Aug 12, 2007 8:28 am
Bilang update sa umiinit na isyu re: the undemocratic practices of Nileema Noble, UNDP Resident Rep and UN Resident Coordinator, sharing here an article about agency complaints.
(Nileena Noble, kuha mula sa:www.un.org.ph/)
Civil society groups I believe also need to step into the picture. Will be posting a petition by tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. Ciao.
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Agencies complain of abrupt changes in UNDP projects
COMPLAINING OFFICES CITE LACK OF CONSULTATION WITH PARTNER AGENCIES
Source: Business Mirror, 9 August 2007
By Cai U. Ordinario
(Ms. Nileema Noble, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative / kuha mula sa: www.dfa.gov.ph/news/
SEVERAL government agencies have filed complaints to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines against the supposed abrupt changes implemented on a number of projects funded by the UNDP. Complainant agencies include the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Mindanao Economic Development Council. (kuha mula sa: www.medco.gov.ph/.../
The DOE also complained, specifically, about the removal of project monitoring offices (PMO) in the Philippines. PMOs serve as the main coordinators of a certain project. Former DOE secretary Raphael Lotilla wrote to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Nileema Noble that one of her circulars shortened the contracts of two Development Support Services Center, (DSSCs), contrary to the directives of the DOE.
According to the Circular Memorandum dated February 15, 2007 from Noble addressed to all UNDP Staff members that all extensions of service contracts of project personnel shall only be valid until April 30, 2007, due to “project administrative costs.”
“It is lamentable that UNDP, which has been advocating a policy of continuous dialogue/ consultati on with all stakeholders for the smooth implementation of projects, has failed to observe this policy of consultation with its partner agencies, including the DOE, on matters of national importance,” Lotilla wrote.
In a letter to Secretary Lotilla, signed for Noble by UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Kyo Naka, it said the removal of all PMOs has not been a unilateral decision, and that the Neda also took part in the decision-making process.
The letter also stated that the government and UNDP signed a joint memorandum to make it clear that the process of cutting short the contracts of DSSCs is a gradual one, over a one-year period ending December 2007.
“The phasing out of the independent PMOs has been accepted as a general principle by Neda and in the context of the implementation of the Paris Declaration Principles, as well as those of the ongoing UN system reform agenda,” the UNDP letter said.
For his part, Neda Director General Romulo Neri told BusinessMirror that the agency wrote a letter in support of Mrs. Noble’s efforts to “clean” projects.
“The letter was addressed to all Cabinet secretaries endorsing what Mrs. Noble is doing in the country. I know everything and I am endorsing everything,” Neri said.
Meanwhile, NCPAG dean Alex Brillantes Jr. wrote to Mrs. Noble and Neda Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan about the decision of the UNDP and Neda to replace the NCPAG as the implementing partner (IP) of the Fostering Democratic Governance (FDG) Program without due process.
“We were, therefore, dismayed by the unilateral decision of the UNDP and Neda to replace NCPAG as the IP for the FDG program. This was done without going through the process of consultation and dialogue, in accordance with the principles of transparency and participation, which are the basic tenets in the practice of good governance that UNDP advocates,” Brillantes wrote.
According to Brillantes’ letter, the UNDP was the one who approached NCPAG in 2005 to become the IP for the project. He added that never in his dealings with multilateral partners, particularly the UN, has transparency, accountability and participation not been implemented.
Brillantes said this was evident in their dealings with the UNDP since the 1960s and their cordial relationships with various UNDP representatives such as Turnham Mangun, Terence (IP) Jones and Deborah Landey.
Meanwhile, \NAPC Secretary General and Lead Convenor Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan wrote to DDG Tungpalan about its Strengthening Institutional Mechanisms for the Convergence of Poverty Alleviation Efforts project funded by the UNDP.
The letter said the UNDP and Neda amended and agreed upon implementing arrangements of the projects and removed NAPC as the IP for the project. Datu Ampatuan also said these changes were not communicated to him when he took over, and that these are against the interests and responsibilities of NAPC.
