inner City Press intends to continue to pursue the Ban management story. The publication today of this baseline list is part of that coverage, but only part. This series will continue.

Mr. Ban and staff in a (data?) warehouse

            As a preliminary analysis of the List, the South Korean staffers at the UN in 2006 appear clustered, for example in the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP, which is headed by a South Korean, Kim Hak-su.  In the following list, the names in bold are new, and did not appear in the 2005 List. There is a separate list of those who appeared in 2005 but not 2006.

    While the Spokesperson has not said which of the information is the basis of the withholding, Inner City Press is for now redacting the column on "contractual status," including not only "dollar a year" but also whether "subject to the system of desirable ranges," even though there is no reason such information is private in a public institution. Whether a staff member is P-3 or P-4, etc., cannot be confidential: for example, Mr. Ban has advised journalists not to take their impression of the UN from "P-3s." While Inner City Press disagrees, how does Team Ban expect even compliant journalists to try to follow instructions if P-3 status is withheld? We will be reporting further on this and other lists.

2006 Republic of Korea -- 51

[REDACTED] L-5 x Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Senior Program Officer

[REDACTED]  P-3 [2005=L-2]  Human Rights Officer OHCHR [99]

[REDACTED]  P-4 Legal Officer, Counter-Terrorism Committee

[REDACTED]  P-4 Economic Affairs Officer, ESCAP

[REDACTED] / Mr. P-4 Economic Affairs Officer, ECA (Africa)

[REDACTED] / Mr P-5 Chief, Health and Dev't Section, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Civil Affairs Officer, UNMIK (Kosovo)

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Accountant

[REDACTED] / Ms. P-2 Associate Program Officer, UNEP

[REDACTED]  / Mr. D-1 Chief, Environmental and Sustainable Dev't, ESCAP

[REDACTED] / Mr. P-4 Political Affairs Officer, DDA (Disarmament)

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-5 [2005=P-4] Cartographic, DPKO (Peacekeeping)

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-5 [2005=P-4] Transport Chief, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Miss P-2 Associate Finance Officer

[REDACTED] / Ms. P-4 Seconded to Int'l Atomic Energy Agency

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-5 Chief, Central Accounts Section

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Economic Affairs Officer, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Ms. L-2 Associate Expert, DESA

[REDACTED]  / Mr. USG Executive Secretary, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Ms. G-4 General Service, DPKO

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-3 Program Officer, Special Advisor on Africa

[REDACTED]  / Ms. L-2 Associate Expert, DESA

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4 Accounts Chief, UN Pension Fund (Permanent contract)

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-4 Chief Civilian Personnel Officer, UNOCI (Cote D'Ivoire)

[REDACTED]  /  Mr. P-3 Human Resources, OHRM

[REDACTED]  / Mr. L-3 Expert, DESA, Vienna

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-2 Info Systems, DPKO

[REDACTED]  / Mrs. P-4 Social Affairs, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Mrs. P-4 Legal Officer OLA

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4 Accountant, Peacekeeping

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-3 Librarian DPI

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-4 [2005=P-3] Human Rights Officer, OHCHR

[REDACTED]  / Mr. L-5 Senior Program Officer, UNEP, Nairobi

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4 Auditor ECA

[REDACTED]  / Mr. G-4 General Service, DPKO

[REDACTED]  / Mr. G-3 General Service, GA

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4 Environmental Officer, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Engineer, UNOCI, Cote D'Ivoire

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4 [2005=P-3] Auditor, Internal Audit Unit [2005 was auditor DPKO Haiti]

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Finance Officer, Trust Funds

[REDACTED]  /  Mr. L-3 Associate Expert, DESA Vienna

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-3 Scientific, UNEP Busan

[REDACTED] / Ms. P-3 Engineer, DPKO

[REDACTED]  / Miss P-4 Officer, UNAMA Afghanistan

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-4  First Officer, Special Leave without Pay

[REDACTED]  / Mr. P-3 Human Rights Officer, OHCHR

[REDACTED]  / Mr. G-4 General Service, ESCAP

[REDACTED]  / Mr. G-5 General Service, UNEP Busan

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-4 Program Officer, UNEP Europe

[REDACTED]  / Ms. G-3 General Service OCHA

[REDACTED]  / Ms. P-5 Chief, ICT, ESCAP

  As noted, 10 of the 51 in 2006 were in ESCAP, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. It was stated that now there are five South Koreans in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, and that the five names would be provided. However, instead of five names, on May 17 only three were provided, handwritten:

Kim Won-soo ASG

Yoon Yeocheol Chief of scheduling, D1

Lee Sang-hwa P4 - first officer, scheduling

            In connection with the provision of these names, Ms. Choi Soung-ah came into the Spokesperson's office. Ms. Choi stated that five people, herself included, had come over with the transition, and she named journalists who she said knew all five. Who then is the fifth, Inner City Press asked. A person in the Department of Management, Ms. Choi said, and declined to provide the name, stating that he has nothing to do with the Executive Office. Staff tell Inner City Press he is working on "mandate review," although the OSSG has refused to name the individual or provide other information. One might infer from this series that withholding information and trying to dissuade inquiry and reporting may not attain the objective that is intended.

