Ban's UN, Why Is List of Staff by Nation Still Kept Confidential, Even from the
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, May
21, updated May 23
-- The UN every year publishes a 500-some page book which lists the "Staff of
the UN Secretariat," organized by nationality. For reasons still not entirely
clear, the UN claims that it can withhold this list from the press and public,
despite being a public institution.
City Press first asked or the list of May 17 and was told by Ban Ki-moon's
spokesperson, "You are not a member state." Click
then, Inner City Press has been approached by mid-level UN staff, including
spokespeople for a number of UN offices, who say that the list is withheld from
them as well. Other journalists at the UN have spoken up, some to say they have
tried and failed for five years to get the list, some hearing of it for the
first time but expressing shock that it is secret.
21, Inner City Press again sought "The List," both in questions at the UN's noon
briefing and in a subsequent written request, which asked if Ban Ki-moon would
release any portion of the list, and would specify which parts of the
publication make for the resistance to disclosure. The response, from the
Spokesperson, was that
"The List ST/ADM/R.61 is published once a
year in a limited number of copies which are made available to the Permanent
Missions of Member States, Heads of Departments and Offices and senior staff of
the Organization who need access to this information due to the nature of their
work. The last one is dated July 1, 2006. It is a nominal list per staff member,
per department, per nationality with the professional grade of each staff
member....The other document which I referred you to and which is available at
the document counter (A/61/257) is an analytical document on the composition of
the Secretariat by nationality, gender, age group, a much more useful document
in term of information."
second document, which does not contain any names, is not "much more useful." In
any case, no argument has even been put forward why the UN considers
confidential the "nationality [and] professional grade of each staff member."
Inner City Press asked both orally and in writing to be told who in the UN
system has access to the list and who doesn't. "The people in charge," the
spokesperson said at the noon briefing. This was then phrased as "Heads of
Departments and Offices and senior staff of the Organization who need access to
this information due to the nature of their work." Since the Spokesperson's
office has for now declined to specify who has access and who does -- for what
it's worth, at
Monday's noon briefing
the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
that he has "not seen the document" -- Inner City Press now reports that staff
say that in the past, only "P-5" level and above could see the book.
Others recount that one year -- "when it was run by Jonathan Blankson," a UN
staffer subsequently outed as having used a false resume -- the List of Staff of
the UN Secretariat was made available online, inadvertently it seems. No great
harm resulted, which if the UN had a freedom of information procedure would be
of legal weight. Since the UN still has no such procedure, the press, the public
and even UN staff are forced to ask for a copy of the list, and ask again. For
even while awaiting the freedom of information procedure promised by Under
Secretary General for Management Alicia Barcena, a private viewing on a
background basis is not what is requested.
Ban meets some UN staff -- all names confidential, even from the staff?
UN's transcript of
Monday's noon briefing:
Inner City Press: ...question on this list
of staff of the United Nations Secretariat. I've since learned that even Public
Information staff within the United Nations aren't allowed to see it. So, I'm
wondering, who can see it within the United Nations? The press and public, as
you said, can't see it, this listing of staff by nationality. But who can see
Spokesperson: Okay, the information you
got is in the document I wrote to you about.
Inner City Press: That didn't give actual
Spokesperson: It didn't give actual names
because of privacy reasons, as I explained to you.
Inner City Press: I've seen directories
of people's names.
Spokesperson: Not with their ranks and
exactly their responsibility in each office. The directory is just a directory
that just tells you where to find that person. However, people's ranks and
other things that are listed on that document that I mentioned to you, I mean
the document that you mentioned, has the list of names with specifics. And
those specifics cannot be seen for privacy reasons.
Inner City Press: Okay, I don't want to go
on, but can you just provide me later today, who within the Secretariat can see
the list and who can't? Maybe the list is confidential but who can see it
should not be confidential.
Spokesperson: Well, people who are in
Inner City Press: You can see it?
Spokesperson: I can see it.
Inner City Press: Okay, because there are
Public Information Officers and other United Nations offices... they work for
DPI, but they can't see it.
Spokesperson: Yes, I've seen it.
the withheld List of Staff of the UN Secretariat does not contain "exactly their
responsibilities in each office" -- although if it did, it is hard to see what
those responsibilities would be confidential. Another correspondent, as
Question: I'm very confused as to why,
perhaps except for a handful of security people -- this is a public
institution-- why who does what is such a secret.
