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UN's Ban Hit With Staff "No Confidence" Vote, on Asbestos, G to P, Tamil Protest

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: News Analysis

A UN GC City, June 16 -- Reeling from low grades from the Economist and questions of viability in the Financial Times, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday was hit with a vote of "no confidence" from the UN Staff Union regarding implementation of the Capital Master Plan and the management of human resources.

  The resolution criticizes Ban and his team for relocating staff to "swing space buildings before the security risk assessments were done," for the manner of asbestos removal and for stifling meritocracy and "career advancement including the leap from G to P" -- from general to professional staff.

   Each of these issues has been festering for months, and most can be attributed back to the UN Department of Management, headed by Angela Kane. Ms. Kane herself has acknowledged a failure to communicate about the postponement of the National Competitive Exam, but similar issues exist around the G to P exam.

  The resolution was voted for by over 200 staff members at a meeting on June 16, with no opposition, one abstention. According to one attendee, "the mood was one of distrust, of Angela Kane, Michael Adlerstein and Ban Ki-moon. It was stated again and again that Management is not acting in a responsible, safe or appropriate manner."

   CMP chief Michael Adlerstein first said the security risk assessments were done, then referred all questions to the Department of Safety and Security, whose Bruno Henn "no commented" the issue.

  Ms. Angela Kane, beyond an icy relationship with the UN Staff Union, has lashed out at the press, specifically and generally, first proposing for the first time in the history of UN Headquarters to charge journalists money to cover it, then trying to subject whistleblowers to exposure.  The pretext is an open office plan which the resolution notes was "never negotiated with the staff representatives."

   Ms. Kane has complained that the UN's responses are not published, while telling the Press that she has no time to answer questions.

UN's Ban stares into (swing) space, staff (union) not shown

  The Economist magazine gave Mr. Ban a failing grade of two out of ten on management. When Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban for his response, his statement was passionate, but largely laid the blame elsewhere. But this new "no confidence" vote does not bode well.

   Additionally, as Inner City Press previously reported, Ban may be subject to a rare street protest on the night of June 17, when he and Bill Clinton are slated to receive a "global humanitarian award" at the St. Regis Hotel. Tamils who watched the bloodbath on the beach in Northern Sri Lanka and the UN withholding casualty figures and satellite photos blame Ban.

  While the Security Council and members not only from China and Russia, but also for lack of true commitment to protection of civilians by the UK, France and US, share much of the blame, it is Ban who is targeted for protest, as his advisors know. Watch this site.

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UN's Ban Questioned on Record, on Sri Lanka, Half Time Pep Talk

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- Half way into the five year term as UN Secretary General he was awarded in 2006, Ban Ki-moon on June11 tried to defend low grades he has received for his management of the UN and not "speaking truth to power."

  At Mr. Ban's press conference for June, his spokesperson Michele Montas pointedly did not call on Inner City Press. Only a week before she had said the UN should be able to regulate the Press, after a memo revealed her attendance at a May 8 meeting at which legal threats and "complaining to Google News" about Inner City Press was discussed. On June 11, she looked elsewhere to award the right to question.

   But CNN's longtime correspondent, characteristically classy, yielded his question to Inner City Press. Video here, from Minute 42:41. To inquire into Ban's views on his Spokesperson's and top officials' seeming underlying of freedom of the press, while necessary and to later be asked, had to take a back seat to a bigger picture question. From the UN's transcript, the question and then Ban's annotated answer:

Inner City Press: There is an article in today's Economist, called “Ban Ki-moon - the score at half time”. It reviews half of your first term. I want to ask you to respond to it. Under the rubric “truth to power” they give you a three out of ten, and they use the example of Sri Lanka - they say that Mr. Ban denied that the UN had leaked grim civilian casualty figures. On management they give two out of ten. There are some better grades, I acknowledge. On management, they say there is a problem with communicating with senior staff, that you have to show more leadership in drumming up peacekeepers.

I might add to that, protection of whistle-blowers and free press. I just wanted to know, do you agree with any of this critique, are there things you intend to do better in a second term? What do you make of this piece in the Economist assigning those two grades?

SG: I would regard it as the judgment of the Economist. There may be a different judgment on my performance. First of all, during the last two and a half years, I had three priorities. First of all, to catalyze a global response to critical global issues – like climate change, managing the consequences of the international economic crisis, global health and global terrorism. On climate change, you may agree with me that from almost dead - if not dead, a dormant status - this issue has risen to the level of leaders of the world. It has become a top priority issue of this world. I am going to really work hard to seal the deal in Copenhagen in December. I am working for all humanity, for the future of Planet Earth.

Note: Ban is clearly passionate about climate change, but some might also mention Al Gore in this role. Ban appointed a mentor and former boss in South Korea as a UN climate change envoy, then added the past General Assembly president Srgjan Kerim to his climate roster. These are patronage appointments, many feel, that do no credit to the environment and provide support for the grades the Economist gave.

SG: To deliver results to those most in need, you should know that I have been working very hard to represent the well-being of the most vulnerable people. I have been working as the voice of the voiceless people, and defend those people who are defenseless. You see my performance on the record.

Note: Most recently Ban went to Sri Lanka, and saw Tamils locked up in internment camps. Since returning to New York, Ban's Spokespeople have resisted commenting on the plight of these defenseless people, who are being locked up with UN funds.

UN's Ban, a world of worry, officials' anti-Press moves don't help

  Inner City Press asked, what about the outgoing Sri Lankan chief justice's comment that the people in the camps have no legal protection, cannot get the jurisdiction of Sri Lankan court? Ban's Associate Spokesperson dryly called this a "national issue." So much for voice for the voiceless. Some say, apologist for governments.

SG: On reform, you should understand that this has been accumulating over the last sixty years. During the last two and a half years, I can proudly say that I have made significant changes in the working culture of the United Nations, to make this most transparent, accountable, efficient and mobile and effective. I don't claim that I have finished the job. There are much more things to be done in the reform process of the United Nations. Look at these accumulated, very cumbersome, bureaucratic systems of the United Nations. I am also in a very difficult position to move these reform processes ahead. Have you ever seen somebody who has been, as passionately as I have been doing, to change this working culture of the United Nations? There will be some complaints. People just love business as usual. They simply don't want to change. This is what I really wanted to change.

Note: Ban could have made his top officials file public financial disclosure, or face non reappointment. He didn't. He is viewed, perhaps because of those around him, as unapproachable by many. His top management official, Angela Kane, barely speaks with the Staff Union. Therefore few things have been reformed.

SG: You should look very closely and follow me, what I have been doing, what I have in my mind. I have never left climate change [or] reform of the United Nations. I will continue to do that, whatever somebody may say. But be sympathetic, and just try to closely follow what I have been doing, not just based on conventional wisdom. Fix your eyesight and vision on the 21st [century]. Don't look at the 1950s, 1960s., where the United Nations was the only universal body. Now you have so many international actors – the European Union, the African Union, the OAS, ASEAN – the United Nations must work together in close coordination with all these organizations. And we need the full support of the Member States.

Note: Ban appointed former peacekeeping chief Jean Marie Guehenno as his Under Secretary General for Regional Cooperation, that is on all these grounps. Then, Ban did not assign Guehenno a single piece of work. It was a patronage appointment, apparently designed to keep Guehenno's visa status. This is not a new way of doing busines.

SG: Without the political support, without resources provided by the Member States, it is difficult, however capable a person may be the Secretary-General. It is just impossible. I need more political support. I need more resources by the Member States. Then judge my support on the basis of that. The mandate should be supported and accompanied by the resources and political support. Don't just look at my performance on the basis of just vague or conventional perceptions of the United Nations.

  Note: Is it too conventional to think that the UN Secretary General should speak up for members of a minority group interned by a majoritarian government using UN money? Is it vague to think that a CEO who has he wants those whom he appointed to make public financial disclosure could easily bring it about, by conditioning appointment or re-appointment on disclosure? We could go on and on. The point is, what improvements will there be? Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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