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Amid UN Layoffs, Union Busting & Haiti Dodge, Ban to Meet De Blasio

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 2, more here -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is now slated to meet with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio on June 2 at 3:30 pm at City Hall.

   The meeting, rescheduled from the day of the gas explosion in East Harlem, comes at a time when for example the UN Development Program is set to eliminate up to 30% of its jobs in New York. How would Ban Ki-moon justify this?
   Ban's Secretariat itself has declined to recognize the Staff Union slate which won elective office in December, essentially breaking the union. How would Ban justify this?

  Beyond the layoff issues, as Inner City Press' March 2014 reporting on New York City Council members and human rights sketched out, Ban's refusal to take responsibility for UN Peacekeeping bringing cholera to Haiti has many grumbling in NYC. If Ban met the New York City Council, this issue would come up.

   But Ban accepts as his head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous of France, who outright refuses to answer Press questions, video here and here. This would never fly in New York City -- outside of the UN.

 On March 25, 2014 Inner City Press reported on the Urban Justice Center's report card on the Council, assigning grade from A+ down to a C and C- in Staten Island to members of the NYC City Council.

  The report "revisited two recent land-use projects -- Willets Point in Queens and Seward Park Extension Urban Park Renewal Area in Manhattan, which impact New Yorkers' housing, workers' and government accountability rights. It also discusses the human rights implications of waterfront redevelopment projects in Mill Basin, Brooklyn and St. George, Staten Island in post Hurricane Sandy New York City."

  The UN famously failed during Super Storm Sandy, neglecting to inform Ambassadors when it would be closed and when their cars, with diplomatic plates, could be removed from the UN's underground garages, as Inner City Press reported.

  In Haiti, the UN thumbs its nose at principles of accountability, refusing to even acknowledge service of process of legal papers in court cases from bringing cholera to the Island.

    Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was going to meet with Mayor Bill De Blasio until it got canceled on the day of the East Harlem gas explosion.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access asked why it was not on Ban's public schedule, but UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said since it got canceled, this did not have to be answered. Isn't the right to information also a human right?

  The view east from the UN is of Queens, and it is notable that Queens Council members score low on human rights, with Peter Vallone Jr. among the bottom three.

  The top eight in the rankings are all from Manhattan or Brooklyn; the top Bronxite after that represent Riverdale. Have any Councilmembers joined the call on the US Mission to the UN, or State Department in DC, to hold the UN accountable for cholera in Haiti? If all politics are local, they should.

On the afternoon of March 25, Inner City Press asked UJC's Research and Policy Coordinator Nicole Bramsted if the reports considered Council members' work on such issues as holding the UN accountable for cholera in Haiti -- or, one might add, extending a human rights monitoring mandate to the UN mission in Western Sahara. Inner City Press also ask for any comment on there being no Bronx (or Queens) Council members in the top eight ranked members.

  Bramsted and her colleague replied that such work is included in the narrative portion of the surveys, for example resolutions for the Senate to ratify CEDAW; low scoring geographies, it was said, could be held up in the spotlight.

   On current June 2014 UN system layoff proposals, for many weeks there have been rumblings about “Helen Clark's cut backs” at UNDP, the UN Development Program.

   This week the rumbling spiked, with the UNDP staff union holding a meeting in the UN's basement on May 29 to discuss the loss of up to 30% of UNDP's jobs in New York.

  So on May 31 when Helen Clark re-tweeted praise of her visit to Belarus from her representative in the country, Sri Lankan national Sanaka Samarasinha, Inner City Press replied: "What about the UNDP layoffs?"

   The response came not from Helen Clark -- who rarely if ever holds question and answer press availabilities at the UN in New York -- but from Samarasinha, that the UNDP layoffs "must always be transparent & being fit for purpose. We strive toward that end."

  Inner City Press thanked Samarasinha, adding it will try to make the proposed layoffs transparent. In that spirit, we now publish Helen Clark's May 19 letter to staff:

Dear Colleagues,

Last year the Executive Board approved a new Strategic Plan for UNDP, and since then the whole organization has been making the changes necessary to fully implement that plan. One of the three pillars of that plan was improving institutional effectiveness. To that end the organization has conducted significant reviews of its performance and we have all been involved in planning and implementing changes. At the country office level most of you are well on your way to completing the financial sustainability exercise which has led to many changes. Also, over recent months we have been going through a structural change exercise at the headquarters and regional levels to achieve a number of efficiency gains.

We committed to:

· Moving more of our policy and support services to the regional level so that we are closer to our country offices.

· Removing unnecessary duplication between bureau

· Ensuring our functions are properly aligned through the organization to improve accountability and professional standards

· Improving our span of control so that we have better career paths for younger staff.

· Reducing our spending on staff salaries so that we can stay within the integrated budget limits set by the Board in September.

· Ensuring we free up resources to invest in new areas required to deliver on the Strategic Plan

All Bureaux have been working hard on how to reorganize functions and reduce costs. This has not been an easy exercise and I must commend both my management and the many staff involved for their commitment to coming up with solutions.

We are now at the stage where we are ready to release new organograms for all bureau. This will happen on Wednesday this week (NY time). These organograms will reflect a much different UNDP from what we now have. Our services will be much more focused in the regions and we will be leaner. We will have significantly fewer D grade positions relative to other professional and general services grades.

This means that many peoples jobs are affected, and we will be embarking on a realignment process aimed at being as fair and transparent as possible to fill the new positions.

Details of the new organograms will be released on Wednesday 21 May, and managers in all bureaux will be available to discuss with staff what the implications are for their bureau.

I understand, however, that some staff may wish to take the opportunity to leave UNDP, rather than compete for new positions. To facilitate this we will be making available a limited number of voluntary separation packages. The details associated with this are attached to this email, and if affected staff members are interested in taking this option they should discuss this with their manager.

All organograms will be made available on a dedicated intranet site, and at that time all staff at headquarters and working at regional level centres will receive formal notification that they are within the definition of affected staff. Bureau managers will then work with individual staff members to confirm the status of their existing position. Information will also be available on the processes which will be used for the realignment exercises which will have to follow. Let me assure you that these exercises will be designed to be as fair and transparent as possible and will ensure that existing rights under staff rules are respected.

Finally let me say to you all that I recognize that this is not an easy time for staff. I also know that we can be a stronger more effective development organization which can make real differences in millions of peoples’ lives. By demonstrating that to the world, I have no doubt that there are many exciting opportunities out there for UNDP to build on .

Helen Clark
UNDP Administrator

  Another source told Inner City Press that Clark wants to “force people, many women, many who are head of household, to be deported after one month [when their G-4 visas would expire], and force many staff who are just 2, 3, 4 years from early retirement age out, so they will miss out on their after-service health insurance. If they get away with this at UNDP, it will quickly spread to the rest of the UN system. Oh, and by the way, the men and women at D1, D2 and ASGs are unaffected.”

  This, Secretariat staff say, is similar to current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's mobility or “5 year rule” - now imposed on regular staff, but seemingly not applied Ban's higher ranking friends. UNease is growing. Another description here, from IPS.

  The connection is that Helen Clark wants to replace Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General, despite the the post as his successor said to be reserved for the Eastern European group which has never held it. Clark is banking on gender trumping geography, and job cutting seems to be her campaign issue for Western, donor countries.

  A well placed source tells Inner City Press Clark told management currently employed at UNDP to “drop what they are doing and work on her campaign” for S-G, they would be rewarded with a higher post in the Secretariat if she comes to replace Ban.

Footnote: In the Secretariat, the hold-over staff union which barely fought Ban during its time in power now presents itself as supporting UNDP worker, and as... still the staff union, despite the December vote and controversy since.
   This rift only benefits those pushing for lay-off, just like the UN's Censorship Alliance getting the first question and big room results in softball coverage of the UN, here. We'll and the Free UN Coalition for Access will have more on this.


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