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At UNDP, No Answer to Staff Complaints from Philippines, As Dervis Schmoozes Ban

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- It was 193 days ago that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a comprehensive audit of the North Korea operations of the UN Development Program and certain other UN agencies, to be completed in 90 days.

            It was 42 days ago that Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro wrote to the UN Board of Auditors, telling them that the Secretariat wants them to go to North Korea to actually audit UNDP's programs conducted there.

            On Monday, Ban Ki-moon met with Kemal Dervis, the Administrator of UNDP. Inner City Press asked for a read-out of the meeting, and on Tuesday one arrived from the Deputy Spokesperson:

"the Secretary-General and UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis met to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the appointment of UN Resident Coordinators. On UNDP operations in the DPRK, they both agreed that additional measures should be taken in an accountable manner, in consultation with member states and the UNDP Executive Board, to look into new allegations regarding UNDP."

            Since it was already decided back in January that at least the UN Board of Auditors, if not outside party, would audit UNDP, and a second phase of the audit was already called for 42 days ago, the read-out appears to move backward. Tuesday Inner City Press sought clarification at the noon briefing:

Inner City Press: yesterday the Secretary-General met with Kemal Dervis, of UNDP and you gave me this readout that says they agreed on additional measures for looking into DPRK that should be taken with Member States and executive boards.  I couldn't tell from this, what is the status of this second phase of audit that Deputy Secretary-General Migiro wrote a letter about a month ago?  What are the next steps on that or does this replace that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the latest on this subject.

Question:  So has the second part been done or not been done?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the latest that we have based on the conversation the Secretary-General had with the UNDP Administrator, which, for the others in this room, did not focus just on UNDP and DPRK, but on a number of other issues of concern.

Inner City Press: You also said they conferred on the appointment of resident coordinators.  Who makes the decision choosing who will be the resident coordinator in a country?  Is that only UNDPís decision?  Did he confer with the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, with the Secretary-General.  Thatís why they had the meeting together.

            Well, among the resident coordinators which Ban Ki-moon and Kemal Dervis should have discussed, or should still discuss and act on, is Nileema Noble, regarding whom 13 named Filipino staff complained to Dervis.

Kemal Dervis talks global warming on July 31 (while UND Filipino staff burn)

On Monday Inner City Press asked UNDP's spokesman to respond to the Nileema Noble issues, but his response last on Monday was "this is to acknowledge receipt of your questions.  We will try to answer
them as we are able." Despite Inner City Press having provided a detailed article about the complaints against Ms. Noble and a request for at least some comment, no comment or response was received on Tuesday.

            Manila-based Inquirer.net has reported:

In a letter to Kemal Dervis, administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York, staffers Mary Gemme Montebon, Jennifer Navarro, Amelia D. Supetran, Emmanuel E. Buendia, Morito G. Francisco, Imee F. Manal, Clarissa Arida, Roberto V. Carandang, Anna L. Senga, Jay-Ann Arandia, and Elcid C. Pangilinan, and former staff workers Frances M. Solinap and Francis Gertrud R. Mercado, also asked that Nileema be punished for "verbal and physical harassment," "abuse of authority," and "violation of the rights" of the staffers, particularly to effective remedy and due process.

            Despite his agency's failure to answer on the complaint filed with him, Dervis could be seen Tuesday chairing a climate change meeting. (Click here for a related Inner City Press story.) Among the staff's complaints is retaliation and the fear of retaliation. On that, the UN's Ethics Office has still not ruled on a UNDP complainant's filing of June 5, despite the 45 day deadline having expired on July 20. The Ethics Office's Robert Benson extended his time to rule. On July 27, Inner City Press sent Mr. Benson an email asking, among other things, if he

"could explain why the 45 day time period for ruling on the request for whistleblower protection filed with your Office on June 5 (or thereabouts -- the filer has give consent for you to speak) -- why was the time extended?  And, separately, is OIOS' activity at UNDP related to seeing if the filer complied with the requirements of whistleblower status?"

            As of yet, there was been no answer at all. Nor to Inner City Press' questions to UNDP on Monday, nor (yet) to the follow-up to Tuesday's noon briefing:

 "question about the second phase of DPRK audit / Board of Auditors visit to DPRK (which were reportedly re-requested by DSG Migiro in a June 19 letter) -- the question is, since the Secretariat's request was made 42 days about, what's up? Will the Board of Auditors be visiting the DPRK? Have they made a request? And, what is up with the Ethics Office waiving the 45 day timeline in ruling on the whistleblower? These are Secretariat questions --  DSG's June 19 request, Secretariat's Ethics Office's 45 day deadline expired on July 20 -- time for an update?"

            If the recent past is any guide, these should be answered on Wednesday. Watch this space.

* * *

Click here for a previous Inner City Press UN / climate change story. Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from a still-undefined trust fund.

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

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