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At the UN, Access for Vodka and Connected Electricians, Mobility for Auditors and Human Rights, Less So

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- It's all about access, at the United Nations. Access to the occupant of the 38th floor, access to the lobbies to exhibit one's position (or censor the positions of others); access to the building itself. In something of a surreal day at headquarters, to honor the Chernobyl disaster, bottles of vodka and one-dollar dumplings were on sale in the lobby. The mission of Ukraine was involved; costumes were worn, and the dumpling were varenyky. Later, early evening, the Russian mission took over, promoting its bid to make Sochi an Olympic city. Will each of the other bidding cities have their night? It seems doubtful.

            Meanwhile Ban Ki-moon returned from Syria, and took some questions from the press. He spoke about the Pope, dodged questions on Iraq, was even drawn out about Chernobyl. Nothing, however, was said about reform. No questions, no access on these issues, was allowed. This came only at the wide-open noon briefing:

Inner City Press: Yesterday, the Staff Council passed a resolution calling on Mr. Ban to immediately suspend his plan for mandatory mobility of staff.  I'm wondering, is the Secretary-General aware of that?  Does he have a response?  It was a pretty overwhelming vote.

Spokesperson: Heís aware of it.  As you know, mobility was decided by the General Assembly in 2002.  And it will be implemented gradually and comprehensively.  I understand that there is a town hall meeting tomorrow with the staff, specifically on the issue of mobility.  So I'm sure that this issue is not over now.  It is continuing.  And the Secretary-Generalís view, he has expressed it, is that management mobility is a necessity for a strong and efficient UN.  The program, as far as I know, is starting next month, with about a little more than 130 staff members: 60 at the P-3 level and some 90 staff at the G-7 level.  These staff have been in their posts for a minimum of five years.  So, thatís what I understand is happening.  But I will be happy to get more for you from someone in management, after of course, they have met the staff here.  But you have had some very mixed reactions about this.  There's the staff in New York and Geneva expressing reservations.  And you have staff from other duty stations, the most difficult ones, actually welcoming the mobility measures.  So you have different points of view.

Inner City Press: Just one follow-up.  One thing that was said in the meeting yesterday was that, why did the mobility start at the relatively lower levels and not at the top?  That was something that people said.  It got a lot of laughter, but is there some thought of D-1, D-2 [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  The process is going to go up to the D-2 level.  This is what is envisioned, yes.

            Beyond the math that doesn't add up -- 60 plus 90 does not equal 130, but rather 150 -- the problem is that the posts of the higher-ups can be deemed "specialized," and thus exempt from mandatory mobility. It is also projected that the mobility of the favored ones, the ones with access, will be akin to musical chairs: just renaming jobs, and trading supervisors, and calling it mobility. But USG Barcena will be listened to.

            But will she listen to this? On how different people have access to the building, an answer has been provided on why the workers of UN TV, technically employed by the National Mobile Television unit of Hospitality Services Group, must pass each day through the lines and metal detectors of the public entrance on 46th Street:

Subject: Pass system

From: [Associate Spokesperson at] un.org

To: Matthew Russell Lee

Sent: Fri, 20 Apr 2007 3:32 PM

what the security guys told me is that, regarding entry into the building, length of service at the UN (i.e., 5 years or more) is only one criterion. The other main relevant criterion, they said, is whether you need to go easily through the ID system because you have to go to several different buildings on campus, or go in and out of the building often. For the people who didn't get easier access rules, they said, that decision was made because they could just check into the building and stay here for the day -- so, in other words, it wasn't deemed to be a difficulty to have them go through the more rigorous ID procedure.

            The distinction is between the full access of the electricians of Petrocelli, which got its UN contract through a questionable process that led to the suspension of Martin Bender, and the "metal detector only" access of the UN TV staff, some of whom have worked at the UN for over twenty years. But in this case access is not based on seniority, nor on need.

