Kofi Annan’s triumph—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #63 (July 14)

While Kofi Annan, the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, has been criticized for his repeated failures in mediating the Syrian conflict, little press attention has been devoted to another aspect of the mediation mission.

This other aspect can only be described as “Kofi Annan’s triumph”.

According to a report by Patrick Goodenough (cnsnews.com) on April 30, 2012, Kofi Annan requested $7.5 Million to Cover Expenses for His Syrian Peace Mission during the first 10 months, “according to a document seeking U.N. General Assembly approval for the budget.”

Over the 10-month period ending December 31, Annan and 17 other officials attached to the mission will account for a combined $3,022,300 in “salaries and common staff costs.”

“The effective discharge of the activities of the Joint Special Envoy [Annan] will require international staff to support his office, liaise with all relevant actors and manage the day-to-day activities,” states the budget document, dated April 11. “The staff will have an official base in Geneva and travel regularly to the field to liaise with relevant actors.”

Up to April 30, the costs of Annan’s mission were covered by Ban Ki-Moon’s “unforeseen and extraordinary expenditures mechanism”, but the Secretary General in April was reported to be “asking the General Assembly to approve a 10-month budget of $7,488,000 net ($7,932,200 gross).” This money was to be spent on salaries for Annan and 17 other assistants and supporting staff as follows:

Annan will be paid the going U.N. rate for an “undersecretary-general” (USG). Under him will be two “assistant secretary-generals” (ASGs) and two staffers of top “director” (D2) rank – one serving as chief of office and the other as communications spokesman.

Next will come six staffers – two each in the top three Professional grades (P5, P4 and P3) in the U.N. system. Two will be senior political officers, three will be political officers and one will be information officer.

These 11 “substantive international staff” will be joined by another seven others in the “general service” category – an administrative officer, administrative assistant, personal assistant to Annan, a security officer and three team assistants.

Current gross annual U.N. pay scales for professional ranks are: USG: $189,349; ASG: $172,071; D2: from $141,227–$156,476; P5: from $106,718–$133,575; P4: from $87,933–$115,018; and P3: from $72,267–$96,282.

Goodenough reports that the two Assistant Secretary General-level officials that will assist him, selected by the U.N. and the Arab League, respectively, are Jean-Marie Guehenno, chief of U.N. peacekeeping operations from 2000-2008 and appointed by Annan and Nasser al-Kidwa, the head of the Yassar Arafat foundation and a former high-ranking official of the Palestinian Authority, “and the late Yasser Arafat’s nephew”.

The operating budget of the mission is described as follows:

Apart from staff costs, the Annan mission is seeking an operating budget of an additional $4,465,700, of which $1,6 million will be used for “official travel” alone with a further $750,000 for “air transportation” and $100,200 for “ground transportation.”

The remainder of the operating budget is earmarked for consultants ($165,700), facilities and infrastructure ($578,400); communications ($94,800), information technology ($135,700), and “other supplies, services and equipment” ($1,050,400). These amounts include $30,000 to refurbish office space and $81,800 for “information technology and other equipment.”

Goodenough points out that the United States contributes 22 percent of the U.N. operating budget

Thus, Kofi Annan’s triumph has been to get the United Nations to help him set up what amounts to a second Secretary General’s office in Geneva, from which he and the well-paid U.N. diplomats who assist him can direct and coordinate an expanding range and number of activities under his Syria mediation appointment.

He has shown himself to be a master at operating the levers of power and influence at the U.N., and now has a nice new job at $189,000 per year, plus–according to the Joshuapundit blog in 2006–his previous U.N. pension of $12,000 a month or $144,000 a year, plus a second pension which he reportedly cashed out for $ 1 million when he became Secretary General. These emoluments are reportedly tax-free.

This is all a bit confusing. How much is Kofi Annan receiving from the United Nations, in salaries, pensions and expenses, per year?

Secretary General Ban L-Moon should give a detailed accounting of the total amount of compensation, expenses and other benefits (such as the value of the rent of his residence) being paid to Annan in a public session of the General Assembly, and also of the Security Council, at the earliest opportunity.

Instead of further building out the office of a second Secretary General of the U.N., in Geneva, The Observer would suggest that the most urgent and serious consideration be given to terminating Annan’s mission at the earliest possible moment, both in view of the total failure of the mission to date, and in view of the incredible dimensions and life it has taken on within the U.N. bureaucracy.

Moreover, both Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the relevant appropriations committees of the United States Congress, should conduct full investigations into how the Kofi Annan mission came into being, and acquired such bureacratic momentum within the U.N.

Who came up with the idea of a joint Arab League–U.N. Special Envoy, for example? How was this all accomplished before the Security Council formally endorsed the 6-point plan of Kofi Annan on April 14 in Resolution 2042? (The Presidential Statement of March 21 endorsing the plan had no legal force.)

The mission has been a total failure, and what is worse promises to block any effective action on Syria in the future. For that reason alone, it should be terminated.

***

Kofi Annan’s appointment and terms of reference were announced on February 23, 2012.

Kofi Annan Appointed Joint Special Envoy of United Nations, League of Arab States on Syrian Crisis

The following joint statement was issued today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Nabil Elaraby:

In accordance with the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February and following close consultations between Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Nabil Elaraby, the two today announced the appointment of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis.

The Secretaries-General are grateful to Mr. Annan for accepting this important mission at a critical time for the people of Syria.

A deputy for the Joint Special Envoy will be chosen from the Arab region.

The Special Envoy will be the high-level representative of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis. The Special Envoy will provide good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

The Special Envoy will be guided in this endeavour by the provisions of the General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 and the relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States. He will consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people through a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition.

At that time, it was anticipated that Annan would have a deputy to be appointed from the Arab region.

How this modest beginning, ill-advised as it might have been, morphed into the bureaucratic colossus that it has beome appears to be a classic story of waste and dysfunction at the U.N., bolstered by the personal ambition of Kofi Annan himself.

This may have been Kofi Annan’s triumph, but it should be a matter of chagrin for the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and all those who support the United Nations and its mission in the world.

The Trenchant Observer

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