            Here now the Q&A at the May 22 UN noon briefing, and the (non) follow up thereto:

Question:  Just briefly, this public document, the copy from the Secretariat that you referred me to, it seems to not include consultants or dollar-a-year or when-actually-employed people.  They're not included in the count.

Spokesperson:  Which count?  What document are you referring to?

Question:  The public composition of the Secretariat document doesn't include in the count consultants, and explicitly excludes dollar-a-year officials and when-actually-employed people.  So I was wondering, first of all, if there's some reason why they're excluded but also, how many consultants the Secretariat or Secretary-General has?

Spokesperson:  If they're dollar-a-year people, they would not be included here.  We're talking about people who are employed on a regular basis with the Secretariat.

Question:  Well, I guess with consultants, that's where it seems...  It seems that somebody who's a consultant can be working for the UN virtually full time but they're not going to show up in these places.  It's just a factual question.  I wanted to know how many consultants there are.

Spokesperson:  I can check for you but you can always check for yourself.

Question:  That's what I’m saying.  The public document doesn't have that information.  That’s why I can't check.

Spokesperson:  Okay, we'll check on that.  But you know, we've spent a lot of time on that list.

Correspondent:  If it were released, we wouldn't be spending any time on it.

Spokesperson:  No, you would spend a lot more time on it because as I mentioned to you, the list you want to see is simply a directory of people with simply, next to them, their nationality and their level...

Question:  Okay, final question.  To whom should the request be addressed that the list of staff of the United Nations Secretary-General be made a public document?  To who should such a request be made, because I'm not going to keep --

Spokesperson:  It's not going to be made a public document.  If you want to consult it and you need permission to consult it, we'll give you the necessary information.

Question:  Ms. [Alicia] Barcena said there's a movement afoot to put in a freedom of information policy at the United Nations.  Even in the absence of such a policy, is there a place where one can make a formal request that a document that seems like it contains all public information be released?  I don't want to keep doing it here.  I agree with you.  So to whom is such a request made?

Spokesperson:  I’ll find out for you.  I think that’s really enough on the list.  ...

Correspondent:  And I think it should be made public.

Spokesperson:  That's your opinion.  And it's for reasons of privacy, as I said, that it's not public... it does not circulate publicly, it is for background information only.  Okay?  Thank you very much.

            The statement that the List does not include a code for dollar-a-year and When Actually Employed is not the case. In an attempt to obtain an answer to the questions asked, including how many consultants are employed, and to whom in the UN Secretariat to make a formal request that this List be released to the public, Inner City Press reiterated both in writing to the Office of the Spokesperson early Tuesday afternoon. Despite deadline, no response at all was received by 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

  When a public institution like the UN provides no mechanism to challenge the arbitrary withholding of presumptively public information, it appears that the only way to proceed is by moving forward with what information is available.

  Provided to date: no information about consultants, not even to whom to make a request. A request has nonetheless been sent, in the style of a freedom of information request. Developing.

Update of May 23, 2007 -- a week after declining to provide the name, on Wednesday evening Associate UN Spokesperson Choi Soung-ah wrote to Inner City Press that

"the Secretary-General brought five Koreans with him to the Secretariat. The five were with him during the transition period as well. Of the five, three are on the 38th floor as you have previously been informed, myself  (you know who I am) assigned to the Spokesperson's office, and Mr. Kweon Ki-hwan assigned to the Office of the Under-Secretary General for Management."

   Along with thanking Ms. Choi for this response, how ever belated, Inner City Press has asked among other things, "what post in the UN Department of Management was Kweon Ki-hwan put into, and what process was followed to put him in this post?" Developing.

Update of May 25, 2007, explaining the voluntary redactions above:

           Ms. Montas wrote:

Subject: Fw: Michele - Noon question(s) in writing as request: who can see The List, S-G/Bashir communications, and Fiji peacekeepers follow-up, thanks

From: Michele Montas [at]

To: matthew.lee [at]

Sent: Fri, 25 May 2007 1:39 pm

Matthew, One clarification:

The five staff members from the Republic of Korea ,who were appointed by the Secretary-General, were appointed to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). Two of them, Choi Soung-ah and Kweon Ki-hwan, have been assigned to other departments -- the Department of Public Information and the Department of Management respectively. But they remain staff members of EOSG, and perform tasks that are closely related to EOSG work.

While we recognize your right to report, the publication and singling out of UN staffers simply because of the passport they carry is unfair to these international civil servants. It is especially unfair to have targeted nationals of the Republic of Korea who were in the organization before Ban Ki-moon became Secretary-General.