Ban on April 26 on mike manned by UN TV crew, fresh from metal detectors

            Finally, on substance, there was further subterfuge:

Inner City Press: It's reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights either was barred from entering Uzbekistan or that the officials there would not meet with her during this trip that you announced that she's making.  Is that the case, and does the United Nations system or the Secretary-General have any comment on a Member State refusing to meet with the Human Rights Commissioner?

Spokesperson: What she said is not that she was barred from getting into the country.  What she said was that essentially, from what I heard from them, that they were not ready to receive her at the time.  That's the official answer that she got.

            Even Louise Arbour did not have... access. (The headline in the International Herald Tribune was "U.N. rights commissioner barred from Uzbekistan"). But rather than speak out, the Secretariat plays it off as a matter of timing. Not unlike the coming and going of the 90 day deadline for the audit of UNDP, click here for that story.

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UNDP Downplays N. Korea's Order that Two Staff Leave, Melkert's Hiring, Zimbabwe and Gambia

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 25 -- Thirty days after the UN Development Program was told by the Kim Jong Il government that its final two international staff had to leave North Korea, UNDP's spokesman David Morrison finally came to the UN press briefing room to provide his agency's version of events.

    Mr. Morrison said that the two staff members, Vineet Bhatia and Paul Brewah, were not declared "persona non grata," since North Korea did not revoke their visas. But the UNDP letter which Inner City Press obtained and uploaded on April 22 states that "in a meeting with Mr. Jan Chun Sik on 26 March, we have been informed of the Government decision that the remaining international UNDP staff should leave DPRK by the end of April." So, they were told they had to leave. Why did UNDP not announce it? This question was asked -- video here, from Minute 31:30 -- but still has not been answered.

   Mr. Morrison passed out a half-page statement concerning UNDP's "the transfer of the titles for assets already being used by the DPRK authorities in UNDP-supported projects." One reporter asked, so you just gave the equipment to them, even though they're throwing you out of the country? The answer is yes. The unanswered question is whether the computers so given, for example, have on them information necessary for the "urgent audit" to be completed in 90 days which Ban Ki-moon called for 96 days ago.

    Mr. Morrison said it is not clear if the audit will be done by UNDP's next Executive Board meeting in June, or even the one after that, in September. So the 90 day audit may still be incomplete after 140 days, or 230 days. Mr. Morrison said that since UNDP is the agency that is the subject of the audit, they cannot answer as to the timing. But who can, then? The three auditors, Inner City Press is informed, have gone back to their countries. General Assembly president spokesman Ashraf Kamal has said that the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, the ACABQ, has yet to receive anything from the auditors.

    Mr. Morrison did specify that the first phase of the audit took place between "March 19 and March 29." He also downplayed the significance of the DPRK's March 26 order that UNDP's two remaining international staff leave the country by saying that they had "finished preparing for the audit." But how as of March 26, when the DPRK issued the order for them to leave, and while even the first phase of the audit still had three days to run, could UNDP in North Korea have "finished preparing for the audit"? This has not been explained. Nor have at least four questions on which Mr. Morrison said he would return with information:

-a question about a registry of gifts to UNDP and UNDP officials;

-whether any UNDP program involved flying North Korean scientists to Iran;

-whether UNDP is reconsidering its involvement with the Robert Mugabe government Human Rights Commission, if Zimbabwe's National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations is not longer "inviting" UNDP to be involved, as UNDP claims; and

-whether UNDP checked with the government of Gambia, about the new acting resident representative and his views on HIV/AIDS, before assigning him to replace on an acting basis the last UNDP resident representative, who was expelled for questioning Gambia's president's position that he can cure AIDS without medicine.  (Click here for that story.) There is an additional question of whether that expulsion constitutes, in UNDP's definition, being declared persona non grata.

   On the question of UNDP's involvement with the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe, Mr. Morrison referred to yesterday's story and said that it is the type of issue that will be discussed at the UNDP meeting this week in Brazzaville. Both Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert are "in Central Africa," Mr. Morrison said. Dervis (and perhaps Melkert) spokeswoman Christina LoNigro disclosed, just prior to the noon press briefing, that for now the Officer in Charge of UNDP is Bruce Jenks, the director of UNDP's Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships.

  In response to Inner City Press' questions regarding UNDP's own audit function, with previous director Jessie Rose Mabutas gone and the number two slot empty, Mr. Morrison said that the officer of charge of audit is one Antoine Khoury.

    On Wednesday, when UNDP did not come to the briefing, Inner City Press asked spokesperson Michele Montas who is the UN's resident coordinator in North Korea, since UNDP has been ordered to leave. "WFP," she said: the World Food Program.

UN Photo: UNDP's David Morrison as UN's Michele Montas reflects

   But WFP's spokeswoman on Thursday told Inner City Press that "all questions on resident coordinator should go to UNDP/UNDG." So on Thursday morning, Inner City Press asked UNDP:

"who at which agency will be the resident coordinator for DPR Korea?

Also before noon -- has any UNDP official at D1 and above filed a new financial disclosure form, and have they turned these into the UN's Ethics Office for review?"

   Does UNDP fall under the UN's Whistleblower protection policy?  Is a person who comes forward with information about violations of rules or regulations in UNDP have the same protection against retaliation that is afforded to Secretariat staff?

  And the Eelco Keij / Melkert, the Romania gold mine and the Philippines questions, which I have emailed to you a number of times now -- please answer them."

    Some of these questions have now been answered. During the noon briefing, Mr. Morrison stated that steps are being taken to bring UNDP's whistleblower protection policies in line with those of the UN Secretariat, and that consideration is being given to moving UNDP's ethics unit out of the Office of Human Resources -- the downshifting of whose director in late November 2006 gave rise to Inner City Press' ongoing UNDP series -- and to make it independent. The timeline, according to Mr. Morrison, is in the last two quarters of 2007.

   On financial disclosure, which is required of all senior officials in the UN Secretariat (and which has been made public by Ban Ki-moon), Mr. Morrison said that moves are afoot to require financial disclosure at UNDP from those at the D-1 level and up, as early as this summer. Clearly this means that financial disclosures do not yet take place, which is puzzling since UNPD's ethics unit was describes as already being involved in financial disclosure, video here, from Minute 40:22.  Still, more answers were given on Thursday than has heretofore been the case. Finally, just before noon, the "Eelco Keij / Melkert" question was responded to:

Subject: RE: Simple questions, several to be answered before or at noon
From: [Administrator's Spokeswoman at] undp.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee
Sent: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 11:34 AM

...Eelco Keij was recruited on a six-month external consultant contract in February 2007 in full compliance with UNDPís procurement guidelines to provide additional support to the Executive Office of UNDP. The terms of reference for the consultancy were submitted to the Office of Human Resources with a request to identify qualified candidates for the assignment. Four candidates were considered for the consultancy and a desk review was completed in accordance with procedure. Prior to working for the Executive Office Eelco Keij had been working for the Partnerships Bureau in UNDP from April - November 2006. Eelco was an intern for Gertjan Van Oven, a Member of Parliament in 1998 when Ad Melkert was the Leader of the Dutch Labour Party. There was no formal or informal contact between Eelco and Ad Melkert.

   While appreciative of the belated response, it's worth noting that Eelco's connections with Melkert's Dutch Labor Party did not end in 1998 -- Eelco is still the Party's secretary in New York, and has a blog on the Party's site, even while working for UNDP's Partnerships Bureau. We note that in Armenia, UNDP is firing a staffer reportedly for his blogging activities in other-than-work-hours, click here. We'll have more on this.

  The alluded to Philippines and Romania goldmine questions have still not been answered, but moves are afoot, including through other UN channels.

    At Thursday's noon briefing, contrary to the statement from the same rostrum of the day before, it was stated that Timo Pakkala remains the UN's resident coordinator in North Korea, even while on special leave with full pay -- Mr. Morrison says in Europe, while sources tell Inner City Press it's Mozambique, where Mr. Pakkala's wife works for UNICEF, but who's counting. Inner City Press asked, given that the UN system-wide coherence proposal would make of UNDP the resident coordinator, how can Mr. Pakkala coordinate other UN agencies if he is on leave?

