UN and Microsoft, Conflicts of
Interest and Increased Non-Reporting, Tech Help
Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, October 2 --
During the UN's General Debate last week, Inner City Press stopped the
Special Advisor on Africa Cheick Sidi Diarra on his way past the
to the event that seemed incongruous: the Microsoft African Heads of
Reception. That same day, Microsoft's Bill Gates was allowed to speak
podium in the General Assembly Hall. How could a particular private
even one the size of Microsoft, be treated as if it were a country, and
given a venue like this at the UN?
On October 2, Cheick Sidi Diarra gave a press
conference on his other
role, regarding land-locked less developed countries, and Inner City
asked him about the Microsoft event, if he was there in his official
as a sibling. Video here,
from Minute 30:39.
Cheick Sidi Diarra said that the event was
co-sponsored by his Office
and Microsoft, "to bring Bill Gates to the UN" and as part of
strategy for the Continent. Inner City Press asked if Cheick
listed as Microsoft's Ambassador for Africa, was Cheick Sidi
"It's become very personal," Cheick Sidi Diarra complained.
"But he has the same name," Inner City Press
said. Not said, but relevant, is that Inner City Press on
September 29 asked a senior UN representative about the Microsoft event
and was told an answer was forthcoming. None was received.
Cheick Sidi Diarra said that his brother is a UNESCO
Ambassador, and Ban
Ki-moon's spokesperson moved the questioning on. Video here,
from Minute 33:48.
While Cheick Sidi Diarra seems to be a nice person
and has often stopped
in the hall to answer Africa questions from Inner City Press, it seems
possible conflict of interest to allow him to co-sponsor in the UN an
a corporation that his brother works for. What safeguards are in place
UN? Apparently none.
In a mark of backsliding ethics at the UN, the
number of UN staff who
have refused to file required financial disclosures grew by 500% before
and 2007, from 34 staff members in 2006 to 172 in 2007, according to a
just-released internal report which Inner City Press has obtained and
The report, by
PriceWaterhouse Coopers the "despite considerable follow-up by the
Office and by the heads of departments, there was a high rate of
by staff members than for the previous year." This
may explain Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon state to his senior staff in a recent speech in Turin, that he
lead by example "but no one followed."
Ban administers oath to Cheick
Sidi Diarra, brother and Microsoft not shown
This same report states that PwC "identified 21
cases... as having
a potential conflict of interest. In relation to these 21 cases,
members accepted PwC's advice regarding the appropriate compliance
Did these include the Cheick Diarra brothers? Did it
Lute, serving in UN Peacekeeping and now
Peacebuilding while her husband is President Bush's war czar for
and Iraq? In both cases, when Inner City Press asked the question,
was that the question was inappropriate or too personal. But these are
structural conflicts of interest. The UN must be reformed.
Footnotes: Also on info technology, and on
Microsoft, if you are a
Lebanese minister in New York and you need to send confidential
your President in Beirut, where do you go? Next to the bar, of course,
UN Delegates Lounge. There you'll find a help window leading to a room
until recently had been vacant for more than a decade. There are three
computers inside, one a wide-screen Macintosh, and two Chinese Lenovos
Microsoft operating systems. There are ten laptop which are lent out to
Ambassadors. One of the desk top computers is secure, not run on UN
The diplomats are promised secrecy, right inside the UN. Meanwhile, the
between the UN's computer operations and intelligence has never been
To come full circle to the land-locked less
developed states, Inner City Press asked Cheick Sidi Diarra if his
help the undeniably land-locked South Ossetia, or South Sudan.
Office helps only UN member states. What is its position on pipelines,
or Chad-Cameroon? This question wasn't answered. The
Office coordinates with other UN
agencies. How about Peacekeeping on shipping to the quite landlocked
How about coordinating with Jane Holl Lute's Peacebuilding Commission,
Burundi and Central African Republic? We hope to have more on this.
Watch this site, and this Sept. 18 (UN) debate.
* * *
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undefined trust fund. Video
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