- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

No discrimination here

Is there discrimination in the United Nations?

Apparently not, says a new U.N. report that nonetheless found considerable disadvantages for women and staff from unnamed regions seeking senior posts.

The report, from the Office of Internal Oversight Services, was requested by the General Assembly after staff accusations of bias.

The 42-page analysis looked at personnel data stored in the organization's massive computer database, examined scores of complaints brought to the U.N. Administrative Tribunal and scrutinized results of a survey by the U.N. Staff Council.

OIOS found no "systematic and consistent preference or exclusion" but conceded that men outnumber women in senior postings by as much as 3-to-1. The report also acknowledged a disparity of promotions at headquarters and other duty stations since 1996, the year Kofi Annan became secretary-general.

In the past five years, 35 percent of headquarters promotions have gone to North American or Caribbean staff, compared with 2 percent for Middle Easterners, 8 percent for Latin Americans, 9 percent for Africans, 17 percent for West Europeans and 22 percent for Asians. The disparity flattens a bit in the area of peacekeeping.

Examiners "found it impossible to make any observations supported by evidence, as the secretariat does not record the 'race' of individual staff members," said OIOS, which looked instead for trends based on regional groupings, gender and language.

The question of discrimination is likely to continue to hang over the Office of Human Resources Management, which is due a new leader in the coming months. Corridor chatter has coalesced behind Elisabeth Lindenmayer, Mr. Annan's special assistant for African issues, to replace Rafiah Salim as assistant secretary-general for human resources.


Awards that matter

There must be a secret trophy room somewhere in the United Nations for all the citations, plaques and awards bestowed on Mr. Annan, the wildly popular secretary-general who can scarcely leave his office without collecting some kind of honor.

But the ceremony this weekend in his native Ghana was probably more special than most.

Ashanti King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II named Mr. Annan a "busumro" at a ceremony in the central town of Kumasi, the seat of the Ashanti region. Wearing traditional kente cloth, Mr. Annan accepted a large gold necklace the king presented to him for his work in service of humanity.

The busumro is the sword on which the king swears allegiance to his people, and Mr. Annan is the first to have been given that title since the kingdom was founded in 1680.

"The honor is being conferred on Kofi Annan by the ashantihene [king] and the ashantiman [the Ashanti people]," Owusu Boateng, a secretary at the king's palace in Kumasi, told Agence France-Presse. "If the world has honored him with the Nobel Peace Prize, why not his native land?"

It is not clear whether Mr. Annan will get to keep the chunky gold necklace. The secretary-general is Fante, not Ashanti, although his father served as a governor in the Ashanti region. He is so popular in Ghana that a soccer tournament has been named for him.

Mr. Annan and his wife, Nane, are on a two-week vacation in Ghana.


U.N. 9/11 observance

Plans are falling into place around the world to commemorate September 11, and the United Nations is no exception.

The organization announced last week that Mr. Annan would attend a ceremony for diplomats and staff at the U.N. headquarters, less than two miles north of ground zero.

"The United Nations will hold a solemn ceremony of remembrance on the morning of September 11 as an expression of shared loss with New York, our host city, and with people throughout the world who lost loved ones," said spokeswoman Hua Jiang.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte is expected to say a few words, as well.

Scores of foreign leaders will be in New York on that day because the annual U.N. General Debate an event that draws presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers begins the next day.

U.N. officials said that it is not yet known whether any presidents or prime ministers will attend the U.N. ceremony one of dozens of public and private events planned for September 11 in New York and Washington.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at unear@aol.com.

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