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UNDP's Dervis Foretells New Panel's Findings, Whistleblowers Left Exposed, Development Mis-served

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 11 -- As complaints about retaliation by the UN Development Program management against those who report wrongdoing continue to mount, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis on Tuesday spoke to the UN press corps for the first time in eight months, in order to announce a three-person panel to handle one of the whistleblower cases. But Press questions quickly revealed that as to whistleblowers who faced retaliation by UNDP in Senegal and Turkey, the new panel will do nothing. Video here, from Minute 3:22. And even as to the one whistleblower covered, Dervis declared in advance the finding that will be reached by the purportedly independent panel, one of whose members already chairs UNDP's dubious Audit Advisory Committee. As he had at Monday's UNDP Executive Board meeting, Dervis said that this whistleblower couldn't be reinstated "due to certain facts." When Inner City Press on Tuesday asked "what facts?" -- video here, Minute 16:43 -- Dervis replied "facts that the external review will bring to light, I'm sure." Dervis' certainty about the outcome of the new panel undermines its credibility from Day One.

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad what should happen with the two new, "non-North Korea" UNDP whistleblowers. Amb. Khalilzad said that support for the new panel was "without prejudice" to the position that the UN Ethics Office should cover all UN funds and programs, including UNDP. Video here, from Minute 13:27.

            Dervis has said that he will meet with other funds and programs on September 21; he has implied that rather than proposing the structure urged by the UN and UNDP Staff Unions, that the Ethics Office cover the funds and programs as it does the Secretariat, he will propose that UNDP staff facing retaliation must first exhaust all procedures within UNDP before, perhaps, appealing to the Ethics Office. But as shown by the case of Imran Mumtaz, reported yesterday by Inner City Press, few can withstand the loss of income of extended unemployment brought on by retaliation. That Mr. Mumtaz complained to UNDP's ombudsman James Lee and nothing was done also further calls into question UNDP's procedures, which Ethics Office chief Robert Benson dismissed as ineffective protections against retaliation.

       After initially claiming to not be aware of either of the two non-North Korea whistleblowers, Mr.Dervis then said, of Mr. Mumtaz, that his alleged retaliator never served as Dervis' bodyguard. This was repeated later on Tuesday, but clearly does not answer the full Mumtaz complaint, nor the structural loophole into which whistleblowers now fall at the UN.

Dervis, crystal ball for foretelling the finding of "independent" panels not shown

            Dervis on Tuesday tried to cut off questions about retaliation, saying "only one more on this" while other questions remained, and trying to blame reporters' focus on UNDP's mounting scandals as the reason he is so infrequently available to the press. (He has not done a press conference in eight months.) But his claims Tuesday about UNDP's survey of employees did not explain what is done when the poll findings are negative, as for example they were in Georgia. Nor did he allow questions about UNDP in the Philippines, where 13 staff members have written to him about abuses by the UNDP Resident Representative.

            And if and when Dervis follows-up through on what he said Tuesday, that he will come and hold press conferences "if we can talk about development," here's a broader question: why would UNDP have spent, according to unrebutted testimony at Monday's Executive Board meeting, $1.3 billion in Latin America and only $526 million in Africa, the Continent most in need? Dervis Tuesday claimed that UNDP has "passed the market test," because countries like Brazil choose to funnel government money through UNDP for projects in their own country. But there are other explanations of this structure, that show UNDP to be misusing its charter and mis-serving its responsibilities to the poor. To be continued.

  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