Sunday, January 22, 2017

UN Staff Protest OCHA Budget Cuts to New SG Guterres, ICP Asks For His Response

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, January 17 – After UN staff wrote to new Secretary General Antonio Guterres to protest budget cuts by Stephen O'Brien of the  Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq for comment.
   Haq replied that the budget cuts are not yet final -- which is NOT what impacted staff tell Inner City Press.
  Inner City Press asked if Guterres believes that heads of departments facing budgets cuts - and there will be others - should confer with impacted staff. Haq did not say yes - he said, these cuts are not yet final. We'll have more on this.
  The letter to Gutteres asks that he:
"ensure OCHA discloses the information we have requested;

establish a staff-management working group on the downsizing in line with SMC guidelines and extend all contracts until the process is complete;

promulgate those same downsizing guidelines; and bring strong and fair leadership to OCHA and take decisive action to fix OCHA’s management culture."

At the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a Functional Review circulated on June 10 by USG Stephen O'Brien, and exclusively published by Inner City Presshere, lays bare (some of) the problems at OCHA. Examples below.
On June 15, Inner City Press wrote to Ban Ki-moon's two top spokespeople and asked them for the UN's response to or comment on this report that the UN - that is, global taxpayers - had paid for. Neither similarly UN paid spokesperson ever confirmed receipt of the Press questions. 
So on June 16, Inner City Press at the noon briefing asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it - and he refused to comment, calling it a "leaked" document, akin to internal email (on which, of course, comments are often made.) Vine here.
Now we publish the response by many OCHA officials and experts, some of whom Inner City Press has previously reported about and supported, when for example they faced de facto expulsion from a country. Some tell Inner City Press O'Brien is trying to angle to stay one when Ban Ki-moon leaves. Here is the letter, exclusively published by Inner City Press, here.

 On the 2017 cuts, IRIN has reported that OCHA "will reduce spending by at least $20 million in 2017. The 10-percent cuts, including at least 173 staff layoffs, come along with an internal reform process sparked by a damning independent review" -  a review that Inner City Press first reported on. We'll have more on this.