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In Corrupt UN of Guterres UNESCO Grabs Cameroonian Cover Up Man Assiene from WFP

By Matthew Russell Lee & sources, Exclusive

UN GATE, January 24UNESCO, like the whole UN system under Antonio Guterres is falling apart in corruption and fraud.

  Inner City Press has been reporting on serious malfeasance by the French Audrey Azoulay administration at UNESCO in Paris, almost as bad as Antonio Guterres' corruption in and of the UN in New York. A fish rots from the head.

In this issue on UNESCO: 1) DG Azoulay didn't resign at the end of the day; 2) last week's obscure visit to Japan by the ADG for Culture, Ernesto Ottone, with no official purpose other than to campaign for himself; 3) the almost deadly moral harassment of staff by the Director of Legal Affairs Santiago Villalpando; 4) the saga of the appointment of a new Director of Human Resources, and 5) the toothless Director of IOS, Bernardin Assiene, emptying the Service of leading investigators who got either moved or sacked. 

1) On November 24, 2023, Inner City reported about the spectacular election of the Executive Board Chairwomanship of UNESCO (here) Brazil lost and St Lucia won as the new President of the Board. Having dramatically for her lost this diplomatic battle, Drama Queen Audrey Azoulay is now desperately hoping to salvage the end of her mandate by avoiding a damaging lame-duck period of stalemate with serious consequences for her political career in France, if there is one, after ending her ill-fated stint at UNESCO in 2025.  On December 14, 2023, Inner City reported that according to a member of the French Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay has openly stated on several occasions her intention to resign as DG if Saint Lucia is elected (here ).

As it turned out, this empty declaration was a bluff, pure and simple, to win a few votes against Saint Lucia. Providentially, Drama Queen Azoulay will not be resigning and will enjoy her job to the full until the end of her term.  Inner City Press has already published numerous articles on the problems associated with Chilean Ernesto Ottone Ramirez's abuse of power in UNESCO's Culture Sector.  2) Inner City Press has already written extensively on the problems associated with Chilean Ernesto Ottone Ramirez's abuse of power in UNESCO's Culture Sector (here ).

The Culture sector has become progressively the paragon of experimentation by DG Azoulay's administration on how to operate in total ignorance of rules and procedures.  For several years now, the assistant director general (ADG) for culture, Ernesto Ottone orchestrated and supervised the intentional disruptive effort to demotivate staff and reduce activities. Ottone has proven to be ill-prepared for this high position and especially for working in the complex international environment of UNESCO.   Notorious for his baseless temper tantrums, feeling easily thwarted in the work process as evidence of his incompetence, regularly yelling at his subordinates, Ottone Ramirez has now another bigger ambition – to become the next Director general of UNESCO. With the implicit agreement of Drama Queen Azoulay and some member states, Ottone Ramirez is methodically organizing his campaign. A few days ago, Ottone visited Tokyo in the company of the Japanese Ambassador to UNESCO, Takehiro Kano, who opened a number of institutional doors for him.

 It's interesting to note that Ernesto Ottone wasn't even pretending to go to Japan on a mission related to his sector. It was simply a campaign trip for himself to prepare for next year's election as Director General of the Agency. The use of UNESCO's public funds to pay for his mission doesn't seem to bother his boss. Perhaps it will bother the newly elected presidents of the governing bodies. It is also important to note the role played by Japanese ambassador Kano in this visit, certainly at the request of the Azoulay, since ambassadors, according to protocol, only travel when the DG is officially visiting the country. For example, the ADG for Education visited Japan twice last year (for the G-7 Education Ministers' meeting and again in December for a representation function), but the Japanese ambassador was not in her luggage. This week, therefore, it became abundantly clear that the purpose of the trip was to discuss the candidacy of Chilean ADG Ottone. 

3) Another case for member states to consider is the attempted suicide of the assistant to the Director of Legal Affairs, Santiago Villalpando. In September 2023, H.M. (name available), suffering from severe burn-out as a result of enduring moral harassment and unfounded criticism from her boss Villalpando, attempted to jump out of her 5th floor office window. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, and UNESCO firefighters prevented it at the last moment. Frenchwoman Azoulay and her cabinet did everything in their power to hush up the affair, which was so unpleasant for their reputation. They even went so far as to promote the woman's husband, who also works at UNESCO and was starting to make too much noise by asking questions about his wife's working conditions. It worked - Mr. M.D. got his P-5 job and his wife's case ended there, without any investigation or disciplinary proceedings against Santiago Villalpando.  The legitimate question Member States might ask is: if the office of the Director of Legal Affairs is the scene of such moral harassment, what does this mean for the rest of the Agency?  Santiago Villalpando's wife certainly has no reason to commit suicide, on her side. Against all norms and practices, she has been appointed to the P-5 level by Audrey Azoulay - so that both ‘Villalpandos’ can ably serve Drama Queen Azoulay for the remaining term of less than two years now.  The Director of Legal service Villalpando, defends UNESCO before the UN tribunal in Geneva. So much for the facts concerning the moral and ethical value of the person chosen by Azoulay for this job. In a clear act of abuse of power, Santiago Villalpando, after trading with DG Azoulay his full support in exchange for a favor, succeeded in getting his wife Marina Silberman appointed to UNESCO. Inner City Press has already confirmed that she has secured a P5 position in the Financial Management Branch (BFM). This is another major conflict of interest - a reward for impunity in breaking the rules - that deserves the full attention of member states.

