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On UNDP Cutbacks, UN Stonewall, Oversight from Overlook, PCW & Dalberg

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16, more here -- Layoffs at the UN Development Program have been a subject of Inner City Press' reporting since last month, and now more documents and comparisons are emerging.

  But as of June 13, the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon would not even confirm receiving the written objection of three UN system-wide unions. On June 16 when Inner City Press asked, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq reiterated his denial of receipt from June 13 (Inner City Press suggested Haq ask the UN Office of Human Resources Management). From the June 13 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I know I had asked you last week about this letter from three UN system unions to the Secretary-General about the layoffs or cutbacks planned at UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]. And I wanted to know, you had said at that time, you couldn’t confirm receipt of the letter at that time, but can you now confirm it?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: I’ve been checking, and I still don’t have any confirmation of those letters. At this stage, like I said, the matter is in the hands of the UN Development Programme.

  On June 10, staff from UNDP as well as Ban’s Secretariat got together in the Overlook Bar on 44th Street, a block and a half west of the UN compound and UNDP’s tower. There's been talk not only of Helen Clark’s plan to run for SG based on cost-cutting, but similar promotion ambitions by the author of the May 21 member, Jens Wandel, and the current head of UNDP Human Resources, Michael Liley, whose tone-deaf drinks invitation amid the layoffs is reproduced below.

  Another event is upcoming, with the head of the Office of Staff Legal Affairs. For now, we note who's involved in this "Future United Nations Development System" (yes, FUNDS) program: UN insider contractor PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Dalberg Research, which Inner City Press have covered here. We'll have more on this.

Background: Three UN system staff unions have written to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, about and with a cc to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, full text here.

  On June 6 Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about Ban's reaction to the unions' request that he intervene to put the layoffs on hold. Haq told Inner City Press to ask UNDP. When Pressed, Haq wouldn't confirm UN receipt of the letter, or even say that he would check. Video here.
So here's the letter, now published by Inner City Press.

Here is the text of the three unions' letter to Ban:

The three staff federations of the United Nations Common System would like to express their deep concern as well as the disappointment of their staff around the world with regards to the severe cuts being made to posts at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

We understand that these cuts were undertaken in utmost secrecy, without due consultation, and in direct violation of the principles expressed in General Assembly Resolution 128.

Furthermore, the speed at which they are being made will have a seriously deleterious impact on UNDP staff; this from an organization that claims on its website to "empower lives."

The federations are not aware of this being prompted by a financial crisis and have yet to see evidence that cutting 30 per cent of the staff will make UNDP more rather than less fit to serve its purpose.

Regardless of the delegation of authority that UNDP enjoys, UNDP staff are UN staff, hired under the UN staff regulations. In this context we do not believe that the provisions of Chapter 8 of the staff regulations, requiring consultation on this issue, were adhered to.

We therefore ask that you, as UN Secretary-General, intervene in this matter to put the restructuring on hold and to remind the UNDP Administrator of the UN staff rules and regulations, to which she is legally bound.

   For many weeks there have been rumblings about “Helen Clark's cut backs” at UNDP, the UN Development Program.

   Last 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 -- and because "human resources" officials partying in the midst of layoffs, like fiddling while Rome burned, seems inappropriate to some, we now publish this:

Subject: Please join us for an OHR NY End-of-Week Get Together Friday 6 June, 3:00-7:00 PM | FF-1140
From: Michael Liley
Sent: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 5:30:29 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
To: OHR New York; Mads Svendsen; Alesandra Roccasalvo; Carlos Arboleda; Hannes Finkenbrink; Eugene Pak; Lisa Lange; Robert Nadelson; Teresa Posse; Fabrizio Mastrogirolamo; Thomas ELFTMANN; Savita Shivaji; Seth Levine

Please join us for an OHR NY End-of-Week Get Together

Friday 6 June from 3:00-7:00 PM, FF Building 11th Floor Conference Room (FF-1140)

Dear all, You are warmly invited to put your work aside for one afternoon as OHR NY gets together to socialize at a team-building event this Friday. There will be music and activities, with food and drink provided – we only ask that you bring yourselves (and your sense of fun)!

When? This Friday afternoon from 3:00-7:00 PM

Where? FF Building 11th Floor Conference Room (FF-1140)

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Michael C. Liley
Director, Office of Human Resources
Bureau of Management
United Nations Development Programme

   The fiddling while Rome burns analogies are everyone. Just this week for example, the UN evicted the News Agency of Nigeria from its workspace on the third floor of the UN Secretariat building.

   Inner City Press reported on it and at the June 4 noon briefing on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked spokeman Stephane Dujarric about it, and due process (also applicable at UNDP). The old UN Correspondents Association, on the other hand, did nothing for the News Agency of Nigeria, nor for the correspondent to whom French Ambassador Gerard Araud said "You are not a journalist, you are an agent."

  Instead, UNCA big wigs will party on June 7 in a Hamptons home that an ex-president of the group tried to rent out for $90,000 a month, after renting an apartment to Sri Lanka's Ambassador, see here. This is today's UN.

More background on the UNDP layoffs: Inner City Press has already published 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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