In UN Staff Union, Charges of Coup d'Etat in
Meetings Closed to Press
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Muse
April 7, updated April 13 --
The current leadership
of the UN Staff Union is being accused of irregularities and of
excluding” candidates, by a group of purported reformers who, alongside
call for transparency and free and fair elections, held a meeting
closed to the
Press on Tuesday.
takes place while moves are afoot to reduce for
example the number of sick days and leave days for staff members with
contracts, and while the physical
safety of staff members is increasingly in
throughout 2007 and 2008 the Staff Union
meetings were open, now UN Security officers are used to bar the media
entering. The result is not only a lack of transparency, but also the
up of mistreatment of staff members. The meeting prior to Tuesday
involved the death of
staff member Jesmel Navoa who had a stroke in the UN's third
sub-basement; it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive on scene
to attend him,
and he died the next day in the hospital.
Union passed a resolution on the matter,
but excluded two media organizations from the meeting, and delayed four
releasing the resolution, which had been modified and watered down
closed-door vote. Ironically, that resolution called for the issuance
release to the press. But why would the media cover this meeting they
excluded from, which was summarized five days day? A television network
had been eager to cover this UN staff safety issue ultimately did not,
on these grounds -- on which, also, this article starts with press
Tuesday's meeting involved another
resolution, a copy of which a staff member disagreeing with the
the Press emerged and provided. In it, concern is expressed "about the
surrounding the conduct of the election of the 43rd Staff Council...
units of the organization with no staff representative and another 9
questionable representation." It calls for “free and fair elections...
Bulletins to be widely circulated on i-Seek and throughout the
to] ensure that a weekly bulletin is issued to the staff providing an
-- all this in a closed meeting not attended by the vast majority of
City Press arrived at the ECOSOC Chamber to
cover the meeting at 1:15. In an abundance of caution, Inner City Press
the UN Security Officer in front of the door that it wished to cover
meeting as me dia. The Officer went in, then came out to say that one
said "no." The First Vice President of the Union Tom Ginivan arrived,
repeated as he had the previous time that the Press would be allowed
the Security Officer asked for clarification.
representative of the UN's
Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit came, and finally summoned the
of the Unit. After stating that if the president of the Union said the
was open, it would be open,
he emerged from the ECOSOC Chamber to say that Fred
Doulton, now described as the chairman, had ruled that the meeting was
He added that it was not really
a UN meeting, despite the use of UN Security to
exclude the press. ("That's just a [security] post," he said of the
Perhaps the insurgents didn't want their
deliberations to be seen. But it was a meeting at which they sought to
appointed a Caretaker-Administrator of the UN Staff Union. It was, more
one staff member called it, an attempted coup. Only at the UN could
meeting be said to have nothing to do with the UN.
Elections at UN - in General Assembly, Staff
Union elections not shown
Earlier the same day, the UN couldn't
even call the military chasing out
Madagascar's elected president a coup d'etat. Inside its own
apparently has no written rules on what meetings and events can or
covered by the press. The UN still has no freedom of information
promised by previous Under Secretary General for Management Alicia
when a coup is plotted right inside the UN the meeting is closed,
and UN Security is used to exclude the media.
meeting broke up, multiple interviews with both sides and the middle
that because far fewer than 300 staff members were in attendance, no
held on the resolution. One of the insurgent, Mampela Mpela, reportedly
threatened to organize a "recall" drive against DPI unit
representative Maha Fayek. Ms. Fayek said that none of the
has receive from those in her unit have asked for a new election; she
to show her e-mails in this regard. That,
would be transparency.
of the union after the meeting made clear to MALU its position that the
Press should have been
allowed; the response was that the president should have said so at the
time. All of this is a diversion: there
are moves afoot to, for example, reduce sick days and leave days for
temporary contracts, there is very little participation by staff
these changes. We will continue to follow these issues.
In this case, everyone could and should do
better, including this publication and page. Here's hoping.
Update of April 13: After the
publication of the article above, more
information became available. Some was provided by those we'd called
-- they prefer “petitioners” -- and some by sources high in the ether
the UN system. First, a clarification: while undoubtedly the Press was
from the April 7 meeting, all are now fingering Fred Doulton. Even the
petitioners say they had nothing to do with it, and would have
(Mr. Doulton, by the
way, wrote that "Over
the years, experiences such as these have helped me evolve. I have
there is always a better way to do things, and that people matter more
States, organizations, and belief systems." Maybe returning these
to open status is a better way to do things....)
petitioners wish it to be known that
they are "not in it for personal gain," only out of feeling for the
long history of the Union. Mpela, for example, is grateful for what she
the staff union's intervention to keep her out of jail in 1983. She
in mere months.
petitioners also contest the statute
that's being used. It was enacted with less than 200 people. All they
they say, is an election. They contest one staff representative's
that there is hardly a groundswell for this.
a few days in running this update as we are making inquiries into why
petitioners were not able to put notice of their meeting on the UN's
system. We will have more on this.
for a new YouTube video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
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
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
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AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
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