Sunday, 12 December 2010

The U.N.'s battling bigwigs

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Posted By Colum Lynch

Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the former U.N. chief of internal oversight, penned a scathing end-of-mission report last July that accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of undermining her efforts to rein in corruption and leading the U.N. into an era of decline. The Swedish auditor's report -- which was first reported by Turtle Bay -- produced a mini-crisis for the U.N. chief and set the stage for a bitter feud between Ahlenius and her former colleagues in Ban's executive suite.

This week, Thalif Deen, the U.N. reporter for Inter Press Service, obtained a written response to Ahlenius from Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s chief of staff, that charges Ahlenius with resorting to "misrepresentation of the record and distortion of fact" and adds that her report "raised questions of basic integrity and professionalism."

In a rebuttal, Ahlenius countered that it was "outrageous and insolent" of Nambiar to question her integrity. In a section of the letter titled "Kill the Messenger," she recounted a conversation with an unidentified former U.N. official who "wanted to warn me against acts of retaliation from people in the 'circle around the SG'" and that "they would spare no effort to hit and hurt me in retaliation."

The letters tread some of the same ground that marked the public debate between Ahlenius and top U.N. officials last summer. But they provide a raw firsthand account of one of the most bitter feuds in the U.N. top ranks. It's worth the read. Ahlenius, meanwhile, is preparing to write a book that will revisit her strained relations with her former U.N. boss. I don't expect it to be polite.

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