Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

In UN Dispute Tribunal, Ethics Officer Blocked, Cambodia Trial Unwatched

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 21 -- The UN proclaims that it protects whistleblowers, as a way of reforming its far flung under overseen work. The UN Ethics Office, headed until April 2010 by Robert Benson, is in charge of protection against retaliation. But in a case pending in the UN Dispute Tribunal, lawyers from the UN Secretariat and UN Development Program have argued that Ethics Officer Robert Benson should not be allowed to testify in the case of a whistleblower he recommended be awarded back pay for due process violations.

  On November 16, Inner City Press asked about this:

Inner City Press: If you don’t mind, I also wanted to ask you a question about the United Nations Dispute Tribunal. In a recent argument down there, the case of the “North Korea UNDP whistleblower”, Mr. [Robert] Benson of the Ethics Office had recommended that he be paid back pay for due process violations. The Office for Legal Affairs (OLA)], presumably on behalf of the Secretary-General, opposed Mr. Benson testifying to the United Nations Dispute Tribunal, saying that it wasn’t necessary, that there was no jurisdiction, and essentially saying that his recommendation of back pay shouldn’t be done. Has something changed? Because I think in July 2008 from this podium, it was said that the Secretary-General stands behind Benson’s ruling in that case. What’s changed in the interim and what explains OLA’s position in the United Nations Dispute Tribunal?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: I’d have to check that up with the Office for Legal Affairs. As you know, the Secretary-General does stand by the work of Mr. Benson.

  But two days later, no explanation had been provided. Mr. Benson, while confirming to Inner City Press that he will leave the post in April 2010 -- some say he wants to stay in the UN system -- declined to comment on the Secretariat's lawyers move to bar his testimony. So on November 18, Inner City Press asked again:

Inner City Press: I wanted to follow up on two things. One was that I had asked you about the position of the Secretariat with regard to the Ethics Office ruling in the whistleblower case in which OLA [Office for Legal Affairs] has said… I have a document from the Dispute Tribunal in which OLA has argued that Mr. [Robert] Benson should not testify; that his recommendation is irrelevant. You also said that the Secretary-General stands behind Benson’s work and that you checked with OLA. I’m waiting to hear how to square these two positions.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: I’ll still need to get some response from our legal colleagues on any additional issues. So, certainly we support the work of Mr. Benson and the Ethics Office. Beyond that, in terms of what the legal reasoning is, I have to check though.

  Even two further days later, no explanation has been provided.

UN's Ban and UNDT judges, explanation for barring Benson not shown

   Inner City Press ventured down to another UN Dispute Tribunal hearing on November 20, to find a official of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials explaining by video conference that a staffer working on audio visual production for UNAKRT had been underperforming. Or was it that the equipment bought by UNAKRT -- already embroiled in corruption allegations -- was of the wrong kind?

  These UNDT proceedings are "open," but the UN refuses to comment on or explain them. One wonders if the Office of Internal Oversight Services is watching, as testimony verges into areas OIOS is supposed to cover.

  UNDT Judge Michael Adams grilled the witness, telling him "leave relevance to me." When the Office of Legal Affairs representative tried to cut off the applicant's counsel, Adams stopped both from speaking. Maybe that's what's happened to UN Ethics Officer Benson: he's been silenced. Watch this site.

From Costa Rica to N. Africa, UNDP Deputy Post May Bypass Cameroon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- The continental dispute about the UN Development Program's number two post, which triggered a letter from the African Group to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to hold off what they say was the impending nomination of Costa Rican Rebecca Grynspan, has taken a new turn.

  After Mr. Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas on November 19 told Inner City Press that the decision has not been made yet, sources now indicate that rather than the candidate from Cameroon promoted by that country's Ambassador, the Secretariat is mulling giving the post to the Permanent Representative of a north African country, who is close with Ban's deputy chief of staff and closest advisor Kim Won-soo.

At the November 19 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: On the Secretary-General’s upcoming naming of an Associate Administrator for UNDP, can you confirm that a letter was received by the Secretariat from the African Group protesting the naming of a non-African, and also what Inner City Press has been told by a number of African ambassadors, that they feel that the post was promised to the African Group when Ms. [Helen] Clark was named and Mr. [Ad] Melkert left?

Spokesperson Michele Montas: I am not aware of this situation, and I am not aware of a letter received. Of course, I will try to get more information on it. And we haven’t had a public announcement of any appointments.

Question: Well, what of this idea that… What a number of them have said is that, given the amount of the UN’s and UNPD’s work that’s in Africa, it makes much sense to have that represented near the top of the… They have said that they think that a sort of a deal was made with them and they feel that it’s now being violated.

Spokesperson: Well, I understand their concerns, but as I said, it’s not violated yet, because we haven’t announced a person at that post yet.

