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At the UN, More Transparency Is Promised as Violations Are Confirmed

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 -- "I think the Secretary-General is particularly interested in more transparency," said Under Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena on Wednesday.

   Inner City Press had asked about the progress, if any, of the UN Freedom of Information policy which was proposed in 2006 but has yet to be acted on. "We are reviewing it very carefully with the thirty-eighth floor," Ms. Barcena said, "to make sure it includes everything we want to make our information more accessible." Video here, from Minute 1:11:43.

            While this seems at odds with the continuing failure to provide a requested and promised "organigram" of who works on the 38th floor, Ms. Barcena noticeably won over a number of correspondents on Wednesday, as she responded to questions ranging from Office of Internal Oversight Services investigations of DESA and perhaps Guido Bertucci to the location of the New York Fire Department desk in the UN. (She said it's in the third sub-basement; the search continues.)

            Ms. Barcena confirmed reports that first surfaced yesterday, including in Inner City Press, that the City of New York has found over 850 violations in the UN's headquarters building. Ms. Barcena re-characterized these as "directives" rather than violations, but stated that the UN "has a detailed plan" to address them. The plan already includes lighted exit signs, but will not extended to a room-by-room sprinkler system, due to cost.

UN DPKO: splitting in half?

            Inner City Press inquired into the status of DESA's Guido Bertucci, including his reported retirement plans. Ms. Barcena said that it is her understanding that Mr. Bertucci is not being investigated as an individual, but "maybe out of the [OIOS] investigation" of DESA, that might results. Ms. Barcena declined to confirm that the UN is closing in on renting space on 46th Street between First and Second Avenues, something Inner City Press is told by real estate source as well as a number of UN insiders. She did say that signing would be soon.

            Ms. Barcena said she has asked to brief the press at least every two months. The same cannot be said for the Administrator of the UN Development Program, who has not briefed since December 2006, and not for more than a year before that. Click here for today's Inner City Press UNDP (and North Korea audit and Zimbabwe diamond smuggling investigation) story.

            Ms. Barcena estimated the Ban Ki-moon's proposal to split the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in two will result in 398 "net new" posts, and will require an additional $65 million in the DPKO "support account." Contrary to statements made at Tuesday's noon briefing, Ms. Barcena said the goal and expectation is to gain approval from the General Assembly's Fifth Committee before it stops work in early June. We'll see.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540