Questions about nepotism are turning up again at the United Nations, and they go all the way to the top.
This tale involves Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s youngest daughter, Ban Hyun Hee, and her husband, Siddarth Chatterjee. When Ban took over the UN’s top job from Kofi Annan in January, 2007, both Hyun Hee and Siddarth Chatterjee were working for UNICEF out of Nairobi. Some UN observers, myself included (”Uh-Oh, Shades of Kojo“), raised concerns about this at the time — especially when Ban’s office refused to disclose details about the terms of his daughter’s and son-in-law’s UN employment. Given the scandals that beset Kofi Annan over the UN-related dealings of his son, Kojo Annan (the Oil-for-Food Cotecna inspections contract; the Mystery Mercedes …), it would have been prudent for Ban Ki-Moon and his family to make a huge effort to avoid even the appearance of any possibility of nepotism.
But here we go again. Thanks to Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press, we now learn that during Ban’s tenure, his son-in-law, Siddarth Chatterjee, has been rising rapidly at the UN, with almost no details or explanation disclosed. From UNICEF in Nairobi, Chatterjee moved on to become chief of staff to Ban’s Special Representative for Iraq. From there, Chatterjee recently beat out more than 120 applicants for a high-level UN job in Copenhagen, as the regional director for Europe and the Middle East of the UN Office for Project Services, or UNOPS. (UNOPS is a UN “entity” which provides technical and administrative support to UN projects worldwide — $1.5 billion worth in 2007 alone).
Ban’s daughter, thanks to a UNICEF contract, has been able to join her husband in Copenhagen, though as reporter Matthew Russell Lee notes, “Throughout the UN system, Inner City Press has met spouses who are unable to obtain jobs in the same city, country or even continent.”
What qualified Chatterjee for the promotions? What employment rank does he now hold? How much is he getting paid? How did Ban’s daughter get lucky enough to land a UN slot alongside her husband in Copenhagen? Lee has been asking questions, and reports that neither UNOPS nor Ban’s office has been giving answers. Instead, Lee has had to eke out details from internal UN emails leaked to him by whistleblowers who ask for anonymity, due to fear of retaliation (a well-founded fear, after Ban threw UN Development Program whistleblower Tony Shkurtaj to the dogs during the UNDP’s 2007-2008 North Korea Cash-for-Kim scandal).
You can read the leaked emails about Ban’s son-in-law, and Lee’s discussion of the scene, in Inner City’s August 14 story: “UN’s Ban Expects Nepotism Report Aug 18, As His Daughter’s and Son in Law’s Promotion Questioned.”
Though, this being the UN, nothing is ever simple. The anticipated report on nepotism which Lee refers to in the headline above is not focused on Ban’s kin, but on another case of alleged nepotism, involving the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the Congo, Alan Doss, and questions about whether he lobbied to procure a job for his daughter at the UNDP.
According to Inner City Press, that tale of alleged nepotism surfaced when the UNDP in New York forcibly evicted the previous occupant of the job, Nicola Baroncini, who says he was pepper-sprayed and assaulted by UN Security. During the scuffle, Baroncini allegedly bit a UN security guard. Baroncini was arrested for assault, and appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court on August 10th. The AP reports that he refused a plea bargain and is due back in court Oct. 28th.
From there, the UN saga unspools in many directions – with questions of nepotism still swirling around Ban, his daughter, his son-in-law, UNOPS, the UNDP, Ban’s former special representative to Iraq, Ban’s special representative to the Congo, and what exactly happened in the alleged biting incident in Manhattan, which Lee aptly describes as “the hybrid nepotism and biting scandal.”
For now, three closing notes:
1) Ban took office in January, 2007 promising an era of renewed trust and transparency. That was supposed to include financial disclosure by high-ranking UN officials. Whatever might be going on with Ban’s son-in-law’s promotions, here’s a link to the financial disclosure form of the son-in-law’s boss, Jan Mattson, executive director of UNOPS. It shows, precisely, nothing — except that Mattson has chosen not to disclose anything whatsoever to the public except his decision not to disclose.
2) For those who are more interested in the geostrategic aspects of the UN than in the nepotism and biting scandals, note — the president of the UNOPS executive board this year is an ambassador of Iran, Mohammad Khazaee. Iran, while under UN sanctions for flagrantly violating a series of UN resolutions meant to stop its illicit nuclear program, is also currently president of the executive board of the UNDP, flaship agency of the UN, and original home of UNOPS.
3) … And Ban and the rest of this incestuous UN crew, via a giant climate conference scheduled for December in Copenhagen, want us to trust them to tax and regulate our daily lives in the name of controlling the climate of the planet?