As requested and in accordance with UN policy on staff privacy, we would appreciate it if you removed that list from your website. I specifically told you that the document listing the names of all UN staffers was strictly for  background information and could not be published. I am truly disappopinted [sic] that once more you did not respect the journalistic norms on background information.  Michele

            This "once more" reference is to a briefing given to dozens of UN correspondents by a person who insisted on only being identified as "a senior UN official," and who proceeded to repeatedly state that a white plane used by the Sudanese government in Darfur, with "UN" on its wing, came from Kazakhstan. Later, Inner City Press' research, still not contested by the UN, matched the number on the plane's wing with a Russian airline, and after deliberation, Inner City Press did not name the UN briefer, but stated his nationality, Russian.

   Inner City Press was approached by an individual in the UN Department of Public Information -- apparently no one in the UN is supposed to be named -- and had what seemed to be a clarifying conversation. Among other things, Inner City Press advised that particularly in light of the UN's position that as an inter-governmental body they must defer to member states (most recently canceling a human rights film about the Hmong at the request of Vietnam, click here for that), the UN should not be requesting anonymity in order to accuse, as it now appears falsely, a member state.  The conversation seemed productive.

    Now Ms. Montas bootstraps on the "white plane" situation to claim that Inner City Press' use of the List of Staff of the UN Secretariat, which Inner City Press did not access in Ms. Montas' office in light of her demand that this only be on "background" and could not be used. Inner City Press was provided with the information by a source, without any restriction, just as the Sudan white plane story originated by a leak of a then-confidential UN report to a UN correspondent.

   Ms. Montas and DPI did not ask that the white plane information not be published, or be retracted. But now the claim is that since the UN made an offer of the List on background -- an offer that was rejected -- the UN can now state that it is disappointed that information that it characterizes as background was published. Inner City Press  -- and the Swiss mission to the UN, as previously reported -- dispute that the List should be withheld, and Inner City Press obtained it from another source, and even then redacted a portion of it, contract status.

            It is worth noting, as simply one example, that the U.S. State Department phone book of names and posts is on its Web site. In fact, public UN information lists names, and the definition (by "grade") of posts. So apparently the claim is that nationality is confidential, even though the UN has a hiring system (called "desirable ranges") that is explicitly based on nationality.

            To accommodate this request, however, Inner City Press today redacts from its May 22 article the names of the 51 South Koreans employed in the UN Secretariat in mid-2006, pre-Ban. Inner City Press has asked that this number be updated; there has been no response yet to that request. To be clear, the number at December 31, 2006 may have been higher than 51. Inner City Press is told by well placed sources that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA, noticeably started hiring South Koreans after Mr. Ban's selection as S-G, but before the end of the year.

            Questions that should in the interim be answered: what was the number on December 31, 2006; what is the number now, and when and how frequently will updates be provided?

            And as to the claim at Friday's noon briefing that there was an interview and evaluation process for the post, the vacancy announcements should be produced.

            A statement made at Friday's noon briefing was that "all posts on the 38th floor were staffed through a competitive process." Video here, from Minute 12:35.This has elicited laughter from several of Inner City Press' sources, distilled to a question: was there a competitive process for the posts of Messrs. Kim, Lee and Yoon? But we'll assume that the "all" was mis-spoken. And we'll hope for -- and invest time in -- a better question-and-answer process next week.

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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Suspended UN Pornographer Opposed Gays, Liked Dogs, As Higher Ups Escape

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- For months Inner City Press has heard of an investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services into widespread use of UN equipment and time to view pornography. On December 11, the New York Post broke the story in a short 130-word article, naming a single UN staff member, "Mario Antonio, of the Philippines." He is a relatively lower level staffer, General Service rather than Professional or Director, employed in the Plant Engineering Section of the Office of Central Support Services.

The narrative in the Report of Investigation, marked Strictly Confidential by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services but obtained by Inner City Press and put online here -- says that he sent pornography to at least 72 other UN staff members. And what did they do with the images? One of the recipients was in OIOS itself; 61 were in the Department of Management, 13 in Security and two in the Department of Public Information.

Mario Anthony's defense, included in the Report, was to describe his "understanding of pornography as 'any extreme sexual activity,' for example, sexual activity between same sex individuals."

The Report includes reference to a video clip found on Mario Anthony's computer, sent out by email under the header "GERMAN," portraying a woman engaged in sex with a German Shepherd dog. To fit in with Anthony's defense, it must have been a male dog, one wag quipped.

On December 12, the day after the article, Mario Anthony was suspended without pay. Inner City Press asked the UN's associate spokesperson, "Can you confirm that there is a wider investigation? Is this the only person that was being looked at or is there an ongoing investigation?" The Associate Spokesperson answered, "This is all that I can say about this."

At the UN, many screens - but who is watching whom (and what)?

It seems unfair to throw a low level staffer to the wolves, to suspend him without pay, while the investigation is known to involve much higher UN officials. Who leaked the name of Mario Antonio? Sources say it came from within OIOS itself. Was this done to take the air out of the balloon of the wider investigation, to let off the hook higher level officials? There are others implicated, including within OIOS itself. So where is OIOS on this? Watch this site.

Footnote: as France on Thursday presented a declaration calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, Syria and Egypt presented an alternative, an earlier draft of which denounced bestiality. Inner City Press asked France's Rama Yade to respond to the Syrian text, and to the legal challenge to France's violation of human rights announced this week by Sikhs who say that by France requiring them to remove their turbans, their religious rights are being infringed. Rama Yade did not answer the latter. Video here.

Perhaps, a reporter suggested, Rama Yade is embarrassed by France's position. No more embarrassed than Mario Antonio...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Economic Crisis? Not at the U.N.

By: Stewart Stogel

UNITED NATIONS -- As international financial markets sink ever deeper in red ink, the United Nations continues as if very little has changed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has complained that he is well aware of the current financial hardships and is trying to set an example of austerity, but "nobody has followed."

Last month, he told reporters he ordered "an immediate 2 percent reduction in the budgets of all departments, across the board."

Problem is, Ban did not have the authority. It belongs to the General Assembly, which ignored him.

But, if you look at Ban directly, austerity is not an adjective that comes to mind.

When Ban first arrived in New York City in October 2006, he was the "secretary-general in waiting" (he took office Jan. 1, 2007). The former South Korean foreign minister opted to shun his wait in a private apartment and instead settled into a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria that cost nearly $30,000 a month. That did not include the hiring of chefs specializing in Korean cuisine.

The initial costs of Ban's Waldorf stay were picked up by the South Korean government. But, on Jan. 1, 2007, the U.N. assumed all the bills.

The new secretary-general remained at the Waldorf for another eight months while his official residence was being "renovated."

The home, a multistory townhouse on the Upper East Side (3 Sutton Place), was to undergo "major upgrades," and the original estimate submitted to the General Assembly was approximately $4.5 million. It was the second renovation project in 10 years.

By mid-August, when the "upgrades" were complete, U.N. records show the costs ballooned to more than $6.7 million -- and that did not include the long-term hiring of Korean chefs to make the "S-G feel at home."

But a new home is not enough. Ban needed a new car, so the U.N. took possession of a new Mercedes-Benz S-550 series limousine estimated to be worth more than $100,000.

All of which comes on top of a compensation package that exceeds $400,000 after taxes. Ban's final take-home pay is nearly equal to that of President George W. Bush before taxes.

But, a new home and a new car do not complete the package. What about travel?

U.N. documents obtained by Newsmax show the secretary-general has spent more than a third of the year on the road.

In 2007, Ban and his minions were away for more than 130 days. In 2008, he so far has spent 126 days out of town, but the year is not over.

Ban's predecessor, Kofi Annan, who used his last year making worldwide "farewells," spent slightly over 135 days globetrotting. But at the time, financial markets around the world were not collapsing.

And of course, all travel is first class.

Despite the worsening financial crisis, U.N. records show the Executive Office of the Secretary-General continues carrying on "business as usual."

All of which comes as U.N. sources warn the renovation of the New York headquarters -- a six-year $2 billion project only begun last May -- is already almost $300 million over budget.

One African oil state ambassador, who sits on a U.N. budget committee, told Newsmax that "of course" he's concerned about "escalating" costs. The diplomat added: "We need to have confidence in the secretary-general, we cannot micromanage."

His nation also does not pay 25 percent of the U.N.'s general budget, as does the United States.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nitin Desai - an internet guru and Special Advisor to SG for "Internet governance"

Nitin Desai is well know to not have written a single line in his computer - while at helm of Un-DESA for ten years. Now he advises the Secretary General on "Internet governance". 

In a recent Forum in India, Desai and current ASG - Sunduram were advocating the importance of internet and need for "internet for all". Since Desai is indian, the meeting had to be held in India and had to praise the Indian government for their "achievement in internet era".

In his opening remarks to the Forum, Assistant Secretary-General for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Jomo Kwame Sundaram, noted that the Forum has become a valuable tool for forging a common understanding of complex Internet issues from diverse points of view.

Mr. Sundaram noted that with an estimated 1 billion people on course to gain access to the Internet in the coming years, it is essential to ensure that people with disabilities are taken into account.

“The access needs to take into account the diversity of the world’s population, the diversity of languages but also the diversity of people with different abilities,” said Mr. Sundaram.

Nitin Desai, added that multilingualism is key as most of the expansion of Internet use is taking place in developing countries, where the English language and Latin script are not used.

While there are millions of young indian experts that could contribute within DESA and provide best-practices around the world - DESA has to continue to keep in payroll Desai so he can retain his G4 visa as well receive DSA for his "valuable" services.

Is this the contribute DESA is bringing around the world? What a shame!

UN Amid Backsliding Heads to Poznan, WMO in Chaos, UN Safety Saga Goes Without Update

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 4 -- The coming year "will be the year of climate change," the UN's self-described "resident America" Robert Orr told the Press on Wednesday. While he seemed to mean the year of combating global warming, other heard it as a prediction that the climate would more dramatically change in the next twelve months. Given the diminished expectations for the upcoming Poznan conference, in light of the financial crisis and various European Union nations' backsliding on their previous positions, the environment seems to be taking a backseat, at least for now.

  The UN and its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon however, Orr and his colleague Janos Pasztor insisted, are taking a leading role in rallying the world to get serious. They passed out a pamphlet on recycled paper entitled "Acting on Climate Change: The UN System Delivering as One." Throughout the pamphlet, the word of the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is extolled in terms of climate prediction and capacity building. But when Inner City Press asked them to comment on the Joint Inspection Unit's damning audit of the WMO, which criticizes the Organization for its lack of coordination, Pasztor said that's not the Secretariat's or even the the Chief Executive Board's problem. Coordination between UN agencies does not involve improving  the agencies' internal coordination. Video here, from Minute 17:29.

  So despite the buzzword about "delivering as one" and "systemwide coherence," the UN system is still a patchwork of fiefdoms with no one, least of all Ban, actually in charge. Ban and his malaria envoy Ray Chambers have still declined to comment on the leakage into for profit sales of UN system medicine distributed by UNICEF in Sierra Leone, for example, perhaps on the theory that UNICEF is its own fiefdom with its own "resident American," Ann Veneman.

Some are predicting that with the new Administration taking power in Washington, both of these these two Americans may be impacted: one to be replaced, the other to be recruited. Based on party affiliation, which is which should be quite clear.

UN's Ban and Orr in St. Louis, next stop Poznan, WMO audit and Algiers follow-though not shown

  Inner City Press asked Orr one question as a representative of the Executive Office of the Secretary General. Next week will be the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack on the UN in Algiers.  Six months ago, David Veness said he was resigning but he still remains in his post.  There was this panel for accountability. Has anyone been held accountable? Where does it stand on Mr. Veness' resignation, announce six month ago? Is there any update?" Video here from Minute 27.

  "I was smiling when you mentioned the EOSG," Orr said, "guessing what it was going to be. I guessed wrong. I won't tell you what I guessed, but I guessed wrong. Honestly, I am not part of that discussion. I can pass your interested along and maybe you'll get an answer."

  Maybe. What could Orr have been thinking of -- the scandal at the Office of Internal Oversight Services? Ban's delay in Administration of Justice?

On that, Wednesday afternoon saw another resignation from the UN's Joint Appeals Board -- click here for the four paragraph letter, which was sent to Ban Ki-moon and then the other JAB members. The chickens are coming home to roost. And the German Mission, apparently at the behest of the head of the Department of Management, is asking for a ceasefire. To come full circule, how about emissions reductions, cutting down on hot air?

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

UNDESA Current Vacancies

Programme Operations Expert, L-3 based in Seoul, Republic of Korea - Friday, November 21, 2008

Programme Operations Expert, L-3 (08-ADM-DESA-419780-S-SEOUL ) based in Seoul, Republic of Korea is open for application. Deadline for application is 21 December 2008. For more information, please click here.

E-government Experts are Invited to Submit Expressions of Interest for Inclusion in the Database Hosted by the UNPAN Portal - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs invites e-government experts to express their interest for inclusion in the Division’s database hosted by the UNPAN Portal.

The database will serve as a reference pool for invitations to participate in the activities of the Division, either on a consultancy basis or as an expert, (for example see: Upcoming Expert Group Meeting, “E-readiness indicators: Getting to the next level”, 11-12 December 2008, New York).

Interested experts should submit a brief CV and list of publications for consideration, together with a brief summary outlining their areas of expertise related to the focus areas of the Division (in particular, the above-mentioned Expert Group Meeting).  The Division reserves the right to determine the eligibility of interested experts and their suitability for particular activities. 

Expressions of interest should be forwarded to:

Uproar over UN policies

DOHA: There is an urgent need to take a fresh look at the policies and structure of the United Nations Organistion and its axillaries, high ranking officials, representatives and experts have opined. There was uproar against the current policies during a session Looking ahead: further cooperative actions in financing for development at the UN conference here yesterday at the Doha Sheraton. Delegates representing India stressed on revising the international governance structure. “Most of these policies were created at the end of World War II. There has been a sea of changes in global realities and contemporary world since then,” representatives from India said.

