Wednesday, February 25, 2009

At UNDP, Selection Process Stays Secret, from Solomon Islands to Sierra Leone, No Answers

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- As Ban Ki-moon backslides on transparency about the UN Development Program, unanswered questions mount about how UNDP runs itself. At the UN's noon briefing on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked, "it’s been reported that Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, is in New York being interviewed for, they have called it a shortlist for the UNDP top position.  It’s reported that 10 people are being interviewed; a panel will make three and then Mr. Ban will make the decision.  Is that accurate, and who is on the panel?"

   After Deputy Spokesperson Okabe answered, "I have nothing on the selection specifics," Inner City Press followed up, "since the previous Secretary-General did actually make the shortlist for this position public and I know that the Secretary-General has said he is going to be at least as transparent, if not more, what is the rationale for not releasing a shortlist?"

  Ms. Okabe then tried again to move the discussion out of the briefing room, and off the record: "Matthew, we’ve had this discussion; if you want to have it later some more, that’s fine." But later on Tuesday, even a senior UN official who works on the 38th floor said that to fall short of Kofi Annan is not acceptable.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe, "Do you acknowledge that it's less transparent than it was?"

UN's Ban and Helen Clark, other UNDP candidates not shown

  Okabe replied, "No.  No, I don’t acknowledge that it is less transparent.  As we have told you several times already, the Secretary-General has reached out to Member States, he’s put an ad in the Economist, they’re going about this in a very transparent manner and, as soon as we have something to announce for you, we will.  For the sake of the privacy of the individuals, we are not making that list public." Video here, from Minute 11:33.

  While one UN official, who demanded anonymous treatment, later argued to Inner City Press that there are some candidates who do not want to be listed in case they lose, another scoffed that "at that level, they can't afford to have such thin skin. If they do, they shouldn't get the UNDP job anyway."

   In recent years at UNDP, Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert, his deputy and now candidate for the top job, fought to make the agency independent from the Secretariat, on ethics and whistleblower protection. The result has been more retaliation cases than elsewhere in the UN system, and UNDP officials moonlighting on the advisory boards of lobbying firms. Clickhere for Inner City Press' exclusive report.

   UNDP's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has declined this year to answer questions about UNDP scandals in the Solomon Islands, and follow-ups on the lobbying moonlighting, reporting on which await the promised answers.  While these pend, UNDP is named as "topping-up" the salary of a scandal-plagued judge in Sierra Leone, clickhere for that.

  Relatedly, while the UN Millennium Campaign called in response to TV questions to claim it does not received funds through the UN system and "does not speak for the UN,"since the Campaign's Eveline Herfkens was admitted to have violated rules prohibiting a UN staff member from taking money from governments, this claimed "no relation" with the UN seems strange. (Ms. Herfkens is still prominentlydisplayed on the Campaign's website, here.

  An Inner City Press correspondent notes that UNDP manages a trust fund called "EC Trust Fund for the European Millennium Campaign Against Poverty," pointed to budget documents showing that $350,000 was contributed to this UNDP trust fund. The correspondent states, "So I don't think it is accurate to say that the Millennium Campaign "receives no money from the UN system"; It is probably more accurate to say that UNDP launders money from UN member states to Eveline Herfkens' Millennium Campaign. Click here for UNDP's partially-retracted spin about Herfkens. In fact,UNDP itself refers to "the Campaign, which is financed by a trust fund administered by UNDP."

   The next head of UNDP will oversee this strange entity, whose recent unaccountable advocacy a senior UN official has called little more than "a gimmick." What is Helen Clark's position on this? Ad Melkert's? Hilde Johnson's?
The Campaign's web site does not meaningfully explain the relations between the UN and the UN Millennium Campaign, much less publish the Campaign's budget. A requested paragraph on UN - UN Millennium Campaign connections, with an emphasis on the financial claim, has not been received. Watch this site.

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