   Mr. Morrison answered that the UN no longer has any substantial development programs in the DPRK, so for the time being there has been no need to shift responsibilities. Mr. Morrison urged that the press not link UNDP's proposed role in system-wide coherence with these events in North Korea.

   It was requested that UNDP from now on hold at least a weekly press briefing. Mr. Morrison replied that although he has been at UNDP for two years, there has only been a demand since December 2006. (See above.) And so we can expect a weekly briefing? Mr. Morrison said that Kemal Dervis, as well as Ad Melkert, are "eager to speak with you." 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.

UNDP Accedes to Gambian President's "Spiritual" AIDS Cure, Refuses to Answer Any Questions

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- The UN Development Program, faced with the expulsion from Gambia of their representative for questioning Gambian president Yahya Jammeh's claim to cure AIDS without medicine, had a decision to make.

   Should UNDP stand behind its staff member Fadzai Gwaradzimba, who on AIDS had offended Gambia's strongman president? When Sudan's Omar al-Bashir expelled Kofi Annan's representative Jan Pronk in 2006, Annan kept Pronk in the post and did not replace him until his contract expired. Or should UNDP accede to Jammeh's mystification of HIV, and meekly appoint a new and more compliant representative to Gambia?

            On April 11, UNDP issued a press release, not even mentioning Fadzai Gwaradzimba or the grounds for his expulsion, only announcing the appointment of a new UNDP Officer in Charge in The Gambia, Adama Guindo. The pro-Jammeh newspaper The Point published UNDP's press release word for word, click here to view. Adama Guindo's c.v. is impressive, but it is not the issue. Where and when would UNDP explain why, unlike the Secretariat with respect to Jan Pronk, it simply gave in to Jammeh's expulsion of Fadzai Gwaradzimba for having dared voice the position of the UN's own World Health Organization and UN AIDS?

Jammeh, AIDS cure not shown

            UNDP has in the past declined to comment on or even confirm receipt of inquiries concerning such matters as the demotion of its chief of human resources, its Associate Administrator's hiring of a political ally from the Dutch Labor Party, Greenpeace's asserting that UNDP is supporting a controversial gold mine in Romania and numerous financial questions. And so on April 12, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe, at the UN's regular noon press briefing, to explain. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: It was announced that the UNís representative in Gambia, who is a UNDP representative, was thrown out for having challenged the President's claim that he could cure AIDS with no medicine, but in some other way... He was expelled from the country, and now UNDP has replaced him with another person, who presumably wonít criticize.  Can you explain why -- who made the decision in the UN system to -- unlike Jan Pronk, whom Kofi Annan stood behind to the end of his term -- to actually replace someone who was expelled for having criticized...?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You really need to address this to UNDP.  It was a UNDP representative, and it was the UNDP who I think...

Inner City Press: But he was also a UN representative.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I understand, but I think this person came back to the UNDP for consultations.  We would really have to ask the UNDP.

Inner City Press:  The Secretary-General had no role in...?

            The UN's transcript has this sentence ending in ellipsis, but the question was clear (video here), and remains. Following the noon briefing, and the Deputy Spokesperson's instructions to "ask UNDP," Inner City Press sent written questions to UNDP's spokesman as well as higher officials:

The request is for a comment on the replacement of Fadzai Gwaradzimba as representative to The Gambia, after criticism of Yahya Jammeh's claim to cure AIDS without medicine, and specifically for a comment on the comparison of this replacement by UNDP in The Gambia to Kofi Annan keeping Jan Pronk as his envoy to The Sudan even after Pronk's expulsion by President al-Bashir. Why did UNDP replace the resident representative, and what have Gambian officials and UNDP asked about Adama Guindo's views on Jammeh's claims to cure AIDS?  Did UNDP make any comment in connection with last year's elections in The Gambia, in which it was alleged that press was intimidated and non-eligible votes were brought in from outside the country? What is the status of UNDP's work with the press in The Gambia, Zimbabwe, and North Korea?

