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UN's Larsen Refuses Ban-Requested Financial Disclosure As Conflict Questions Raised on "Peace" Event and Lebanon

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 12 -- UN representative Terje Roed-Larsen has declined to follow Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's request that envoys like him provide at least some public financial disclosure, so that possible conflicts of interest can be identified. As a controversial "Culture of Peace" event takes place at the UN, Inner City Press asked Larsen's other employer, the non-profit International Peace Institute, about its funding and how much Larsen has been paid.  IPI has refused to answer either question, and has referred Inner City Press back to the UN for all questions about Larsen's "pro bono" work for the UN.

  The question is whether the funding of IPI, of which Larsen is president, may create the impression of conflict of interest not only in Larsen's diplomatic activity in Lebanon, but also in the organization of the UN's November 13-14 "Culture of Peace" event.  Describing Larsen's role, UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe told Inner City Press on Wednesday that

"On behalf of the Secretary-General, Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen met in Riyadh on Sunday 2nd November with King Abdullah Bin AbdulAzziz Al-Saoud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and a series of other senior government officials. The trip took place as part of the Secretary-General's preparations for the high level meeting of the General Assembly on 12th - 13th Nov on the interfaith initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia."

  Larsen , it should be noted, is a UN Special Envoy for Lebanon, not religion. In response to Inner City Press' question of why Larsen is not even listed on the Secretary General's web site of senior officials and their public financial disclosure, Ban's Spokesperson's office told Inner City Press that

"Mr. Roed-Larsen has already sent in writing his form to the Ethics Office to say that he does not wish to disclose. In the meantime, he has submitted all the relevant documents related to his financial disclosure to the Ethics Office. Mr. Roed-Larsen is on a dollar a year contract."

  Inner City Press has asked IPI's spokesperson for "information about IPI's government funding," and about "Mr. Larsen's compensation from IPI." 

Roed-Larsen at the UN, financial disclosure not shown

   Inner City Press has also asked, "for Mr. Larsen and/or IPI, please comment on whether there are or should be any concern about funding Mr.  Larsen may receive through his position with the International Peace Institute, and the conflict or appearance of conflict of  interest that it may create?"

  IPI's response, from Larsen's Special Assistant Pim Valdre, stated in full that

"Mr. Russel Lee [sic]: Thank you for your message. 1. All questions related to Mr. Larsen’s pro-bono work for the UN have to be directed to the UN. 2. Mr. Larsen does not receive any compensation from the Government of Saudi Arabia, nor any other governments, individuals, or institutions except the International Peace Institute (IPI). For information about IPI and IPI's donors, please visit IPI's website on"

  But the web site does not provide any quantitative information, much less comment. Rather, it says among other things that

"IPI is an independent research and policy institute which is registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. However, we do work in close collaboration with the UN Secretariat, agencies, programmes and funds, as well as with UN Member States.IPI is funded by generous donations from governments, philanthropic foundations, and individuals. Roughly 70% of our annual funds are from government donors, and 22% of our funds are from philanthropic foundations. The remaining funds come from corporate sponsors, individuals, and our board members."

    Inner City Press has made one last attempt, cc-ed to the UN's Ms. Okabe

"I wrote to IPI because I could not find on its web site information about funding [any numbers]. Please directly me to where on your web site this requested information is. Does your response mean that the question of how much Mr. Larsen is compensated by IPI will not be answered? Particularly because you describe Mr. Larsen's work as SRSG as 'pro bono,'  please state whether he receives Daily Sustenance Allowance from the UN, if so how much in 2006, 2007 and 2008 to date, and if he has received any benefits or services from any other non-IPI source durin that time frame, particularly in Lebanon. While I am as you suggest cc-ing this to the UN (Ms. Okabe at the Office of the Spokesperson), I believe Mr. Larsen, you as his assistant and IPI should be answering these questions."

  It should be noted that Ban Ki-moon has loudly asked his senior officials and envoys to make such financial disclosures. As questions about Roed-Larsen's roles continue to mount, the seriousness and substance of Ban's stated goal of transparency are themselves in question. We'll see.

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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