Swiss Won't Disclose Amount Paid to Nicolas Michel,
Top UN Lawyer, Transparency Questioned
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
March 31 -- Two weeks
after it emerged that the UN's legal chief Nicolas Michel took
subsidies from the Swiss government from 2004 into 2007,
the Swiss mission to the UN has
refused to disclose the value of the subsidies, monthly, annually or in
total. As reported, Mr. Michel's own
public financial disclosure form for 2006 did not mention the
subsidies, and he
has since declined
to answer direct questions. On March 29, Swiss Mission
spokesman Johann Aeschlimann wrote,
Mr. Lee, I am not - and I will not be - providing details and figures.
indicated to you that the contribution was in the order of what is
Swiss diplomats, and I would like to leave it at that."
previously responded, when asked about the omission of
the subsidies from Nicolas
Michel's public financial disclosure form, that "this
is an internal UN matter and not for us to comment." On the amount of
subsidy, he had said "the contribution started at the beginning of Mr.
Michel's UN contract and it ended at the end of his contract under the
administration (end of February 2007). The contribution was in the
what is usual for Swiss diplomats." Inner City Press asked either for
amount, or for information on "what is usual for Swiss diplomats."
Even that was not answered - but will be, it would seem, in the future.
Nicolas Michel in mid-sentence, actual value of
housing subsidy not shown
to the UN Peter Maurer earlier this year pointed out Inner City Press that "the
U.S. Freedom of Information Act does not govern this organization." He
spoke outside a UN Development Program Executive Board meeting, which
had on its agenda a UNDP proposal to prohibit Board members from making
photocopies of audits of the spending of the money they contribute.
"There are different levels of sensitivity," Amb. Maurer said,
"about what kind of information should be available to what kind of
public. To believe that this organization is going to adopt U.S.
procedures is probably illusionary."
now, we can only peruse the Compact that
Mr. Michel signed with
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on February 4, 2008. The document refers to declaring conflicts of interest
(page 5 of 7) and, on page 3, to "openness and transparency."
Apparently, none of this extends to providing details and figures. It
one observer has called it, a belated, begrudging and superficial
To be continued.
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