“The need for the day is not just enhancing coherence and consistency but alternative to the international monetary finance and trading system, and indeed to the international

governance,” he said. “We should realise that the world has become smaller. There is increasing need not just to tell but to give effect of the principle of national ownership to have legitimacy in decision-making. THE PENINSULA

Doha is a 'lost opportunity', say development agencies

A high level UN conference which closes in Doha yesterday has turned into a lost opportunity for instituting reforms to the global financial system to help poor countries, say leading development agencies Christian Aid and ActionAid.

The two organisations are particularly critical that the conference, held to examine funding for development, failed to recommend the upgrading into an intergovernmental body of a UN committee dealing with co-operation between states on tax matters.

Such a move would have helped undermine the secrecy offered by tax havens which is exploited by unscrupulous businesses trading internationally to evade tax in developing countries.

The conference did agree that the UN’s economic and social council should be asked to examine the ‘strengthening of institutional arrangements,’ including the tax committee.

But, according to Christian Aid policy manager Alex Cobham: "The proposal made is not as strong as it should have been. Doha was a chance for rich countries to demonstrate their commitment to helping poorer countries during the present financial crisis. It was a lost opportunity."

Christian Aid has calculated that tax revenue lost to poorer countries annually through evasion amounts to US$160bn. If used according to current spending patterns, the money could save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five each year.

Anna Thomas, ActionAid’s head of economic and social development, warned: "Commitments made in the conference outcome document to address detrimental tax evasion are weak and the essential upgrading of the UN Committee of Experts on International Co-Operation in Tax matters into an intergovernmental body was fudged."

The failure to take strong action was in marked contrast to the importance attached to combating tax evasion to help the developing world by speakers including Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Angel Gurría, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, and Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s Finance Minister.

Mr Gurría said taxes were "the lifeblood of government services." He added: "To succeed, developing countries must create effective tax systems and, with the developed countries’ help, tackle the curse of corruption, tax havens and tax evasion."

Norway, France, Germany and South Africa all pushed hard for a strong resolution on tax but opposition to the move was led by the United States.

One positive outcome from the conference, however, was the agreement that a ‘UN meeting at the highest level’ will now be held in 2009 to discuss the causes and impact of the economic and financial crisis on developing countries. This was opposed by a number of richer countries, led once again by the US, but the views of the developing world prevailed.

The Doha conference was called to assess the progress made towards realising the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development, which signposted how public and private funds could be used to help poor countries.

The consensus was reached in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico between more than 50 heads of state and 200 ministers of finance, foreign affairs development and trade, as well as heads of UN organisations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and World Trade Organisation.

Why Doha meeting failed test

Written by Ann Ninan   
Mr Oscar de Rojas: “The conference did not go so far.”
December 4, 2008:
 Good but not enough!” “Missed opportunity!” “Talks fail to deliver!” These were some of the reactions from civil society as the UN Financing for Development (FfD) talks drew to a close in Doha, Qatar, this week.

Deep divisions over the question of how to overhaul the international financial architecture, which nearly derailed the negotiations, were papered over with the governments agreeing to convene another UN conference to deal with the ongoing financial crisis and its impact on development. 

As Sylvia Borren of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) put it, “the world urgently needs effective decisions and follow-up which are inclusive and decisive. What is disappointing is there is no bailout plan for the vulnerable peoples of the world, but huge bailouts for banks and financial institutions.” 

The review conference, however, reaffirmed the Monterrey goals. It also moved forward in some important areas, chiefly with regard to gender equality. The document commits to the promotion of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as essential to achieving equitable and effective development. 

The Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development, a network of nine coalitions including the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and the International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN) said this was not enough.

“The commitments to gender equality in the document will only truly be meaningful if the systemic issues that underpin poverty are decisively addressed,” said the  activists representing the 250 civil society groups and networks that participated in a two-day forum in Doha, ahead of the official meeting. 

The Doha conference was called by the UN not as a pledging conference but to review progress made in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002, on commitments for new development aid from rich countries as well as agreements on debt relief, the fight against corruption, public-private partnerships and official development assistance (ODA). 

While the German Development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, tells the press in Doha that they had reaffirmed the commitments on ODA made at Monterrey, the civil society was vocal in their disappointment. 

The meeting “barely moves on previous international commitments on tackling global poverty. Even before the food, climate and financial crises hit, existing commitments were in need of an urgent upgrade,” said Ariane Arpa of Oxfam International. 

“The conference has largely sidelined other related international agreements of this year in Accra and New York rather than building upon them,” said Action for Global Health. 

“Responding to the financial, food, energy and climate crisis should not have obscured the huge efforts that were already needed to achieve the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals).” 

A concerted move by civil society to strengthen international cooperation on tax issues by upgrading the UN Committee on Tax to an inter-governmental body fell through the cracks. 

“The conference did not go so far,” admits the executive secretary of FfD, Oscar de Rojas. “What the conference did was to agree (that) cooperation on tax matters has to be strengthened,” he explains. 

