Ban's UN, 44.37 Whistleblowers Face 45 Days of Retaliation Without Protection
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, July
3, updated July 6 -- Whistleblowers at the UN are fair game for retaliation, at least for the
first 45 days, it emerged on Tuesday.
City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe about the case of
a whistleblower concerning the
North Korea operations of the UN
Development Program, who
complained to the UN Ethics Office on June 5 about retaliation, and on June 18
had his photograph added to the
display of those to be barred from
Headquarters by UN Security.
Update of July 6: it was made clear in a July 6 press conference by UNDP's
David Morrison that it was UNDP itself which asked that the whistleblower's
photo be added to the array, click
here for video, from Minute 23:44, and see below.
case, the whistleblower was "out-ed," as he puts it, by the New York Times'
quotation from a letter which U.S. Senator Norm Coleman sent to Ban Ki-moon,
making the now-ironic request for protection of the whistleblower. The
whistleblower was never contacted before his name was published. He surmises
that the letter was provided to the Times by UNDP.
was also asked, directly, who many whistleblowers have been "official
acknowledged" by the UN. During the briefing, she responded that "Iíll have to
ask that from the Ethics Office, if they are releasing that kind of
information." Subsequently, in the
UN's transcript of the briefing,
the following was added:
[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that
the information is contained in the annual report to the General Assembly on the
activities of the Ethics Office (document A/61/274).]
this round-about answer, plugging A/61/274 into the
one finds in the above-cited document the statement that in its first seven
months, the Ethics Office received from the entire UN System 153 staff requests
for services, of which 29% were requests for "protection against retaliation for
reporting misconduct." That is 44.37 aspirants for whistleblower status -- the
document does not disclose how many deemed to have a "prima facie case" and
where therefore, albeit belatedly, offered protection. The document also states
that "the time required to respond to each request varied considerably, from a
few minutes to several weeks." But a flat 45 days (for
"free retaliation," some say) has been cited in this case.
Staff of UN Ethics Office in February 2007,
the .37 whistleblower(s) not shown
Tuesday at the noon briefing,
Inner City Press asked
Inner City Press:
Yesterday, I have asked
you about this photo array, and you told me that without his consent, nothing
could be said about it. I think, earlier this morning you received his consent
to discuss it. If you look in your e-mail... So he has provided his consent,
both to the Ethics Office and your office, to discuss his...
Deputy Spokesperson: Based on information
of the Ethics Office, which is the question now, I can... This is what I told
you, they have received the request, and they are reviewing it. And that is the
information that the Ethics Office can release at this point.
Inner City Press: On
Friday, I asked Michele
about the whistleblower without using his name, and she said that the
Secretary-General has discussed this with different senior advisers here in this
building. This is being taken care of. So, now that you have his consent to
discuss it, what did she mean, how is it being taken care of?
Deputy Spokesperson: By the Ethics
Office, who is now reviewing his request. His request to be considered under UN
whistleblower protection policy. And if you look at the Secretary-Generalís
bulletin on the subject, obviously it will outline all the ways in which this
could be done. But right now, his request is simply being reviewed.
Inner City Press: I am sorry, just one
last question on this. Because I think... I mean, as of 5 June he had made his
request. The other question, the concern is, is what happens to a UN person who
applies for whistleblower status while it is pending? Is it possible that
either the Secretary-General or UNDP can bar him from the building? What steps
are taken while it is pending to protect the person, I think that is the
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, entering the
building, anybody who has legitimate business in the building can enter the
building. As for what protection he is receiving now, I will have to check that
for you. (Emphasis added, question still not answered on the record, see
Five hours later, the
Subj: your queries
From: [Deputy Spokesperson at] un.org
To: [Matthew Russell Lee at]
Date: 7/3/2007 6:02:27 PM Eastern Standard
Regarding your question about what
protection(s) could be provided an individual subsequent to the individual
making a request to the Office for protection, according to the Ethics Office,
Secretary-General's Bulletin provides
that once a case is referred to OIOS for investigation, the Ethics Office may
recommend measures to safeguard the interests of the whistleblower. [ ]
July 6: An explanation of this answer was provided, which it has now been made
clear, in a alternative meaning of a legalistic word, was only an explanation to
inform the story, not to be quoted. While this leaves the updated stories
less informative, a sample UN staff to whom Inner City Press showed the
full response commented, on condition
of anonymity for now-obvious reasons, "That's why few here say anything when
they see wrongdoing." Is that the message Ban's UN wants to send?
It's a question that calls an answer -- an on the record answer. Developing.
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