Spokesperson: What do you mean?
Question: On the list of people of who
does what specifically in the Secretariat, why is this such a secret, except
perhaps for some security people? This is a public institution.
Spokesperson: I think you misunderstood.
I gave Matthew another document, which is open to the public. You can have it.
I gave him the number of that document, where you can have the number of
nationalities of people, their nationality, their post, their gender, and all
this information is there. The only thing that is not there is the names.
Spokesperson: Simply because of privacy
reasons. Those are statistics.
Question: But this place is not private.
It's not a secret institution.
perhaps it is a secretive institution. The names of staff are already
public, in the UN telephone directory and elsewhere. So why is the list being
noting that the UN's own "Highlights
of the Noon Briefing" mis-presents the state of play on the issue, stating that
ANSWERS QUESTIONS ON UN STAFF LIST: In response to a question about the
publication, List of Staff of the United Nations Secretariat, the Spokeswoman
explained that it did not list the names of said staff for privacy reasons."
But the named
publication does list the names of staff -- it's that the publication is being
withheld from the press, the public, and even from UN staff who work in
City Press followed-up the noon briefing with written questions, on this and
On "List of Staff of the UN Secretariat,"
I have asked about those who are currently authorized to see it. While for now
the Secretariat withholds the List, it seems that even by that logic, who is
authorized to see it should be answered.
Michele, you answered (I'm paraphrasing)
"those who are in charge." Does that mean, as regards DPI, that the heads of
Media Office(r) can see it? ... Within the Office of the Spokesperson for the
Secretary-General, who can see it? Can all staff see it? Ashraf Kamal
he hasn't seen it -- can he? Can all staff in the Office of Human
Resources Management see it? Or only some? Who? The request is for a detailed
description of who can see the List.
And the request is for a specific
description of what past of the List is so private as to require withholding it.
It contains name, grade (P-5, for example), contract status (dollar a year, for
example) and nationality. Which is confidential? And would the
Secretary-General consider releasing the List with whatever category this is,
redacted? As under freedom of information laws of many countries?
parts of this request -- what Mr. Ban would consider releasing, and why any part
of the List is being withheld -- have still not been answered. As noted above
expect for one line now addressed, the following arrived:
Matthew, The List ST/ADM/R.61 is published
once a year in a limited number of copies which are made available to the
Permanent Missions of Member States, Heads of Departments and Offices and senior
staff of the Organization who need access to this information due to the nature
of their work. The last one is dated July 1, 2006. It is a nominal list per
staff member, per department, per nationality with the professional grade of
each staff member. You can see it in my office unofficially if you wish to,
as background information.
The other document which I referred you to
and which is available at the document counter (A/61/257) is an analytical
document on the composition of the Secretariat by nationality, gender, age
group, a much more useful document in term of information. It is also dated
to "see it... unofficially... as background information" is appreciated but
unclear. Does it mean that the Secretariat would still maintain that the List
need not be shown to the public, other press, other staff? Does that mean that
the information could be reported on? For example, the Office of the
Spokesperson has declined a number of times to provide a list of the UN's
"dollar a year" officials as well as those paid "When Actually Employed." Since
the List includes each status, could an "unofficial... background" viewing be
long enough to compile such a list, and could it then be reported?
ran for Secretary-General on a platform promising transparency and
accountability. The grading of the Darfur test he has set himself is so far
incomplete. But the release of this List may itself become a test. What is the
basis of withholding it? Developing.
Update of May 23,
2007 -- a week after declining to provide the name, on Wednesday evening
Associate UN Spokesperson Choi Soung-ah wrote to Inner City Press that
Secretary-General brought five Koreans with him to the Secretariat. The five
were with him during the transition period as well. Of the five, three are on
the 38th floor as you have previously been informed, myself (you know who I am)
assigned to the Spokesperson's office, and Mr. Kweon Ki-hwan assigned to the
Office of the Under-Secretary General for Management."
Along with thanking Ms. Choi for this response, how
ever belated, Inner City Press has asked among other things, "what post
in the UN Department of Management was
Kweon Ki-hwan put into, and what process was followed to put him in this
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