“This conference was an opportunity to address the rules of a system which has led us to the worst crash in decades, and rich governments have failed to take it,” says Nuria Molina of EURODAD in a press statement. 

“The yearly 100 billion dollars of aid to poor countries is dwarfed by the 500 to 800 billion dollars of illicit flows from the South to the North, most of which is tax evasion by multinational companies.” 

But some other issues on which Doha moved beyond Monterrey were ‘decent work’ and innovative financing mechanisms which include remittances. The inclusion of the globally endorsed goal of ‘full employment and decent work for all’ was welcomed by civil society as “clear recognition of its centrality to development strategies and invisible work done mainly by women”, according to their statement. 

For the first time, there is a separate paragraph on remittances, the private transfer of billions of dollars annually, from individuals to their families. 

“That much more needed to be done to facilitate transfers, make it cheaper and far more accessible to people, has been added as a separate paragraph,” says de Rojas.

Goals Are Impossible

Civil society now wants to see the implementation of the recommendations. “We remind delegates and officials that those most seriously affected in every country are expecting material action, which reverses the slide into poverty...” their statement says. 

Certainly the challenges are huge. “We have just emerged from five good years, but there was little progress on the MDGs,” points out Borren. “Now we’re going into the lean years (because of the global crisis). According to Social Watch (an international watchdog network) meeting the MDG goals is virtually impossible!” 

Ninan is an IPS correspondent.

UN System Will Lack Justice Come January 2009

The UN’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) has released a report criticizing the Secretary-General for failing to implement General Assembly mandated internal justice reforms in a timely manner. 

In 2007, the UN General Assembly committed to establishing a new, independent justice system to ensure the due process rights of staff members and hold managers and other employees accountable. It was originally envisioned that this new system would take effect on January 1, 2008, but the General Assembly extended this deadline to January 1, 2009 at the request of the Secretariat.

Now it appears that the Secretariat will also miss the January 2009 deadline. According to the ACABQ’s report:

Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 62/228 in December 2007, none of the 30 posts authorized for the Office of Administration of Justice (18 new posts and 12 redeployments) have been filled…As a consequence of the lack of staff in the Office, as well as the fact that the statutes of the Dispute and Appeals Tribunals have not yet been adopted, delays have occurred in such areas as the development of procedures for the transition phase, a code of conduct for legal practitioners, terms of reference for the registries and a training and communications plan for the new system of internal justice…The procedures related to the new mechanisms of the disciplinary process, including the reporting of misconduct, investigations, the due process rights of staff, the evaluation of investigation reports and disciplinary proceedings, have not yet been completed. (paragraph 5 and 16(d))

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Joint Disciplinary Committee – one of two main bodies in the current UN justice system – has reportedly submitted a resignation letter, effective December 31, the sunset date of the current system. According to this letter, “there is no valid reason to continue, even as a transitional measure, to rely on this obsolete system. Justice will be much better served by focusing all efforts on launching the new system as soon as possible, and bringing all pending cases before it.”

This effectively means that unless the Secretary-General takes immediate action to complete the reform process, there will be no functioning justice system at the United Nations on January 1. In other words, whistleblowers and other employees at the United Nations – the organization charged with promoting human rights – may have no venue whatsoever through which to defend their own rights.

This could not come at a worse time, as the number of people seeking relief through the justice system has recently increased, with an “exceptionally large number of new cases filed in the first half of 2008.” (paragraph 8) The number of disciplinary cases at the United Nations, jumped from 72 in 2006 to 277 thus far in 2008. (paragraph 10)

As the legal cliché "justice delayed is justice denied" suggests, a delay in justice tends to be most harmful to the victim in the case and violates a person’s right to a speedy trial. Therefore, it is critical that the international body meet the January deadline. In doing so, however, the Secretary-General must also adhere to the recommendations made by the Redesign Panel in its original report and address the concerns raised by the UN Staff Union and seconded by GAP.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Blame game to start as DOHA Conference ends

The Doha Conference on Finance for Development on aid to developing nations could be set for a "total failure".

DESA's top managers are running up and down to try to save the "dead" and show some kind of "achievements" in front of Ban Ki-moon and his entourage. Negotiations have begun to recognize the need for urgent action to help finance the battle against global poverty. U.N. officials are running like "mad cow" to try to save in the last minute and introduce a draft document that hopefully could win the backing of EU, otherwise the conference could result in another major failure for DESA and its management.

DESA's reputation seem to have scared away many important players, like G20, G8 and World Bank and IMF leadership. At its last hours, there seem to be still a long way to go, however, and there is every danger that the current version of document will be considerably watered down by non-E.U. members of the G8.

Many believe that the draft document proposed from DESA/U.N. under discussion at the conference remains fundamentally weak, in particular on aid issues where it fails to explicitly reconfirm the commitment made at the Group of Eight leading nations summit in Gleneagles in 2005 to increase annual aid to $130 billion by 2010.

