UN, Ban's Management Chief Despairs of Lightweight Jibe, Prepares to Unveil
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27, 8 pm, updated
Feb. 28, 11 am -- Two months into Ban Ki-moon's term as Secretary-General, his
Under-Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena is slated to unveil his UN
reforms on March 5. An email Ms. Barcena sent on February 25 to a former UN
official who had
called her a "lightweight"
states that she will present the reforms "next week both to regional groups and
to the press." (Ms. Barcena's email message, below, also accuses her critic of
only complaining about her and Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro because
they "are two women from the south replacing a british and an american whites [sic]
from the North.") Inner City Press, after obtaining a copy of Ms. Barcena's
email message, inquired with Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office and confirmed
that Ms. Barcena has scheduled a press conference for March 5.
Of what will Mr. Ban's UN reform
proposals consist? On Monday Inner City Press asked his spokesperson about a
Secretary General Bulletin just released, which propounds classifications of UN
documents as confidential or "strictly confidential," and encourages the
withholding for example of all draft or intra-office documents "if disclosure
would undermine the Organization's free and independent decision-making
process." While this language to some degree tracks Exemption Five of the U.S.
Freedom of Information Act, there is a major difference: at the UN, there is no
right to information, even if it is not classified as confidential. Might
granting such Freedom of Information rights be part of Mr. Ban's reforms? We'll
[It is possible that a preview of Ban's proposed reforms will emerge before
March 5. As of this writing at 7:55 p.m. on Tuesday, we're told that some may be
in Wednesday's New York Times. Ms. Barcena lunched Tuesday at the 21 Club where
she was not available for comment, at least to this publication.
Update of Feb. 28, 10:50 a.m. -- The
now-out NY Times story says Ban is reforming the UN, "according to officials in
his office." It cites the 12 mobility jobs which Inner City Press asked Vijay
Nabiar about earlier this month. At that time, with the deadline for applying
for the jobs already passed, Mr. Nambiar said some 500 applications had been
received. Now the Times, or the unnamed UN officials, say there are 1200
The above quoted SG Bulletin on
"Information sensitivity, classification and handling" appeared with Document
Number ST/SGB/2007/6, meaning that it is the sixth Bulletin issued by Mr. Ban.
Also available through the UN's Online Document Service is Bulletin 5, about
"Record-keeping and the management of United Nations archives." But ODS does not
include copies of Bulletin's 1, 2, 3 or 4 of 2007. Inner City Press has asked
the spokesperson's office about these. Freedom of Information, anyone?
Updated Feb. 28, 10:50 a.m. -- One
mystery has been explained. Mr. Philip Dale of "Editorial Control" in the UN
Secretariat has called, leaving a message that Document Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4
are reserved for amendments to the Staff Rules. "Your story piqued my interest,"
said Mr. Dale, "keep up the good work." Well all right...
[Speaking of archives, the UN's Dag
Hammarskjold Library's basement reading room was unceremonious closed on
February 20, for an indefinite period of time. A sign on the door says this is
in connection with moving the archives to Long Island City as part of the UN's
Capital Master Plan. While there is talk of moving the press corps down to what
is now the reading room, and shifting press conferences to what is now the
auditorium, this is not slated until 2012. So the closure of the reading room
seems a bit premature.]
For Ms. Barcena's March 5
press conference, likely unavoidable reform topics include the UN's internal
justice system and the patchwork and often violated systems for recruiting and
hiring staff, or employee-consultants. The halls of the Secretariat Building
echo with the tales of people on month-to-month contracts, people working years
for the UN without being called staff, without being given a UN email address,
people laid off one month each year to remain without rights, people displaced
from jobs so that friends of the boss can be brought in. The buzzword "mobility"
is not the solution to problems become systemic.Ban Ki-moon could tackle
this, it remains to be seen if he will.
Another topic that would seem
unavoidable, given the recent Staff Council resolution to sue it, is the
proposed outsourcing of $9 billion from the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund. (Click
a recent Inner City Press article on the topic.) Inner City Press had requested
that Ms. Barcena come to do a press conference on a number of emerging issues,
including the UN Pension Fund. Mr. Ban is the fiduciary of the Pension Fund, and
the legal representatives of the people whose interests he is supposed to
protect have opposed the outsourcing. Until now, Mr. Ban has deferred to a plan
that was set in motion before he took office. Will he now reconsider the
outsourcing, and the unique legal status of the Pension Fund? On this, too,
in 1997, in UN Environment Program / grassroots days
For now, below is
Under-Secretary General Barcena's email message, click
the article she was responding to.