“I wish to convey to you that NAPC is asserting its rightful role as implementing partner, rather than its relegation now as only one of responsible parties. By mandate alone, the shepherding and coordination of poverty reduction programs and activities should be NAPCs,” Ampatuan said.
These unilateral changes have been happening as early as 2005. NCIP chairperson Jannette Serrano wrote to Naka on behalf of the agency regarding their concern for the manner by which the institutional arrangement for the implementation of the Integrated Program for the Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development of Ancestral Domains (IP-EIPSDAD) was done.
The NCIP letter, written on November 28, 2005, and received by the UNDP in Manila on December 19, 2005, said it was not involved in the negotiations to change the mode of implementation and terms of reference of the project.
“We would like to put on record that NCIP was never part of this crucial decision. As a matter of fact, this is contrary to the position of Department of Agrarian Reform [DAR] Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, with whom we had the opportunity to discuss the matter prior to the FAO, who maintained that the IP-EIPSDAD should be implemented by the NCIP and not DAR,” Serrano said.
Something Ignoble within the UN
I write this piece with the standing belief that internal democracy and freedom of expression are still practiced and honored within the United Nations system. That belief may have been shaken some with my recent work experience at the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines , but I nevertheless remain confident that a small but deeply flawed component does not represent the whole. I also trust that a progressive institution such as the UN has the capacity and tools to self-repair.
"Managers and supervisors are in positions of leadership and it is their responsibility to ensure a harmonious workplace based on mutual respect; they should be open to all views and opinions and make sure that the merits of staff are properly recognized. They need to provide support to them; this is particularly important when they are subject to criticism arising from the carrying out of their duties. Managers are also responsible for guiding and motivating their staff and promoting their development." (Underscoring supplied). [Article 15 of the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service , The United Nation's Ombudsman's Office.]
I have been with the UNRC Office for four months, having been invited to apply (and chosen) for the temporary post of Coordination Specialist for nine (9) months from December 2006 to September 2007. Since then I've been clocking in 12-15 work hours everyday, given the extraneous load of the RC office.
On 4 May 2007 at 1:00 p.m. , I was called to a meeting by my boss, Ms. Nileema Noble (UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative). Two other UNDP officers were also called in: Mr. Kyo Naka, UNDP Deputy Representative and Ms. Ethel Capuno, UNDP Procurement Officer.
After having seated, Nileema got straight to the point and said that they were already terminating my contact that same day. (I was to be paid half a month after the termination date in lieu of the 15-day notice as provided in the contract).
"Can I ask for the reason why?"
I queried, matter-of-factly. "You know that we are not required to give you a reason," replied Nileema. "Your Special Service Agreement (SSA) contract allows either party to unilaterally terminate it at any point within the duration." She then stated that she was not satisfied with my performance, and that there is a mismatch between the skills I possess and those that are demanded by my work.
"I would like to contest that," I answered. "I am not questioning your move to unilaterally terminate my contract, as that is your prerogative, but I do not agree with the arbitrary appraisal of my performance. I am not perfect, and I'm sure I have had lapses in my work like anyone else, but I have so far delivered the tasks expected of me." I went on to enumerate the accomplished assignments thus far: the clockwork regularity of the UN Country Team (UNCT) meetings, the series of Delivering as One briefings, the UNCT Retreat, the mission of Prof. Philip Alston (UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions), and so forth. In all this I was able to harness the collective strength of the UNRC office team, ensuring that tasks were properly delegated while taking on direct, hands-on work myself. I have indeed received positive feedback from UNCT members and other UN colleagues.
"The UNCT members have negative comments against you," Nileema retorted, "but I don't want to divulge them here. Also, you may of course contest this decision but that is up to you, and there are consequences. As it is now, you can leave with a record of good standing in the UN, because we are not declaring any reason for the contract's termination. But if you contest, then we will do that.
"Furthermore, another reason is that there are confidential RC Office documents that somehow reached other people." I gave her a bewildered look, thus she continued: "I'm not saying you yourself leaked them. But it is the RC office's responsibility to safeguard these documents."
