Evading Staff Rules: Chef de Cabinet's Son Recruited


It seems that a very senior official believes that one way to help the Secretary General is to first help himself, his own family and his friends. Iqbal Riza, the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary General, arranged for the appointment of his son Imran to a relatively senior post, in an unprecedented violation of UN staff rules and regulations.

In an equally revealing move, another senior official who recently acquired the rank of Assistant Secretary General, (as personal representative in Southern Lebanon), accommodated him. It was supposed to be hush-hush: an agreeable press officer in Beirut drew a blank when asked, although he had lunch with the young man the following day.

But the Lebanese capital was abuzz about this act of nepotism. The strict rule is that family members, including spouses and children, are not recruited. Many have married while already working. In the field, particularly in hardship posts, an attempt is made to employ a direct relative in an office of another member of the UN. Someone occasionally may have evasively (and temporarily) recruited a direct relative.

If so, it was on a fairly junior level. But this is the Chef de Cabinet, the senior official charged with ensuring equitable international civil service staffing regulations. Apparently, quiet evasion of procedure is his perception of the declared "quiet reform" and his understanding of his role in assisting the Secretary General is to first help himself.

Yet he needed a compliant official to lean on. It seems that Steffan Demistura, formerly UNICEF greeting cards operations, was not satisfied with his new field position as Personal Representative of the Secretary General. He also wanted to remain director of the UN Information Center in Rome. As he is Swedish and Italian, he has performed a remarkable job there and naturally loved the exposure, in addition to the "ceremoniale" protocol perks that accompanied it.

Fair enough, had he not tried hard to network his way to biting off more than he can chew. He did not really have to please Iqbal Riza to the point of evading staff rules. Did he hope for his backing in the failed quest to also stay in Rome, although a new director was appointed anyway? Some in Beirut go even further, alleging that, given the father's political connections, the son was placed there to act as liaison in a fairly hot venture in which a discreet mediator is involved in an elusive effort to exchange hostages? Was it a prelude to taking over that assignment, which will certainly engender accolades and credit from various parties?

The word in New York is that Demistura is angling to get an ASG post at UN headquarters, for example to replace Ibrahima Fall in Political Affairs. If he was hoping for Riza's backing, he will be disappointed to know that a Namibian diplomat is already approved. Mr. Imran Riza is a very pleasant and promising young man. His new job may have paved the way to his recent marriage. Everyone joins in wishing the happy couple a prosperous life together. But then, thousand of aspiring youth seek to join the UN, an organization that could indeed be augmented by their dynamic vigor; thousands of others look to the UN for exemplary moral guidance. Should they be informed that they may need a Chef de Cabinet as a piston? And where are those in the office of human resources, who make it exceedingly difficult for a clerk to pass from General Services to the professional rank?

It remains to be seen what will happen when a clear violation occurs at such a high level. Perhaps the new Ombudsman could look into this "conflict of employment."