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As UN Chiefs Sign Contracts, Only Some Can See Them, Transparency Still Lacking

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 12 -- In a quirky but strangely endearing ceremony on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signed  compacts with two dozen of his senior staff members, taking a photo shaking hands with each and then a group photo like in elementary school.  In his prepared remarks, Ban said that "the compacts you have signed will all be published on our intranet site, iSeek. This means we are not only talking about transparency, we are practicing it." But this web site is not available to the public or even member states that UN ostensibly serves.

  Under Ban's predecessor Kofi Annan, there was talk of a freedom of information policy for the UN system. It was entrusted to then-Department of Management chief Alicia Barcena. It was never implemented. Thursday Barcena was back, on a brief visit to New York from her new posting with ECLAC in Santiago, Chile. Her successor Angela Kane held a thick binder. Inner City Press asked Ms. Kane, "So you're the master of ceremonies?"

  "My department organized this," she answered. "Write nicely about our Organization."

  In that spirit, we'll note that the UN's envoy on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, chatted about Gaza and the Congo with top humanitarian John Holmes. Deputy chief of staff Kim Won-soo, who didn't sign a Compact, moved to sit next to American Department of Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe; one surmised that Sri Lanka was discussed.

   Mister Disarmament, Sergio Duarte, came over to wait to speak with Mr. Kim. Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff last seen strolling 42nd Street at 10 p.m. Wednesday night, help organize the final picture. Why aren't you signing a compact, he was asked. Because I am staff, he answered, this is for line managers.  Nambiar has been mentioned to perhaps move laterally to the top post at the UN Development Program, the short list for which Team Ban is also keeping secret, unlike Kofi Annan's list. The UNDP post is described as third-highest in the UN system. The list should be released.

UN's Ban and his chiefs, their contract only on the UN's Intranet

  Nor did the UN's Number Two, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, sign a compact, though at the ceremony's end, after first they appeared lost, the compact were entrusted into her custody. Then, after photographer's instructions moved the group back behind the desk -- "the Secretary General said to say something when something's broken," the UN photographer said, and this is broken" -- the group snap shot was taken.

  Public Information chief Kiyo Akasaka and Mr. Ban bowed to each other after the signing. Four tall men, Messrs Costa, Diarra and Kubis, and to a lesser degree Shaaban Shaaban, towered over Mr. Ban. Mr. Sha was said to be on official travel, and did not appear by TV like Achim Steiner with his name tag, or the trio from Geneva. In from the field were Noeleen Heyzer, Abdoulie Janneh and Anna Tibaijuka, still famous for her critique of Operation Take-Out-the-Trash in Zimbabwe, carried about by Robert Mugabe's security forces. Missing from the UN's Compact ceremony was acting security chief David Veness, or any replacement.

  Inga-Britt Ahlenius, last seen chatting at a party for Iran, was the first to sign her Compact. To the surprise of some, technology chief and Assistant Secretary General Choi Soon-hong signed a Compact. The other Under-Secretaries General were encourage to sign contract with their ASGs. Alain Le Roy, then, should draft one with his deputy Edmond Mullet, known to have participated in Ban's meeting later on Thursday with Sudan's Ambassador. That meeting broke up to allow a private tete a tete. One hopes Ban didn't read from notes. Click here for Inner City Press' Sudan coverage of later in the day.

  Later in the hallway -- Inner City Press has been told, "this is not a press conference, just a photo op" -- the UN's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien committed to take a look at seeming abuses of the UN's logo and name by corporations. We hope to have more on this, and on the USGs who have still not followed Ban's urging to make at least some minimal public financial disclosure.

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

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.

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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

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