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In UN, Job Search by Kouchner and Prodi, Replacement for Eliasson Sought, Alberdi Fall-Out

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- This week's Security Council meeting was on Africa, but European scuttlebutt on the margins drowned it out. Among the French, word is that Bernard Kouchner is gunning for the post Louise Arbour is leaving, High Commissioner for Human Rights. Whatever the competition for the spotlight between Kouchner and his boss Sarkozy, Kouchner's made it clear he is no fan of Sarko's chief of staff. The feeling, it's said, is more than mutual.

            Italy's foreign minister Romano Prodi came, and Wednesday outside the Security Council came over to the assembled Italian press. They asked about his plans, after Berlusconi's win. Prodi showed or feigned outrage: you call me over to ask that? Well, yes. A joke now circulating in UN Headquarters is that the post of Special Advisor on Africa, which Ban Ki-moon merged with small island states, might be brought back to life not for an African, but for Prodi.

  Even in Africa itself, the job news involves Europeans. The UN's online highlights of a noon briefing which did not take place on Friday state that

"the United Nations and African Union Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, were in Darfur, Sudan over the past two days to meet with representatives of the non-signatory movements. Yesterday in North Darfur, they met with members of the SLM/Abdul Wahid movement. Today, they were in a rebel-controlled area in West Darfur and met with the leader of Justice and Equality Movement, Dr. Khalil Ibrahim."

            They better hurry up -- Jan Eliasson's contract, it's said, expires in June. Grumbling has begun about the lack of progress made towards the appointment of a joint chief mediator who, as it now stands, would replace the two special envoys.  Reportedly a short list has been submitted to the UN's 38th floor and a debate is ongoing about whom to approach from that list. The last candidate that everyone agreed on withdrew his name.  Eliasson is pushing for the joint chief mediator to be appointed before June.  For now the plan is for Eliasson to continue to play some sort of "high-level political role" at strategic moments after the joint chief mediator assumes his position. Say it ain't so, Prodi...

Pre-job search, Prodi and Kouchner, center left

            Finally, for now, in further fall-out for Ban's and UNDP's selection of Spain's Ines Alberdi over the widely-favored Gita Sen of India as the D-2 chief of UNIFEM, a more detailed account has emerged, in which in August UNDP advertised the post. Over 150 applications were received and six candidates were short-listed.

  Outside of that process, Spain was opening lobbying for the post in November 2007, when it was reported that Spain's Vice President Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega reaffirmed the government's desire for a Spaniard to be appointed as Director of the UN Development Fund for Women ("le reitero el deseo del Gobierno de que sea una espanola la que presida el Fondo de Desarrollo de las Naciones Unidas para la Mujer"). 

  The Vice President and Mr. Ban also at that time unveiled a plaque for a UN center in Valencia for which still not General Assembly approval has been given, click here for Inner City Press' article, here for the photo and caption of November 17, 2007.

            Also in November UNDP convened a senior interview panel to assess each candidate after which Dr. Sen was recommended for the job. Despite this, in January and February, political pressure from the Government of Spain continued and surprisingly for a D-2 post, the Secretary-General himself reportedly interviewed four candidates and hired a consultant to conduct reference checks.  Immediately after the Spanish elections the Secretariat decided to appoint the Spanish candidate; UNDP was lined up to make the announcement that was contrary to the outcome of UNDPs selection process. 

            At the same time, NGOs note that the Secretary-General has been quoted in the Russian press saying:

"Unfortunately, the UN has been criticized for not being transparent and not being effective. Since I won my mandate as Secretary General I have undertaken to change first of all the working culture in the UN to make all our step more professional, more transparent and more accountable."

      We'll see -- watch this site.

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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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