15 DECEMBER 2014
|IMRAN IQBAL RIZA APPOINTED D-2 UNIFIL
IQBAL RIZA REMAINS ADVISOR TO SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON SINCE 2007 AND TEN YEARS
WITH KOFI ANNAN
It is the second time we raise issue on an appointment of Imran Iqbal Riza entailing a potential evasion of U.N. staff rules and standard practice.
The first one was when his father was Chef de Cabinet of Secretary General Kofi Annan. At the time, Staffan de Mistura, who was a D-2 in Rome,
was promoted to Assistant Secretary-General rank as U.N. envoy to South Lebanon, and a way was worked out to appoint Imran Iqbal Riza with him in
Beirut with a P-4 promotion from a job he had in Italy with the World Food Programme. It was a tripled-edged embarrassment to Secretary General
- De Mistura aiming to please a newly-influential Riza by arranging for a move by his son (Would anyone recall similar action by him with
newly-appointed Secretary General Ban Ki-moon taking the son-in-law with him on an Iraq mission to which he was promoted to Under-Secretary General?)
- Shamelessly evading a rule that prevents the appointment of father and son at the same time
- A new Chef de Cabinet, who should presumably offer a model of transparent and fair management, was generally perceived as taking special steps
to overlook them
There was also a side situation in Rome. Riza wanted to keep his son's post in WFP Rome open in case -- the newly-married young
man -- for some reason needed to return. When the WFP Executive Director, Catherine Bertini refused, Iqbal Riza was not pleased; when she came
briefly to New York as Under Secretary General for Administration and Management, Riza seemed to make her operational work very difficult. (Search
earlier unforum.com issues for further details here.)
To be clear, experience in Beirut showed that Imran Riza did his work with energy and competence. While de Mistura spent much time meeting, greeting,
and socializing -- to the great welcome of "Les Tantes" of Ashrafiyeh, it was Imran who connected with various parties on the ground: his relations
with a variety of embassies, as well as discreet contacts with Hezbollah -- a necessity when handling South Lebanon, were conducted quietly and
effectively. Although his father's relationships helped, Imran Riza did not need to constantly give the impression that he was under his father's
When Mr. Annan left, Ban Ki-moon appointed the outgoing Chef de Cabinet as Advisor -- a usual courtesy extended by other predecessors, though for
a much shorter period. Despite a proclaimed 5-year ruling, he has been there for 7 years in addition to 10 years with Annan.
That's a matter for the Secretary General to decide, although there is a lot of dubious questioning about the financing and impact of the Culture
Dialogue, particularly in a region where millions of desperate refugees are suffering, and thousands of cut-throats are roaming about, financed by
double-talking sources. That's a different subject which deserves separate attention.
The current question remains: Is the new appointment of Imran Iqbal Riza -- whose father still works for the Secretary General -- as the most senior
civilian at UNIFIL at the D-2 (yes, D-2) level, a violation of U.N. staff rules and standard practice?
Incidentally, according to a recent report in a Beirut daily, he is there as a U.K. (yes, U.K.) citizen. The newspaper was hinting that while U.N.
Coordinator Derek Plumbly, who is a U.K. diplomat, will be replaced by Sigrid Kaag from the Netherlands, a certain U.K. presence could be maintained
by Imran Riza. That, in our view, is unfair comparison. Yet it gives an idea on how anxious local media would interpret a possible connection. However,
it signals the importance of keeping a clear position, particularly in a messy rough neighborhood.
Imran Riza may or may not deserve that swift jump to D-2. Whether there are many other more experienced and qualified for that post is beyond
doubt. He has to prove himself and stand up to the task. We sincerely hope he will. Taking a risk of being there is commendable. His relations -- and
that of his father -- could help in expanding backchannels between Hezbollah, which is predominant in South Lebanon, and the U.K., and possibly
the U.S. He may even effectively help his initial benefactor de Mistura in Syria. Or he may hang around safe areas, collect his D-2, and then move to
greener, more peaceful pastures.
The main question, despite technical evasion, is whether U.N. rules allow for father and son to hold two senior posts.
Whatever the answer, someone -- one day -- would feel inclined to point out who is behind the most investigated staffer in U.N. history.