At UN, Ban's Call for Staff Reform Seen as Slashing Benefits
as US Mission Wants
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
November 5 -- Nearly two years
after becoming UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon is intensifying
change the employment system, including holding town hall meetings with
to try to convince them that his changes will be good. Wednesday Mr.
for more than half an hour with an auditorium full of staffers from the
Department of Public Information.
It was a
closed-door session, as enforced by
a UN security officer, but Inner City Press managed to ask questions on
ways in and out to staff and even to Mr. Ban himself. His
reforms, it emerges, are not fully understood
or embraced by staff, and have begun to be conflated with changes being
proposed by the U.S. Mission to the UN, on which Inner City Press has
less guardedly, or less diplomatically, about his proposal to require
to change jobs and even Departments in a speech earlier this year in
this remarks, Ban appeared to some to demean the work of staffers who
reports, or who have been in the same unit or job for more than five
line most quoted from the speech, first reported by Inner City Press,
Ban had "tried to lead by example but no one followed me." The town
hall meetings are viewed as an attempt either to repair the damage
the Turin speech, or at least to better explain it.
run-up to Wednesday afternoon's meeting, DPI staff had been told to
"a special guest." Several were not aware that Ban Ki-moon was
coming. He arrived at 3:13, accompanied by his chief of staff Vijay
his senior advisor Kim Won-soo and his spokesperson Michele Montas.
the standing room only auditorium, having been introduced by DPI chief
Kiyotaka Akasaka, Ban told staff that mobility is important and
will restart creativity. He spoke of simplifying UN contracts.
in lobby, a UN staffer asked if that would impact the education benefit
is offered. Kim Won-soo answered that G or General Service staff are
entitled to that benefit anyway. Inner
City Press asked to pose a question, but was told no by the
gestured, go ahead and ask one. What is the connection, it was posed,
Ban's proposals and those being made by the U.S. Mission to the UN, to
management chief Angela Kane, to member states and regional groups?
are two different proposals," Kim Won-soo answered, as Ban nodded. The
proposal is about human resources management, he added. While that may
buzzword, the proposal still seem similar to many. The U.S., for
to cut back on benefits such as the education grants, which while they
benefit U.S. schools are denied to American staffers.
supporter points out that Ban was pitching contract harmonization
current U.S. push. While true, as far as it goes, the U.S. Mission
last General Assembly was talking about human resources reform, for
savings and for U.S. staff.
half-dozen questions Ban took inside the auditorium, he was asked broad
questions from climate change and the war in Congo to gender balance in
The last he answered by reference to the female chiefs of the Office of
Affairs and Department of Field Support, as well as his often-traveling
Secretary General. On climate he said
he's written to 27 European Union members, on development to 35 heads
numerous staff expressed frustration with what they called the
described Ban as a stalking horse seeking to cut benefits, who "still
doesn't understand how the UN works," as one senior staffer put it.
said at least he is trying, at least he came, even as he prepared to
Kenya to take part in meetings about the war in Congo.
UN's Ban speak of reform, relation to US
proposals not shown
Wednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson
response to the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund's reported loss in the
quarter of $4.5 billion or 11.2%. The
spokesperson replied that "What I was given as an answer is that the
Pension Fund has not suffered in any way from the financial
crisis. There have been fluctuations, but it hasn’t affected the
overall value of the Fund." If that
definition of fluctuation applies, there is no global crisis, only
massive fluctuations. There
is a growing call for candor. We will continue to follow this.
question Wednesday is whether the
administration of just-elected Barack Obama would continue to push the
proposals unveiled at the eleventh hour or month by the George Bush
Department. Already word in the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee is that
members are playing for time, to get past the December session into the
post-Bush time in May. But while Ban's communications director on
told some reporters that Obama "is a UN person," the changes he may
want are not clear, particular as may relate to Ban.
observer put it in terms of reform, just as "only Nixon could open
China," since his right wing bona
fides were assumed, so too only Barack Obama would really reform
since he is assumed to be a multi-cultural pro-UN multi-lateralist. Let
real reforms, including a Freedom of Information policy and at least
removal of immunity, begin. One sample
abuse: a former UN staff member who says he was denied renewed
on discrimination has been told by the UN that he can neither avail
the UN internal justice system, since he is not a staff member, nor of
justice system since the UN is immunity. As one questioner asked
after Ban had left at 3:46 p.m., where's the accountability?
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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