I asked what exactly these documents were, for I was clueless, but again she refused to say. I was thus left unable to clarify whatever it was or even defend myself against accusations.
I was then asked to sign the letter of termination, stating that the Coordination Specialist function I was performing was no longer required.
I said I do not want to sign any document, asking for some time to consider these things. "No!" she blurted. "You cannot confer with anyone!" I found that incomprehensible. Since when did the "freedom to consult" been banned in a higher institution such as the UN? But I simply said I don't intend to "confer" with other people about this.
I just needed a few hours to mull things over. "You don't have that option." "So what will you do if I refuse to sign this document? Bodily carry me out of the UN premises?" I was beginning to boil then. It was then Ethel's turn to intervene, trying to be diplomatic. "No, we don't do that naman at the UN. All we ask is that you simply 'acknowledge receipt' of this notice." Nileema stated further that, whether I sign it or not, the termination will be effective anyway. So I silently sat there for a number of minutes, weighing things, looking each of them in the eye, finding it strange that within the UN such disregard for due process and humane conduct continue unhampered.
I considered defying it, but realized in the same instance that I wouldn't want to stay a minute longer in such an oppressive work environment. In all of my years as a professional, it was only at the UNRC Office where I felt I was living a nightmare existence. I've been dragging my feet to work every single day. Thus I wrote "notice received" in the one-page document, signed it, and quickly packed my stuff. I wasn't able do a proper handover because my email was immediately cut that very afternoon. Taking the Fall Soon as I left, I contemplated the reasons for the early termination of my contract.
"Mismatch of my skills with those demanded of the job" she said. Perhaps there is some of that element. I was once described by Nileema as an "academic" type, but what was required of us was to attend to the voluminous, assembly line-like routine of the RC office and perform simultaneous tasks. Hardly anyone, however, can keep up with this. The "work-life balance" bandied about was an illusion. As one UN official told me: "I'm in your mailing list, and I can't imagine how you can perform all those demanding assignments.
I saw the ones before you leave one after the other. The system, clearly, is designed to fail." While I am confident that my extraneous efforts delivered the goods, amid the difficulties and aggravations that multiplied the burden, I grant that the boss has the prerogative to declare otherwise.
The other reason was the so-called "leaked document," of which I remain uninformed, thus the best I can do is speculate. It maybe something related to human rights, or MDGs, or whatever themes we worked on. Hundreds of documents fly around and from the UN everyday, though I can assert that I have not sent any document to anyone with malice and without authorization or protocol. Still, Nileema can claim any single one of them has "fallen into the wrong hands" and I would be in no position to question that.
What I object to is the arbitrariness and utter disregard for proper procedure, and more importantly the abhorrent behavior one would not expect from a civilized human being, much less from a UN diplomat. A Dreadful Work Environment The Coordination Specialist position was designed to assist the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC or simply RC, officially the highest-ranking UN position in a country) in harmonizing work among various UN agencies. The post was vacated successively by two other people (the first one, temporarily). I won't hazard a reason for their premature departure, though it is particularly telling that people under Nileema's watch are leaving in droves.
More than 20 people have left the UNDP since she came, and counting. I also cannot speak in their behalf, but I can speak from my own experience. "Tolerance and understanding are basic human values. They are essential for international civil servants, who must respect all persons equally, without any distinction whatsoever. This respect fosters a climate and a working environment sensitive to the needs of all. To achieve this in a multicultural setting calls for a positive affirmation going well beyond passive acceptance." (Underscoring supplied) [ Article 6 of the Standards of Conduct for the I nternational Civil S ervice, The United Nation's Ombudsman's Office.] The present RC is some kind of an enigma.
