Monday, August 3, 2009

UN Stonewalls on Nepotism, Moonlighting, Even Climate Change, Briefings Cut Back

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- The UN Spokesperson's office hit a new low last week, misleading and then refusing to answer a question on nepotism by the Secretary General's Special Representative to the Congo Alan Doss, procuring in New York for his daughter a job whose previous occupant was fired and pepper sprayed in the face, leading to a rare man bites guard incident.

On July 27, Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq told Inner City Press that "it had to do with a frustrated jobseeker... the hiring process regarding that particular vacancy at UNDP was filled in accordance with their rules."

By Friday July 31, when this story which some call a cover-up had been frayed and disproved, all Haq would do it keep referring the questions, about Ban Ki-moon's Congo envoy, back to UNDP, which had already told Inner City Press it would not answer any questions --

Inner City Press: I had asked you on Monday about a violent incident between a UN employee and security in [Building] DC-1. You’d said, among other things, that he was a frustrated jobseeker and that the hiring process was in accordance with rules. Since then Inner City Press has obtained a copy of an e-mail from Alan Doss to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) asking them the job in question be given to his daughter and that leeway be given to him to convert from UNDP contract to DPKO to get around rules, essentially. I am wondering what, since Alan Doss is Secretary-General Ban’s envoy to the Congo, what the response is going to be; if the Secretary-General thinks it’s appropriate to have USG’s lobbying for jobs for their family members, and also why the jobseeker was tackled by three staff members and pepper-sprayed before he allegedly bit one of them. What training has DSS [Department of Safety and Security] been given to eject, in this case essentially, a whistleblower from the building?

Associate Spokesperson: First of all, I challenge the use of the word “whistleblower”. This was someone who was engaged in violence; in a violent altercation, and so DSS was responding to that. This is what DSS themselves informed me about. Second, on the question of Alan Doss and this job search, UNDP have said they will handle any questions, so I’d refer you on to UNDP.

Inner City Press: My question is, one, since Alan Doss has appeared here numerous times as Ban Ki-moon’s envoy in the Congo, can you confirm that he in fact was a UNDP contractor until 1 July when, in part to have his daughter to work at UNDP…? It’s a Secretariat question; I don’t think it’s legitimate to say UNDP will answer for Alan Doss or for Security.

Associate Spokesperson: I disagree, and UNDP has said that they will answer questions on this; so I’d refer you over to Christina over in UNDP.

Question: They’ve e-mailed me and said they won’t answer and that, because it’s subject to legal proceedings, there are no answers at all. So I am asking, I guess, for the response as to Alan Doss. Where is the answer…?

Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, try with Christina. She said that she’d handle all questions on this.

Inner City Press immediately e-mailed simply questions to UNDP's Administrator's spokespeson Christina LoNigro, who five hours later confirmed receipt and said something would late be sent. Forty eight hours later, still nothing.

Each day there was a UN noon briefing last week, basic factual questions were left unanswered. On Tuesday, July 28, Inner City Press asked not only for a UN comment on an upcoming flogging in Sudan, and about the "employee of the UN Mission and also wrote for a non-UN newspaper in Sudan. And not to confuse the story, it confused me. Is that permissible? What’s up with that?"

This basis question about reported simultaneous employment was not answered. Inner City Press separate asked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which said an answer would be forthcoming. By August 2, no response had been provided.

On Thursday July 30 -- on the 29th, the Spokesperson's Office canceled the noon briefing because Ban did a 15 question press conference -- Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Michele Montas about a "United Nations" climate change center in San Francisco, without receiving any answer.

UN's Ban and Spokesperson: few briefings in August, few answers regardless

Question: I don’t know if you have an answer to this, but in San Francisco they’re opening something called the United Nations Global Compact Centre, which they say is going to be a climate change laboratory. But they also say that they needed a brand name, so the UN Global Compact has partnered with them. But it’s unclear -- like, if the Secretariat or if UNEP -- what the UN’s actual involvement in the centre, other than the naming of, it is going to be. Have you heard about this centre?

Spokesperson: No, I haven’t, but I can get the information for you and you can probably address your question to the UN Global Compact.

Question: I was just thinking, because climate change is so important to the Secretary-General, I wanted to see whether there are some, you know…

Spokesperson: But you know there are so many climate change issues and climate change events taking place throughout the world. The Secretary-General is not personally involved in every single one of them. But I’ll try to get more information for you, and I think you can get some on your own.

Ban Ki-moon's big issue is climate change, but his spokesperson when asked about a new "UN" climate change center tells the reporter to go get information "on your own"? Nothing has been provided by the Global Compact, either.

The UN system now has Ms. Montas in the position of defending the actions of MINUSTAH troops in Haiti, for example being asked about but denying a story that

"The young man who appears to have been gunned down by UN occupation troops after a funeral last month received an all but secret funeral himself on July 14 in Port-au-Prince because the priest and family were fearful of UN and Haitian government reprisals. The victim has also been finally identified as Kenel Pascal, 22, of Delmas... Michele Montas, spokeswoman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, "categorically" denied that UN troops were involved in the killing. However, Haiti Liberté has obtained a copy of the autopsy carried out by Dr. Rodrigue Darang on June 22. The report clearly states that Pascal was killed by a bullet which entered his right cheek and passed through his head, shattering his fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae and some teeth.

Furthermore, television footage from Tele-Ginen showed UN soldiers shooting with leveled weapons in Pascal's direction. Faced with the autopsy, UN officials are now claiming that the size of the entry hole noted in the report - 0.5 centimeters - indicates a bullet caliber smaller than that used by UN troops. Hundreds demonstrated in Port-au-Prince on July 28, the 94th anniversary of the 1915 U.S. Marine occupation, to demand justice for Kenel Pascal. UN troops have killed dozens of poor unarmed Haitians civilians since they arrived to take over from U.S., French and Canadian occupation forces in June 2004."

Ms. Montas is slated to retire from the UN later this year. Some wonder: might she thereafter have a different view of the UN's performance in Haiti?

To the Office's credit, it did offer a correction of a months-old misstatement about the Cambodia tribunals, and then a a further explanation, off camera. It's rare and so we note it.

On Friday July 31, before the above quoted dodge about the nepotism of Ban's envoy to Congo Alan Doss, a simply question about the UN Office of Legal Affairs practices in treaty signing -- always retaining the pen -- also went unanswered. Tellingly, it was announced that henceforth there will be no noon briefing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What is that Office doing?

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