Legal Advice for UN Staff members
I am asked, on a very regular basis, if I will represent staff members, or otherwise assist them with cases before the UN Dispute Tribunal.
My answer to that is now universally ‘no’.
I will not take on any cases – nor will I advise staff members to report sexual harassment, corruption or other misconduct, for the same reason; because the staff member who does so will be retaliated against and the UN “justice” system will neither protect them nor address any other grievances they may have. Instead, the system will gleefully stand by and watch as the staff member who complained is penalised for having complied with his responsibilities under the Staff Rules, and while his career is systematically destroyed and their reputation ruined.
As an attorney, I have to stand by what I have said about the UN “justice” system in the past; that there is no more “justice” in it than there are actual fairies in fairy cakes.
Anyone seeking to address wrongdoing in the UN system has to understand that it cannot be addressed by the UN itself. The “justice” system simply does not work in the way that staff members want (and need) it to work. Instead, it does a very good job for the Administration; it serves to legitimise mismanagement and it protects the corrupt.
Anyone interested in why I reached this sad conclusion is welcome to read my submission to the UN Internal Justice Council of 21 May 2019.
One can only hope that serious action by the General Assembly will eventually rectify the situation, but until that happens; I regret I see no prospect for any meaningful change.
Remember also why any of this actually matters…
Appearing before the US Congress
STATEMENT submitted to the US Congress House Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing on ‘UN Peacekeeping in Africa’. Washington, DC. 30 April 2019 Available here
Neither Protection nor New
The UN’s “new approach” to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
António Guterres took over as Secretary-General of the United Nations at a time when the Organization was struggling to defend its record of having failed to address the estimated 60,000 child rapes and other sexual offences perpetrated by UN personel (both civilian staff as well as military peacekeepers) over the last ten years. His solution, he announced in February 2017, was a “new approach” which would respect the rights of victims.
What he will not do, unfortunately, is give up any other power that allows the UN to decide who is and who is not a “victim”, nor will he acknowledge that rape is a criminal offence that should be prosecuted under the criminal law.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum?
In March 2011 I joined the United Nations. Five years later, in April 2016, I appeared as a witness before the US Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. The Committee was looking into abuses and the lack of accountability by UN Peacekeepers, particularly in respect of the sexual exploitation of children. My statement for the record is here.
The UN, on the other hand – which had been doing its best to cover up the sexual exploitation of children – prefers to cling to the assertion that for three years I have been 100% wrong 100% of the time. Statistically, this has to be something of an achievement, but still; why does it matter.
It is true that if this was only about me, it wouldn’t really matter very much at all, but the song here is more important than the singer, because despite a number of applications to the UN Dispute Tribunal – the UN has consistently failed to answer a single one of my questions about what I was alleged to have done wrong.
So, the UN insists that an investigator with a 20 year unblemished record is actually such an incompetent moron that he should be in the remedial class, but they will not and cannot actually explain what he ever did wrong.
Interesting. Then they dig themselves deeper into a hole by insisting that they don’t need to answer any questions to show that this investigator ever did anything wrong because it is enough that they decided he was totally incompetent so there was no need to confuse the issue by actually proving it.
What are they afraid of?
What do they have to hide?
There is also a very simple management question here that has had the UN bending over backwards not to answer; when accused of not doing their job to the required standard, does an employee have a right to know what he is alleged to have done wrong?
I was an investigator in the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services which depending on your point of view, is either: (a) a fine, highly professional office investigating fraud waste and abuse in the United Nations, or alternatively (b) one of the biggest jokes ever funded by the taxpayers of the world.
I keep getting asked the same question: Why does this matter? Because there it is an insight into a much bigger picture .
This story started out as as simply one man’s attempt to get answers to something that ruined his own career, but it was to develop into trying to do something to help the victims of Sexual Exploitation & Abuse cases that the UN was actively trying to conceal, discredit and dismiss. What has to be understood about sexual abuse in the UN is not so much the sexual abuse itself, but the culture and the conduct of the UN staff tasked with investigating it.
This is not, however, the full story of anyone’s experience in the UN. It is the story of only one former investigator, who happens to be one of four investigators in the New York office of OIOS who complained of much the same treatment, and this is just the brief Readers Digest version of one former investigator now believes the Organisation to be riddled with corruption from top to bottom, with lots of the more unbelievable parts left out, lest anyone confuse it with a work of fiction.
Apologists for the UN seek to dismiss everything I say as the rantings of a disenchanted former staff member who was given a bad annual appraisal.
They have the right to think or even say what they please, but in this instance, there is just a slight problem with that argument, because all that anyone had to do was simply answer 38 questions and the UN would have emerged triumphant. They could have shown how the actions to which this investigator took offence was fully justified, and every grievance that he ever raised would have just vanished in a triumphant puff of blue smoke.
This is the story of the consequences of not just the UN’s failure to answer those questions, it is the story of how the UN bent over backwards to insist that they had no legal obligation to answers to them. In doing so, it is the story of how the UN retaliates against anyone who has the audacity to actually do their job, and the morality to report misconduct; this is how the UN turns on complainants and finds the means to blame them. It is the story of how the UN Secretariat tries to cover up what appear to be abuses of authority – on an ex post facto basis. It is the story of corruption in the department in the UN tasked with investigating allegations of corruption everywhere else in the UN Headquarters.
Ultimately, it makes no difference whether the initial allegation involves financial fraud or sexual abuse; this is the story of how the UN’s “internal justice system” is actually employed in practice. Misconduct investigations are used for petty political purposes. Senior management decide who is to be punished and who is never to be investigated for anything.
So women and children are raped, corruption runs unchecked and an $11 Billion budget is left unprotected, and nobody seems to be interested in asking what exactly is going on….