In UN's Caste System, Talent Wasted by Nepotism, G's
Called Just a Clerk, Offered No Protection
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, February 26 -- "The UN is like a
caste system," an over-qualified General Service staff member told Inner City
Press. "If you come into the system near the bottom, they make it nearly
impossible to rise" to the Professional grade. On Tuesday one of the few
opportunities came, when the so-called G to P exam was administered. Some 200
General Service staff take the test, vying to ten or so Professional posts. The
process is far from transparent, and there are no appeals.
Throughout the UN system, one finds
General Service staff and security officers with graduate degrees, who often are
more knowledgeable that the people who supervise them. It all depends on how and
at what level a person came into the system, and who they know. Inner City Press
knows a security officer with a masters degree in international affairs, who is
told he cannot rise. Meanwhile there are directors of offices with less academic
credentials, and less knowledge.
The UN's caste system is more
than bureaucratic, it was become a culture. A UN official to whom questions
about a technician's
directed remarked, "It's only a clerk." Questions were left unanswered, because
the technician was not a staff member of the Secretariat, but rather of
something called the
Computing Center, administered by the World Health Organization which has
also refused questions. This ICC, it turns out, does not defend those who work
for it. One ICC technician, faced with sexual harassment by a high UN official,
was told by the UN in New York that nothing could be done, to reach over the
Atlantic to the ICC. There, the answer was that the ICC does not process, or
apparently favor, such complaints.
When Ban Ki-moon took over at Secretary
General more than a year ago, he promised to bring not only transparency but
also modern management methods, mobility for staff. So far, it has not happened.
The previous Deputy Secretary General was confronted with leaked statistics,
which showed the system's waste of talent. One of the complaints was that those
hired at the G level were not told they could not rise, that they could not even
take to G to P test until they had wiled away five years. What was the
response? To make G level entrants sign a waiver that they knew they would be
trapped, even in some cases committing not to seek to rise. This archaic caste
system continues; the reforms promised by Ban Ki-moon have yet to be seen.
Ban Ki-moon: whistleblower? Staff mobility not shown
Footnotes: Mr. Ban himself was last
a campaign to end violence against women,
handing out little white whistles on key
chains, to blow if and when
violence approaches. One wag in the crowd said, at last, Ban's UN is finally
encouraging whistleblowers. We'll see.
A person who took the test told Inner City Press
that on this year's Public Information test, there was a question about bloggers,
a question that in the real world the UN has yet to answer, or is answering
* * *
These reports are
usually also available through
Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.
here for a
AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army.
for an earlier
piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's
$200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.
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
Other, earlier Inner
City Press are listed here, and
some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com -