UNITED NATIONS. WHAT ARE BAN KI-MOON'S INTENTIONS ON U.N. STAFF PENSION FUND?

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2014

WHAT ARE BAN KI-MOON'S INTENTIONS ON U.N. STAFF PENSION FUND?

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon touched a raw nerve amongst retired and active U.N. International Civil Servants when it was announced on 10 September that he appointed a "Special Representative for the investment of the assets of the U.N. Joint Staff Pension Fund." Ms. Caroline Boykin, currently President of "Bolton Partners Investment Consulting Group" in Maryland will have a full-time position and "will assist the Secretary General in carrying out the fiduciary responsibilities for the investment of the assets of the Fund." In that role, according to the announcement, Ms. Boykin will work closely with the Chief Executive Officer and the Pension Board and "will be responsible for the overall investment policy and oversight and management of the investments of the Fund."

Before her current job with Bolton (yes, Bolton) Group, she was Chief Investment Officer for the Maryland State Retirement and Pension Fund from 1999 to 2003. But that is a very small detail. Another more serious one is why was such a post created? Will her salary at Under-Secretary General or Assistant-Secretary General level be paid from the Staff Pension Fund? If so, why take money from an operation under the pretext of increasing it?

Suspicions aroused by that appointment are linked to recent history as several attempts had been made to direct the investments -- which have been profitable thus far -- and turn them over to U.S. firms that actually lost their pension funds. A former Under-Secretary General had pressured Kofi Annan who was then weakened and beleaguered by the Oil-for-Food scandal to give it away to a firm that same official eventually joined. The attempt was stopped in its tracks. Further attempts continued, raising more anger and protests by retired staff. The general meeting of the Association of Former International Civil Servants last June mainly focused on that issue. Some AFICS Board members, by the way, looked like silent collaborators in that attempt.

More voices will be heard on this. More former staff may direct their anger at Ban Ki-moon if they felt he was targeting their main source of income. Some of his staff may think that retired ones are helpless, but Mr. Ban will discover otherwise.

For the sake of the credibility of U.N. leadership and the welfare of its devoted civil servants, let us hope it does not reach a point of an open clash.