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UN Dumped News of 4 of 5 Regional Commissions, Won't Tell ICP of Silence on 5th, ECLAC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 – After claims of transparency, the UN not only refuses to disclosure financial information but waited until 6:30 pm on April 13, the day before the Good Friday holiday, to announce one Regional Commission job retained and three jobs given out: in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Why do a news-dump even on this? And why have nothing to say about the fifth Commission, in Latin America? At the next UN noon briefing on April 17, Inner City Press asked - and typically, from the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, got no explanation. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: On the regional commissions, I guess, I just wanted… I did see that Thursday after-hours announcement, but what I wondered is that there seem to be… there are five commissions, if I’m correct.  And you made announcements about three… three have new leaders.  One… there was, the person was asked to stay on.  What about the ECLAC in Latin America?  Why was there no…

Spokesman:  Ms Bárcena, as far as I know, is, continues to head it.

Inner City Press:  Is there… so the Ban Ki-moon sort of five-year-rule idea is no longer applicable.


Spokesman:  That’s not what I said.

Inner City Press:  No, but I’m wondering…

Spokesman:  No, that’s not what I said.  The Secretary-General will make the changes he feels are necessary in due time. Thank you.

  Thanks for nothing. Here are the three, including Iraq's affable UN Ambassador and an official from Cameroon, on which Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric earlier spun: "For the position of Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa (ECA), the Secretary-General has selected Vera Songwe of Cameroon... For the position of Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Secretary-General has selected Olga Algayerova of  Slovakia, who since 2012 is Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the International Organisations in Vienna, Austria...  For the position of Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the Secretary-General has selected Mohamed Ali Alhakim of Iraq, who since 2013 is the Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations. Mr. Alhakim brings to the position deep knowledge of the governmental landscape in the region, coupled with strong networks across the region."

  The UN Secretariat of Guterres and his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed are moving to take over the UN Development Program's "Resident Coordinator" system and the funding that goes with it, multiple sources have told Inner City Press. Inner City Press asked about it again on April 13, below. But Guterres' spokespeople refuse to confirm, deny or explain it, in continued lack of transparency. Whereas for now, until April 19, outgoing UNDP Administrator Helen Clark chairs the UN Development Group, Amina Mohammed would take it over before the new Administrator Achim Steiner is installed. On April 13, Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on the Resident Coordinator proposal, the proposal, as I understand it, for the Resident Coordinator system to be moved from UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] to the Secretariat, I wanted to know, Farhan, I think, in one of your absences said, when it's decided and approved, we'll justify it.  It seems like, if it's… there are many even Member States concerned about it, but also, there's people impacted by UNDP that would like to know, what's the rationale for the proposal?  And has Achim Steiner, the nominee for UNDP, signed off on this loss of power by UNDP?

Spokesman:  First of all, again, I think I will refer you to the last analogy I gave you.  There is, as the Secretary-General said he would do, a review of the UN Development System that is ongoing and that is being consulted, being led by the Deputy Secretary-General.  Once we have something to announce, we will.  But, obviously, everyone who's needed to be consulted is being consulted.

As for who the next head of UNDP will be, that is something that will be announced in due course when all the "Ts" have been crossed and all the "Is" have been dotted.

Inner City Press: If the commitment to gender is, as you said in answer to the question about the stated policy, how would that be consistent with the head of peacekeeping being a male and the head of UNDP being a male?  How would that be consistent?

Spokesman:  I think one has to look holistically at the system.

Back on March 24, Inner City Press again asked Guterres' holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: two things about UNDP [United Nations Development Programme].  One is Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Environment, has now said publicly that she is a candidate to head UNDP.  So I wanted to know, is there going to be any kind of, like, short list announced?  I know, under some previous Administrations, there were for such top jobs.  Do you anticipate announcing… given that one candidate has said publicly… there are other names I would like you to confirm.  Mr. [Bert] Koenders is running, Mr. [David] Miliband, Ms. [Sigrid] Kaag.  Do you anticipate there being a public process so that people know who the candidates are?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't anticipate us providing a short list.  That process was discontinued almost a decade ago.

Inner City Press: Okay.  Then my other question is this.  In terms of candidates knowing what the job entails, because it remains open until 27 March to apply for it, I'd like… I tried to ask you yesterday about the Secretariat trying to get funding for the Resident Coordinator system, but I want to ask you more directly.  Is it the intention of the Secretary-General and his Deputy Secretary-General to have Amina Mohammed become the chair of the UN Development Group, a position previously belonging to the administrator of UNDP, and essentially bring the Resident Coordinator system under the Secretariat?  And, in part, I think you should disclose it, but certainly, if people are applying, does the UNDP job they're applying for include heading the Resident Coordinator system?

Deputy Spokesman:  Any reforms to the way the UN Development Group is organized is something we'll announce if that change is made.  Right now, there hasn't been, and there's nothing to announce about the Resident Coordinator system.

Inner City Press: But when a reform is being proposed, usually, like, most… in most systems, the proponent of the reform discusses it publicly, argues for it.  Are you saying it's a totally secret process of reform?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, but if there's any need… there's some things that go to lower levels of discussion that never get to become policy discussions.  If there's any real major change of policy that we're planning, of course, we'll announce that.  But we don't have… we're not at that stage.

   Inner City Press on March 23 asked or tried to ask Guterres himself, as he left the UN Security Council along with Katrin Hett: "Is the Secretariat tryig to take over the Resident Coordinator system?" Guterres as is his way for now did not answer. Vine video here and here. Ongoing YouTube here. Guterres heads out on a trip from March 24 to April 3. We'll have more on this. From the UN's March 23 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, overall, I've heard that there's a proposal by the Secretary-General to begin getting funding currently that goes to UNDP for the resident coordinator system to get some of it devoted to the Secretariat itself given its… the work it expands, in any case, to take an income stream that currently goes through UNDP and bring it to the Secretariat… to the Secretariat.  And I'd like you… maybe you know or don't know.  Can you get an answer and… and… I guess you might wait until tomorrow, but it seems like it's a major proposal.  You're talking about, you know, he's thinking of reforms.  If he's trying to get in money by changing the way the resident coordinator system works, can you confirm that that is the plan?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I cannot confirm that.

Inner City Press:  Meaning it's not happening or you refuse to confirm or deny this reform…?

Deputy Spokesman:  No I don't have any details to share on that.  There's any number of different proposals that may or may not be considered.  But I don't have any confirmation of whether that's… that's…

Inner City Press:  It's in the QCPR… [Quarterly Comprehensive Periodic Review]

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, but different things may be up for discussion.  Whether they advance or not, it's too early to tell.  I don't have any confirmation of that.  It's certainly not policy right now.

Inner City Press:  But wouldn't you want to say why you would want to do it?  I mean, that's what I'm asking… I'm sort of asking you, if that's the proposal, why does he want to do it?

Deputy Spokesman:  When these discussions take place, they take place among different Member States.  I wouldn't have anything to say at this stage about them.  Ultimately, it… ultimately, what I get to announce is what's resolved.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

  Good? While there are good Resident Coordinators, Inner City Press has also written about Ban Ki-moon son in law Siddarth Chatterjee, given the top Kenya post by his own father in law without recusal, and now Najat Rochdi, who covered up Cameroon's abuse of the Anglophone western part of the country. Both of them block Inner City Press on Twitter. This is today's UN.

How transparent, or intentionally opaque, is today's UN? After Inner City Press exclusively reported that staff on the UN's 38th floor were paid through the UN Office of Project Services and not the regular budget, the UN admitted it but refused to answer Inner City Press' follow up questions. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: On the answer on UNOPS.  I wanted to, I guess, ask it a little bit broader, because my understanding is that there's a proposal to the Fifth Committee to approve a number of new positions on the 38th Floor.  But, until they rule… so I guess I wanted to know, rather than piss and… you know, pick and… pick and, you know, choose and see if you say that… I heard Lusophone; you said no Lusophone.  I heard UNOPS; you said, yes, one UNOPS.  Can I ask you generally about UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]?  And two, could you just provide a list of the people that have been hired on [the 38th Floor] to work on political matters and whether, in fact, they have posts currently in the UN budget, and if they don't, how they're being paid?  You could even do it without the names, but there's a lot of questions that people have about people hired where there's no underlying posts to be filled.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  Well, the bottom line is that, as I made clear just now, all of this… all the questions of posts are that they go through the normal budgetary process.  And so, whatever posts we have for the 38th Floor will be posts that we get approved from the budgetary system.

Inner City Press:  But, I guess my… my question is, until May and these posts are approved, are you saying that there's nobody that's working on [the 38th Floor] for which a post has yet to be approved by the Fifth Committee?  That's the question that I'm asking.

Deputy Spokesman:  Whatever the posts are, those are posts for which we're seeking budgetary funds from the 38th… from the budgetary committees.

Inner City Press:  But, if you haven't received the approval yet, how do you pay them?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are ways to pay people up until you get the funding, but we're going to go through the normal budgetary process as we do through the previous Secretaries-General, as well.

Inner City Press: Can you just put out a fact sheet on that?  I guess what I'm wondering is, it does seem if there's… if people are being paid and it's yet to be approved, there's obviously some lack…

Deputy Spokesman:  The facts are all information that are provided to the budgetary committees.  They have that, and it's their information. 

  Inner City Press had asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' top two spokesmen simple factual questions: who works on the 38th floor? Who pays them? But the two, both holdovers from the Ban Ki-moon administration, refused to answer, so on March 20 Inner City Press published its scoop about the murky use of trust funds to pay people on the UN's 38th floor. Even on March 21 when Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq who pays whom, he refused to answer. Video here; from the UN transcript.

Inner City Press: It would be important for the public to know if somebody working on the 38th Floor is, in fact, paid by a country as opposed from the regular budget.

Deputy Spokesman:  The financial details of how the Executive Office works, all that is shared with the relevant budgetary committees of the General Assembly, and so they have that information.

Well not really. Haq and his boss Stephane Dujarric refused for four days to answer this: "This is a Press request for a list of who is working in the Executive Office of the Secretary General; within that, who is paid by the UN general budget, who is paid by or through any other UN-affiliated fund and who funds that, and who is paid by / seconded from a country."  Why not just answer?

  On March 20, as Inner City Press pointed out the seeming hypocrisy not only of the UN preaching media freedom while having evicted and still restricting Inner City Press but also of an all-male UN team meeting with the DR Congo, it was told Yes, UNOPS is involved, citing to General Assembly documents saying that some working in the UN do not have to be categories, or disclosed, as staff. But isn't this opacity simply inviting budget cuts? We'll have more on this.


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