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UN Management Seeks to Block Access to Justice, While Achievements Seem Few

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 8 -- There is a lot of talk in the UN about protecting whistleblowers. But the desire by some at the top of the System to maintain control cuts in the opposite direction. A recent example is found in the critique of the current "Administration of Justice" proposal, that the UN's Redesign

"Panel had clearly and unambiguously recommended that the current administrative review function be abolished, noting that it did not have the confidence of the staff (A/61/205, para. 87). The Secretary-General had proposed instead to develop a management evaluation function, to be carried out by a separate unit in the Department of Management, as the first, mandatory step of the formal system of justice, in order to give the Administration an opportunity to review contested decisions and to allow it to correct or overturn previous administrative decisions, prior to a complainantís bringing a formal case to the Dispute Tribunal (A/61/758, paras. 29-30). The Committee indicated that it saw merit in a management evaluation function and stressed the importance of upholding the general principle of exhausting administrative remedies before formal proceedings commence (resolution 61/261, para. 26; A/61/815, para. 38).

However, in order to eliminate any appearance of a conflict of interest, the Committee recommended that the Assembly consider placing the management evaluation unit elsewhere in the Organization, for example, in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, rather than in the Department of Management." (Emphasis added.)

            The critique by the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions of the Department of Management echoes its characterization of that Department's consolidated report as essentially useless. Now word emerges that the Department will have a town hall meeting on November 12, topic not yet clear. It is said to concern the UN's computer system, another long-delayed project under the Department of Management's watch. The Department's Office of Central Services Support has been dismembered; its demoted chief is said to be meeting with DM on November 9. And still, ten months in, no freedom of information / access to documentation policy has been released. The Capital Master Plan is $219 million over budget, and news emerged on November 8 that its contractor, Skanska, is being sued by MIT. Click here for that.

Internal justice proposal turned in mid-2006; 10 months into 2007, no improvements

            The ACABQ report also makes reference to "the Organization's responsibility to ensure that the daily paid workers in peacekeeping missions (3,312 individuals as of September 2007) are made aware of their rights and obligations and have access to suitable recourse procedures within the framework of the United Nations." As Inner City Press has previously reported, the "daily paid workers" of the UN's Mission in the Congo, MONUC, earlier this year went on strike. The national staff of the UN Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, have complained of hiring discrimination, so far without redress. Until UN workers at all levels have legal resource, and whistleblowers are protected, these problems will continue.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  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