UN agency names panel to probe NKorea actions

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United Nations, Sep 12: The UN Development Program, under fire from the United States, named a Hungarian, an Indian and an American to an outside board to investigate its practices in North Korea and the case of one whistle-blower.

At issue is a muddled ethics and whistle-blower policy at the United Nations that was established last year to allow staffers to expose wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. But member states for decades have created semi-independent agencies and programs not under the jurisdiction of the secretariat that is run by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UNDP and other specialized UN agencies intend to meet later this month to try to define standards for whistle-blowers, since the entities contend they do not fall under UN Secretary-General Ban's ethics office.

''We have to harmonize these procedures as much as possible within the UN family, UNDP administrator Kamal Dervis told reporters yesterday.

But US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad disagreed. ''Our position ... is that the ethics office which is an independent office that is part of the secretariat should have jurisdiction over all funds and programs.'' ''We think that's a cost saving and appropriate way to proceed,'' he told reporters.

As UNDP last month was harshly criticized for its operation in North Korea, the UN ethics office offered to rule on the case of Artjon Shkurtaj, a former UNDP representative in Pyongyang. But the agency refused.

Since then, two others have come forward, an Ivorian and a Pakistani, but they will not be considered in the new probe because they were not based in North Korea, Kamal said.

The new external review team will be lead by Miklos Nemeth, the former Hungarian prime minister, and includes Chander Mohan Vasudev, a former Indian finance ministry official and Mary Ann Wyrsch, former United Nations deputy high commissioner for Refugees and a former acting commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.

UNDP pulled out of North Korea in March after Pyongyang refused to accept changes ordered by its board of directors. A UN audit published on June 1 said UNDP had violated its own rules in dispersing cash and hiring local staff.

Dervis was asked whether Washington's criticism was political because his deputy, Ad Melkert, was instrumental in the downfall of former World Bank president when both served at the bank.

''He has my full confidence,'' Dervis said of Melkert. ''In politics one has friends and enemies. That is part of life. But what's important now is the work we do.'' Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, last week wrote to Ban urging him to intervene in the whistle-blower case.

And in the Senate, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, successfully sponsored an amendment to a funding bill for UNDP that would force the agency to introduce a whistle-blowers police before it obtains US monies. test


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