  The Ambassador of Cameroon told Inner City Press, on the record, that the announcement of Rebecca Grynspan to the post had been scheduled for last Friday, November 13. After the African Group's letter, this was called off.

UNDP's Clark and the foreign minister of a N. African country

  What some call the Ban administration's "humiliation" of Africa began with the merger of the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa into another office, opposed by the African Group, and extended through the replacement as head of the UN Office in Nairobi of Anna Tibaijuka of Tanzania by Achim Steiner of Germany in an "I am in control" email that still triggers laughter inside the UN.

  On the General Assembly's call that Ban re-fill the OSSA post, Inner City Press is told by source that the deputy chief of staff Kim Won-soo appeared in the budget committee and argued that the resolution was not clear, that the post did not have to be filled.

  At the noon briefing on November 20, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas to confirm this. She confirmed that Mr. Kim went to the committee, but not what he said. Video here, from Minute 16:33. It seemed clear she would not confirm or deny that the Secretariat's eye has passed from Costa Rica to north Africa, bypassing Cameroon.

  Meanwhile, the UNDP Associate Administrator post hangs in the balance, raising issues of regions and friendship and promises. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, As Diplomat from Cameroon Is Rebuffed by UNDP, Ban Ki-moon Faces African Challenge on Agency's Deputy Post

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 -- The continental battle for the number two post at the UN Development Program, on which Inner City Press reported exclusively yesterday, heated up Wednesday night when the Ambassador of Cameroon approached UNDP Administrator Helen Clark as she left early from a reception about, ironically enough, Africa.

  Ambassador Michel Tommo Monthe, whose country has put forward an economist for the Associate Administrator post, later told Inner City Press that until now it has been impossible for him to meet with Ms. Clark.

  The African Group, he said, last week wrote a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, copied to Ms. Clark, demanding that the impending nomination of Rebecca Grynspan of Costa Rica not be announced.

  "They are invoking gender, " Ambassador Monthe told Inner City Press. "The initial deal, when the former Associate [Ad Melkert of the Netherlands] went... the deal was an African should take the position. Now that there are strong Africans ready, they waver. The main activity of UNDP is on Africa, how do you not having someone at the senior level?"

  Monthe said that Cameroon has a strong candidate, a "doctor economique" formerly the Permanent Observer of the African Union in Geneva, and director of the economics department at the African Union.

  "They wanted to announce this last Friday," Ambassador Monthe recounted Inner City Press. ""We wrote a letter to Ban Ki-moon, with a copy to Helen Clark. We said, we are not going to accept it. The post can't go to the Costa Rican."

UN's Ban and Cameroon's Monthe in 2008, rift on UNDP in 2009 not shown

  Ambassador Monthe continued, "I have been trying to meet Ms. Clark for the last three months. She didn't receive me. I said, this has to wait. I want to see you to discuss that matter."

  The Ambassador of Zambia, this month's chairman of the African Group, put it this way to Inner City Press: "the duties of this person will have a lot to do with Africa,and therefore it would be advantageous to have someone from that perspective. Helen is around. [This is] absolutely a good question."

  But in her months at UNDP, Helen Clark has yet to hold a press conference in UN headquarters or take questions from the Press.

   Ms. Clark, who had been driven in a limousine that three blocks from UNDP's headquarters to the Olympus-sponsored African environmental photography reception held at the Japan Society, had to pass by Monthe and another sub Saharan African Ambassador on her way out of the event. Now, what will she do?

  What will Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, already questioned by the African Group for merging the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa into another office, do? Watch this site.

* * *

In UN, Africa Poised to Be Denied Deputy Post at UNDP, Ambassadors Complain

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- A continental battle is underway in the UN system, with Africa poised to once again lose out. When New Zealand's Helen Clark was named Administrator of the UN Development Program, several African ambassadors tell Inner City Press, their understanding was that the number two job in UNDP would go to the developing world, specifically to Africa.

Now, Ms. Clark and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are said to be near naming a Costa Rican, Rebecca Grynspan, as the UNDP Associate Administrator. "Africa is being humiliated again," a well placed source told Inner City Press on Tuesday, hearkening back to Mr. Ban's merger of the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa with an unrelated small island and landlocked states position.

Despite repeated protests from the African Group and the General Assembly, Mr. Ban has yet to reinstitute a stand alone Office of the Special Advisor on Africa. Now, in what's seen as a further insult to the continent which makes up over half of the agenda of the Security Council and most UN agencies, word is he is choosing a Latin American over, for example, a candidate from Cameroon.

Several African Ambassador were scornful of Ms. Clark's accomplishments to date at UNDP. "Name one thing that she has changed," a well placed North African source asked, adding "she is seeking advancement, even to be Secretary General if the change presents itself." Ms. Clark appears to use her UNDP post to promote herself in New Zealand. Inner City Press has repeatedly asked that Ms. Clark hold a question and answer session with the Press, but instead Ms. Clark and her long time chief of staff Heather Simpson try to micro manage media relations, even choosing which reporters they want from those wire services granted interview rights.

UNDP has still failed to rule in its investigation of nepotism in the hiring of the daughter of the UN's top Congo envoy, Alan Doss. UNDP has refused to answer questions about irregularities in its China office, and about other hirings that internal UNDP whistleblowers call nepotism.

UN's Ban and Helen Clark, UNDP #2 post and Africa not shown

 UNDP's highest profile whistleblower, who the UN Ethics Office said should be awarded back pay for due process violations, is still in limbo, without compensation and with UNDP -- and the UN Office of Legal Affairs -- arguing that the Ethics Office's recommendation is irrelevant.

UNDP preaches about the rule of law, but several African ambassadors who approached Inner City Press say they are being cheated. Watch this site.

* * *

As Blair Lobbies for Wataniya, Do Kuwait and JPM Chase's Arranger Role Spell UN Conflict of Interest?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 -- When Tony Blair does business, who does he work for? He represents the Quartet, and thus the UN, on development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He has been paid by JPMorgan Chase as a consultant, and presumably works for them. When he acts in the West Bank for the Wataniya cell phone company, who is he working for?

  The UN has repeatedly claimed that there would and could be no conflict of interest between Blair's paid position for JPMorgan Chase and his work in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. When Inner City Press asked Blair, after a meeting of the Quarter in the Conference Room 4 in UN Headquarters, about any safeguards in place for his UN and JPMorgan Chase roles, he scoffed. A Blair staffer confirmed that he continued in JPM Chase's employ.

  This week, Tony Blair attended a press conference announcing the finalization of Wataniya's deal, which Blair "negotiated." At the UN noon briefing on November 11, Inner City Press asked about this last:

Inner City Press: yesterday, Tony Blair was in Ramallah, and he’s described as having negotiated on behalf of a cell phone company with the Israeli Government. There’s a whole press conference also that noted his role for the Quartet and for the UN. So I’m wondering, did he do this on behalf of the Quartet and the UN and what is the UN’s knowledge, do they have any knowledge on this business negotiating activity?

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: I have no knowledge of that.

  Even forty six hours later, no answer has been provided. But even cursory research reveals that Blair's employer JPMorgan Chase served as a "mandated lead arranger" for the acquisition of Wataniya. Click here for the document.

  So again, what safeguards are in place? Who is Tony Blair working for?

  Tony Blair Associates has as a client Kuwait, and by implication its royal family, while Blair has met with the finance minister of Kuwait while representing JPMorgan Chase. Wataniya Palestine is substantially (57%) owned by investors from Qatar and... Kuwait. For the former, it's Qatar Telecom. But for the later, it's the Kuwait Investment Authority, which operates on behalf of the State of Kuwait -- Tony Blair Associates' client.  So when Blair lobbies for Wataniya, who is he representing?

Tony Blair and UN's Ban, JPM Chase safeguards not shown

  While awaiting the UN's answers, we note that in June 2009, "Wataniya Palestine CEO Alan Richardson recently called on Middle East envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair to intervene on behalf of Wataniya to get the frequency released. Richardson previously has been involved in controversial cell phone projects in Iraq, with Orascom and Iraqna, contracts which the U.S. Pentagon urged the Coalition Provisional Authority to cancel.

  So to the degree Tony Blair is working for Richardson, this too is problematic. But beyond the UN and Quarter, is Blair working for Kuwait? With JPMorgan Chase's documented mandate lead arranger role for the acquisition of Wataniya, there is a conflict which, it would seem, will require action. Blair is dismissive, and the UN appears cowed. Watch this site.

* * *

Were Galbraith's Oil Interests As Undisclosed at UN as at Opinion Pages He Wrote For?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12, updated Nov. 13 -- Following reports that former UN Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith's oil investments are worth up to $100 million, Inner City Press on November 12 asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if Galbraith disclosed this interest in his financial disclosure form.

  Ms. Okabe stated that such forms are filled out when a person joins the UN at the level Mr. Galbraith did, and are "vetted by a professional firm," namely PriceWaterhouseCoopers. But did Galbraith make the disclosure which it's now clear was required?

   Ms. Okabe refused to answer, instead referring the question to UN Ethics Officer Robert Benson, who oversees the financial disclosure regime. Inner City Press asked Mr. Benson by both e-mail and telephone, early and late on the afternoon of November 12, but received no answer by the evening.

 Update: on November 13, UN Ethics Officer Robert Benson wrote to Inner City Press that "The Ethics Office can confirm that although Mr. Galbraith is no longer with the United Nations, he was a participant in the United Nations Financial Disclosure program following his appointment; however, as provided for in GA Resolution A/RES/60/238, the information disclosed remains confidential."

