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At UNDP Meeting, Dervis Talks of Transparency While Fleeing the Press' Questions, Propaganda

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 10 -- At the UN Development Program meeting of the Executive Board on Monday, Administrator Kemal Dervis repeatedly used the word transparency. Then, when asked press questions as he left the meeting room, he twice said, "I will not answer questions in the corridor." Asked when he will hold a press conference, which he has not done for eight months, he did not answer, but headed to the exit surrounded by three staff members.

            Among the questions Mr. Dervis declined to answer was: what is Dervis' response to the resolution of the UNDP Staff Union that he should allow the UN Ethics Office to continue with case(s) of whistle-blowing? While Ban Ki-moon on Monday to his credit stopped "in the corridor" to answer this question and others (click here for that story and link to transcript), Mr. Dervis not only refused to answer, but also has claimed in a recent interview with the Dutch press that the staff overwhelmingly favor him. See NRC Handelsblad of September 8, 2007, in which Dervis also claims that questions raised about Associate Administrator Ad Melkert and by implication himself are just "propaganda."

    At the Executive Board on Monday, Dervis bragged about the external survey of UNDP staff, without, for example, mentioning the negative results in such country offices as Georgia. Click here for that Inner City Press story, from May 2007, reporting that 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." 

UNDP's Dervis: speechifying, without taking any questions

      U.S. Ambassador Mark Wallace spoke for twenty minutes, apologizing at the beginning for the length of the U.S. statement. Click here for the statement, including that "UNDP sees no need for 'One UN' when it comes to UN Ethics.  Instead of "one" set of Ethics to serve all UN staff, UNDP conveniently in this case has chosen to promote a fragmented and uncoordinated system that neither serves the needs of the UN as a whole, nor protects the rights of UN staff members world-wide. Rejecting the role of the Ethics Office is particularly troublesome given the Ethics Office conclusions on this matter to date."

            Significantly, the Russian representative on the Executive Board says that Russia does not support Dervis' plan to nominate an investigator of such issues as the whistle-blower(s), saying that this "overlaps with other UN structures." Exactly -- the evaluation and protection of whistleblowers is lodged with the UN Ethics Office. Dervis only opposed that Office when it made a prima facie finding of retaliation.

            And today, another whistleblower has stepped forward, this time concerning Turkey, and alleged abuse and retaliation by a person who serves as Dervis' personal bodyguard. Click here for that story.

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

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