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Senior Management Heads Roll at World Body

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 2012 (IPS) - As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues his search for a new team of senior managers for his second five-year term in office which began Jan. 1, two more heads have rolled at the world body.

The two most senior positions in the Secretariat – deputy secretary general (a post held by Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania) and chief of staff (Vijay Nambiar of India) – have both fallen vacant.

Ban told reporters Wednesday that Migiro and Nambiar have expressed their wish to step down “so as to allow me to compose a new team of senior managers for the second term”.

Nambiar, however, will remain in the U.N. system as Ban’s Special Advisor on Myanmar “at an appropriate time” to be announced.

Besides eight under-secretaries-general (USG) who have already sent in their resignations, Ban said three additional USGs have called it quits: Angela Kane (national of Germany), head of the Department of Management, Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and Francis Deng (Sudan), Special Adviser for Prevention of Genocide.

All USGs, the third highest-ranking position in the U.N. system, were expected to send in their resignations early this month if they had completed, or were about to complete, their five-year terms in office.

With few exceptions, the five-year rule is expected to apply to all senior managers in the organisation.

James Paul, executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, told IPS, “It seems strange to be terminating so many top people at nearly the same time, since the selection process is slow and cumbersome.”

“To argue that ‘change is good’ rings hollow, when the secretary- general himself is continuing for another five years,” said Paul, whose non-governmental organisation (NGO) closely monitors the day- to-day activities of the United Nations.

Ban was unanimously re-elected for a second five-year term both by the 15-member Security Council and the 193-member General Assembly last year.

Paul said the record of those departing is mixed – some have done good work, while too many others have been weak.

“The new team will be coming in at an important and very challenging time for the United Nations and for the international community but they will not have enough strong leadership at the top,” he said.

He also pointed out that there are far too few women in the upper ranks of the U.N. staff and the secretary-general should attend to this.

The eight USG positions which have already fallen vacant include the following: heads of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; the Department of Public Information; the Department of Political Affairs; the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; the Office for Disarmament Affairs; the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa; the Economic Commission for Africa and the Economic Commission for Europe.

In addition, Ban is expected to appoint five new assistant- secretaries-general (ASGs) at the various funds and programmes: three at the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and two at the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

He told reporters Wednesday his new appointments will be made “in a transparent and competitive manner, based on merit, while taking geographical and gender balance into account”.

Still, as with past secretaries-general, Ban will come under heavy political pressure from the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, who traditionally succeed in lobbying for key positions in the Secretariat.

The post of USG for peacekeeping operations has for long been held by French nationals, including Jean-Marie Guehenno, Alain Le Roy and Herve Ladsous.

There has also been heavy lobbying, including by the United States, for USG positions in the department of political affairs and also the department of management and human resources.

Paul told IPS that the process of selection, far from being transparent and accountable, is extremely murky and driven by the interests of powerful states.

He said the P5 countries in particular get to name a USG and generally there is a lot of behind-the-scenes campaigning for the posts and favours are traded.

“The results are far too uneven,” Paul added. In a few cases, very excellent people come into these posts, but not consistently enough.

Given the P5 structure and the leverage of other large contributors, he pointed out, the process tends to be twisted and corrupted.

“There are even cases of known incompetents who are pushed on the United Nations for domestic political reasons by powerful states,” he said.

In Washington, not long ago, he said, a senior U.N. appointee was said to have been “sent to the turkey farm” by the administration of former U.S. President George Bush – a matter that was widely reported in the press at the time.

“Let us hope that the latest round of U.N. appointments sees many more women and fewer turkeys,” declared Paul.

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