At UN, Protest of Staff Union
Under Team Ban's Watchful Eye, Scripted Town Hall Revealed
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, January 26, updated Jan. 27
the UN run like Zimbabwe?
The question was raised at a rare protest inside its
Headquarters building, as the 42nd Staff Council handed the baton to
without a contested election having been held. The transition took
Room 4 in the basement. Some three dozen protesters milled outside with
demanding democracy and transparency.
Inner City Press spoke with many of the
protesters, including South African staff member, head of the UN Photo
Mampela Mpela, who said she has fought for democracy for 60 years,
going to stop now. In writing, she has said "surely Mugabe has good
company right here at the United Nations that criticizes him."
Also at the protest was Gail
whose candidacy was
ended by UN Polling Officers based on a ruling that signatures she
from the UN Pension Fund staff among others were not valid. She took
a letter released Monday on the UN's intranet by the head of the
Department of Management Angela Kane.
Ms. Kane, while writing she respects the
principle of "non-interference by management in union affairs,"
nevertheless referred to the Pension Fund and ISCS staff's
participation in the Staff Union up until now." She urged that steps be
taken to create a credible partner in the Staff Union.
In terms of credibility and non-interference,
however, a document Inner
City Press has obtained raises the question of which of the three sides
dispute are more Zimbabwe-like. A memo describing Ban Ki-moon
informal and unscripted January 5, 2009 Town Hall meeting with staff
advance, the staff members who would be permitted to ask questions,
Sayyid Hashim Alavi from Afghanistan, Mr. Wayne Hayde from Darfur and
Sow from the Congo. Click here for the
Sainte, with pink scarf, outside CR 4 (c) M.Lee
There were staff union officials from other duty stations: Eduardo
Chaparro from Santiago, Rhoda Atana from Nairobi, Ahed Sboul from ESCWA
Stefano Berterame from Vienna and Mulutsega Legesse from Addis Ababa.
of public information, David Winhurst, was in the script. Only after
Mahfoudi, a senior human resources assistant in Geneva, was the
the Staff Union in New York Stephen Kisambira allowed to speak. If he
were, as charged, Mugabe it
would hardly be this way.
The noontime protest Monday was
dominated by staff
from the Department
of Public Information. One senior DPI official, Ahmad Fawzi, who
returned from serving as Ban Ki-moon spokesman during his trip to Gaza
and elsewhere in the Middle East, conferred with the protesters and
briefly held a sign for
transparency. In light of Angela Kane's stated commitment to
by management in Staff Union affairs, Inner City Press asked Fawzi's
comment on the protest. By deadline, no response had been received.
Update of January 27: after
reiterating on Jan. 27 the questions about the protest, asking "what
you thought of it, how you heard of it, if you've seen Angela Kane's
letter of yesterday on i-Seek and if you view yourself as 'management,'
as the term is used in her letter or otherwise, and if you're willing,
your history with and thoughts about unions in the UN system," the
following was received from Mr. Fawzi:
received emails from staff reps.
- I view myself first as a staff member of the Secretary-General and of
Organization, as an international civil servant, and also as a manager.
- I have read the letter and agree with the USG. By the way, re your
of what I thought of the protest: I came too late to form an
the actual protest, re what I think of it overall, I endorse the USG's
I stopped by a half-hour after the protest was scheduled, to stay
see for myself how things had gone, and to speak to those who had
- On thoughts about the staff union, I feel strongly that staff, and
concerns, should be well represented. Re my views on the union system,
The protest ended with vows to collect 300
signatures and convene a
general staff meeting. There have been issues in the
past about these
collections of signatures, including their publication along with UN
on the intranet. It should also be advised not to rely on
signatures from the
Pension Fund. Since the UN preaches democracy, it should try to
practice it. We
will continue to follow these issues.
Footnote: the UN is
belatedly moving to name a director of its new Office of Administration
of Justice. According to a January 21 e-mail from Angela Kane's
Principal Officer Lena Dissin, Ban Ki-moon "has decided to appoint
Andrei Terekhov... currently Deputy Director of the General Legal
Division of the Office of Legal affairs" to the position. Staff Union
sources call Terekhov an insider who has opposed rather than fought for
staff members' rights. We'll see.
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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