So far, the conference is falling well short of UN and civil society expectations. A failure to address key issues, such as falling aid and the huge problem of tax evasion, will mean that it will not provide the concrete and decisive outcome that poor countries had been promised.

National delegates in Doha are seeking to update the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on aid and to decide how best to shelter developing countries from the global financial crisis. They are scheduled to agree their final conclusions Tuesday (tomorrow) when the conference ends.

In the corridors of the luxury hotels TEAM BAN was reportedly screaming about the "unexpected low attendance" of the conference and demanded explanation from the "organizers" as to who confirmed those attendees and who dealt with the conference administration from its conception. It seem that the blame game will continue in New York. As always those on TOP will be looking for someone to take a fall on DOHA. Will see !!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

United States pressures Ban Ki-moon to froze pension of those who stole from UN (Guido Bertucci reference?)

During the November 23 debate of the Fifth Committee of the 63rd Un GA, U.S. Representative Michael Scanlon suggested that the pensions of UN officials who stole from the organization should be frozen or "attached." He said : 

Mr. Chairman,

It is disappointing that despite the UN's efforts to recruit and employ staff with the highest level of competence, efficiency, and integrity, and I highlight integrity, too many incidents of misconduct and criminal behavior continue to occur. My delegation takes note of the Secretary-General's report (A/63/202) on actions taken during the year ending June 30, 2008 in cases of proven misconduct and/or criminal behavior in accordance with the established procedures and regulations. We further note the number of cases of fraud, theft, and misappropriation listed in the report and the financial losses incurred by the United Nations as a result.

Given the significant resources contributed by Member States to fund the Organization's mandates, we urge the General Assembly to consider providing for additional actions to recover UN funds that are stolen from the Organization by staff members. Accordingly, we should consider the possibility of trying to access other assets owned by staff members convicted of stealing money from the Organization or withholding or garnishing their pensions. We recognize that such action might also affect other organizations that participate in the pension plan and that it would be necessary to seek broader agreement to any such measures. (Click here for the text of statement from USUN website)

While he did not say it, some assumed he was referring to recently retired Guido Bertucci, who despite being responsible for a range of irregularities including the discredited Thessaloniki Center in Greece all left with his entire pension. Greece's Interior Minister, off camera at the Security Council stakeout to talk recently about an upcoming migration conference in Greece told Inner City Press that the corruption at the Thessaloniki Center was for the UN itself to address. But when will it?

(portions of the above are quotes from InnercityPress - click here for their article)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Views of the staff representatives of UN Secretariat's HR processes and administration

Appointment to senior positions

26. The appointment of senior officials, to the D-1 level and above, is critical to the Organization’s performance. Senior officials perform critically important functions. They are responsible for implementing all the work programmes of the United Nations, for effectively using its budget, and for ensuring the quality, direction and morale of its staff. They are required to have a broad range of competencies and to exercise effective leadership in a cross-cultural environment. In few areas do the Secretary-General’s responsibilities have a greater impact on the effectiveness and performance of the Organization than in that of making these senior appointments (see A/51/950 and Corr.1, para. 230). In making the appointment of senior officials, the Secretary-General has to balance the professional, managerial and leadership qualities required to ensure high standards of performance.

27. Although the appointments of senior staff are of such critical importance, the absence of transparent recruitment and promotion procedures for Assistant Secretary-General positions and above enables the appointment of officials who, in some cases, have had little or no prior leadership or managerial experience in working in a complex multicultural environment. Yet, it is to them that the authority has been delegated to select and promote staff.

28. The Secretary-General has reported that, in making senior-level appointments, he consults with an informal group of independent advisers who are familiar with the United Nations system (see A/53/676, action 20), even as he benefits from consultations with Member States on such appointments (see A/52/584, para. 37).2 Political influences have percolated down even to the appointments to D-2 level positions, which are overseen by the Senior Review Group, in part because members of the Senior Review Group are Assistant Secretaries-General and Under- Secretaries-General whose own appointments are tainted by political interests.

29. Political considerations in respect of the appointment of senior officials bear upon the competence of United Nations staff and their level of professionalism. Such appointees are less likely to be vigorously vetted to determine their capability to perform the duties of the post. They are also likely to introduce a vicarious authority that contravenes the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations; moreover, such appointees are likely to eschew accountability. Because senior leaders owe their appointment to political influences, they have had to be sensitive to initiatives or objections that individual Member States cannot introduce within the organs of the Organization.

30. Where the competence of such senior appointees is found wanting, the workload has to be carried by their subordinates, usually long-term serving staff in the General Service and related categories. In one department, staff members have been denied leave, as they are needed to perform both their own functions and those of their superiors. Yet, the junior staff cannot stave off such abuse of authority, for their career prospects are firmly determined by their supervisors. Trapped in this predicament, some junior staff members have opted to resign.