Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UN Security Brass Let Off Hook on Fowler, On Promotions, Investigation Called For

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- The lack of accountability of those in charge of UN Security continues, both in the field and in New York, where the UN Staff Union has passed a resolution calling for an independent investigation of promotion and placement irregularities uncovered two weeks ago by Inner City Press.

    The UN's envoy to Niger, Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, who was abducted while traveling to Canadian-owned gold mine in the country in December 2008, has now appeared as a hostage in a video, for which Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claims credit. Still the UN has not answered what Fowler was doing, nor why he was allowed by the UN to travel without security, while in a UN Development Program vehicle, the driver of which has disappeared entirely. 

   At the February 18 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, "it’s been reported that the Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb has said that they are holding Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay.  Is the UN aware of that?  They have also said that they’re asking for a prisoner exchange.  What’s the UN’s position in response to this?" Ms. Okabe replied, "We’re aware of the reports but we have nothing further to comment on it."

  The UN has had very little to say about Mr. Fowler's activities and disappearance, leading some to conclude they simple want the story to go away. The UN's silence on Fowler stands in contrast to the fast UN press releases on a more recent kidnapping, in Pakistan. Inner City Press asked, "just recently, in Pakistan, when a group said that they had a UNHCR official... the local office put out a press release saying speak with us directly.  Is that decision made by the local office in each case or by Headquarters?"

 Ms. Okabe answered that, "both cases are very different, as in all cases involving a hostage situation.  So, I really could not go into further details on that."

  Two weeks ago, the UN's refusal to answer questions about security, including what accountability steps have been taken about the December 2007 deadly bombing of the UN in Algiers, was a introduction to Inner City Press' reporting on promotion irregularities within the UN Department of Safety & Security, DSS.

UN DSS in 2004, at right now with dog days to CMP?

 Since that report, the official who e-mailed out the inappropriately pre-decided promotions and placements has written a letter saying he was defamed by other DSS personnel at special meetings held on February 11 about Inner City Press' report. It seems that if a person's own document defames them, their only option to sue is to sue themselves.

  On February 18, the Staff Union unanimous adopted a resolution noting the DSS staff's "vote of no confidence in the management of the SSS of DSS." This management, Inner City Press is told, is trying to shift to the UN Capital Master Plan. The resolution notes "that information revealed in recent [P]ress reports appears to cast doubt on the integrity of the staff selection process" and "decides to call on the Secretary-General to establish an independent external investigation to review recent personnel actions within the SSS." The resolution, by its terms, will be conveyed to the Secretary-General, the heads of the Budget Committee and Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, and the President of the General Assembly. Watch this site.

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