At the UN, Ban's Coherence Plan Is Critiqued, Lead
Agency UNDP is Headless and Silent
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- Like several
Secretaries-General before him, Ban Ki-moon has proposed for the UN system
greater "coherence." But what's in a name? Monday as Mr. Ban's proposal was
unveiled in the General Assembly, its structure was questioned not only from the
side of the developing nations in the Group of 77, for also from the donor side.
Sweden's Minister Counselor on
Development Issues Harald Fries noted that "many agencies are concerned about
the neutrality of the resident representative system managed by UNDP," the UN
Development Program. Following a question from Inner City Press about how long
the General Assembly process on Ban's "system-wide coherence" proposal might
take, Mr. Fries said "in the next several months, or half-year, or year."
Inner City Press asked if within the
Group of 77 there is a split between the poorest nations, who favored
consolidation of UN funding into a single source, and the moderate income
countries, which dispute Ban's plan's "narrow" focus on the structure of UN
development programs in countries, without trying to bring democratic or
populist control to the World Bank and IMF.
From the South Center, a Geneva
think-tank closely associated with the Group of 77, Vicente Paulo Yu
acknowledged that in Geneva, he has heard least developed countries "looking at
the positives" of the plan, that is would reduce the "load of reporting"
required of them. South Center is, Mr. Yu said Monday, skeptical about the
proposal, which would make the UN "just another developer" like the World Bank,
rather than an advocate, a norm-maker, a global governance institution with a
universal membership. The chairman of South Center's board of directors is
Tanzania's ex-president Benjamin Mkapa, who was on the panel that drew up the
plan. (The timing makes this less of a conflict, or less ironic, than might
appear, Mr. Yu argues.) The South Center will be releasing a critique of the
proposal next week, which Inner City Press has requested and will be reviewed on
Earlier on Monday, Ban Ki-moon spoke in
the Economic and Social Council chamber, in a "special high-level meeting with
the Bretton Woods institutions" -- that is, the IMF and the World Bank. On his
way in, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban is he had any advise for embattled World
Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. "I have no comment at all," Mr. Ban answered, not
without a smile.
Level Troika Re World Bank - GA President, S-G, President of ECOSOC: coherent?
Smiling more openly was
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. Asked by Inner City Press for his views in
the hall outside the General Assembly before a 4:30 debate on Ban's coherence if
not coherent plan, Amb. Churkin laughed. "System-wide coherence, oh yes," he
said. The rest of the UN press corps, and the ambassadors of the Permanent Five
nations on the Security Council, were focused on the day's meeting about Darfur
in Sudan, click
for Inner City Press' story. But as Ban said last week,
"I am going to
propose again my own recommendations on system wide coherence next Monday. I
hope this will receive a good debate among the Member States so that the United
Nations can work and deliver service as one United Nations. This will be one of
the important reform agendas for me in the coming few months."
Good luck. Mr. Ban has also
said that he will ensure that under his watch, the heads of UN funds and
programs will be accessible to the media and will answer questions. Thus far
with UNDP, this has not been the case. UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis has not
held or attended a press conference in the more than 100 days of the Ban
administration. On Monday, Inner City Press
Mr. Ban's spokesperson, video
Press: We've heard that UNDP people -- Kemal Dervis, and Ad Melkert -- are
away. If so, we'd like to know where and who runs UNDP in their absence?
Why don't you talk to UNDPís public information people?
know why? Because last week while you were away I was referred to them on a
very simple question about Mr. Melkertís hiring of a Dutch Labor Party official
and they never sent me any response at all. That's why I'm asking you if you
could just get an answer. If the two are away, and if so, who's running UNDP
I would suggest you talk to them again. You call them again.
Particularly in light of the calls for
"One UN" and of Mr. Ban's statements that the heads of UN funds and programs
will be available to the media, this referral to the Kafka-esque echo chamber of
UNDP is disconcerting. Even so, Inner City Press immediately reiterated its
questions in writing to UNDP:
Unanswered UNDP questions: Philippines, Mr Keij, retaliation, where are #1 &
Date: 4/16/2007 12:53:03 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: david.morrison [at] undp.org, ad.melkert [at] undp.org, kemal.dervis [at]
undp.org CC: [Spokesperson at] un.org,
From: Inner City Press
Morrison, Melkert and Dervis, and Michele via cc --
March 25 question regarding UNDP's hiring of Eelco Keij, NY secretary of the
Dutch Labor Party of which Mr. Melkert was leader, reiterated to you on April
12, has still not been answered. Nor have other 3/25 questions...
here is a simple factual question, also on deadline for today--
Administrator Kemal Dervis out of New York? If so, where and doing what? Direct
question: medical leave?
Associate Administrator Ad Melkert out of New York? If so, where and doing
what? Given Mr. Melkert's granting of a quote to the FT about Paul Wolfowitz,
and since-released documents, where and when will Mr. Melkert respond to
questions on this important UN system matter?
-if both are
out of New York, who is in charge of UNDP?
other questions which UNDP has not answered or even acknowledged [including]
An update on
the status of the urgent audit of UNDP's North Korean operations is needed,
and is requested. As the Secretary-General was asked earlier today, is the
90-day time line being extended? Is UNDP aware if the auditors will be able to
enter North Korea? Did Timo Pakkala and Mr. Povenzano speak with the U.S.
Attorney's office / SDNY? Did anyone else at UNDP?
the sudden retirement (party) for Luis Gomez-Echerverri;
or deny that Nora Lustig is now in line for a consulting contract with UNDP,
including as related to immigration laws;
or deny that senior UNDP officials discussion with the Slovak foreign minister
in late February possible movement of jobs from (or in the alternative to)
Bratislava, and separately whether there is consideration of moving regional
centre from Bratislava to another city, possible (and specifically confirm or
Feb. 1 -- someone gave me a copy of an advertisement in the Weekly Pakistan
Express of September 15, 2006, for a UNDP fundraiser held Sept. 24, 2006, with
the involvement of Pakistani president Musharaf, with Grand invitations for
two costing $10,000. Can it be said how much money was raised, and the
purpose and use of the money?
One would think that the UN agency
proposed by the Secretary-General to take on new powers would be able, in two
and a half months, to answer simple questions about its fundraising. But if you
thought that, at this time, you'd be wrong. Despite all of the question above
and more having been reiterated to UNDP on Monday at 1 p.m., by 9 p.m. only part
of one question was answered:
Subj: Answer to
question in noon briefing
Officer to the Administrator at] undp.org
5:46:07 PM Eastern Standard Time
Mr. Dervis is
on official business in Washington today and tomorrow. Ad Melkert is in Europe.
of them are outside of the country, an officer in charge is designated.
But even the identify of this "officer in
charge" is not provided, nor the nature of Mr. Dervis' "official business" in
DC, nor Mr. Melkert's presumably non-official business in Europe, right in the
midst of the scandal of the World Bank, whose "ethics committee" Melkert chaired
until he came to UNDP.
UNDP refuses to answer any of the other
written questions, only (part of) the one asked during the UN's noon briefing.
In the spirit of coherence and "One UN," to get questions answered, putting them
in writing to UNDP apparently does not suffice. Is this coherence from UNDP?
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.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
On Darfur, Sudan and UN Speak Two Different Hybrid
Languages, Arguing in the Hall
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- Following an afternoon of
meetings about Darfur, the head of UN Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno stood
before the cameras with Sudan's Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdalmahmood
Guehenno made everything sound
fine. The so-called
"Heavy Support Package" had been agreed to, and he implied that Sudan will
accept non-African peacekeeping troops if not enough Africans can be found.
But minutes earlier, Abdalmahmood
Abdalhaleem had told reporters that it is Sudan's position that the Darfur Peace
Agreement that it has signed prohibits the introduction of non-African Union
peacekeepers. Speaking exclusively to Inner City Press by the espresso bar of
the UN's Vienna Cafe, Amb. Abdalhaleem complained that Sudan's experience with
the UN has been "bureaucratic and unforthcoming." Asked if the purpose of his
letter to Ban Ki-moon was only to trigger funding, Amb. Abdalhaleem said that
the Security Council has to come forth with funding "or we will withdraw our
Having heard this real politik, it
was not surprising when the meeting and interviews broken up that Amb.
Abdalhaleem and Jean-Marie Guehenno were opening arguing as they walked in the
hallway from the Vienna Cafe to the UN's Conference Building. The happy talk of
earlier in the day gave way to acrimony. UN insiders tell Inner City Press that
Ban Ki-moon so much wants to declare success in Darfur that he convinces
himself, and than others, that Sudan's commitments and motives are not what they
are. For his part, Sudanese Amb. Abdalhaleem accused some reporters who asked,
as Inner City Press did, "who will fly the helicopters" that have been agreed to
purportedly without strings, of only looking for problems, of trying to cast
Sudan in a negative light. Under the camera lights after the meeting, it was the
UN that tried to hold to two positions at once, a balancing act that broken down
later in the hallways when it was thought no reporters were around. But we are
Ban Ki-moon had praised Amb.
Abdalhaleem's letter, telling reporters:
"This morning, I have received an official
communication from the Sudanese Government through their Permanent
Representative in New York, informing me that they agreed on the heavy support
package in its entirety, including the helicopter component. This is a very
positive sign, and I and the African Union intend to move quickly to prepare for
the deployment of the heavy support package and the hybrid force."
But Permanent Representative Abdalhaleem
said again and again that given Sudan's position that the Darfur Peace Agreement
prohibits UN peacekeepers, a force would be hybrid only in that the UN could
provide a "backstop," and funding.
Peacekeepers: still in the bullpen, still on
African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, speaking
in French, told reporters that the AU peacekeepers have been doing their job,
they are just underfunded. When Inner City Press tried to ask Jean-Marie
Guehenno what has happened on Senegal's threat to pull its troops from Darfur,
Mr. Guehenno said, "I think I'll stop answering now." Minutes later, he was
arguing in the hallway with Amb. Abdalhaleem. Heavy Support Package indeed...
Steamroller or Slippery Eel, Ban Ki-Moon's 100 Days
at the Helm, Silence Doesn't Help
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- "I have many years to
go," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told UN staff on Thursday, apologizing for
bureaucratic delays in recruitment and promotion and what he is calling
He could have been directing this "give
me time" plea more widely, as anonymous UN insiders quoted ad nauseam in this
week's "Ban's First Hundred Days" stories have been saying. The critiques, which
Mr. Ban has been closely reading, have focused on the ham-handed introduction of
proposals to split the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations in two, and to
alter the UN's Division of Disarmament Affairs. After acrimony, the proposals
were modified, after Ban mollified UN power players (or steamrollers) whom many
say Ban hadn't sufficiently considered, if only to work around, in the first
To belatedly play the
Hundred-Day, sources-say game, a just-left Ambassador of a Permanent Five
member of the Security Council credited Mr. Ban for acting on what this
ex-Ambassador calls the "Cash for Kim scandal," in which the UN Development
Program was found in withheld internal audits to be paying the Kim Jong Il
regime in hard currency. Ban's reaction,
on January 19,
was to call for an "urgent audit" -- initially worldwide, then
scaled back to only North Korea.
Still, it was said the "urgent audit" would be completed in 90 days. In a
stakeout interview Thursday morning, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban, video
from Minute 13:12 --
Press: The urgent audit that you called for of UNDP in North Korea, that was
supposed to be done in 90 days, we are almost at that time and they still
haven't finished the terms of reference. So I am wondering is the time for the
audit to be completed going to be extended, and also if the auditors are not
allowed enter the DPRK, what will the UN system do in terms of concluding the
Ban Ki-moon: It
is still under investigation. I do not have anything to tell you at this time.
Whenever I have further information I will let you know.
The background to this (non-)
answer is not only that Mr. Ban was called Slippery Eel by the South Korean
press, but also that Mr. Ban has previously been asked to let the UN Board of
Auditors speak to the press about their work, which
still hasn't happened.
Likewise, Mr. Ban previously said he would instruct his heads of funds and
programs like UNDP's Kemal Dervis to be available to the media.
Mr. Dervis has not held a single press conference since the Cash for Kim scandal
broke. In fact, Mr. Ban's deputy secretary general, Asha Rose Migiro, has yet to
hold a press conference, having so far publicly taken a total of four questions
from the media, including one from Inner City Press about UNDP. Thursday a
"senior UN official," who spoke only on that basis, said that Ms. Migiro will
head up Ban's next structural hot potato, "System-Wide Coherence." Ms. Migiro
will meet Friday on the topic with General Assembly president Sheikha Haya
Rashed Al Khalifa. Good time to take questions? We'll see.
Ban Ki-moon responding to if not answering
questions, on April 12
This being a Hundred-Day,
Sources-Say story, the focus is on management style and on telling details.
Beyond the bungling announcement of the DPKO split, Assistant Secretary General
for Peacekeeping Hedi
Annabi only learned that he is being let go by watching on in-house TV the
noon press briefing of
February 9, at which chief of staff Vijay Nambiar read out a (hit) list.
