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UN Won't Answer on Late Whistleblowers' Report or What Fed to Scribes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11, updated -- How corrupt is the UN? That's what some asked when yet another whistleblower about corruption faced then proved retaliation, only to have the UN Secretariat appeal and delay any justice. Inner City Press asked, in May 2013, and was told on May 21 that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had asked Canadian judge Louise Otis to write a report on the UN's whistleblower protection by the end of 2013.

On February 10, 2014 -- that is, forty days after that deadline -- Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson for the status of the report. The spokesperson said he would look into and and revert:

Inner City Press: Thereís the new US law that requires the Secretary of State to certify that all the UNís Secretariat and agencies have protections in place. So, I wanted to know if you have any comment on the law? But also, I remember that Louise Otis, this Canadian judge, was going to do a report to the Secretary-General on whistleblower protections throughout the system and that it was going to be done by the end of the year, last year. So, is the report finished? Can we learn a little bit about it? And does the UN think that their budget could be impacted by this new law requiring whistleblower protections to be certified?

Spokesperson: Well, I think that my colleague Farhan Haq has addressed this matter last week. Iíd be happy to share with you what he had available at that time, with regard to that specific law. With regard to the report you mentioned, Iíd need to check. I just donít know the answer to that at this point. Okay. Right. Any further questions? Last question.

More than 24 hours later, there had been no answer at all.

  Meanwhile Ban himself, though not listed on his schedule, had a friendly lunch with friendly correspondents sure, it seemed, not to ask him about retaliation against whistleblowers or corruption or anything like that. In fact, that very morning the president of the group, the United Nations Correspondents Association now known as the UN's Censorship Alliance, had name-dropped Ban in a press conference, that she'd gone on a trip with him. Wowdza.

  On the afternoon of February 11, more than 24 hours after asking the whistleblower protection report that was due forty days prior, Inner City Press e-mailed Ban's top two spokespeople asking again for the answer, and for a tape or transcript of Ban's luncheon with tape recorders, and on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access for an explanation why it the information or quotes had not been simultaneously provided to all correspondents:

This is to request again answers to the questions I asked at yesterday's noon briefing about UN whistleblower protections, and to formally request a tape or transcript of what the Secretary General said today this lunch:

Since the photo shows tape recorders, this is a request to be informed if any embargo was placed on what the Secretary General said. If not, this is a request including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access for an explanation, why this was not provided to all correspondents, and for the tape (or transcript) forthwith.

   While at least some response was provided, it did not address this last -- nor did it explain the status of Justice Otis' supposed report. Instead it was an update fact sheet in which the UN brags about its protections. We'll publish it - but the other answers have not been given.

Update: and later, the Office of the Spokesperson sent out Ban's "opening remarks" to the scribes / censors -- no Q&A, no tape, no explanation. But we link to it, here.

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM
Subject: Fact sheet on whistle-blowers -- as requested
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

In response to your questions, we have been sharing the following facts on our whistle-blower protection policies:

United Nations Secretariat's Protection against Retaliation policy as administered by the UN Ethics Office

∑ The United Nations Secretariat's Protection against Retaliation policy went into effect in January 2006, the same time that the UN established an independent UN Ethics Office.

∑ The policy was developed in consultation with external stakeholders such as the Government Accountability Project, and incorporated existing global best practices for the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation.

∑ The current policy:

∑ defines what constitutes whistle-blowing and retaliation;

∑ identifies who is eligible for protection;

∑ encourages staff to speak up and identifies responsible offices to receive reports of misconduct;

∑ provides a clear process for the receipt and review of retaliation complaints;

∑ requires an independent investigation of retaliation complaints where a prima facie case of retaliation has been determined;

∑ makes available interim protection measures pending the completion of a retaliation investigation in order protect the interests of the whistleblower;

∑ sets forth a clear legal standard for making a final determination as to whether retaliation has been established; and

∑ identifies remedies available to a whistleblower who has experienced retaliation.

∑ The Ethics Office engages in proactive outreach activities to ensure staff members understand the protection against retaliation policy.

∑ The United Nations remains committed to ensuring that its policy reflects best practices. As such, in order to draw on lessons learned since it went in effect, in 2013, the UN engaged an international jurist to conduct an independent external review of the policy and its implementation. The results of that review are currently under review with a view to identifying ways to further strengthen the UNís commitment to protect whistleblowers.

But as the transcript shows, what Inner City Press asked for was the status of the report on whistleblower protection which back in May the same office told Inner City Press would be done by the end of 2013, forty days ago:

Subject: Re: Your question at the noon briefing
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, May 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

The UN Secretariat has engaged Justice Louise Otis of Canada to conduct an independent review of the Organization's protection against retaliation policy for the purpose of issuing recommendations to the Secretary-General to enhance policy effectiveness. Justice Otis is an expert in international administrative law, and formally served on the Redesign Panel on the United Nations Administration of Justice System.

Justice Otis' review is currently underway, and her final report is expected to be delivered to the Secretary-General later in the year.

So where is it? And the transcript or tape, and explanation? Watch this site.


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