  Separately, I am attaching information sent to Inner City Press regarding UNDP's Philippines operation, on which your comment is requested. (As you know, no comment was ever provided on Greenpeace's assertion that UNDP supports a controversial gold mine in Romania, nor on Mr. Melkert's hiring of a second personal assistant from the Dutch Labor Party, etc -- the questions have built up, but today Marie Okabe said to ask UNDP, so I am.

An update on the status of the urgent audit of UNDP's North  Korean operations is needed, and is requested. As the Secretary-General was asked earlier today, is the 90-day time line being extended? Is UNDP aware if the auditors will be able to enter North Korea? Did Timo Pakkala and Mr. Povenzano speak with the U.S. Attorney's office / SDNY? Did anyone else at UNDP? Please confirm receipt of this email, and answer the outstanding questions. Thank you.

            The above was sent to UNDP's spokesman and two higher officials at 1 p.m. on Thursday. By six p.m., there had been no response, not even a confirmation of receipt of the questions. Then the UN deputy spokesperson wrote:

Subj: UNDP Statement on the Gambia
From: [Spokesperson at] UN.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee

Date: 4/12/2007 6:41:29 PM Eastern Standard Time

UNDP Statement on the Gambia

On 11 April, Mr. Adama Guindo began serving a short-term assignment as Officer-in-Charge of UNDP in The Gambia, where he will manage the organizationís operations.  The Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization currently coordinates UN system activities in The Gambia.

Mr. Guindo, a citizen of Mali, has extensive international experience, including as UNDP Resident Representative/Resident Coordinator in Liberia and Madagascar and as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNDP Resident Representative in Haiti. Prior to his arrival in Banjul, he served as Officer-in-Charge of UNDP Senegal.

            Inner City Press went and asked Ms. Okabe if this was all that would be provided, by UNDP. She nodded. Apparently this means that the other questions outstanding with UNDP will not be answered either. On this, where and when will UNDP at least explain why, unlike the Secretariat with respect to Jan Pronk, it simply gave in to Jammeh's expulsion of Fadzai Gwaradzimba for having dared voice the position of the UN's own World Health Organization and UN AIDS?

            Because UNDP refuses to respond, including on the question of Adama Guindo's view and plans on AIDS, one must look elsewhere. Online one finds this:

the new representative had reaffirmed his commitment to work with the Gambian government in the area of health and other developmental needs. The new representative must avoid countering the President's policies and aids program. The President said he careless how the UN and other agencies perceived him. He said he had found cure for aids and no one can make him change his mind on his new aids discovery. The UNDP office have two choices. One, to join the President to help cure the aids sufferers or to avoid interfering with his 'spiritual gift' to tackle aids. As we speak, he has called on his patients to stop using anti-retroviral drugs. He said such drugs shorten the lives of aids patients. He said the West just want to make money by inventing such drugs. This what he told us at a meeting,' said an official of Gambia's health Ministry.

            Perhaps UNDP will have a comment on this? In the statement provided through Ms. Okabe, there is one next fact, beyond the UNDP April 11 press release: "The Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization currently coordinates UN system activities in The Gambia."  This seems to indicate -- as noted, UNDP will not clarify -- that UNDP is no longer the UN's lead agency in The Gambia.

   This raises questions about a topic Ban Ki-moon brought up on Thursday, his proposal for "System-wide Coherence." Under this plan, also called "One-UN," which UNDP's Kemal Dervis helped devise but which the G77 and NAM are now criticizing, UNDP would become the lead UN agency. Will not only UNDP's still unresolved (and unexplained) use of hard currency and government-seconded staff in North Korea, but also not UNDP's capitulation on the issue of AIDS, and loss of lead agency status in Gambia, impact the System-wide Coherence debate and outcome?  We'll be asking. But if the past is any guide, UNDP will not be answering. And so we'll ask others.

