UN, Team Ban's Transparency Is Elusive, As Hiring Rules Avoided
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN 6th
UNITED NATIONS, May
28 -- While campaigning to become Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon repeatedly said
that if selected, he would improve and make more transparent the management of
the UN, starting with his own office and hiring.
before the scheduled announcement of his management team, on May 16 Mr. Ban's
spokesperson's office refused to provide the name of the fifth of his
begrudgingly enumerated South Korean hires. Spokesperson Choi Soung-ah defended
the non-provision of the name by saying that the person did not work for Ban's
office, but the UN's Department of Management.
23, after a
week of investigative
reports and questions from Inner City Press, including about why the List of
Staff of the UN Secretariat was being withheld as confidential and private, Ms.
Choi e-mailed Inner City Press the fifth name: Mr. Kweon Ki-Hwan.
May 24 noon press briefing, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie
Okabe what Mr. Kweon's post and job description are, and how he was selected.
Ms. Okabe said that this should not be discussed in an open briefing, but rather
upstairs in her office. Later, without answering the Kweon Ki-Hwan questions,
every staff member listed, including name, nationality, grade level and
location.. is deliberately not provided in official documents made available to
the public at large...To make such information available to the general public
would not only affect the privacy of the individual staff members, but could
also be detrimental to staff for security reasons, especially to staff serving
in hazardous duty stations. Furthermore, if the proposed "Access to Information
policy" is eventually introduced, it would not apply to any information that
could endanger an individual's security or violate his/her privacy."
Okabe's response re-opens the possibility that Ban might not even introduce
any "Access to information policy," something his Under Secretary General
Alicia Barcena Ibara, has said Mr. Ban is
very interested in, as a matter of transparency.
Ban: goodbye to all that?
despite Mr. Ban's repeated statements about eliminating the "reversion option"
in the UN whereby senior officials can revert to UN civil service positions from
which they were promoted, sources tell Inner City Press of a Ban appointee who
has chafed at that reform, and declined signing a contract without a clause
allowing reversion. A direct question posed in this regard has gone ignored,
hardly consistent with transparency of management.)
was contradictory statements on May 25 by Ban's chief spokesperson, Michele
Montas, which run most afoul of the claims to transparency. In that day's noon
briefing, Ms. Montas said that Mr. Kweon and Ms. Choi went through a competitive
process and are now in the Departments of Management and Public Information,
respectively. While at present less is known about Mr. Kweon, it is difficult to
understand how Ms. Choi went through a competitive process, given that she
appeared and was assigned Ari Gaitanis' space in the Office of the Spokesperson
even before Ban took office. The paperwork on that irregular UN hiring should be
even by Ms. Montas' statements, the General Assembly only allows hiring outside
of the regular procedures for those placed in the Executive Office of the
Secretary General, Ms. Montas later on May 25 sent Inner City Press a terse
written statement, expressing disappointment at the publication of information
about staff and nationality, and
"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
new argument is that the two are "in" the Departments of Management and Public
Information, to which recruiting, interview and evaluation procedures apply, but
are technically "staff members of the Executive Office of the SG," allowing them
to bypass the recruiting, interview and evaluation procedures.
the transparency which Ban Ki-moon promised? Before
taking office, Mr. Ban made these claims in Russia as well. The November 3,
2006, issue of Izvestia contained this Q&A:
do you think the United Nations should be reformed?
First of all, we need to rebuild respect for the United Nations... The UN
Secretariat's operation mechanisms should be as transparent as possible.
Moreover, we need more qualified personnel.
Including personnel from Russia?
Ban Ki-Moon: In
choosing our staff, we don't take their nationality into account.
recently as May 16, in a speech to the Korea Society in New York, Mr. Ban stated
that "I am also striving to change the working
culture of the United Nations itself. Since taking office, my first priority has
been to enhance accountability and transparency."
Speaking in Seoul on the UN's 61st
anniversary in October 2006, Mr. Ban said that "I don't pretend to have all the
answers to all the questions and challenges for the U.N. in its seventh decade.
But I am a good listener."
light, and since it has proved both difficult and unpleasant to get the most
basic answers about hiring from Mr. Ban's Office of the Spokesperson, we run
this medley of worries now whispered in the building:
-several sources say that the number (of
South Koreans hired) is not the stated five, but at least eight;
-word circulates of yet two more irregular
hires, not necessarily South Koreans, but people sent to get UN I.D. cards of
whom those ordered to issue the cards asked, "Who the hell are these people?"
