UN chief takes steps to ensure UN programs follow ethics standards

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon authorized new steps starting Jan. 1 to ensure that UN funds and agencies that operate independently adhere to the same UN ethics standards that apply to UN staff directly under his authority. Robert Benson, head of the UN Ethics Office, outlined the secretary-general's new policy directive at a press conference on Monday, which states that the UN system must "cultivate and nurture a culture of ethics, integrity and accountability." The issue was put in the spotlight when Benson said this summer there was enough initial evidence to support an investigation into claims by a former UN employee that he lost his job in retaliation for concerns he raised about the UN Development Program's work in North Korea. But UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis rebuffed Benson, saying on Aug. 17 that the UN Ethics Office had no jurisdiction. Asked whether the new policy would be applicable to cases before 2008, Benson said, "retroactivity will have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis."