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After Ban Calls NY Staff "Selfish," Union Votes No Confidence In Him

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 24, updated with resolution here -- Two days after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Press that UN staff in New York who oppose his proposals are "selfish," the Staff Union on Thursday afternoon adopted a resolution of "no confidence in the Secretary General and his senior management officials."

  The Emergency meeting was initially listed as closed to the media. But after several staff members petitioned the Union president, Inner City Press was invited in and was the only media to witness the debate and vote.

  The president began by quoting Ban Ki-moon's accusation of selfishness, made in response to Inner City Press' question about his mobility proposal and $100 million in budget cuts, only 30% of which can be "non-post." Click here for Inner City Press story, and the transcript.

  Even in an era of austerity in many countries, few elected leaders would publicly call those opposing budget cuts and changes in terms of service "selfish." Those who did would be voted out of office.

   But there is not that accountability mechanism in the UN, as more than one staff member argued to Inenr City Press.

   On January 23, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey if Ban had any second thoughts about the word "selfish." No, Del Buey replied, Ban "stands firmly behind it." Story here.

   Later on January 23 as Ban Ki-moon passed by the table in front of the Security Council where Inner City Press was reporting on the Council's Middle East debate, Ban told Inner City Press, enigmatical but not unfriendly, "I read you article."

   Now he will presumably read the Staff Union's resolution of no confidence, adopted by a vote of 186 in favor, 45 against with ten abstentions.

   The resolution slams the $100 million proposed budget cut. For the record, Ban's office has told Inner City Press that it was the General Assembly which required this cut. But the GA did not specify that 70% of the cut would have to come from "posts,' or staff.

   Likely to catch Ban's attention, the resolution criticizes excessive travel spending by Ban "and his entourage, including his spouse." Another reference to Ban being a "hatchet man" was voted out of the resolution.

   Left in the resolution, despite a bid to remove it, was criticism of waste in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support.

   From the floor of the debate, Ban's Wikipedia page was read out loud, complete with the moniker "slippery eel" and a penchant for dodging questions.

   Ban's head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous however is much worse: he directed his spokesman to seize the UNTV microphone so that Inner City Press could not ask a question about DPKO's work in Eastern Congo. Video here.

  These Ban Adminstration refusals to answer or be open are being called into question by the new Free UN Coalition for Access, on behalf of which Inner City Press at Ban's January 22 press conference asked for more meetings to be open, before asking about mobility and budget cuts.

  Ban's Department of Public Information has adopted a range of approaches the FUNCA and its push for transparency and due process: indulgence, opposition, stonewalling. Most recently, DPI is trying to prevent FUNCA from posting any fliers in the Dag Hammarskhold Library building. But FUNCA will perservere.

   As will the Staff Union. While some argued that expressing "no confidence" meant Ban will no longer speak with them, others said he hasn't, anyway. But where else would Ban speak, about his staff reforms? Watch this site.

Update of January 29: the Staff Union finally put out the resolution, five days after the vote and the story above and after Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said he hadn't seen the resolution. Well, now: resolution here

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