   Inner City Press is informed that Galbraith is now being barred from the op-ed pages of major American media based on his failure to accurate disclose his financial interests. The New York Times confirmed this on November 13. Galbraith is arguing that he didn't read the form, a strange argument for a diplomat who argued that the U.S. didn't have to comply with UN Security Council resolutions regarding the Balkans as long as they were under Chapter VI and not VII of the UN Charter.

   Earlier, just after Galbraith was fired by Ban Ki-moon, Ban's deputy chief of peacekeeping Edmond Mulet told the Press that Galbraith had some ulterior motive which would soon become clear. On November 12, Inner City Press asked an involved UN official if Mulet had meant the oil investments, or that he might want to run for lieutenant government of Vermont. "The latter," the official said. Only at the UN.

Galbraith and Scott Ritter, disclosure of $100 million oil investment not shown

   From the November 12 transcript:

Inner City Press: ...about Peter Galbraith, former Deputy UNAMA representative and his interest in oil contracts in northern Iraq. I wanted to know when he became a Deputy Special Representative, did he fill out the financial disclosure forms, and I’d also like to know whether this investment was disclosed in those forms.

Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe: As you know, the financial disclosure forms are something that the Secretary-General has instituted, it’s part of his UN reform, and all staff, once they’ve joined the Organization as senior staff and those in positions that require financial disclosure, are required to fill that form out upon entry into the Organization. So it’s a requirement.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] It seems, this article would make it important to know whether this, they say the investment is worth up to $100 million, whether that was disclosed in the form and if it wasn’t, what were the reasons…?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: As you know, these forms are vetted by a professional firm and if they see fit that they need to follow up on any questions that they have, that is done. I think Robert Benson, when he was here last time, gave you a briefing on how that procedure works. And just because they are not made public, it does not mean that they have not been vetted, and the firm that goes through it does the vetting and if they have any questions, they do get back to the staff member and do the follow-up on that.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] is it possible to just, and I don’t expect you to do it right this moment, but to get a yes or no answer, whether that investment was disclosed in the forms. Is that going to be possible?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: You know, you can ask that to Robert Benson, but that’s his call.

  But Benson has yet to return a call, nor an e-mail asking the above and the following questions, below.

Update of November 13, 2009 -- the following was received:

Subj: Re: Press questions,Galbraith, whisteblowers etc, thanks in advance
From: Robert Benson [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 11/13/2009 9:23:56 A.M. Eastern Standard Time

Dear Mr Lee:

Responses provided:

Hi. At today's noon press briefing, I asked if Peter Galbraith (until recently Deputy SRSG in Afghanistan) had filled out a UN financial disclosure form, and separately if he had disclosed the oil interests in Iraq reported in today's NY Times.

Marie Okabe referred me to you on both questions.

A1 -- "The Ethics Office can confirm that although Mr. Galbraith is no longer with the United Nations, he was a participant in the United Nations Financial Disclosure program following his appointment; however, as provided for in GA Resolution A/RES/60/238, the information disclosed remains confidential."

Q2 -- I have also been told that in a recent UN Dispute Tribunal hearing, about the UNDP - North Korea whistleblower case, that OLA said they would not "allow" you to testify in the case. Are you aware of this? What do you think of UNDP's failure to follow your recommendation?

A2 -- "Since this is a matter that is before the UN Dispute Tribunal, I prefer not to make any comment regarding the matter."

Q3 - How many whistleblowers deserving protection have you certified / found in the past two years? Based on how many applications / approaches?

A3 - "The detailed information regarding the number of requests for protection against retaliation received by the Ethics Office and their disposition can be found in the Office’s Annual Reports for the previous two (2) years; that is, paragraphs 59-66 of A/64/316 and paragraphs 47-53 of A/63/301."

Q4 - Finally, does your Office cover local staff of UN Peacekeeping Missions? There is a recent case of a former MONUC local staffer, alleging MONUC involvement in / knowledge of diversion of jet fuel among other things, who has told me he feels retaliated against. Would your Office have jurisdiction?

A4 - "Yes, our Office would cover a request for protection against retaliation by local staff member from a UN Peacekeeping Mission. May I suggest that you have the individual contact our Office, in that way we would be able to advise the him/her directly."

Q5 - How long more do you remain in Office?

A5- "My three (3) year appointment as the Director of the Ethics Office will end on 30 April 2010, following which I will retire. During my tenure as the United Nations first Director of Ethics, I have indicated on numerous occasions that I considered it important, particularly in relation to the independence of the Office, that I serve for a fixed term and that I leave at the conclusion of that term. The Secretary-General has been informed and has accepted my plans to retire."

  While the answers, even the next day, are appreciated, one wonders in light of Q&A 2, above, who would want this job after the retirement announced in A5 takes place. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -