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At the UN on a Moon-less Night, Indigenous Fend for Themselves on 38th Floor

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 15, updated May 16 & May 23 -- It was a Moon-less night on Tuesday, at the indigenous reception in the General Assembly lobby.

   At noon, Inner City Press had asked if Ban Ki-moon had any intention of meeting with the indigenous during their conference from May 14 to 25, or in supporting their declaration of human rights, which is stalled under opposition from the African Group and others. 

    To both questions, his spokesperson said, "I donít have a position right now and Iíll ask for you if there is a meeting planned."

            Nine hours later, there was no answer on either. But as the indigenous reception took place at the UN, Ban Ki-moon was providing answers elsewhere, at the Korea Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. His speech, embargoed until 9 p.m., spoke of human rights and climate change. Meanwhile without comment from Ban Ki-moon, Belarus, Egypt and Angola are poised to win election to the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, and the indigenous, concerned that the production of bio-fuels like palm oil is displacing them from their land, can only hope to catch the ear of Ban Ki-moon.

            By contrast, even before the indigenous needed support on the stalled declaration of rights, last year the Under Secretary General of Public Information attended the reception; this year, not. Not even the USG of DESA, only one of his deputies, Johan Scholvinck. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Monday asked Inner City Press' question about help from the Secretariat by saying she didn't know if Ban would even meet with them. "I hope we will be able to meet with him," she said. "I'm not sure he will give us the attention." Video here, from Minute 32:23.

Mr. Ban (click here for today's Inner City Press story on Indigenous Issues, including interview with a participant from Rwanda

            In terms of how decision are made, Tuesday at noon the question was raised of just how many South Korean work in senior management on the 38th floor. Afterwards in the hall, an attempt was made to say that there is only one "professional level" South Korean on the 38th floor. It quickly became apparent that this did not include the deputy chief of staff nor perhaps even the scheduler -- his post is technically "D-1," and therefore not P-for-Professional. [These individuals are named in the Update below.] A new number was offered: five. From Tuesday's transcript:

Inner City Press: A follow-up question asking for specificity. Could you find out if a fellow named Do-yun Park, who'd been an auditor with OIOS, has now been transferred to the Office of the Secretary-General on the 38th floor? 

 Spokesperson: I will get the information for you on the make-up of the 38th floor, yes. 

 [The Spokesperson later added that Ms. Do-yun Park, who worked for the Department of Management, had not been transferred to the 38th floor and had been a United Nations staff member since before the current Secretary-Generalís arrival.] 

  As the word "fellow" connotes, Inner City Press was not referring to a female, Ms. Do-yun Park, but rather MISTER Daeyoung Park [the remainder of this sentence has been retracted at the public request on May 16 of the Office of the Spokesperson, as more fully explained and analyzed here. For here, this Update:

On May 16, Spokesperson Michele Montas consulted her notes and read out

"since you ask a question, I find it very unfortunate that inaccurate facts are printed without being properly verified. You asked yesterday about United Nations professional working for OIOS and who happens to be South Korean. Without verifying the facts, you stated that he had been assigned to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. This is flatly wrong. Mr. Dae-young [Do-yun?] Park, if this is the person you're talking about, that you're referring to, is employed by OIOS and will go on sabbatical in mid-July in order to pursue an advance degree in public administration. He never had any plans to apply for a position in the Executive Office."

            Inner City Press acknowledged this public statement, and asked if the list of five that Ms. Choi has mentioned could be provided. Video here, from Minute 12:12. Ms. Montas said to come to her office after the briefing.

            Following Under Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena's responses to numerous questions, including five from Inner City Press (the last of which concerned when the UN will finally have a Freedom of Information mechanism, whereby information is provided without pleading, but as of right), Inner City Press went to speak with Ms. Montas. The phrase "mea culpa" was used, although Inner City Press also asked why Monday's putative response, about the wrong Park, had not been provided by email so that the matter might have been addressed before deadline. Why was the response only appended post-facto to the UN's transcript, and, it seemed, said over the UN's squawk-box system?

            Inner City Press was told that the response hadn't even been "squawked," since no one else was interested in it. Other correspondents are interested in issues, Inner City Press was told, and not in names of staff members. But how could one report on these management issues without using names? The question was not answered.

            Instead of five names, three were provided, handwritten:

-Kim, Won-soo ASG

-Yoon, Yeocheol Chief of scheduling, D1

-Lee, Sang-hwa P4 - first officer, scheduling

            Ms. Choi Soung-ah came into the office. She stated that five people, herself included, had come over with the transition, and she named journalists who she said knew all five. Who then is the fifth, Inner City Press asked. A person in the Department of Management, Ms. Choi said, and declined to provide the name, stating that he has nothing to do with the Executive Office. Ms. Choi berated Inner City Press for not verifying facts. How else to do so, but to ask questions?

            Ms. Choi said, "Who told you this lie? Give me that name then I'll...".

            Inner City Press pointed out that the name was provided by a source still employed by the UN, a whistleblower by any standard definition. Inner City Press declined to provide the name. It was indicated to Inner City Press that Mr. Park Dae-young had been treated unfairly by the question.

            Inner City Press was made aware of Mr. Park Dae-young by a source who, besides maintaining even Tuesday afternoon that some sort of transfer or "loan" occurred one month into Mr. Ban's tenure, also provided a series of e-mails to and from OIOS chief Inga-Britt Ahlenius, concerning among other things Mr. Park Dae-young (identified in the e-mails as "Daeyoung Park").

            In a February 6, 2006 e-mail to Ms. Ahlenius and others, including OHRM head Jan Beagle and then-38th floor denizen Lamine Sise, Mr. Walter Cabrera took issue with the initial final version of an OIOS audit of peacekeeping, stating that

"the audit reports that were prepared by your staff originally in September 2004 (AP2004/600/14) and later rehashed and reissued in 2005/2006 (AP2005/600/20) contain patently false information about my alleged involvement in the five contact awards to vendor TCIL. The fact that the information was false was full known to the principal auditor-in-charge, Mr. Daeyoung Park." We will have more on this, for now click here.]

  And still the promised organ-o-gram has not been produced. In the GA lobby at 7 p.m., one wag -- not this one -- quipped that soon the 38th floor might not have any of its indigenous occupants. Which would be fine if the jobs were getting done...

            In other comings-and-going, on Monday Serge Brammertz spoke with two reporters on his way into headquarters. He said his visit is "administrative." Inner City Press asked with whom he would meet. He named Nicolas Michel, Lynn Pascoe and Security's David Venness.

            Speaking of the building, not only the 38th floor but whole height, sources tell Inner City Press that the City of New York has finished its inspection of the building and that fully 866 violations have been identified. Now it's been reported. Wednesday at noon Alicia Barcena is slated to discuss the building, new and presumably present; we'll see.

Update of May 23, 2007 -- a week after declining to provide the name, on Wednesday evening Associate UN Spokesperson Choi Soung-ah wrote to Inner City Press that

"the Secretary-General brought five Koreans with him to the Secretariat. The five were with him during the transition period as well. Of the five, three are on the 38th floor as you have previously been informed, myself  (you know who I am) assigned to the Spokesperson's office, and Mr. Kweon Ki-hwan assigned to the Office of the Under-Secretary General for Management."

   Along with thanking Ms. Choi for this response, how ever belated, Inner City Press has asked among other things, "what post in the UN Department of Management was Kweon Ki-hwan put into, and what process was followed to put him in this post?" Developing.

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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

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