Alicia Barcena [ ]@un.org wrote
Dear Mr Abdul
I read with
dismay your article in the Sunday Times published on-line today 24 February
2007. I basically would like to refer to the following paragraphs:
"Some of the
best people who could help him make sense of the UN system, to name just two,
Mark Malloch Brown, deputy secretary-general and Chris Burnham, under
secretary-general in charge of the Department of Management under Annan, have
are the former foreign minister of Tanzania as deputy secretary-general, a lady
whose experience falls far short of the requirements of the job, and Mexican UN
staffer, Alicia Bercena, who now heads the demanding and complex department of
management. Any hopes of reform being aggressively prosecuted by these two
lightweights are gone forever. Ban has lost a great opportunity to hit the
I had the
privilege of working closely with Mark Malloch Brown and appreciate your
positive comments on his capacity and views. However, I was surprised to see
that when referring to Ms. Ashe-Rose Migiro and myself you qualify us a "two
lightweights" and make the assumption that we will be unable to carry forward
the UN Reform. I wonder if again we are facing the classical discrimination for
being women from the South as elements that disqualify us automatically. It
brings great despair to me when I see this comment coming from a person like
yourself which I regarded as highly independent and qualified particularly after
establishing the Ethics Office. I did not find in your article any further
analysis except that we are two women from the south replacing a british and an
american whites [sic] from the North.
It would indeed
bring more richness to the debate on the UN reform and basically for public
purposes to have a more substantive discussion with people like you and at least
to base comments of this nature only after you are aware of the vision of Mr.
Ban's team on how reforms can be carried ini [sic] this next phase or
reforms. I will present them next week both to regional groups and to the press
and truly hope that you will be able then to criticize or comment based on
substance and not only on names of persons or nationalities.
Inner City Press will be there
on March 5, and will report on the substance of what is unveiled and not on
nationalities. But it is difficult to report without using the names of persons,
although sometimes Inner City Press tries, click
an example, concerning the above-discussed UN Pension Fund, regarding which
there will be a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, watch this site.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
UN, Ban Ki-moon Wants Access to Darfur, Has Genocide Office Shortlist
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
February 15 -- After forty five days as Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon on
Thursday twice said he is "very much disappointed" by Omar al-Bashir's refusing
to allow a UN human mission into Sudan, and called preventing genocide a "very
important issue." In response to questions from Inner City Press, Mr. Ban said
that if al-Bashir "believe that there is no problem, then he should be able to
receive the human rights fact-finding mission."
rationale is that one member of the mission, Bertrand Ramcharan, had already
stated publicly that genocide is occurring in Darfur. (The UN has studiously
declined to confirm the reason for visa denial, despite Inner City Press' direct
requests for confirmation or denial at two of the noon briefings this week.) On
the use of what's come to be called the "G word," one sees the tide is turning.
envoy Andrew Natsios now
eschews the term.
And a UN official Thursday told Inner City Press on background that the Office
of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide may have to be renamed,
"because who would want to let into their country an office with genocide in its
title?" One wag made suggested putting a positive spin on the mandate: Office of
Systemic Protection of Human Rights. But what's in a name?
& Bashir: What's shaking?
City Press asked Mr. Ban about the
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that the genocide office, whatever
it is called, might be merged or downsized. Mr. Ban called the claim
unsubstantiated and "wrong" and said he is "looking at a shortlist of nominating
a successor to Mr. Mendez." Mr. Ban did not answer Inner City Press' question if
this shortlist will be public.
Press: On Darfur -- do you have any comments on the Sudan not allowing visas for
the high level human rights visiting group? And also, on the office of your
Special Adviser on [the Prevention of] Genocide, are you thinking of merging
that into any other department, or releasing a shortlist when you propose a
successor to Mr. [Juan] Mendez?
SG Ban Ki-moon:
First of all on this, I read a report suggesting that this is again an
unsubstantiated report on the organization of genocide. I have not taken any
action on either downgrading -- this was a wrong report -- and I am looking at
the shortlist of nominating a successor to Mr. Mendez on this matter. I have a
high priority on this very important issue, to prevent genocide...
On the visa
problem on the human rights fact-finding mission -- it was very much
disappointing for me. This is the issue I discussed with President [Omar al-]
Bashir duing my meeting with him in Addis Ababa. He said he would issue visas to
the fact-finding mission. He said he would have no problem. I am very much
disappointed by the decision of the Sudanese Government. I urge again that the
Sudanese Government fully cooperates with the unanimous decision of the Human
Rights Council. If he believes that there is no problem, then he should be able
to receive the human rights fact-finding mission.
analysis: these answers to Inner City Press' questions appeared among other
places in the
the New York Times,
which while quoting Andrew Natsios did not mention his recently backing away
from the word genocide. While reporting to date of Natsios' views and statement
the pushing of genocide from the present to the past is apparently
not contested by
Natsios or the Bush administration. So when will the paper of record chime in?
UN, Calls for Transparency and Short-Lists for Genocide Prevention Post, Russian
Sporting, Salad Days
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
February 14 -- The place of human rights in Ban Ki-moon's UN was questioned on
Wednesday. Acting on reports that the Kofi Annan-created Office of the Special
Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide might be downgraded or merged out of
existence, three non-governmental organization held a press conference at which
they urged transparency and that short-lists be released of any possible
successor to the current advisor, Juan E. Mendez. The NGOs, including Human
Rights Watch, the Institute for Global Policy and Amnesty International, urged
Ban Ki-moon to make public the report and recommendations of the Advisory
Committee to the S-G on the Prevention of Genocide.
Afterwards, Amnesty International's Yvonne Terlingen was asked if she had a copy
of the report. She at first indicated that she did have a copy, then declined to
provide a copy to requesting journalists, one of whom scoffed, "So the NGOs want
transparency for everyone but themselves."
subsequent UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokeswoman if
that report, and another one by Mr. Mendez about the Ivory Coast, could be
from Minute 14:53. Four hours later, the spokesperson's office responded:
question about NGOs urging the SG to consider making public the report and
recommendations of the advisory committee to the SG on prevention of genocide:
The SG has received the report and is considering its recommendations -- it is
not presently public."
report on the Ivory Coast, dated back to December 2005, nothing was said. The
spokesperson did say, however, that Mr. Mendez won't be reappointed, because he
has asked not to be. So will a short-list be released in this test case? We'll
Terlinger, 2d from left, 2006
wants transparency at the UN? Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for a
comment on the
controversial settlement of
the toxic waste dumping scandal between the Gbagbo government in Ivory Coast and
Trafigura, the European dumper which, as Inner City Press first
was part of the UN Oil for Food scandal. It is a settlement between a private
corporation and a member state, the spokesperson said, declining comment. Kofi
Annan speechified on the topic, but the new Administration apparently views it
as a "private" matter.
request made on Wednesday was for a list of all UN Goodwill Ambassadors and
"Dollar a Year" dignitaries. The latter requests dated back to the prior
Administration, and has yet to be filled. At a press conference with UNDP --
for that article -- tennis player Maria Sharapova was named a Goodwill
Ambassador. UNDP's Ad Melkert declined to provide a simple number on the volume
of UNDP's payments in North Korea in 2005, a year for which the books are
presumably closed. Afterwards, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was seen
exiting the protocol room containing Ms. Sharapova with a broad smile on his
face. In the hallway he told of his "sketchy" sporting career, including speed
skating. Inner City Press asked him for his favorite length. 1,500 meters was
the answer. There followed a story of breaking his leg in St. Tropez. Ms.
Sharapova left with an entourage including UNDP's Communications Office staff.
At the UN these days it is all spin, all the time. As one wag put it,
commenting on recent fix-ups of the staff cafeteria, the only thing that's
gotten more transparent at the UN is the salad bar, which is now under less
also marked the first snow of the season in New York. The UN closed down its
main walkway, shunting pedestrian entrants into the basement corridor by the
library. Dignitaries arriving by car, denied access to the tent by the General
Assembly, parked by the front door and entered along a thin and quivering path
like on suburban yards everywhere. Many senior officials left at 3 p.m.. One
long-time correspondent remembered back in anger at when, when the Rodney King
verdict was read out in Los Angeles, the UN closed down and sent everyone home
early. What was that again, about a human rights culture?