I have never seen such kind of leadership conduct before. It is the kind of behavior one can associate with a jail warden (from whom it is not acceptable as well). There is no normal conversation with her, at least so far as I have observed in her interaction with all the staff. (Equal or higher-ranking officials are a different matter – she deals with them casually or with reverence). There was never an instance when she did not raise her voice. The surreal "meeting" we had on May 4 that I just narrated was not unusual – it was a daily occurrence with Nileema. A senior UN official, from whom we sought advice a few months earlier, suggested that the problem might have something to do with "cultural differences." I considered that notion, and caught myself thinking that, if at all, the cultural dimension here takes the form of an anachronistic social construct called the "caste system," which bases the treatment of human beings based on their position in the pecking order.
What apparently matters to Nileema is a person's place in the human artifice called "hierarchy." As such, Nileema somehow antagonizes most everyone she meets, as most of us are "subordinates" anyway. Her behavior towards people seemingly comes with a personal sense of entitlement; that her high UN position gives her the Brahman license to treat people in such abysmal manner. In all four months with the office I forced myself to hang on. I resolved to try and "survive" it and find ways to somehow solve the unbearable situation we were all in.
I saw an opportunity to constructively address it at our UNRC Office retreat, where presumably we can air out grievances. I told Nileema in the most reasonable manner that there could be a better way of relating with the UN staff. "Whenever you are around, the stress level among the staff shoots up." She responded that she always had that effect on people wherever she was – whether in her previous posts or even in her family. "But that is how I am, and it has to do with my passion for work. I'm just passionate." Fine. It's just unfortunate that she seems to have mistook treating people as virtual slaves 'to get the job done' as 'passion.' It also gives her the authority to dictate what is wrong and what is right, regardless of what others say or think. You cannot argue your point.
Nileema is known to crash in on a workshop underway, whether it's a government or civil society function, undermine the proceedings and declare that "everything is wrong." She then proceeds to declare what is right. What is right is not based on merit but on brandished authority. An example indicative of this abrasive unilateralism was when she was asking me about a human rights-related meeting that was not proceeding according to how she wanted. "Are you sabotaging the RC office?" she exclaimed.
Sabotaging?! I was so incredulous and offended I almost replied: "With the way you are running this office, I don't even need to." But I checked myself, realizing that would've entailed stooping to the level of coarseness I was objecting to. I simply expressed my incredulity. "Of course not. Why would I do such a thing?" One of Nileema's oft-repeated justifications for her behavior is that she is just hammering people to work better. "Not good enough!" is a common outburst.
The question is: does it work? The exodus of her staff is hardly an indication that things are going in the right direction. Frayed nerves of those who remain can never produce quality work. Nileema does not believe in positively motivating people; she promotes a culture of submissiveness and subjugation.
In the process, she continues to lose the cooperation and respect not only of her staff but partners as well from donors, government offices, and civil society. A sympathetic colleague tried to assuage my distress by saying that Nileema is an exception, rather than the rule, in the UN. She is just a fluke and therefore I should not be disillusioned with the entire system. But this aberration has the potential to wreak havoc on the whole.
Allowing this to continue, apart from driving people out and restricting the creative freedom of workers, holds the greater danger of perpetuating a vicious cycle. It creates a system that cultivates a handful of clones that unquestioningly do their boss' bidding and replicate her behavior toward their respective colleagues and subordinates, while leaving a throng of embattled, embittered soldier ants.
It breeds "transfer of oppression;" or the so-called "kick the dog" syndrome. I saw it happening already, and the repercussions are frightening. What is ironic in all this is that other UN agencies and parallel international organizations have already evolved far more egalitarian systems of work.
The present UNRC, assigned with the momentous role of leading the UN system's sweeping reform agenda under the "Delivering as One" banner, remains stuck in a patently feudal mindset and form of rule. This may perhaps explain the major reluctance of officials and staff during the Delivering as One briefings, which provides for "one leader" among others. This would've been easier to swallow if that "one leader" respects "all persons equally, without any distinction whatsoever…and fosters a climate and a working environment sensitive to the needs of all." Regrettably, the current UN leader in the Philippines considers the organization as her own private fiefdom. I realize that the foregoing could very likely jeopardize any possible UN career for me in the future.
