1 December 2003

Only three weeks to go before the year's end, frustrated staff of European centres seeking definite answers from the current leadership of the Department of Public Information are threatening to launch formal complaints to authorities in their own countries and in the U.S. For example, they are very worried that the U.N. does not intend to finish paying their entitlements until at least 31st March. That will hold up pension payments by another three months. This is unacceptable. Therefore they have made formal complaints to appropriate missions to the U.N. who will be taking up the matter with OHRM. If this happens and no interest is paid, they need to launch formal complaints to the U.S. IRS on the matter. Also, in light of the forthcoming battle to get back their assessments, they ask that each staff member is given a statement of how much they will receive in final settlements (assuming they are not offered/decline to accept another post). Such statement should include the amount of staff assessment that will be deducted in order that they may claim back this amount from respective governments should the U.N. keep to its policy of paying net.

These are some detailed examples on unfinished business relating to certain centres. There are many others: administrative, professional and human. There is also the issue of common sense and effective management -- or "good governance" as some try to preach to others but not apply to themselves. When a decision is taken, right or wrong, at least pay attention to the people directly affected. Whether you eventually find something for them or not may matter less if you at least showed first that you cared, you treated them as human beings who dedicated their careers to their profession. Particularly when claiming "reform," some planning, some worthy attention is required. Most of the staff of the European centres closed on a whim joined at a much younger age when they had several options in the media field. Now, about twenty years later they are entitled to some considerate arrangement. And savings do not seem to be the issue. Except for London, all the premises are offered free by the governments which also provide some operational expenses. For example such expense in Athens comes to about $60,000. Come to think of it, the operational expenses of any of these centres promoting the U.N. are less than the travel expenses alone of the man who is closing them: Shashi Tharoor -- not to mention the travel expenses of other senior officials who always drew on the Centres' services. And Tharoor's travels seem mainly to promote himself. In fact, it may be interesting for someone to look into Tharoor's travel since he was Communication Director to the newly elected Secretary General. For example, that whole week in Aspen at U.N. expense shooting the breeze and networking; or the books he writes and promotes on U.N. time (and expense?), possibly in violation of international civil service staff rules, regulations and standard practice. No one knows that better than the former head of Personnel. But then...never mind. At least, pay attention to the people who looked up to some form of leadership, as their careers are thrown to the winds of change.