UN Backs Ban Ki-moon Amid Leadership Controversies

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Photo by: Mark Garten / UN

The U.N. has stepped up to defend its leader, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, amid internal and external criticism of his leadership, most recently from the outgoing head of the organization’s internal oversight office.

In a strongly worded end-of-term memo, Inga-Britt Ahlenius accused Ban of undermining the authority of her office and weakening the overall position of the international organization.

Ahlenius stepped down July 16 as undersecretary-general of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services. The Washington Post, which made a summary of the memo public, notes that it represents a personal attack on Ban and a challenge to his cultivated image as a champion of accountability.

The memo was intended to be a management tool that was “regrettably” leaked to the press, Ban has noted according to his spokesperson, Martin Nesirky.

Nesirky said that the secretary-general, in a meeting with his senior advisers on July 22, stressed the importance of constructive criticism. Ban also explained that he did not expect all of his senior advisers to always agree with him, the spokesperson added.

“He had always welcomed constructive criticism. But as public servants, there are rules and procedures. In this case, a trust, a bond, had been broken,” Nesirky said as quoted by the U.N. News Center.

Nesirky said Ban and his staff are currently reviewing Ahlenius’ report.

Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s chief-of-staff, earlier noted that the office of the secretary-general welcomed Ahlenius’ comments but argued that she overlooked and misrepresented several pertinent facts.

Ahlenius’s memo includes scathing remarks on Ban’s leadership of the U.N., saying that the current secretariat is undergoing “a process of decay.”

“There is no transparency, there is lack of accountability. Rather than supporting the internal oversight which is the sign of strong leadership and good governance, you have strived to control it which is to undermine its position. I do not see any signs of reform in the Organization,” Ahlenius stated.

Ahlenius also outlined several ways she said Ban and his top advisers tried to undermine her office’s mandate, including by trying to establish a competing investigation unit and by blocking her efforts to hire her own personnel.

In a response to Ahlenius’ memo, Nambiar explained that Ban’s move to create a new investigation unit was meant to strengthen the U.N.’s capacity to address corruption. He also noted that the secretary-general’s office halted the appointment of Robert Appleton, whose case Ahlenius used as an example in her memo, because it did not follow the U.N.’s standard recruitment rules.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.