For all it's worth, right now I am still presumably "in good standing" and can continue searching other options within the system, so long as "I keep my peace." I'm better off being mum about it, however I can never feel fine with myself knowing that such abomination continues to exist and I simply let it pass. It is incumbent for those who are still within the UN, especially those who relate with Nileema directly, to do something about the regressive state of affairs she is perpetuating. The country's development is at stake, and so is the UN's potential to affect its course.
The country and the UN cannot condone yet another tyrant, for that would breed more of her kind. As Lord Achton once famously declared: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." In many of our meetings, Nileema often declared that she "does not know anything about human rights." Does one really need to overstate the obvious? I rest my case. Robert Francis Garcia Former Coordination Specialist UN Resident Coordinator's Office Philippines --------------------
UNDP Staff Rises in Indignation Mr. Kemal Dervis Administrator United Nations Development Programme UN Plaza, New York cc: Mr. Ad Melkert, UNDP Associate Administrator Mr. Hafiz Pasha, UNDP RBAP Director Office of Human Resources Office of the Ombudsperson UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Staff Council 23 July 2007 Dear Mr. Dervis, Subject: Mrs. Nileema Noble It took this long for us to bring certain untenable things to your attention because we gave Mrs.
Nileema Noble what she asked for a year ago when she assumed the post of the Resident Representative of UNDP: the benefit of the doubt. Although we already saw the forebodings of trouble, we shrugged off some of her troubling behaviour as mere eccentricities which we can live with and even overcome in time.
But the longer we worked with her, the faster we came to the conclusion that her autocratic and oppressive behaviour will not change; that the longer she stays here, the faster the erosion of UNDP’s and even the UN’s credibility in the Philippines . Furthermore, many of us can no longer function optimally because of the almost daily harassment and abusive treatment we receive from her.
Such abusive behavior, which has resulted to a hostile working environment and demoralization of staff, should not be tolerated in any form by the United Nations and United Nations Development Programme, as stated in the Charter of the United Nations, the Staff Rules and the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service. As you know, Staff Rule 101.2 (d) indicates that “any form of discrimination or harassment, as well as physical or verbal abuse at the workplace or in connection with work, is prohibited.
Harassment in any shape or form is an affront to human dignity and international civil servants must avoid it. They should not engage in any form of harassment and must be above any suspicion of it. Further, Article 15 of Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service states that, “Managers and supervisors are in positions of leadership and it is their responsibility to ensure a harmonious workplace based on mutual respect. They must act impartially, without intimidation and favouritism.
” Mrs. Noble has been, and continue to be culpable of verbal and physical harassment and abuse of authority and has violated the rights of staff members, especially the right to effective remedy and due process. Specifically, she has exhibited improper and abusive behavior, unthinkable from a high-standing UN official, as manifested in the following incidents: Verbal and Physical Harassment.
According to the UNDP Guidelines on Harassment and Abuse of Authority, harassment is understood to be any improper and unwelcome conduct that has or might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Harassment may be present in the form of words, gestures, or actions which tend to annoy, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment to another or that causes an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Harassment normally implies a series of incidents. Most recently, she insulted and embarrassed staff in front of high ranking government officials, publicly berating them with rude language for supposedly not undertaking a task which she committed to the government without even consulting and formally informing the staff concerned.
Poked a staff member’s chest and forcefully slapped another’s back to emphasize a point because she is angry or frustrated. Rebuffed a staff who was so happy because Mrs. Noble already signed a contract (after several weeks of the document being with the latter). When the said staff slightly touched Mrs. Noble on the shoulder and quipped that it was finally over, Mrs. Noble physically shoved her hand away and responded in a loud voice, “What are you suggesting- that I’m pending documents in this office… “.
Meetings where she often raises her voice and nit-picks on managers and staff members, embarrassing and denigrating them unnecessarily. Several incidents of one-on-one meetings with staff where she raised her voice caused further intimidation and fear among them. High-handed behavior with staff members, treating them with not a bit of respect. In one incident, a staff witnessed Mrs. Noble’s ordering another staff to fetch a pen under her table, which she can very well do on her own. Several incidents with staff where she would nakedly point out their supposed rudeness in front of colleagues for not immediately greeting her good morning or good afternoon while she does not even observe it herself. In fact, she would rudely interrupt meetings of staff with the Deputy Resident Representative and not even apologize for the rude intrusion.
