Letter from the East River: UN Staffers Protest Political Partisanship at the UN

Posted by John Rosenthal

When UN staff protest the increasingly blatant political partisanship of UN officials and point out the incompatibility of such partisanship with UN regulations and indeed the very mission of the UN as set out in the UN Charter, this deserves to be taken notice of and publicized as much as possible. In early May, the NY Sun’s Benny Avni revealed [requires registration] that a group of 12 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) staffers had filed a complaint with the division’s Office of Audit and Performance Review against UNDP Internal Communications director Justin Leites for having taken up a position last fall in the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
With no action having been taken on their complaint in the meanwhile, the 12 whistleblowers have now followed up with a letter addressed directly to Mark Malloch Brown, the outgoing UNDP Administrator who recruited Mr. Leites to the UN – according to the staffers, “without …going through proper… procedures" – and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Chief of Staff. Benny Avni again has the story in The Sun here. And Mediacrity blog has nothing less than the full text of the staffers’ letter to Mark Malloch Brown. It concludes, in no uncertain terms, as follows:

We call on you to dismiss Justin Leites from UNDP forthwith for his violation of UN regulations, and issue an immediate public statement making it abundantly clear that you do not condone, much less encourage such behavior. The integrity of the UN and UNDP, the effectiveness of UNDP work, and the lives of our colleagues demand no less. We fear continuing complicity and inaction on your part will maintain a precedent encouraging more staff members to interfere in a partisan manner at all levels of politics in member states – an illegal and dangerous practice that will soon destroy our organization. You as Administrator and the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, of all people – you who are quick to hold your peers in the UN System to account – should know better and should stop setting and perpetuating such an appalling example. We expect you to do the right thing without further delay.

The story here is not only that a UN staff member should have taken up a post with the Kerry-Edwards campaign, but that the staffer in question should be, as the 12 rebel staffers put it, a “protégé” of Mr. Malloch Brown. This provides further evidence of one of the linkages in what I have previously described as “a kind of ‘triple alliance’ among the EU, the UN bureaucracy, and the Democratic Party elite.”

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