Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, all.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Robert Benson came out with a report on the issue of Tony Shkurtaj. It seems to be at odds with the independent report, and he actually criticizes some of the findings of the independent report. Who do I believe?

Spokesperson: I think the question is, it is Mr. Benson’s report, and that is all I can say.

Question: One report says that Tony Shkurtaj is unreliable, and that there was no retaliation against him, while the other not only says that it seems there was, but it also wants UNDP to pay.

Spokesperson: It is Mr. Benson’s prerogative to have his report on that review.

Question: I am a reporter; I have to find out what is truth. One UN commission’s report says A; the other says not A. Which of these versions do I believe?

Spokesperson: Well, do your homework. It is Mr. Benson’s review.

Question: He recommends strongly that UNDP pays 14 months back pay to the whistleblower. Does the Secretary-General stand behind that recommendation? Should UNDP in fact pay that money, or are they free to rebuff that recommendation?

Spokesperson: We will see what is going to happen. The Secretary-General of course is behind Mr. Benson on his report. There is no doubt about it. What UNDP will do, we will be seeing this; how they will implement that report.

Question: UNDP at one point said Benson doesn’t have jurisdiction over them.

Spokesperson: As I announced yesterday, they have a new Director of the Ethics Office. And they will be working with Mr. Benson.

Question: So, does he have jurisdiction? I mean, does this ruling, as far as they are concerned…

Spokesperson: I cannot speak on behalf of UNDP.

Question: Institutionally, does this ruling apply?

Spokesperson: Well, we can get someone from UNDP to discuss this with you, of course.

Question: What does the Secretary-General think about the report? Does he have any comments about it?

Spokesperson: He does not at this point. He has not received it yet, as far as I know.

Question: One of the things that Secretary-General Ban has been trying to do was to have this cohesive approach to these things within all of the United Nations. Doesn’t this pose a predicament in terms of trying to overcome that problem? Is this not an issue that he will weigh on, and weigh on in a very noticeable way?

Spokesperson: Mr. Benson speaks on behalf of the Secretariat, so you know…

Question: I understand. But in terms of Organization-wide…

Spokesperson: As you know, he has been working on this for quite a while, and the fact that right now they are making changes in the structure of the different agencies on the ethics issue is part of that concerted effort to have one system and one standard.

Question: Another question related to UNDP. I understand that the Executive Board of UNDP has received a request, or at least a proposal, to again relaunch the programme in North Korea. Does this mean that some of the issues that were raised at the time, and the very reason why the UNDP pulled out, in terms of staff, hiring, payments and some of the other things in which UNDP was operating in contradiction to its own rules… have these issues been resolved? Have the North Koreans now agreed to UNDP’s conditions…?

Spokesperson: I cannot answer for UNDP. I suggest that we have someone from UNDP come and talk to you about the issue. I cannot answer for them. I do know that the issue of returning to the DPRK has to be approved by the Board, of course.

Question: And in terms of Ban weighing in on the issue of Tony Shkurtaj and its wider ramification for whistleblowers and system-wide coherence, when might we get some sort of…?

Spokesperson: At this point, in terms of Mr. Shkurtaj himself, the report, as I said, of Mr. Benson stands as the position of the Secretariat.

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