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UN's Nairobi Snub of Africa and Women Shows Planning Chaos, Audit Cover-up, Sources Say

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 3 -- As hundreds of UN staff members in Kenya marched in protest of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's sudden decision to substitute in the top UN top in Nairobi a German man, Achim Steiner, for Tanzanian Anna Tibaijuka, the lack of thought that went into the substitution began to emerge in New York. Inner City Press on March 2 asked Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane who was that day in charge in Nairobi. Ms. Kane replied that "Mr. Achim Steiner was designated Director-General of UNON, effective 1 March.... could you please ask your other questions at the noon briefing?  - I just cannot respond to individual queries in view of the heavy demands on my time."

   At the March 3 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, video here from Minute 10:20

you announced now that the replacement of Ms. Tibaijuka by Mr. Steiner in Nairobi.  There are reports and pictures of a staff protest of that action.  So I am wondering if the UN… first of all you said because of rotation.  Where else has the Secretary-General instituted rotation and has he received, beyond just the staff protest, has he received any enquiries from African countries or the African Group about switching a UN office in Africa from an African to a German, and from a woman to a man?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  I am not aware of any other protests received, and the issue of rotation and mobility is something that the Secretary-General has put very highly on his agenda since he took office.  This is something that he’s been promoting for staff throughout the UN system and I think that, as he mentioned today, this is in view of that vision of his.  And in terms of Ms. Tibaijuka’s service, I just want you to look at the press release that was issued in Nairobi.

  There were several problems. While Ms. Tibaijuka had been in place atop UNON for two and a half years before being rotated out, the head of the UN Office in Geneva, a Russian man named Sergei Ordzhonikidze, has been in place for seven years. If there is a policy of rotation, it is selective, it appears.

  Second, while a press release was belated issued in Nairobi, Mr. Steiner himself was reportedly not in Nairobi.

UN's Tibaijuka presses flesh for UN in Beijing, thanks for nothing

Consider the following, presented by Inner City Press and its team as Q&A then comment:

-- At this moment, who is the officer in charge of UNON? [answer: reporetdly, a D1 from the Food and Agriculture Organization!] 

-- What is the view of staff at UNON about the removal of Tibaijuka as DG? [answer: 1000 of them protested today in Nairobi, an act of great courage given the UN's history as Retaliator.]

-- What is the status the OIOS management audit of UNON now that the SG has removed the DG?  Will the OIOS management audit be discontinued? [Answers unknown, but questions that should be answered]

-- Has the SG responded to requests from the Africa Group to reconsider his decision to remove the DG? [Answer unknown]

--The SGB on UNON has been changed solely for the purposes of removing the DG and without due consultation with member States or OLA.  

--The results are threefold: integrity of the UN and its administrative instruments is damaged; the UN is operating without consultation with member States as if the UN were a private company, and the SGB is legally weak, ambiguous and reflects indecent haste.

--One manifestation is the problem of who serves as OIC when the DG is away on mission or leave; it is not clear who serves as OIC when the DG is the second most senior person in rank. The former DG is now more senior than the present DG and can therefore not serve as OIC.

--This problem occurred immediately as the new DG elected to travel on official mission after serving as DG for only 9 hours on 2 March 2009 (itself a questionable move); the USG for Management Angela Kane demanded that the former DG serve as OIC not realizing the legal contradictions in the new, hastily prepared SGB. The old DG expressed the legal impossibility of her serving as OIC for the new DG, but her concerns were left unanswered. In the impending state of confusion, the DG desperately attempted to identify another OIC, first by approaching the ASG for UN-HABITAT, Inga Klevby, who refused saying that she saw now statutory basis or administrative guidelines that would allow her to serve as OIC. Frustrated, the DG searched and searched and eventually found a D-1, FAO Representative to agree to serve as OIC for UNON.

--The third largest duty station of the UN with over 5,000 employees is currently being run by a D-1 with no prior knowledge of UNON and under ambiguous statutory authority.

--All this comes at a time when all key senior staff of UNON are conspicuously absent. The DG is on mission. The Head of UNON Administration is on vacation. The head of Security is on mission. 

  We will have more on this, including the security aspect. Watch this site.

Footnote: Spain's Minister for Equality Ms. Bibiana Aido Almagro spoke to the Press Tuesday morning in front of the UN Security Council. Inner City Press asked for her and Spain's view of the replacement of Anna Tibaijuka by Achim Steiner.  She said that it is important to "incorporate women... especially now." Video here, from Minute 4:50. Inner City Press followed up, does the UN need the type of Equality Plan that Spain now requires of large companies. Apparently it does. Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

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.

* * *

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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