At UNDP, Agit-Prop Gushes Online from Interns, Staff Survey Buried, Ad Melkert Spins

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 -- The UN Development Program promotes itself on it website, by issuing press releases, and by funding ostensibly independent media to sings its praises. Four months ago, Inner City Press showed UNDP to have spent over half a million dollars publishing a book to sing its praises. Now UNDP goes one step further, having staff and interns spend their work time making anonymous pro-UNDP postings on non-UN blogs and web sites. A cursory search finds sites such as http://mdg-reality.blogspot.com/ full of pro-UNDP postings, some going so far as to praise by name Hafiz Pasha, UNDP's head for Asia and Pacific, currently embroiled in the North Korea hard currency and counterfeit scandals.

    A posting from "satem" gushes about "what Hafiz Pasha calls the tyranny of averages: as the average income rises for the region there is a tendency to forget those left behind." While possibly -- though only debatably -- such sycophantry might have a place on web sites clearly labeled as authored by UNDP, the implanting of this propaganda by UNDP personnel on non-UNDP web sites is questionable. Since it was not unlike involuntary dentistry to get answers from UNDP on its spending on the book "UNDP: A Better Way?" it is not clear when UNDP's propaganda budget will be disclosed. But we'll try.

            The flipside of affirmative propaganda is the burying of negative information. Sources inside UNDP question what has happened with the results of UNDP's supposedly independent Global Staff Survey. In previous years, results have been released by now. This year's survey appears to have been "buried," in the words of one UNDP insider. We'll see.

            Also spinning wildly is Ad Melkert, who was on the World Bank's board when Paul Wolfowitz' girlfriend was given raises such that she earns more than Condi Rice. Melkert, fresh from spinning about the UNDP North Korea scandals, tries to distance himself from his actions in his previous job. "'In this case, it advised management that keeping the partner within the institution would be untenable but that a possible external solution should take into account the legitimate concerns about career advancement of the partner,' the spokesman for Melkert, who is now associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program" said. We thought Christina LoNigro was the spokeswoman for both Dervis and Melkert. Is Morrison on the case? Either way, there's the beginnings of an M.O. here...

Melkert - thinking of Wolfowitz?

            Ban Ki-moon's February 12, 2007 press release / "biographical note" on his re-appointment of Ad Melkert as Associate Administrator of UNDP said that "Since November 2002, Mr. Melkert represented the Dutch constituency as an Executive Director of the World Bank, where he was a strong advocate for increased donor coordination."  Yeah -- coordination of promotions and raises for Wolfowitz's girlfriend...

   On the absurd tip, reflective of UNDP's blithe engagement with regimes like Karimov's in Uzbekistan, UzReport.com of Feb. 21, 2007 "reported" on the "creation of educational blogs, composing plans on integration and usage of modern technologies in teaching process... The seminar organized within UNDP project "Capacity building for Internet development." Great.....

   A point here is that the same "satem" on Friday, April 6 posted as "intern" that UNDP is supporting democracy - click here to view. And who is it, exactly, that pays for and posts to http://unworks.blogspot.com? Whatever the ethics, it should be disclosed.

            On the flip side, on this anniversary of the beginning of the slaughter in Rwanda in 1994, on a blog not infiltrated by UNDP's plants, the following was written --

"met the UNDP crowd and spent yesterday hanging out in air conditioned cars with people who can't say hello in Kinyarwabda who are effectively running the country. Weird."

  Weird indeed....

UNDP Officials are "Collaborating with Federal Investigators," Romanian Gold Mine Charges Unanswered

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 --  On Tuesday, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson if Mr. Ban would withdraw immunity from any UN Development Program official who declined "voluntary" invitation to be deposed at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on the North Korea scandal(s).

            The spokesperson replied, "From what I know, they are collaborating with the Federal investigation." Video here, from Minute 10:05. Because it has been reported, first by Inner City Press, that 13 UNDP officials have been summoned "voluntarily" to the SDNY, the spokesperson's answer was interpreted to mean that all 13 will agree to be deposed. We'll see. From the transcript:

Inner City Press: If UNDP officials decline to speak on a voluntary basis with prosecutors about the counterfeit matter at UNDP, would Ban Ki-moon consider lifting immunity?