At the UN, Questions of Jobs Given Predetermined,
Nepotism Admitted in Schori's Parting Shot
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, February 9 -- Jobs were the focus at
UN Headquarters on Friday. At the two highest levels, there were comings and
going, a few unexpected. Lower down the food chain, a question arose about 12
particular jobs which Ban Ki-moon said were open for application -- called
"mobility" -- from anywhere within the UN system. More than five hundred have
applied for the 12 jobs, but a rumor in the hall is that the winner were already
selected, in some cases before the window to apply had even closed, on February
Chief of staff Vijay Nambiar
took questions on Friday at noon. Inner City Press asked him a senior official
not mentioned -- Jan Beagle of the Office of Human Resource Management -- and
about the status of the 12 "mobility" jobs. From the
Press: You already had a question I think that deals with ASG Jan Beagle, of
whom the Staff Council passed a vote of no confidence, and I think was
communicated -- she wasn’t on the list of acceptances, nor on the list of that
you read out of approvals. So, one, if you could somehow say what your thinking
is on that, and two, on the mobility posts that were posted on I-seek back on
January 19th for people to apply. How many people applied, and we’ve heard --
there seems to be a sense among staff that some of those posts were already sort
of given out -- what’s the status of the people seeking mobility at the staff
level of the people who applied for those positions from D2 down to --
Cabinet: I think there were in excess of 500 applicants, and I think they have
been short-listed, and we are in the process of selecting the people for the 12
positions in the Executive Office. And, I think this is unprecedented in many
ways, so we hope that -- the selection process is following the normal procedure
-- so I don’t think, we hope to be able to come to a kind of a closure in terms
of appointments soon.
The other one
that you said -- I wouldn’t want to deal with individual cases, but I would say
that there we have laid out certain policy guidelines, and we’ve been following
them as scrupulously as can be done in these circumstances.
Since Mr. Nambiar mentioned "short-lists"
for the 12 jobs at issue, Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson
for a copy of the short-lists. The response was laughter: if we don't give lists
out for Under Secretaries-General, we sure don't for these positions.
One of the position is that of
speechwriter. It is entirely understandable that a Secretary-General would want
to choose his own speechwriter without the formalities of the UN's job
recruitment rules. But to pretend one is following those rules to pick a
speechwriter casts doubts on the claim of fairness for the other eleven
There is also the rumor of officials from
South Korea, still parked in neutral in DC-1 and DC-2, gunning for positions.
Most seem to feel that they will not land in this high-profile 12 jobs, but
rather elsewhere. We shall see.
Other questions arose about which of the
officials whose resignations were accepted will actually stay on at the UN. Mr.
Nambiar responded that Ban Ki-moon will certainly want to keep some experience.
But behind the question are the rules, that staff members can return to their
jobs after services as political appointees. Or, as is said of Carlos Lopes, can
seek jobs back in UNDP, playing the card of the former Administrator.
Among those whose resignations
were accepted were two of the putative bosses of scandal-plagued Guido Bertucci:
USG Jose Antonio Ocampo and ASG Patrizio Civili. Inner City Press interviewed
Mr. Ocampo in mid-December outside the South Korean mission -- click
that story -- and Mr. Ocampo said he saw no substance to the charges against
Bertucci. Now it is rumored that Bertucci might get Civili's post. Along with
Beagle staying, that would set a certain tone.
Mervat Tallawy, who fought
tooth and nail to keep her post, including in conversation and lobbying of Inner
City Press, lost it. Click
the story on Tallawy More damning information had come in, but now is rendered
moot, except as indication of how the UN works. But for that,
see Inner City Press' four part (so
about the UN Pension Fund. Next week we are told that the Pension Board's audit
committee will meet. The meeting should be public. Thirty-six billion dollars
should not be doled out in secret. We will be returning to that topic next week.
In a sparsely-attended press
conference on Friday, outgoing UN envoy to the Ivory Coast Pierre Schori went
off, denouncing the Gbagbo government and troublingly, some things more. Inner
City Press asked Schori to confirm that his predecessor, Albert Tevodedjre of
Benin, had shown nepotism in hiring, and tarnished the name of the UN and its
Schori did not disagree, noting that when he started he received no transitions
memo, and noticed "many strange people" working in the mission, who took a long
time to get rid of. We aim to have more on this.
After Schori's briefing, four Ivorian
mission representatives made their case to Inner City Press that the next UN
envoy should be more attuned to Ivorian-ness. But how will that be accomplished?
Through the votes on the Council of the U.S. and of China. It is a process we
will cover, after the weekend is over.
In an end-of-week burst of unexplained
secrecy, a meeting on Children and Armed Conflict held at 3 p.m. on Friday in
basement Conference Room 5 was deemed closed. The sign outside did not say so,
and Inner City Press entered the room. Immediately the order to leave was
issued, and the sign was changed. Inside, French Ambassador de la Sabliere was
bragging about the achievements at the recent Paris conference. Why close this
to the press? And so it goes at the UN.
Other, earlier Inner
City Press are listed here, and
some are available in the ProQuest service.
Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
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