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UN: Search For Refugee Chief, Transparency Policy

Annan Launches Wide-Ranging Search For Refugee Chief In New Transparency Policy

A day after United Nations refugees chief Ruud Lubbers stood down amid controversy over alleged sexual impropriety, the world body today announced a far reaching search for a successor, contacting both governments and civil society groups as part of a new transparent approach to recruit the best people as agency heads.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is writing to Member States seeking names for a new High Commissioner for Refugees in addition to those emerging from his own consultations, and his Chef de Cabinet, Mark Malloch Brown, is sending a similar letter to major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in refugee issues, spokesman Fred Eckhard told a news briefing in New York.

"In the letter, the Secretary-General says that he can only be sure of finding the best person for one of the most important jobs in the UN system if the best qualified candidates come forward and are judged against transparent selection criteria," Mr. Eckhard added.

In outlining some of the necessary criteria, Mr. Annan says he wants someone with a thorough knowledge of refugee issues and of unimpeachable personal and professional integrity.

He or she must have proven skills in the management of a complex organization and, of course, be an unflinching champion of the cause of refugees, not only by providing for their relief but also by firmly upholding the international principles which entitle them to protection, Mr. Eckhard said.

Mr. Lubbers yesterday handed over temporary leadership responsibilities for the agency to Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin after Mr. Annan welcomed his resignation as being in the best interest of UNHCR, its staff and the refugees it serves.

Throughout the controversy, Mr. Lubbers vigorously denied the accusations, dismissing them as a campaign of slander. The charges came from a UNHCR staffer who said the 65-year-old former Dutch Prime Minister sexually harassed her during a meeting in December 2003. On Sunday, after Mr. Lubbers submitted his resignation, Mr. Annan said in a statement that while he had accepted legal advice that the original allegations could not be substantiated, "the continuing controversy has made the High Commissioner's position impossible."

The ninth head of the UNHCR since its establishment in 1951, Mr. Lubbers served since 1 January 2001, when he succeeded Sadako Ogata of Japan.

*The called upon the International Community to recognise*

the third anniversary of the Oslo-facilitated Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) and called upon the International Community to recognise the "prevalence of suffering of the Tamil people" and to address immediate measures to prevent "further neglect, deterioration, trauma and suffering under a callous state".

"During the three years of cease-fire, one could observe the failure of the political and military establishment of Sri Lanka to transform itself to a position of meeting the political aspirations of the Tamil people", the IFT release said.

"The refusal of the government to accommodate goodwill visits of foreign dignitaries to the Tsunami affected areas in the northeast, is a manifestation of the ill will and intent of the Sri Lankan state", said the IFT release adding that the Tamil people have not seen any substantial improvement in their war devasted life.

The federation said that the Tamil people have been denied their right to have a governing mechanism to initiate rehabilation, reconstruction and development programmes as promised. "They voted overwhelmingly for an interim administrative mechanism for rehabilitation and development activities at the April 2004 elections. But the Sri Lankan Government has refused to respect this mandate", it noted.

"The Sri Lankan establishment signed this CFA (feb.2002) due to pressure resulting from repeated failures in military operations and catastrophic devastation of the country’s economy. But, the absence of war for nearly three years has enabled the Sinhala forces to rebuild and look for alternatives other than peaceful means", it further noted.

"We call upon the international community to recognise the prevalence of suffering of the Tamil people and their desperation for normal life in their homeland and also the inability and unwillingness of the Government of Sri Lanka to meet the legitimate rights of the Tamil people", the IFT statement said. [TamilNet, February 22, 2005 ]

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