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UN's Habitat Engages with Angola Despite Evictions, UNICEF Irregularities and in Nairobi

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- Criticized for holding its World Habitat Day celebration this month in Angola, widely known for mass evictions, the UN housing agency responded by calling the site selection a case of "constructive engagement." Inner City Press had asked about the criticism back on October 6 , but was told by the UN Spokesperson that HABITAT director Anna Tibaijuka stood with Angola and had no comment on eviction.

Three weeks later, Inner City Press got a chance to ask Ms. Tibaijuka directly, and she produced a letter she wrote five days after the event, in which she said the eviction issues had been raised to president Dos Santos, but gentle. "It is the responsibility of the UN not just to condemn but to engage and encourage," she wrote. Click here for the letter. But when people are being evicted by police, condemnation might be the appropriate response for a UN housing agency.

Inner City Press asked ask Ms. Tibaijuka about financial irregularities with HABITAT and with the UN Office in Nairobi, which she heads. She said delayed physical inventories of HABITAT, as with Nairobi-based UNEP, are "now being established," and that the problems with construction in Nairobi are being addressed by the UN Department of Management, headed by Angela Kane. "I don't run from my responsibilities," Ms. Tibaijuka to her credit said. Video here , from Minute 22:53.



Ms. Tibaijuka and colleague on Monday, follow up on Zimbabwe not shown

The HABITAT briefing on Monday concerned the agency's "Harmonious Cities" report, which among other things ranks New York City as the ninth most unequal big city in the world. Inner City Press asked if HABITAT's way of measuring, comparing rich and poor people in a city, might not be ignoring the some of the worst-off cities, for example in the U.S. Detroit, Newark and Cleveland, have suffered such flight of the affluent that they look, in this methodology, to be paragons of equality. Ms. Tibaijuka conceded that things are relative, while her colleague Eduardo Lopez Moreno said that disparities could lead to riots.

Inner City Press asked Tibaijuka to comment on Zimbabwe, on which she reported in the past. Ms. Tibaijuka twice declined. Video here , from Minute 42:35.

Footnote: also on the topic of auditors' findings about UN funds and programs, still unaddressed by UNICEF is the finding that

"At UNICEF, the Board observed that some National Committees were retaining up to 100 per cent of the gross proceeds from the sale of greeting card products even though rule 9.04 of the special supplement to the UNICEF Financial Regulations and Rules states that they may be authorized to retain only up to 25 per cent of such sales. The Advisory Committee concurs with the Board that UNICEF should ensure that the 25 per cent retention limit is applied and that, if necessary, UNICEF should evaluate and formalize any exceptions to the rule." paragraph 42 from A/63/474...