-perhaps most disturbingly, sources tell
Inner City Press that the resistance to recent question is because there is or
has been a plan to place "plants" like Ms. Choi and Ms. Kweon in many more UN
Departments, and the application of required hiring rules would problematize
these and other questions be answered, in the hoopla of belated and superficial
hiring announcement, to be followed by Mr. Ban's heading to Berlin? Other
questions asked include:
Beyond the 51
nationals of the Republic of Korea listed in the mid-2006 List of Staff of the
UN Secretariat, a request has been made that your Office (or the 38th floor)
provide updated figures to compare to the 51 baseline. Beyond the mid-2006 51,
can you provide a figure as of December 31, 2006, and specifically address any
change at DESA between mid-2006 and the end of the year?
You said, as
transcribed by DPI, "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.... Those people went through a process."
The full OHRM process? Is it possible to see the vacancy announcements and to
know how many people applied and were interviewed?
You said, "The
General Assembly gives the Secretary-General the explicit authority to appoint
staff to his own office outside the regular procedures."
Is it your
position that the intent of the GA is to allow the S-G to go outside the regular
procedures in placing people in the Department of Management and elsewhere?
You said, " It
is perfectly normal for an incoming Secretary-General to bring a small number of
close advisers with him."
provide any figures on the hiring of national by the three (or more) previous
questions posed to Marie, and reiterated:
a question, which I haven't yet asked in a noon briefing, about the use of
peacekeepers from post-coup Fiji, a public report that there are 17 more now
than in Dec. 2006 -- the request was for your Office to confirm or deny, and if
deny, to know if some retraction is being sought
questions I asked at the March 22 noon briefing have not been answered -- for
example "How many consultants does the Secretary-General currently have? From
where? Can their names be provided? How many when actually employed? How many
dollar-a-years? Can their names be provided?"
* * *
Since the Spokeperson's office has of late been dismissive of questions about
how the UN is being managed, saying that its and other correspondents' focus is
on burning political and not managerial questions, we note the following
non-responses, 84 hours later, to questions posed by Inner City Press at the
May 25 noon briefing:
Press: There's also a report from Nepal that a United Nations vehicle visiting
the Bhutanese refugees was stoned by Maoists and that the US Ambassador was in
it. Have you heard that?
I have no information on that.
[Update: while no answer was provided,
stoning has since been confirmed,
as well as
more violence in the area,
though perhaps not burning enough.]
Inner City Press: Okay. This will be
pretty fast. There's a
the Secretary-General is going to name the CEO of Novartis as the head of a
bioterrorism unit. Have you seen that report and can you confirm it?
Well, I can tell you, there is no such thing as a bioterrorism unit that is
planned. No one here has heard of it. There is no such unit.
Inner City Press: It was in a British
There is no such unit within the United Nations.
a UN Disarmament staffer, than says that the official UN had no comment. Given
the May 25 response, has the UN asked The Business for a retraction?]
Inner City Press: Very good. And this is
something that I asked you earlier about Cote d'Ivoire. There's an
by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General saying that Mr.
Stoudmann's mandate is finished. Is that in fact the case? Mr. Mousa has given
an interview in Abidjan saying that Stoudmann is done. Is that true?
Well, we can confirm that for you, when his mandate is to be ended.
[But it was
Abou Moussa, the acting U.N. mission chief in Ivory Coast who was
"that as part of this adjustment, the U.N.
was ending the post of its High Representative for Elections in Ivory Coast,
Gerard Stoudman. This task to help organize elections would now be carried out
by a team attached to the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative in
Ivory Coast. The previous special representative, Pierre Schori, left the post
earlier this year, and a new envoy would be appointed." So, as Inner City Press
has now repeated asked, where is the UN's Gerard Stoudman?]
Press: There's a report that Serbia has formally asked the Secretary-General to
reopen a new round of discussions. I'm just wondering, has the
Secretary-General received anything?
Well, I haven't seen that letter either so we'll try to get some information on
Spokesperson later added that no such letter from the Serbian Government had
Well, the request was
reportedly sent --
how long does it take to be acknowledged? Tuesday, perhaps.]
Press: One thing, I wanted to ask about the statement that you read, which I
really appreciate, and nobody disputes that he can hire who he wants, just for
what it's worth, I just say that, but the idea that in his own office he can
hire whoever he wants... The only follow-up I have, and it's something that I've
tried to ask by e-mail is that one of the five is in the Department of
Management. So I just wanted you to clarify. Does that mean that this
individual is in Ban Ki-moon's office on the 38th floor?
No, the professional is in the Department of Management just as there is a
professional in my office who is with the Department of Public Information.
Press: But that GA process of being able to hire anybody he wants for his office
and on the 38th floor, does that apply to putting people in, for example, to the
Department of Management, or in their office. That's what I don't understand,
that's my question.
It's not putting people in. Those people went through a process also.
Inner City Press: So for the Department of
Management post, there was a process, it was put out, there were interviews, the
whole process. [Spokesperson
video here.] Okay, that's all I wanted to know.
Spokesperson later added that 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.]
See above, and stay tuned...
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
Other Inner City Press
reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on
Copyright 2007 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540