U.N. responds: “Quite possible” that non-Palestinian situations are also used in job exams, but “quite impossible to find out which ones have been used when, or by whom, or for what specific purpose”
GENEVA, Dec. 10, 2013 – Today, as the UN celebrates the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch called on the world body to explain its use of what appears to be a political litmus test favoring pro-Palestinian job applicants. (See text of leaked UN exam below.)
According to a leaked document obtained exclusively by UN Watch, certain applicants seeking entry-level positions within the 1,000-strong U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) were required to complete a test that presumes unquestioned support for Palestinian claims of Israeli criminality.
The writing exercise focuses on accusations of Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians, specifically “the demolition of houses, water tanks and agricultural structures in the West Bank,” and obliges applicants to draft media talking points and to outline plans for a UN event to be held on the topic in tandem with a General Assembly session.
“The exam is problematic because it blatantly favors job applicants who support holding one-sided events about alleged Israeli violations while ignoring massive human rights abuses perpetrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.
“And because the exam obviously reflects the real-life working methods of the OHCHR, it also reveals a level of professional complicity in the bias of the UN’s political bodies that was not hitherto documented.”
UN Watch contacted the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to inquire if its applications also include writing exercises based on real-life country-specific human rights situations in China, Cuba, Congo (DRC), Egypt, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, or Zimbabwe. UN Watch also asked to see examples of further tests.
U.N Human Rights Office Responds
In response, OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville said it was “quite possible” that other countries have been used in tests — but that it was also “quite impossible to find out which ones have been used when, or by whom, or for what specific purpose, given that hundreds of such tests have taken place all across the world for a wide range of jobs on a wide range of issues and situations in the 20 years since OHCHR was created.”
While the OHCHR maintains that the tests “are of no importance per se, but only for what they reveal about a particular candidate’s capabilities,” UN Watch says this particular reveals a great deal about institutional bias at the UN.
“This is the office that helped produce the notoriously biased Goldstone Report, and now we know how they hire their staff,” said Neuer.
“The UN Charter requires that employment of staff be on the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. Choosing applicants based on a partisan political agenda is therefore completely illegal, and the UN must explain itself.”
OHCHR Employment Application Exercise
The Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Adequate Housing, on the Rights to Water and Sanitation and on the Right to Food have been sending allegation letters to Israel raising concerns about the demolition of houses, water tanks and agricultural structures in the West Bank throughout 2011. NGOs and UN actors are encouraging them to issue a press release on their concerns. At the same time, the Palestinian request for recognition of statehood is being discussed at the Security Council and General Assembly.
1. Please choose either exercise 1.a. or exercise 1.b. [maximum 700 words]:
1.a. Please draft a briefing note for the Chief of the Special
Procedures Branch, who would like to advise the three mandate holders
on the pros and cons of issuing such a press release and its timing.
1.b. Please draft speaking notes for one of the three mandate holders (your choice) to be used if a journalist wishes to follow up with a telephone interview.
2. Please draft a concept note (substance, format, possible participants and audience, steps needed, etc) for the organization of a side event on this topic, to be held during the presentation of special procedure reports to the General Assembly, which could be shared with States that may wish to sponsor such an event. [maximum 1,500 words]