City Press is informed -- not by Mr. Sach, who now only intermittently replies
to emails -- that UN Controller Warren Sach has yet to know "will I stay or will
I go," even as his contract expires this month. The LA Times' 100 Day
sharper than most, described an incident most UN correspondents had heard, of
Ban Ki-moon rebuking outgoing disarmament chief Nobuaki Tanaka in such a way
that "talk that Ban would not brook dissent ricocheted all the way to U.N.
outposts in Geneva and Vienna."
How openly under Ban UN whistleblowers
can be retaliated against is a question that still hasn't been answered.
Recently a UNDP staffer, close to the Cash for Kim matter, was accused of
leaking information and was told, "You're fired and by the way, you have to
leave the country." UN staff who are not U.S. citizens can be silenced with the
threat of loss of not only their UN jobs, but their ability to stay in the U.S..
This could be fixed, by Ban or the host country. But will it be fixed?
UN staff have other questions,
whether the outsourcing of $9 billion from
their Pension Fund, pushed forward by Kofi Annan's USG for Management Chris
Burnham, will go forward. At
Thursday's town hall meeting, Mr. Ban said he still hasn't decided. Last month,
Mr. Ban passed the hat of being his Pension Fund representative from Warren Sach
to USG for Management Alicia Barcena back to Mr. Sach. Ms. Barcena, among the
most approachable of Team Ban, has told Inner City Press that the switch did not
indicate any change in policy about privatization. But then why switch?
In the town hall meeting, Ban emphasized
the idea of job mobility within the UN system, saying that Ms. Barcena and ASG
for Human Resources Jan Beagle would develop the idea. The Staff Union has
called on Mr. Ban to remove Ms. Beagle from that position, something on which
there's as yet no response.) Nor has there been any announcement of the winners
of the dozen "mobility posts," including a speechwriter's gig, that he announced
months ago. Some staff say those jobs were already handed out. How the winners
are announced will be another test.
Ban has reacted to other
Hundred-Days stories by congratulating reporters, even those
perceived as critical.
There is at the UN something of a symbiosis: the beat reporters see their stars
(and airtime or column inches) rise to the degree that the UN is important and
its Secretary-General articulate and of interest. Recently, some question at Mr.
Ban's press encounters are pre-screened, or at least pre-posed. Perhaps, one wag
wondered, this is how it's done in South Korea.
In fact, the back story to Mr.
Ban's press availability on Thursday was his granting of face time to the South
Korean media on Tuesday. When it was raised, a stakeout was arranged. It's been
during his recent trip through the Middle East, Mr. Ban dined each night with
the South Korean ambassador to the country he was in. Some say that's fine, he
knows these people. Others wonder at entanglements and influence.
In the Cash for Kim audit, an irony's
arisen. Some of the funding that is subject to the audit flowed from South to
North Korea while Mr. Ban was Foreign Minister of South Korea. Inner City Press
has asked the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, how much? The
spokesperson to whom such questions are assigned has referred Inner City Press
first to the South Korean mission to the UN (which refused to answer or even
respond), then to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (where
the spokesperson used to work, with Mr. Ban).
"You can go beg the South
Korean government," Inner City Press was told. Click
for that story. Well, no. The story will be told -- like Mr. Ban said, there are
"many years to go."
For now, we'll close with a seemingly
apples-and-oranges comparison of the first 100 days, in the same state, of Ban
Ki-moon and New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who has asked the press to call him
Versus Slippery Eel: Tale of the Tape After 100 Days
Ban Ki-moon took office promising to
clean up the UN and its reputation, among other things. Eliot Spitzer said the
same, and zeroed in on earmarks in the state budget, and lobbyist disclosure.
While Ban Ki-moon made public his own financial disclosure form, none of the
senior officials he has named has followed suit. Some argue that this must await
action by the UN General Assembly. But Mr. Ban could have conditioned the
granting of posts on the grantee making disclosure.
One similarity is the need to back down.
Spitzer had to back down on the budget, and was roughed up by the union of
health care employees. Ban had to change, for example, his Disarmament program,
had to go down himself -- not only sending chief of staff Vijay Nambiar -- to
mollify the G77, as he will now have to do on System-Wide Coherence. Some say
that the remaining ASG posts will be Ban's carrots to get needed support.
Spitzer has quipped, "if
we solved every problem in 100 days, there would be nothing left for us to do
over the next three years and nine months." Mr. Ban might say the same --
perhaps he meant to -- except that it's FOUR year and nine months. Or maybe NINE
years and nine months. Time alone will tell.
Other Inner City Press
reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on
Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540