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In UNIFEM Spin, Alberdi Speaks Only to Spanish Media, India Calls Sen More Qualified, UNDP Silent

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 10 -- What carries more weight, in today's United Nations, $700 million or one billion people? The doling out of the top UNIFEM post this week to Ines Alberdi of Spain, which recently gave $700 million to the UN Development Program, over the official candidate of more-populous India, Gita Sen, implies that money still rules the UN.

   On Thursday Inner City Press asked India's Ambassador to the UN, Nirupan Sen, what he thought of the selection. While remaining diplomatic, he said that the (unrelated) Gita Sen "was the more qualified candidates." Since UNDP made a point, 18 minutes after its selection of Alberdi over Sen, of issuing a press release granting the top spot for Asia in UNDP to another Indian, Ajay Chhibber, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Nirupam Sen if he thought that made things right, and if the two appointments were connected.

   "I don't think so," Amb. Sen said. Chhibber was already "part of the system... he's not a person in India, coming to work for the UN," he said, noting the Chhibber already worked in the international system.  " I don't think you can equate the two," Amb. Sen concluded.  UNDP, of course, hasn't answered any of these charges, and Administrator Kemal Dervis has been nowhere to be seen.

Gita Sen, India's candidate, passed over for Ines Alberdi and Spain's $700 million?

   Meanwhile, to try to quell the controversy, Ms. Alberdi held a press conference on Thursday at the Spanish mission -- but only for the Spanish press. Ms. Alberdi was asked if she thought that Spain's grants, of $700 million to UNDP and over $11million to UNIFEM, played a role in her selection; she reportedly replied that she couldn't deny there might be some connection. She also argued that President Zapatero's policies on women were be recognized via her appointment.

 News analysis: but why then limit Ms. Alberdi's press availability to media from her own nation, which benefited from the transactions with the UN? In Spain, it may be popular to said, we got something back, for the money we are giving. But non-Spanish media would ask the inconvenient question, did you buy the post, and how does Spain and Zapatero feel about in some view stealing a post from a developing country? Watch this space.

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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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