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Inner City Press Podcast --

At UNDP, Morale Low in Georgia, N. Korea Says "Expect No Audit Help"

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 14 -- As the Administrator of the UN Development Program Kemal Dervis is in Albania launching the "One-UN" structure under which UNDP will be the UN's lead in-country agency, questions about how UNDP treats its own staff, and reports to its Executive Board, are proliferating.

            Within UNDP, national staff are beginning to ratchet up complaints. Today's report focuses on what some call a "local rebellion" in Georgia, described below, but similar issues simmer on several continents.

            At Headquarters, where UNDP has been without a head of human resources since the abrupt down-shifting of Brian Gleeson in November 2006, the complaints are referred from one office to another, eventually up to Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert. Ad Melkert has been distracted, using the UNDP press office to issue his self-serving screeds about his time at the World Bank. Dervis has denied interviews, even to his home-country, Turkish press, until at earliest the "summer." Meanwhile Dervis is reportedly seeking to move the UNDP's center in Bratislava to Istanbul.

            A survey taken by UNDP of its staff in Georgia in September 2006 found that over 60% of staff reported witnessing "conduct I thought violated UNDP's code of ethics," and that less than 40% were proud to work for UNDP. (Further results below.) Two-thirds believe that UNDP will not respond constructively to the results of the survey.

Voting in Georgia

            In the face of these negative results, Kalman Mizsei's successor Kori Udovicki traveled to Georgia, but refused to meet with the local staff. UNDP is an agency increasingly out of control, including as reflected by the failure of spokesman David Morrison to for one week now to answer the following questions:

Inner City Press has been shown a copy of a memo entitled "UNDP Georgia Staff Concerns." This is an on-deadline request for your  comments on the memo, including but not limited to

-why did UNDP management announced its plan to introduce L4 level international ARR post for a maximum two-year period?

-is such post, as appears, tailored-made for on specific person? How has the process complied, or not complied, with UNDP recruitment rules?

-Why is there a proposed five years with UNDP requirement for the post?

-would such an L4 contact make the UNDP Georgia program unsustainable? When? If not, why not?

What is the rationale, and impact, of excluding national staff from the highest posts in Georgia and elsewhere?

Also, please describe (and provide read-out after) meetings on this topic in the recent past and today.

Please describe the itinerary of any trip to Albania in the near future,
Were you shown a version of the audit of UNDP in DPR Korea last week? If so, is the audit in essence finished, and how does that comport with your agency's repeated statement that the two weeks were merely in preparation of a larger audit?

            While other than a referral by UNDP's Georgia resident representative Robert Watkins back to David Morrison there has been no response for a week now to the questions above, on the issue of the DPR Korea audit, Inner City Press has seen a May 4 memo by UNDP's Asia and Pacific Bureau, headed by Hafiz Pasha, which discloses that on March 26, the Kim Jong Il government

"Informed UNDP that while the audit exercise could be held in DPRK for other UN agencies, UNDP could not expect Government to agree to an audit of UNDP programs."

            While UNDP and the Secretariat have repeatedly said that the DPR Korea has not denied access to the auditors, this until-now-concealed statement of March 26 is clear: UNDP was informed by the North Korean government that it would not "agree to an audit of UNDP programs." We will have more on these and other UNDP issues.

The UNDP Georgia Results

                                                                                                             Agree     Disagree Neutral

7. I am able to influence decisions that affect my work.                43.75        56.25       

27. UNDP adapts to new demands of clients.                                46.67        53.33     

4. My work gives me a feeling of personal accomplishment.        33.33        66.67     

5. I feel I have sufficient motivation to work.                                 36.84        63.16     

11. In general, I am satisfied with my job.                                       40.00        60.00     

13. Work pressures & stress in my job are at acceptable levels  31.25        68.75     

15. I am proud to work for UNDP Georgia.                                      38.46        61.54     

                More troublingly,

                                                                                                                      Agree     Disagree

31. I have recently observed an abuse of authority and harassment in this office.              61.11       38.89     

32. I have recently observed conduct that I thought violated UNDP's code of ethics.          62.50  37.50     

14. I am satisfied with the information I receive about what is going on in UNDP Georgia.    6.67         93.33

16. I feel that the environment at the country office is fit to encourage the cooperation and teamwork. 13.33       86.67  

19. I am encouraged to devote at least 5% of my time to learning new things.             25.00       75.00

22. I feel that staff entitlements and benefits are duly respected in this office.         13.33       86.67   

23. I would recommend UNDP Georgia as a good place to work.                26.67       73.33     

26. UNDP provides effective mechanisms for staff to resolve conflict/have grievances heard.     16.67       83.33     

35. I think the current high staff morale in this office positively affects the office work.         -               100.00   

And then 25. I believe that UNDP will respond constructively to the results of this survey.        33.33       66.67     

            After reviewing these UNDP survey results, Inner City Press shared them with a member of a Georgian research institution, who asked to be identified as such in light of a need to deal with UNDP, who opined that "UNDP Georgia is something of a mess.  The international staff are imperious and out of touch. There's clearly a lot of featherbedding in the senior posts, and I'm not surprised that the locals would resent it.  The international managers seem to consider Tbilisi a hardship post. Yes, I'm sure it's much easier to get foie gras in Geneva, but this isn't Bujumbura. Their tenders are full of UN- ese mumbo jumbo, and the managers refuse to clarify.  When I ask the local staff, they tell me that they'd like to help but their bosses tell them not to!"

    Again, 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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