Ban's UN, Senior Appointee Information Is Withheld, Even if UN Had Info-Rights,
Which It Does Not
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, May
24 -- One week after
refusing to provide
the name of the fifth of the "five South Koreans" that Ban Ki-moon brought with
him into the UN Secretariat, because "he is in the UN Department of Management,"
on Wednesday night the name was provided: Kweon Ki-hwan.
City Press immediately asked what is Mr. Kweon's post at the Department of
Management, and what was the process of selection. The question was not
answered, and at Thursday's UN noon briefing, this was the
Q & A:
Inner City Press: Yesterday I was informed
by your office that the Secretary-General had placed a man called Kweon Ki-hwan
in the Department of Management, so I just have a question I'd like to know.
What was the post? What post is he in and what was the process for placing him
in the post? Do you have that?
Deputy Spokesperson: I thought I had
something specific for you on that. I think, I may be going beyond my mandate
here, but I think in terms of answering questions on the rank-and-file of staff
members who are not senior appointees, I'd rather give you the answer to these
questions out of the briefing.
outside of the briefing, in the ten hours afterwards, this basis information was
not provided. Various UN staff have opined to Inner City Press that while the
Secretary General may be free to do as he pleases with several posts in his 38th
floor office, posts in other UN Departments, including or especially in
Management, are not to be handed out, but are subject to recruitment,
interviews, competition and selection. These people note that there may be a
loophole, such as that Kweon Ki-hwan may be listed as a consultant -- another
question not answered
-- or may technically be posted in the Executive Office, although physically in
the Department of Management.
there have said they are not sure what Kweon Ki-hwan's post or job is.
"Mandate review," one staff afraid of retaliation said with a scoff. Or Kweon
Ki-hwan may be on "secondment" from the South Korean mission to the UN, where he
was a First Secretary, as reflected by the UN's October 2005 publication,
"Permanent Missions to the UN."
is a public document, showing names, ranks, and nationality. Ironically, the
UN's publication with precisely that information, "List of Staff of the UN
Secretariat," is still being withheld.
Mr. Ban and UN staff: a secret handshake?
For a week, Inner
City Press has requested it and an explanation of the withholding, including in
an email Tuesday to the Under Secretary General for Management, who has
responded positively to Inner City Press' questions about the UN moving toward a
Freedom of Information procedure. On Thursday, this came:
Subject: Response to Innercitypress query
regarding the list of Staff of the UN Secretariat
From: Marie Okabe [at] un.org
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Thu, 24 May 2007 6:36 pm
Alicia Barcena wanted the Spokesman's
Office to get back to you on a question you had for them on the list of staff.
The List of Staff of the UN Secretariat is
published on a regular basis to comply with the obligation placed on the
Secretary-General by Article V, Section 17 of the Convention on the Privileges
and Immunities of the UN to communicate to Member States the names of UN
officials. Section 17 reads:
SECTION 17. The Secretary-General will
specify the categories of officials to which the provisions of this Article and
Article VII shall apply. He shall submit these categories to the General
Assembly. Thereafter these categories shall be communicated to the Governments
of all Members. The names of the officials included in these categories shall
from time to time be made known to the Governments of Members.
The document contains extensive
information on every staff member listed, including name, nationality, grade
level and location. Such information is deliberately not provided in official
documents made available to the public at large. The provision of that
information to Governments is carried out by the Secretary-General to fulfill
his obligation under the above Section 17. To make such information available
to the general public would not only affect the privacy of the individual staff
members, but could also be detrimental to staff for security reasons, especially
to staff serving in hazardous duty stations.
Furthermore, if the proposed "Access to
Information policy" is eventually introduced, it would not apply to any
information that could endanger an individual's security or violate his/her
response is appreciated, it must be noted that the UN publication "Permanent
Mission to the United Nations," which is freely distributed, contains names,
nationalities, ranks and even the names of people's spouses. So currently the
Secretariat is more secretive about its own staff, the people it hires, than the
people employed in the member states' missions to the UN. The argument above is
questionable, that providing the names of staff would affect privacy, since
these names are already available in the UN's telephone directory.
That the List of Staff was created in
order to provide the information to Member States does not mean that, once
created, it can legitimately be withheld from the press and public. The sine
qua non of any credible Access to Information policy is the presumption that
records are available, except specific enumerable portions the release of which
would cause harm. In this case, such specific enumeration has yet to take place.
Troublingly, in light of the claim that the UN is working toward a "gold
standard" of Access to Information policy, the statement above does not take
into account the procedure in many countries' freedom of information laws, that
whole documents cannot be withheld simply because some portions of the contents
are confidential. The US Freedom of Information Act, for example, provides that
"any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be provided to any person
requesting such record after deletion of the portions which are exempt." The UN
could, for example, withhold only those staff "serving in hazardous duty
stations." This would presumably not include, for example, Mr. Kweon Ki-hwan.
formal request, with citation to the Freedom of Information Act and relevant UN
resolution has been submitted elsewhere within the UN, and the inconsistencies
identified above -- partial withholding, and the treatment of diplomats'
information -- should also be considered. Inner City Press has asked: "please
confirm that it is not "if" but "when" a UN Access to Information policy is
introduced, and that information other than segregable portions which would
violate privacy or cause danger, and is not otherwise publicly available, will
be released." We will continue on these issues.
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