Spokesperson:  I'm sorry.  Your "if" is a big "if."  From what I know, they're collaborating with federal investigators.  So there are no "ifs" here. If you have further questions about UNDP and the situation of the fake money, then you can talk to David Morrison. And further to your recent questions about the work being done in auditing UN activities in the Democratic Peopleís Republic of Korea, we have been informed by the Audit Operations Committee of the UN Board of Auditors that last week, the Committee completed the preparatory portion of the DPRK assignment, which was being done here at Headquarters as you know.  A scoping report, which would determine the parameters of what is being audited, is currently being drafted for further consideration by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  That was in answer to your question yesterday.

Question:  Will that be made public?

Spokesperson:  You have to wait for it to be over first.

            That further questions can be directed to UNDP's David Morrison -- he was not in the briefing, and has not responded to Inner City Press's emailed questions from weeks ago. Beyond North Korea, these questions included a request for UNDP's comment on Greenpeace's and others' assertion that UNDP is supporting a gold mine in Rosia Montana in Romania. Three weeks ago Inner City Press supplied Mr. Morrison and then another UNDP spokesman with a copy of Greenpeace's letter to UNDP's Bratislava director, Ben Slay, and asked for a response. None has been forthcoming.

Here is Greenpeace's letter:

UNDP RBEC Bratislava Regional Center, Director

Grosslingova 35, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovak Republic                                                

In June 2006 UNDP Romania and members of BRC came to Rosia Montana/ Romania. Here Canadian Gabriel Resources wishes to develop Europe's largest open cast cyanide leach gold mine. At Rosia Montana the UN mission met with members of Alburnus Maior, a local NGO which was told that the purpose of this visit was to evaluate for Romania's minister of the Environment development possibilities in the event that the proposed open cast gold was not given the go-ahead. The UNDP website indicates several reports about this UNDP mission that are inaccessible to the public and even written prior the mission's actual visit to Rosia Montana.

It has come to our attention from Hungarian mass-media that Gabriel Resources is interested to form a partnership with UNDP Romania and BRC. Whilst we strongly oppose such partnership which would only tarnish UNDP's reputation, we would for the sake of transparency like to receive concrete answers to the following questions:    

1. Is UNDP-UNEP working on a sustainable development project at Rosia Montana? If yes, what is the nature of this project?

2. According to the Hungarian press (Saturday, 24 February, Nepszabadsag), an UNDP-UNEP team is considering a 20 million USD partnership with Gabriel Resources. Is this accurate?

3. What is negotiated/desired partnership/collaboration between UNDP-UNEP and Gabriel Resources? Is there co-financing involved/ considered? If yes, from whom?

            But these are the type of questions that, in Inner City Press' experience, the current UNDP is most resistant to answering. In the three weeks since Inner City Press posed the above and other questions to UNDP, without response, it has been reported that

House Speaker Barbara Prammer presented an award to CEO-President of Gabriel Resources, Alan Hill, on March 27.... the mine plans to use an environmentally hazardous cyanide leaching technology to extract at least 330 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver. The project has triggered strong protest among Hungarians who keenly remember that another Romanian gold mine using a similar technology near Baia Mare in NW Romania caused an environmental disaster, wiping out wildlife along Hungary's eastern waterways in 2000. Speaking over the phone at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Germany, [Hungary's Foreign Affairs Spokesman Viktor] Polgar said that the honor had been proposed by the Romanian Meridian trade union along with the UN's development agency UNDP and forwarded by Austria's GPA-DJP trade union to the country's parliament. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry will request details about the issue from the Austrian ambassador to Hungary early next week, Polgar said, adding that the ministry hoped the award would be retracted.

            If the award is retracted, it will not have been with UNDP's help. There are other UNDP mining forays, from Zimbabwe to Haiti. To be continued.

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com -

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

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