There was one incident where she was not satisfied with the workshop flow and accused the UN staff in-charge of the activity of sabotaging the Office, in front of everyone. Mrs. Noble questioned one staff for not immediately informing of her plans to go n a special leave without pay (SLWOP), and accused her of not being ransparent. When the staff attempted to explain that it was premature to advise he office of her plans at that time, she was told by Mrs. Noble that if this happened in another organization, she would have been kicked out immediately and would seriously damage her career.
As a result of this incident with the staff, Mrs. Noble called her supervisor and berated her regarding the kind of relationship with her staff, saying that as the supervisor, she should know in advance all of their individual plans, including personal. Several incidents where staff were too afraid to speak or question her decisions even if such will clearly compromise the organization for fear of retaliation. Whenever staff muster enough courage to speak their minds on certain issues which clearly contravene her own, she would intimidate these staff until they give up. By her actuations, Mrs.Noble always presumes herself to be correct and no one should, therefore, question her actions.
In one of the staff meeting, Mrs. Noble announced staff movements and claimed that she has informed the particular staff of his re-assignment to another unit, where he allegedly agreed on. The concerned staff responded that it was the first time that he has heard of the re-assignment. Often exhibiting unnecessary frustration, rage and intimidation if an outcome is not to her liking, accusing staff of perceived hidden motivation, imaginary errors and incomplete staff work. She often accuses staff of hiding things from her and not providing her enough information, no matter how many briefings, briefing papers and other information materials are provided her.
She does not listen to staff explanation and makes oft-repeated accusations which are baseless and untrue. One incident where she almost tore a letter apart when she erased her signature in front of a staff, implying that the staff was trying to trick her into signing that document. She also has the habit of throwing papers back to the persons submitting them, if she is not satisfied with such papers. Abuse of Authority. According to the UNDP Guidelines on Harassment and Abuse of Authority, abuse of authority implies the improper use of a position of influence, power, or authority by a staff member or non-staff personnel against another staff member or non-staff personnel or a group thereof.
This is particularly serious when a staff member or non-staff personnel uses his or her influence, power or authority to negatively influence the career or employment conditions (including, but not limited to, appointment, assignment, contract renewal, performance evaluation or promotion) of another staff member or non-staff personnel. It can include a one-time incident or a series of incidents. Abuse of authority may also consist of conduct that creates a hostile or offensive work environment, which includes, but is limited to, the use of intimidation, threats, blackmails or coercion. Recent arbitrary (and forcible) termination of two staff without due process.
Further, the manner in which she handed out the decision and her ensuing instructions for its implementation, such as the terminated staff’s leaving the UN premises immediately, packing their belongings and turn-over of keys and IDs within the hour) showed how little her respect is for common decency and dignity of a human person, treating them like common criminals. Staff members who witnessed these incidents were left in shock and fear. If these could happen to high-ranking national staff in the UNDP/UN, then it can very well happen to them, or even much worse. These incidents of arbitrary termination happened in a span of only two weeks.
Adding insult to injury, one of them was told not to contest the decision of his termination. If he did, then Mrs. Noble said that she will have to state a reason for the termination that will tarnish his record which, in effect, would deprive him of possible UN employment opportunities in the future.. Several verbal threats to staff that their contracts will not be renewed if targets are not achieved or performance is not acceptable to her. She even made a threat to withhold a staff member’s salary if performance is not up to her standards. In staff meetings, she often emphasized and justified her micro-management approach to her lack of trust in the unit mangers’ capacity and ability to perform their assigned tasks.
This led to several incidents where she arbitrarily decided on operational and programmatic issues, disregarding programme recommendations such as: which consultant contract gets signed, who gets to go on leave, etc. Her arbitrary decisions on programme management modalities and strategies led to delay in the implementation of projects, delivery of resources and much confusion on how programmes are to be managed and implemented by partners. One classic example is her arbitrary removal of Project Management Offices and the change of an Implementing Partner, without due process, rational basis and against the objections of her managers and staff.
