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At UNDP, Whistleblowers Distraught with Dervis, Path to Reform Murky, By Design

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- Following UN Development Program Administrator Kemal Dervis' claim on September 11 that he will in ten days' time work with the heads of other UN funds and programs to accept the jurisdiction of the UN Ethics Office, but that non-North Korea UNDP whistleblowers will not be part of the special investigation he has set up, one of the whistleblowers responded from Pakistan:

From: Imran Mumtaz
Subject: My response to Kemal Dervis's statement
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2007 20:47:58

Here are my feelings at this point:

It's a sad day for the entire UN system, if Mr. Dervis, as head of UNDP, would deny any UN employee the right to justice and the truth. Such action not only encourages retaliation, it promotes it.  As employees, we're told it is our responsibility to report any incidents of harassment or misuse of UN resources in the workplace. We're told we will be protected. However, when we do, we are punished. If this is the way whistleblowers are going to be treated in the future, I'm afraid more people like me will suffer, while others will simply not step forward in the first place. The UN should be at the forefront of preventing these kind of things from happening in the workplace, but instead, through its inaction, supports it with impunity.

Regarding current UNDP mechanisms for whistleblowers Mr. Dervis mentioned, they don't work.

            This last is echoed by yet another UNDP whistleblower, who in 2006 was told by the Ethics Office that "it would be very difficult to do anything about a friend of Dervis" and that there wouldn't be much point in filing a formal complaint. UNDP's own Ombudsman's 2006 report notes that some staffers who spoke with the office in 2005 were retaliated against in 2006; the previously UNDP Ombudsman report refers, as we've noted, to UNDP's "pre-taliation," trying to intimidate employees in advance from speaking with the Ombudman's Office.

UNDP's Dervis and the President of the General Assembly: ethics reforms not shown

            Given the clear need for the UN Ethics Office to have jurisdiction over UNDP, at the UN noon briefing on Thursday, while downstairs UNDP Hafiz Pasha droned on to a half-filled room about UNDP's programs in Nepal, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson:

Inner City Press: The UNDP’s Kemal Dervis has said that there's a meeting on the 21st where he’s going to be proposing a high-level management meeting to UNFPA and others, something about the Ethics Office.  But you’ve all said that it’s up to the GA.  Can the funds and programs themselves, at the level of the chief executive, say “we accept the Ethics Office." Or does it require …

Spokesperson:  I have always said that there are two possibilities:  either it is the General Assembly that takes the decision, or the different executive boards of the funds and programs.

Inner City Press: But Mr. Dervis seems to imply that the actual chief executives can do it without their executive boards.

Spokesperson:  He's probably referring to the CEB meeting, the Chief Executives Board meeting.

Is Mr. Ban encouraging them to do that?

Spokesperson:  Mr. Ban is encouraging any solution that will bring closure to this.  He has said how strongly he feels that ethical standards should be throughout the system.  He stands by that.  He's trying to find a means to carry on what he had said.

            But the spokesman for the General Assembly president last week said that General Assembly approval would be required. So Thursday Inner City Press asked him:

Inner City Press: A couple of days weeks ago you explained how the Ethics Office was approved in 2005 and how it had to go back to the General Assembly to approve its jurisdictions over funds and programs.  Now the UNDP is saying it could be done at the High-level Committee on Management or they could do directly it themselves.

GA Spokesperson:  The Chiefs Executive Board basically meets to coordinate anything system-wide.  So, instead of the Secretary-General meeting with all of them to agree on a system they can all use, they can voluntarily accept the competence of the Ethics Office and that would render the need to go back to the General Assembly just a matter of formality.

      We'll see.

  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