Sunday, December 04, 2005

Another scandal at the UN

It's not often you see a woman being dismissed for harassment. The thing that really pisses me off here though, is that there are so many people who would be really qualified and dedicated to these jobs, but they'll never get them because they don't have connections.

Top UN official to be fired for harassing staff
Dec. 4, 2005. 07:53 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has decided to fire the highly regarded chief of the United Nations office that promotes free elections around the world for harassing staff and management failures, a UN official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement is not expected until Monday, said Carina Perelli was being dismissed from the United Nations. Stephane Dujarric, chief UN spokesman, declined comment Saturday. Perelli said: "The first I was made aware of this was through the AP story and I can't comment further." Perelli, a Uruguayan, helped organize elections in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories and had been considered a rising star at the United Nations. But she had been under investigation since April, after a UN-commissioned management review quoted staff saying "sexual innuendo is part of the 'fabric"' of the Electoral Assistance Division which she headed. The review never named Perelli or anyone else in her office in specific allegations of sexual or professional harassment. But it said staff reported they were subject to shouting and screaming by superiors, while some junior staff were saddled with work they were not qualified to do. The Swiss-based management consulting firm Mannet S.A.R.L., which conducted the review after issues were raised about the electoral operation at a UN management retreat, said many staff members reported they "suffered emotionally as a result of the director's behaviour in the office environment." Despite the interesting work, many staffers also said their experiences have been "nothing short of devastating and that the work environment of the division is abusive," the firm's report said. It called for an investigation of what some staffers believed to be unjustified travel, especially to Latin America, using money intended for one country for purposes unrelated to that country and using UN money to finance a university degree for one staff member. In August, the United Nations formally accused Perelli of harassing her staff after a four-month review into the claims of an abusive and sexually offensive environment in her division. She was given the opportunity to respond but her reply was delayed because she was involved in elections in Afghanistan in September and Iraq's constitutional referendum in October. Perelli's firing comes at a difficult time for the United Nations, which has endured fierce criticism over alleged corruption in the oil-for-food program in Iraq, allegations of sexual harassment by former UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers and claims of sex abuse by UN peacekeepers in Congo and elsewhere. As a result of these allegations, world leaders at a summit in September authorized a series of management reforms including establishing a new independent ethics office by September 2006. The ethics office is a top U.S. priority. On Nov. 15, Annan reversed a decision to fire Jose Stephanides, the only UN official dismissed in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, after an internal UN appeals panel exonerated him of showing preference for one bidder over another in a 1996 oil-for-food contract. But the United Nations still claims he violated UN rules and he said he would appeal. Perelli can similarly appeal her dismissal, initially to the UN's Joint Disciplinary Committee and then to the Administrative Tribunal. Unlike the disciplinary committee, the tribunal's decisions are binding. When the management report was released in late March, Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said Perelli had done "a terrific job" on Iraq's elections and was "a very good servant of the UN." He said he expected "due process to be followed" in whatever happened — a point he reiterated recently.

No comments: