|WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA? U.N.
STAFF CONCERNED ABOUT LACK OF ACTION BY HEADQUARTERS AND MAY APPROACH HUMAN RIGHTS
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. K.Y. Amoako (Ghana), informed
the members of the Staff Union Executive Committee that he was instructing the Polling Officers
to do a "re-election." The Polling Officers refused and stated that the current Committee was
Amoako then called the President of the ECA Staff Union, the Chairman of the Polling Officers,
and several other members of the Union and management to a meeting and issued the following
The ECA Staff Union President, Mr. Belai, should no longer use the
title of President of the Staff Union.
The ECA Staff Union President (who has full-time release to perform
his functions) should return to this substantive office immediately;
The Staff Union Office should be sealed off;
No staff bulletin should be issued;
Mr. Belai should not use any electronic medium to reach out to the
Failure to observe these instructions would be considered insubordination.
Immediately after the meeting, security officers and staff from the Facilities Management Division
accompanied the Staff Union President to his office. Mr. Belai was told to pack his belongings
and vacate the office as soon as possible. The locks were changed on the offices and all
communication facilities were disconnected -- computers, fax, and telephones.
Two days later, a staff member who acted as Ombudsman for the ECA Staff Union and had served
for seven years on fixed-term contracts, received a letter informing him that his services were
no longer needed at ECA. The ECA administration then issued a letter to the local police
commission informing them that the staff member who was separated had made terroristic threats
against the premises and senior staff and that he should be placed under surveillance by the
local police commission. The letter was accompanied by personal information about the staff
member, including the names of his mother and brother.
In a country with a history of imprisoning U.N. staff, such a proclamation to the local police
could prove to be extremely dangerous for the staff member and his family members. The Staff
Union believes that the ECA administration acted inappropriately by making such strong allegations
against a staff member whom they had not investigated nor requested any explanations from. The
United Nations has procedures to follow when a staff member is suspected of wrongdoing. None of
those procedures involve alerting local police authorities to place a staff member "under
That serious behaviour was brought to the attention of Ms. Rosemarie Waters, President of the
Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), who contacted a
number of senior officials and asked them to intervene in this case to preserve the independence
of the staff union in ECA.
She pointed out that new elections were not the solution to the problem. Perfectly valid elections
were held in the Spring of 2002 for a two-year term of office which will expire in Spring 2004. The
U.N. Administration needs to inform the Executive Secretary that he should refrain from interfering
in the Staff Union and their Statute. The right of staff to elect their representatives must be
respected. If new elections are conducted, that action will set a dangerous precedent that will
enable any administrator who does not like the serving staff president, to hold new elections and
dispose of that staff committee.
The U.N. Staff Council approved a resolution on the 9th of January 2003 (RES/55) which expresses
serious concern over the actions of the Executive Secretary which constitute gross interference
in the sovereign affairs of an independent Union elected by the constituents at ECA. It called for
a fact-finding mission to be conducted by CCISUA and the members of the Fifth Committee to be
briefed in writing. The resolution further requested Amoako to reopen immediately the staff union
office and reinstate the duly elected staff union until normally scheduled elections are held.
The Staff Union appealed to the Secretary-General to address the serious violations committed by
the management of ECA, most importantly by making serious allegations to the Ethiopian police
concerning a staff member who diligently served the Organization for seven years.
In the absence of any response from the Union Nations, including the Office of the Secretary-General,
the Staff Council has decided to request an independent investigation of the possible serious
abuses by an appropriate outside organization whose mandate is the protection of human rights.