Numerous delayed appointments, abrupt termination of contracts and refusal to sign contracts and documents, which affected much of the staff’s workload (which are already burdensome) and performance and delivery of programs and projects. At present, the RCA process (personnel evaluation) of some staff are being delayed for months when contract expiration is fast approaching. In a previous instance, this resulted in arbitrary termination of staff while his RCA rebuttal process was still in progress.
Unreasonable delay or non-approval of official travel and staff leaves (well within the delegated authority of managers) which caused non-participation in important meetings and conferences locally/abroad, loss of opportunities for learning and staff development, and unfulfilled monitoring obligations of UNDP to its donors.
There was an incident where one staff resigned due to the delayed approval of her one-month leave, which she filed two months earlier. She has worked for UNDP for eight years and never took any long-term leave except for that one instance and was let go just like that. Mrs. Noble’s impossible, whimsical requests and demands to be included in certain high-level meetings and conferences have led to incidents where staff had to push themselves to the limit to satisfy her.
There was an incident where a staff had to stay late at night for two days just to enable her to get into an event she, for some reason, craved to be in. When everything has been arranged, she decided last minute not to go anymore, without any explanation or apologies. Abolition of a very important Unit: the Programme Monitoring Unit and its staff (whom she unreasonably judged to be incompetent and ineffective) which led to the distribution of that Unit’s workload to already overloaded staff in the office.
More than 17 staff left during her term due to non-renewal of contracts, forced resignation and staff demoralization. Only a handful of staff are left and continue to leave due to the hostile working environment. Increased incidence of stress-related illnesses is prevalent among staff nowadays. Former staff and SSAs who left or resigned have been banned from visiting the CO or being hired again. In one incident, under instructions from Mrs. Noble, DRR Naka informed the former supervisor of one staff that resigned not to visit or show herself in the CO since this would upset Mrs. Noble. Further, one SSA’s contract has been terminated within 10 days without reason or explanation. A very grave infraction committed by Mrs. Noble was her incursion into staff privacy in communications. She had one of the staff member’s office cellphone seized, its contents downloaded, on mere unfounded accusation of a PMO staff that the staff member was spreading malicious messages about her.
Mrs. Noble made no amends nor even offered an apology even when the exercise did not yield information incriminating the staff whose cellphone was seized. We are also aware of Mrs. Noble’s retort that these allegations are mere complaints from “incompetent and non-performing staff”, as she would call those who would go against her whims and caprices.
This is totally untrue as shown in our previous performance appraisals for the last 5 years. Most of us have worked here for several years and this is the only time that we experienced such oppressiveness, callousness and total disregard of our rights and dignity especially coming from a high-ranking UN official.
These are but some of the incidents, showing without a doubt, the abusive character of Mrs. Noble. We have been forced to seek your help because, unfortunately, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and are afraid that this oppressive situation will continue. In order to prevent further verbal and physical harassment and abuse of authority, resulting in violations of UN rules and our rights as international civil servants, and in order to prevent further prejudice to the work of UNDP and the UN in relation to its partners, we ask that Mrs. Nileema Noble be immediately relieved as Resident Representative of UNDP and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines.
We also ask that disciplinary action be immediately commenced against Mrs. Noble for violation of UN regulations and our human rights as UN staff. We would like to serve notice that we reserve our right to seek recourse through other avenues for legitimate grievances. We hope that this plea will not be in vain.
Sincerely, Concerned UNDP Staff and other UN Staff Mary Gemme Montebon Jennifer Navarro Amelia D. Supetran Emmanuel E. Buendia Francisco G. Morito Imee F. Manal Clarissa Arida Roberto V. Carandang Anna L. Senga Frances M. Solinap (former UNDP Staff) Francis Gertrud R. Mercado (former UNDP Staff) Jay-Ann Arandia Elcid C. Pangilinan