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At UN, Resistance to Financial Disclosure Seen As Pervasive, from Two Top Peacekeepers through UNDP

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- Resisting a call for financial disclosure by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN officials who have not made public even their decision to maintain financial confidentiality include the head of the UN Population Fund, Thoraya Obaid, Assistant Secretaries General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet and Dmitry Titov, whose title includes "the rule of law," two ASGs in the UN Development Program and three in UNICEF,  the UN's honorary USG on poverty issues, Jeffrey Sachs and the UN's own Controller, Warren Sach.

             The top 190 UN officials were asked by Ban to voluntarily disclose some of their finances, in order to give conflict of interest assurances to the general public as well as member states. In response to Inner City Press' questions on Tuesday, the UN spokesperson stated that of these 190 officials, 92 have agreed to participate, by including their names on the Secretary-General's financial disclosure web site. Ninety-two of 190 is less than half, and as Inner City Press pointed out, more than half of the 92 names on the site do not have live links to any disclosure forms. Of those with live links, at least sixteen have written on their forms that they "choose to maintain confidentiality." Inner City Press asked, are you counting these as participating in disclosure? The answer was yes, click here for the transcript.

            This means that nearly 100 senior UN officials, or half of those to whom Ban directed his request, have not even consented to make public their decision to maintain confidentiality. While it should be easy to determine who these reticent UN officials are, the UN does not make it easy to determine to whom it has given Under Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General status. The spokesperson on Tuesday said that the "audience of this was 105 Assistant Secretaries-General and 85 Under-Secretaries-General, and 92 have elected to" participate. But the UN Protocol and Liaison Service's online "USG / ASG List" identifies only 76 USGs (29 in New York and 47 "away from headquarters") and only 94 ASGs (36 in New York and 58 away from HQ). That is, there are nine unlisted USGs, and 11 unlisted ASGs.

            Even limiting the analysis to those senior officials listed by the UN's protocol service, following the UN spokesperson's public explanation on Tuesday, over 90 of these senior officials did not consent to disclose their decision to maintain confidentiality. Limiting ourselves for now to the non-reporters based in New York -- on the theory that it has taken longer to get the message out to the field -- those USGs based in New York who have by Spokesperson Okabe's logic not even consented to disclose their decision to maintain confidentiality include:

Thoraya Obaid, the USG head of the UN Population Fund;

Jeffrey Sachs, USG advisor on Millennium Development Goals;

Cheick Sidi Diarra, who holds two separate USG titles;

Susan McLurg, the new head of ACABQ (she took over only this month);

Joseph Verner Reed, special adviser USG;

Kingston Rhodes, USG chairman of the International Civil Service Commission;

Wolfgang Stoeckl, USG vice-chairman of the International Civil Service Commission;

Ibrahim Gambari, USG envoy for Iraq and Myanmar, currently in India.

Ban Ki-moon and two who have not made public any financial disclosure

            UN Assistant Secretaries General based in New York who have by Spokesperson Okabe's logic not even consented to disclose their decision to maintain confidentiality include:

Omar Abdi, ASG deputy at UNICEF

Catherine Bragg, ASG for humanitarian affairs

Choi Soon-hong, ASG for technology

Katherine Cravero-Kristoffersson, ASG at UNDP

Francis Deng, ASG on genocide

Sylvia Fuhrman, ASG at UN International School

Dieter Goethel, ASG on Staff Management Committee

Rebeca Grynspan, ASG at UNDP for Latin America

Saad Houry, ASG at UNICEF (recently arrived, on podium Tuesday)

Hilde Johnson, ASG at UNICEF

Kwame S. Jomo, ASG at DESA

Angela Kane, ASG for Political Affairs

Purnima Mane, ASG deputy at UNFPA

Haile Kenkerios, ASG for political affairs

Edmond Mulet, ASG deputy for peacekeeping

Warren Sach, ASG Controller

Dmitry Titov, ASG for Peacekeeping and rule of law

            Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe on Tuesday for Ban's reaction to this pervasive non-filing. Ms. Okabe read out a note that "available on that website that we mentioned [earlier] is the current list of those UN officials who have elected to provide a public summary of their disclosure." Watch this site.

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Andrew Toh Submits Resignation, With Critique of Ban & PTF

Related item, updated Jan. 30: Since less than half of the officials to whom Ban directed his request made any public summary, even one disclosing a decision to maintain confidentiality, it is difficult to understand the UN's treatment of former ASG Andrew Toh for, among other things, refusing to file financial disclosure. There are two or more sides to most stories, and we like to tell them. Numerous sources have told Inner City Press that the UN's Joint Appeals Board in late 2007 issued a still-confidential decision awarding Toh three years back pay, and that the Secretary-General has refused to act on the JAB decision. On Tuesday, Inner City Press obtained a copy of Andrew Toh's letter of resignation, recounting that the Panel on Discrimination and Other Grievances recommended that Toh be reinstated as an ASG, given an apology and awarded financial compensation. Toh writes to Ban Ki-moon, "your Administration has neither provided the courtesy of a response nor demonstrated the courage to accept responsibility for the lapses identified by the Panel... I have decided to take early retirement."

            Inner City Press on Tuesday asked Ban's spokesperson Marie Okabe to confirm receipt of the letter, and provide comment on it. Ms. Okabe responded at 6 p.m. that "as of this writing, no resignation letter has been received, and that "cases before the JAB are not commented on publicly to protect the confidentiality of the process and to respect due process afforded to staff," in Toh's case, particularly ironic. In response to an inquiry from Inner City Press, Toh stated that he submitted the letter by e-mail on January 28, and regular mail on Tuesday. Given what Toh's letter calls the Secretariat's lack of courtesy, he wondered when the letter would be acknowledged....

Update: Receipt of Toh's letter was issued at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. As for response to Toh's letter, watch this site.

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These reports are 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

  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.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540