View Full Version : No confidence vote for Kofi Annan?

11-19-2004, 06:37 PM
A small step toward U.N. relevency, methinks.

UN staff ready historic no-confidence vote in Annan

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN employees are expected to issue an unprecedented vote of no confidence in Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites), union sources say, after he pardoned the body's top oversight official over a series of allegations.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations (news - web sites), was set to approve a resolution withdrawing support for the embattled Annan and senior UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) to embezzle billions of dollars.

Staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN's top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.

The union had requested a formal probe into the behaviour of the official, Dileep Nair, after employees accused him of harassing members of his staff and violating UN rules on the hiring and promotion of workers.

Top UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Tuesday that Nair had been exonerated by Annan "after a thorough review" by the UN's senior official in charge of management, Catherine Bertini.

Annan underlined that he "had every confidence" in Nair, Eckhard said, but UN employees ridiculed the decision and claimed that investigators had not questioned the staff union, which first raised the complaints in April.

"This was a whitewash, pure and simple," Guy Candusso, a senior member of the staff union, told AFP.

Candusso noted that Eckhard's declaration to the press had said that "no further action was necessary in the matter."

But in a letter sent to the union, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, Annan's chief of staff Iqbal Riza said Nair had been "advised that he should exercise caution" in future to "minimise the risk of negative perception."

In a resolution set to be adopted on Friday, the union said Riza's statement "substantiates the contention of the staff that there was impropriety" and that there exists "a lack of integrity, particularly at the higher levels of the organisation."

The draft resolution, also obtained exclusively by AFP, calls on the union president to "convey this vote of no confidence to the secretary general."

Staffers who asked not to be named, afraid that speaking out could damage their future prospects in the United Nations, said the Nair decision was an example of corruption by Annan and his senior staff.

They noted that Riza, UN undersecretary general for information Shashi Tharoor and other top officials had served directly under Annan at least since 1994, when he was head of UN peacekeeping operations.

At the time, the United Nations was widely criticised for failing to stop the Rwanda genocide that left 800,000 people dead, even though UN peacekeepers were on the ground -- a catastrophe for which Annan has publicly apologised.

Annan could not be reached for immediate comment. He is currently in Africa on a high-profile mission aimed at ending the long-running civil war in Sudan.

The latest crisis comes as Annan faces unprecedented calls to resign over the burgeoning scandal about "oil-for-food," a UN aid scheme that US investigators say allowed Saddam to siphon off billions of dollars.

The programme has tainted longtime UN officials like Benon Sevan, who oversaw the operation and is now accused of pocketing Saddam's money in exchange for turning a blind eye to the Iraqi dictator's abuses.

Annan stands accused of obstructing US investigators, especially since his hand-picked official Paul Volcker this week rejected calls from the US Senate to turn over documents from the programme and waive UN staff immunity.

Eckhard, his spokesman, on Thursday said that Annan is expected to serve out his term, which ends in 2006.

Veteran UN staff said this was the first time in history that employees had risen up en masse to make a vote of no confidence in a sitting secretary general.

"Kofi Annan is surrounded by corruption, a gang of criminals responsible for some of the worst things that happened to mankind in the 20th century," said one angry staffer, referring to the Rwanda massacres.

"It's possible that he doesn't know directly what has gone on," said the employee, who has worked for the United Nations for two decades. "But that's no excuse."

source (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20041119/wl_afp/un_annan_041119115027)

11-19-2004, 08:04 PM
There is much politiking going on at the moment. It is also true to say that the waters are muddied in the extreme.

With regards the staff issue, that is an internal matter between the Union and the UN personnel department. If an internal inquiry clears an individual of wrong doing and the CEO or head of an organisation accepts the report that is not necessarily the end of the matter and appeals can be undertaken. The political nature of what should be an internal procedural affair looks distinctly odd in this setting.

The mixing and matching of this with the Oil for Food is also interesting. A Scottish company, Weir Pumps, a large engineering company, was implicated in the scandal this week. Apparently they charged over the odds for a Contract which the Iraqis accepted and then paid some (millions) back through Switzerland to Saddam. The UN's involvement was simply that they released the money to pay Weirs from the programme. The only crime committed here by the UN being that of trusting a major Western company.

That this was widespread is not disputed, but only with 20/20 hindsight. There will be many such companies in the US also - which is what the Senate Committee is trying to determine. The Senate Committee is not investigating the UN, Paul Volcker is doing that and it is understandable he wishes to keep his evidence to himself at this point. He has made a commitment to hand over information relevant to countries investigating their own businesses as soon as possible. Undoubtedly some UN officials did take bribes to turn a blind eye to the more obvious acts of false accounting taking place but it is not clear how visible some of these frauds were nor at what level they were spotted if indeed they were. Hopefully Paul Volcker will unseat all those responsible for wrong doing and the information gleaned may well put a number of well known crooked businessmen behind bars too. Here's hoping. :)

11-22-2004, 12:04 AM

I just thought I would percolate this thing back to the top as the UN staffers came out in support of Annan following speculation that they were gunning for him. They do have complaints regarding personnel issues but these were directed at administrative levels and not at the leadership. There are genuine staff issues at the UN just not political ones. :)

From Yahoo

Union president Rosemarie Waters said Annan nevertheless had the support of the staff union, telling reporters: "He is in a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances. He is doing his best."

That public declaration of support came amid heavy media scrutiny after a leaked draft resolution called to send a vote of no confidence to Annan following a string of scandals that have plagued the UN chief in recent months.

It makes one wonder who generated the so called leak and story in the first place. One disgruntled member of staff perhaps - or someone twisting a genuine issue for political capital?

On the subject of the UN, much is made of the cost but as organisations go it is remarkably efficient and effective. It has admin costs of $1.3 billion per annum (the US is currently borrowing twice that every day to fund its deficit). The contributions countries have to make towards the $1.3 billion are the US paying 22%, Japan 20%, and the EU member states contribute around 30% - the remainder coming from the other 150 or so countries.

In terms of per head of population it is the small wealthy EU countries that pay the most. Oddly the UN is hardly a political issue at all in Japan or the EU, despite the fact that half its funding comes from these two areas.

The US is in considerable deficit to the UN with a number of contributions unpaid, including prior year dues - I think the sum is currently in excess of $600 million. As the war in Iraq could have funded the UN in its entirety for the next 100 years, non-payment must be construed as an attempt at political leverage rather than simply being impecunious. This is a double edged sword as threats "to take my debt elsewhere" (W.C. Fields style) rarely impress a publican or sway him on decisions as to which beer to stock.

Dr Spaulding
11-25-2004, 12:36 PM
Kofi Annan - Kofi An nan - coffee and nan bread

11-25-2004, 07:19 PM
Kofi Annan - Kofi An nan - coffee and nan bread

A *bump* is a *bump* - who am I to blow against the wind. :)


11-25-2004, 07:28 PM
A *bump* is a *bump* - who am I to be blowing in the wind. :)

The answer? :blink:

11-25-2004, 07:46 PM
The answer? :blink:

:lol: Just grateful that someone took this one to the top of the pile.

12-03-2004, 05:27 PM

ooops! :whistling

12-03-2004, 06:00 PM
If the report of the high-level panel on reform of the UN is followed up with action, the United Nations might be saved.

It is a big if.

The report has recommended a historic shift away from the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of a member state unless it was about to or had attacked another. It has proposed the principle that if governments fail in their "responsibility to protect" their citizens, then the UN has a duty and a right to intervene. British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell called it the "Rwanda never again" clause. But it might also apply to failing states that might breed terrorism, famine and other disasters. The worst scenario would be a state that allowed terrorists to get hold of nuclear weapons.

The report also wants an enlarged Security Council of 24 members to represent the world rather better than the current system does. However, the five current permanent members would retain their vetoes with no new vetoes being allocated.
It has a number of other recommendations including a definition of the concept of "threats" that goes way beyond the threats of war to include social, environmental and medical disasters. And it has no hierarchy of threat. All are relevant.

There is also a useful definition of terrorism, which is said to be an act "intended to cause death or seriously bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants".

This definition alone could end many wrangles about who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter and thereby clear the way for collective action.

Taken together, the report of the 16-strong panel addresses the two big problems facing the UN as an organisation - its relevance and its structure. Its relevance has been brought into question not only by the Iraq war, when it was in the final analysis ignored by the United States. Before that, we had Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia and others where it failed to act in time, and now we have Darfur.

Its structure grew from the desire of the victorious powers in World War II to stamp their authority on the world. The world has since changed but the UN has not. The idea is to make it easier for the UN to act - though only according to guidelines - and in that way make it less likely that member states will feel the need to act alone.

A Peace Building Commission would be set up by the Security Council to monitor dangerous trends. The guidelines for action, especially armed action, would be five in number: the threat has to be defined, the purpose has to clear, it can be a last resort only, the means have to be proportionate and the consequences examined. The report has surprised some people by its boldness. Lord David Hannay, the former British ambassador to the UN, was one of the panel members.

A skilled, traditional diplomat, who still writes everything with pen and ink, was pleased to be able to say: "We have avoided 'blue skies' thinking where everything was up in the air, but this is imaginative and new. It is the biggest makeover of the United Nations since it was founded." Lord Hannay said that intervention would still not be easy in a crisis. "There is no push button mechanism," he said, "It will be done on a case by case basis. There is no magic potion to ward off paralysis in the Security Council, but this would make it easier for the council to come to a conclusion

Key role of US

One big question, perhaps the biggest, concerns the attitude of the United States. Changes to the Security Council, for example, need a Charter change and that requires a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, plus ratification by two-thirds of member states and acceptance by all veto holders. That means the US Senate would have to agree. There is currently great hostility to the UN in some American circles.

Part of it has to do with the scandal of the oil-for-food programme, which the UN administered for pre-invasion Iraq. One example: Robert Novak, a commentator who is close to right-wing thinking in Washington, wrote recently about the anger towards the UN and its Secretary General Kofi Annan personally.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, he quoted a new Republican Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, who is leading a Senate inquiry into the oil-for-food scandal:

"Mr Coleman is not pursuing a right-wing vendetta against the world organisation.

He was a born and bred liberal Democrat from Brooklyn before the claustrophobic liberalism of Minnesota's Democratic Farmer Labor Party compelled him to become a Republican in 1996...
"He had no anti-UN mind-set when he embarked on his investigation. " 'In seeing what is happening at the UN,' Mr Coleman told me, 'I am more troubled today than ever. I see a sinkhole of corruption.' "

With such a background, getting the high-level panel's recommendations accepted in Washington will not be easy. Yet without the United States, the UN will be small fry.

"We all recognise that the UN needs the US and that the US needs the UN," says David Hannay. "For the UN to be effective, the US needs to be on board." He added: "We are not doing this to placate the US.

"People forget that in 1945, the United States was even more dominant, yet it helped set up the UN."

He is therefore not pessimistic. "This report will be difficult to sink," he concluded.

thought this might be relevant, have to say i'm more pessimistic than mr hannay though

12-03-2004, 06:20 PM
There does appear to be moves afoot to improve and broaden the power base of the UN and this can only be good.

I would get rid of the Vetos but no doubt that would require all the Veto holders to approve :dry:

I see that apart from the US, all the Security Council have come out in support of Kofi Annan. I am not entirely convinced by the honest broker comments of Mr Coleman, there does appear to be a politically motivated under-current to the concentrated and often vitriolic attacks on Annan and the UN in general. If it were simply that there was a deep desire to improve the UN then this would come more to the fore. What occurs at the moment looks more like irritation with a body that won't toe a specific political agenda.