Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is it OK for a U.N. bureaucrat to accept a holiday bottle of booze?


By Colum Lynch

"To receive or not to receive."

That is the choice the U.N. ethics office put before U.N. staff members as the organization confronts another holiday season, and the awkward question of whether to accept a gift from a U.N. diplomat or contractor doing business with the world body. Like most things at the United Nations, there is no easy answer.

"The holiday season and the New Year are around the corner!" the ethics office counseled in a message posted on the U.N.'s intranet. "It is that time of the year when exchanging gifts and showing hospitality is the order of the day for many cultures and customs. As we revel in holiday cheer, let us take a moment to reflect on our shared values and status as international civil servants."

"As UN staff members, we may be offered gifts from governmental and non-governmental sources alike," the note added. "While the values of the gifts can vary, and the intentions behind them pure, we should be mindful that giving or receiving gifts and hospitality can give rise to potential conflicts of interest. Accepting or giving a gift can create on-going obligations which could undermine our independence and impartiality."

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