  4) Last July, Inner City Press wrote about the intention of DG Azoulay to appoint a Director to the HR position from the Netherlands (here  ). As normal recruitment procedures assume that the director's nationality is not known prior to the selection process, this appointment was hastily abandoned after it was made public. A second recruitment procedure was launched and the new HR Director, Jennifer Linkins, was appointed last week. She holds dual US citizenship and, according to internal sources, is also a French national. She is due to take up her post on March 18. What a surprise, if confirmed, another Frenchwoman? But why not, if the member states are happy with this state of affairs?  As far as HRM is concerned, another reform was implemented just before the arrival of the new Director Linkins, as if it couldn't wait for her appointment. Led by Belgian Annick Grisar, who is due to retire in mid-2025, the reform created additional tension within the HR department. Few will regret the departure of Grisar, one of the Organization's most dishonest staff members, who over the last few years has skilfully managed HR orientations in such a way as to create a climate of prejudice and discomposure for staff, and actively contributed to getting rid of those who held strong views on the need to preserve a certain critical mass of skills within the Agency, despite Azoulay's destructive management policy, which they had openly opposed. 

With the help of Annick Grisar, she almost succeeded in disrupting UNESCO to the point of no return. But the Agency will survive her, as it has survived many others who have done the damaging work of dismantling what works properly and creating obstacles for all the staff who defend respect for rules and regulations. Assisted by Alexander Duganis, Annick Grisar, along with Legal Affairs Director Santiago Villalpando and IOS Director Bernardin Assiene, led the campaign to scare and dissuade staff from protesting or challenging, even though contesting is one of the fundamental rights of staff members and is normally protected by the rules. But not at UNESCO. 

5) At IOS, the situation is clearly going from bad to worse. The case of fraud and abuse of authority involving the Director of UNESCO’s Internal Oversight service (IOS) Bernardin Assiene from Cameroon, revealed by Inner City Press (here ) was not even addressed by DG Azoulay. The role of Bernardin Assiene, who is normally responsible for proposing sanctions in the event of violations of the rules, should also be questioned and challenged in his behavior of covering up the misdeeds of senior officials appointed by Azoulay to UNESCO.  According to our sources within the World Food Program (WFP), the Cameroonian Bernardin Assiene had a wide reputation there as a totally dishonest man. That is why, for many WFP staff, his appointment to UNESCO came as a surprise. Most of them thought that UNESCO had not checked his previous transgressions, but in fact UNESCO did, and that is probably the main reason why he was appointed to the post by the Frenchwoman Audrey Azoulay.

  Bernardin Assiene, as director of investigations at the WFP, covered up several other high-level officials, always using the same technique - he kept all the complaints by staff in his desk drawers without sharing them with the members of the investigation team and then discredited and discouraged the complainants from the beginning of the procedure, which was totally against the rules. Bernardin Assiene became an expert in violating these rules and was covered in all his misdeeds by Inspector General David Johnson, who himself was fired in 2017 for leaking confidential documents. Former WFP Executive Director Erharin Cousin, between her junkets back to Chicago, took advantage of Mr. Assiene's qualities and kept him in office with full impunity as the "useful idiot" needed in every UN organization to cover up the mess of the powerful.

 Today, Bernardin Assiene enjoys the same impunity at UNESCO. The question is whether member states will wait for Audrey Azoulay's departure to push him out, or whether they will become indignant and do it right away. Member states should ask themselves a very simple question. Is it possible to leave someone in this position who is gradually phasing out the IOS? For example, since his appointment, Mr. Assiene has got rid of the chief of the investigation unit (transferred to the human resources department) and dismissed the second investigator because of his physical disability. Today, there is not a single qualified investigator working at the IOS. The work is carried out by consultants hired by Assiene according to his personal preferences. Is this situation okayed by the member states?  Bernardin Assiene himself was under investigation for abuse of power. He was having an affair with a Nigerian investigator who worked for him during his WFP days. And guess what, by pure coincidence certainly, the same Nigerian investigator was hired at UNESCO to assist Mr Assiene in his work. This is a blatant case of favoritism on the part of the IOS Director. It is in the same vein as the cases of the former Head of Azoulay’s Cabinet Nicolas Kassianides and ADG Ottone's mistresses. The question is, who will investigate the principal investigator of UNESCO?

If he himself is corrupt to that extent, what are the chances of fighting corruption within the agency.  Drama Queen Azoulay keeps ignoring all warnings and evidence of inappropriate and abusive management and behavior by ADGs and other officials appointed by her. The end-result is that she has intentionally allowed humiliation and misconduct to spread throughout the agency, killing staff morale and destroying the agency's credibility.  At present Member States can oppose this situation in which senior managers exercise total abuse of power and control over staff, including through intimidation and harassment that force staff members into desperate depression, fear and obedience. This is where UNESCO stands today. We will have more on that. Watch this site.



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