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As Barkat's Pick as UN Ombudsman Is Protested, A Letter Is Lost, A C.V. Is Padded, Union Says

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 19 -- A new UN Ombudsman was announced late last week, Johnston Barkat, selected through a process which had already been protested to the Secretariat by the union of UN Staff, who the Ombudsman is supposed to serve. On Wednesday Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas about claims that Mr. Barkat embellished his resume, and out the objections to the selection process having excluded the view of UN staff in New York. Ms. Montas said she would look into it. Hours later, one of her staffers e-mailed Inner City Press, "you asked if the SG received a letter from the staff union on the Johnston Barkat appointment. The answer is no."

            Not only does Inner City Press have a copy of the letter protesting the appointment process -- the letter has been and is on the Staff Union's web site, click here to view. The letter states it is "a formal objection to the selection process," and states the reasons for the protest. So did the Secretary-General and even his spokesperson's office not read the letter?

            Perhaps the trick is that the Staff Union letter was addressed to the Deputy Secretary-General, allowing the Spokesperson's Office to say that the Secretary-General has not received any protest. But he put the DSG in charge of the issue, and of a task force that, it is reported, is to testify to the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly.  Just as the UN now seems to have problems transmitting letter from UNDP in Myanmar to UN Headquarters in New York, is there now some problem in a building moving from the DSG to the SG?

DSG Migiro and SG Ban, do letters pass from one to the other?

            The Staff Union's beef for Barkat's resume is that while they say he claimed to have been ombudsman for 2000 staffers at Pace University in New York, that school only has some 300 staffers. All of the rest are part-time or adjuncts, so they say the use of the number is misleading. While the Spokesperson on Wednesday said she didn't know what will happen next, the first step, it seems clear, must be to admit that the protest has been received. Watch this site.

Footnote: Beyond the online protest letter, the Under Secretary General for Management has had meetings on precisely this topic, opposition to the process which selected Mr. Barkat. Is what's said to -- and by -- this USG not attributable to the S-G? Further on the rumor that she will be leaving New York, it's pointed out that the appointment of Susana Malcorra of Argentina as USG for the Department of Field Support makes the decamping all the more likely. In this scenario, the replacement rather than Jane Holl Lute is said to be a German -- some say, groaning, from UNMIK in Pristina; other says from Vienna, though that may be OHRM. Ah, bureaucracy. But who on the 38th floor is paying attention, or even reading and passing on their mail? Developing.

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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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