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United Nations: Keeping The Peace Everywhere But At The Office...?


A number of violent incidents were reported among UN staffers in 2011. (file photo)

A number of violent incidents were reported among UN staffers in 2011. (file photo)

UNITED NATIONS – Strangling, biting, assaults with telephones, and sexual demands.

Those are just a few of nearly 100 reported infractions committed by United Nations personnel over the past year according to a report from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly.

The good news is that the number of requests for investigations into incidents possibly requiring disciplinary measures decreased a bit from last year, and considering the fact that the UN employs 63,000 people, the numbers are still pretty low.

(They hit a recent high in 2008-09, with 440 reported incidents.)

The bad news is that for an organization dedicated to keeping the peace, some of its staff members are surprisingly violent.

Like the employee who beat a colleague over the head with a metal pipe.

Thirty-five of this year's cases involved staff at the UN headquarters and 60 originated in the organization's field offices.

Seven of the cases involved possible criminal conduct. One potential crime involved seven staffers.

The report, which covers the period from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, shows that the lion's share of incidents involved fraud, misrepresentation, and false certification. Other big categories of infractions were abuse of authority, harassment, and discrimination.

Assaults, Theft, And Injury

There were also several reports of verbal and physical assaults. In one case, a staff member threatened to kill their superior, pushed them to the ground, and tried to hit them with a mobile phone. The employee also threatened the safety of two other colleagues and their families.

In another violent exchange, a staff member ripped an armrest from an office chair and threw it at another staff member's face, injuring their right eye and forehead.

Another member of staff assaulted a UN volunteer -- who was also their spouse -- by repeatedly biting them and hitting them with a small table, throwing them to the ground, attempting to strangle them, and beating them with a telephone when the victim attempted to call for help.

All of the staff involved in these incidents were dismissed from their posts.

The report says a staff member who destroyed property during an argument, and made threatening remarks about the use of guns in the workplace was punished with "separation from service, with notice or compensation in lieu of notice, and with or without termination indemnity" – which is UN-speak for "sacking."

There were also several cases of sexual harassment.

A notable incident involved a staff member being fired after attempting to obtain sexual favors from a job applicant.

Incidents of fraud included the misuse of official UN flights by unauthorized individuals and companies, the falsification of paychecks, and the forging of immigration papers.

Copper wire, hard drives, laptops, and digital cameras were also reportedly stolen by UN employees.

Although the number of reported infractions had declined from 126 in 2010-2011 to 95 in 2011-2012, Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson, Eduardo del Buey, was reluctant to identify this decline as a trend.

"As can be seen from the statistics in the report, the number of cases referred for disciplinary action varies from year to year," he told RFE/RL. "There [has] been a slight dip in the number of cases referred in the reporting period, but it is difficult to draw conclusions from this decrease."

-- Courtney Brooks

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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