|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
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
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
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."