Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On Whistleblowers, Jan 25 Protest Against WIPO's Gurry, UN Retaliation & Censorship

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 24 – The UN system's mistreatment of whistleblowers goes beyond the UN Secretariat's firing of Anders Kompass after he went public with sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by peacekeepers, and outright censorship in 2016.

  At the World Intellectual Property Organization, Director General Francis Gurry abused his power after a detailed charge of misconduct filed by then Deputy Director General James Pooley. Whistleblower Miranda Brown has yet to be reinstated. 
Now there will be a staff protest at WIPO in Geneva on January 25. From the staff:
"to call for the removal of the WIPO Director General. The agreed demonstration will therefore take place on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 from 12h15 to 12h45 in front of the broken chair at the Place des Nations.  Speeches will start at 12h15 sharp.... We will also have some balloons to hand out which calls for the resignation of the WIPO Director General.

We count on your presence at the demonstration. Remember, today it is WIPO, but tomorrow it could be your organization."
  On January 6, Inner City Press asked the UN about reports it would be issuing a revised whistleblower policy, and about criticism of it. See below. 
The policy was announced on January 23, the first full day of the Trump Administration in the US, where already legislation calls for cutting contributions to the UN if it does not protect whistleblowers. Will this, which still apparently denies access to the UN Dispute Tribunal, be enough? 
Inner City Press asked UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric on January 23, video here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: now that you've announced this… the whistle-blower policy, I wanted to ask you a couple of things.  As I'm sure you know, the Government Accountability Project in [Washington], D.C., had criticized this policy in December 2016, and I wanted to know, has… can you highlight any changes?  Basically, they were saying that, in the past, they… they are saying it's weakening, the current one, which says, if you allege a violation of a rule, you're protected.  And now you have to allege, according to them in December, substantial harm to the UN's reputation and that that harm will be… Has been resolved?

Spokesman:  I think what they… the criticism was aimed at a draft that they obtained.  I will leave it for them to speak.  I hope they and all concerned Member States will read through the policy.  And if they have any comments, we obviously would welcome them.  But, I think no… it's… it would be difficult to argue that this new policy weakens the whistle-blower protection system.  In fact, it strengthens it, and it keeps alive the broad parameters under which… under which staff members are able to file complaints with the Ethics Office.

Inner City Press:  What are António Guterres' views of what happened with Mr. [Anders] Kompass?  This was a high-profile whistle-blower case known to many Member States and commented on newspapers all over the world.  Does he believe that… would this new protection… would this new policy have in any way protected Anders Kompass from being fired and thrown out of his office?

Spokesman:  I think it's… Mr. Kompass' case was examined thoroughly by the… by the independent panel.  I really don't have anything to… you know, I… it's… I don't think it would be… it would not be possible for me to hypothetically plug back in what he may have done or may not have done into a policy that's just been enacted.

Inner City Press:  And can you just… I'd asked you over the weekend, but can you somehow, in a succinct way, clarify what the Ethics Office said about the Women's March on Saturday?  They sent out an e-mail at 5 p.m.… 6 p.m. on Friday that saying participation in political events may be contrary to the UN Charter.  Was this meant to tell staff not to go?

Spokesman:  I think the message from the Ethics Office was meant as a reminder to international civil servants as to their code of conduct.  It was not meant to prevent participation in the march.