Friday, July 23, 2010

Defending Ban, UN Official Says No FOIA Needed, Myanmar & Sudan No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- Ban Ki-moon's desire for a second term as UN Secretary General was on display on Thursday, when two separate press conferences were held to rebut the critique of outgoing Under Secretary General for Investigations Inga Britt Ahlenius.

At noon, USG Angela Kane and her human resources Assistant SG Catherine Pollard provided a dense, some say misleading defense of Ban's reaching down to determine Ahlenius' choice of a deputy.

Ms. Kane says it would be improper, however, for her as USG for Management to answer Inner City Press' request for Team Ban's response to Ahlenius' statement that Ban has failed on such issues as Myanmar and Sudan.

Inner City Press asked who would take questions on Myanmar and Sudan, and Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said you may have an opportunity shortly.

From 5 to 6 pm that afternoon, a self described “senior UN official,” whom we'll refer to as SUNO or as “he,” while it may have been a woman, took questions off camera from the Press.

When Inner City Press asked for example about Ban, despite the centrality of gender balance to his defense, having named of High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing consisting of 19 people, all men, until one was replaced by Minister Lagarde of France, the Senior UN Official said the criticism by the Presswas “unfair,” since a woman was added to the 19 member Group in the end. A Ban advisor -- to play by the rules, we cannot say whether the same or a different one -- similarly this week blamed the media.

Inner City Press began by asking for a defense of what Ahlenius and others call Ban's failure on Myanmar and Sudan. The Senior UN Official deflected this by saying that on some issues you move favor and some slow.

But in South Sudan there is the deadline of a planned referendum. The Official countered that he only wanted to talk about Ms. Ahlenius' critique -- which, of course, included Myanmar and Sudan, as well as Congo and Cyprus, but who's counting?

So Inner City Press asked about the division of powers question at the heart of Ahlenius' critique, that under the rules she should had the independence, as UNDP does, to appoint her own D-2 level officials. The UN Official responded first that in practice, “systematically,” Helen Clark of UNDP checks on such appointments with Ban.

But Clark doesn't have to, and Clark is also not in charge of investigating Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat. The founding documents of OIOS say that it should have the same hiring independence as UNDP.

The Official disagreed, surreally. It can't be the same, he said, “mutatis mutandi... you should know... what applies to [you] does not apply to [another journalist]... you have a beard.” Then the Official turned to take other questions.

UN's Ban and Ahlenius at farewell, per UN, 50 page memo not shown

After the Official bragged about Ban's UN's transparency, Inner City Press asked why the Compacts Ban signs with his officials -- now to their credit including the heads of peacekeeping missions -- are only placed on the UN's intranet, and not for the public, or “we the peoples,” and why the UN under Ban stopped moving toward, or even talking about, a Freedom of Information Act.

On a FOIA, the Senior UN Official replied, “ask the member states, let them legislate, then we'll do it.” He pauses. “If the member states insist, our way of decision making would have to be modified” for “this kind of perfect transparency.” So, no UN FOIA. So much for transparency. Watch this site.

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