There's a story in the NRC today about Eveline Herfkens, the woman above, who I had never heard of before.
In short, she was asked to explain why she had received $7,000 per month, against U.N. rules, from the Dutch government for housing while she was a top official at the UNDP.
As part of my ongoing public service, here are some fragments in translation:
"Q: You were earning $160,000 after taxes. In addition (Dutch) Foreign Affairs subsidized your rent. How did that come about?
A: I went to the (Dutch) U.N. embassy and asked for help finding an apartment. I wanted three rooms, a hundred square meters (1000 square feet) and a balcony, otherwise you get claustrophobic in New York. And it had to be walking distance from the office, otherwise I'd lose time in the metro."
My first reaction was that the paper was playing 'gotcha.' The longer I read, the more I could see that this was not a case of misquotation, but the rare instance of a public figure speaking freely and honestly in a way that she would very likely later regret.
People are very sensitive to (the appearance) of what Shakespeare called "the insolence of office."
Herfkens applied for a U.S. green card, also in violation of UNDP rules.
"The UNDP said, what you're doing is illegal, you have to quit your current contract... Everyone wanted me to stay, so they looked for a different form of contract. I started working unpaid, what did I care? I was paid retroactively eight months later.
I did that because I'm needed for the campaign that I build up from nothing in five years. The campaign succeeded in getting tens of millions of people in more than a hundred countries in motion to demand their governments keep their promises to stamp out poverty in the Millenium Declaration."
A nice exchange:
Q: You didn't know that as a U.N. diplomat you weren't supposed to accept gifts, especially not from your home country?
A: Of course not. Who would ever think that the Dutch goverment would do something against the rules. The Netherlands is such an un-be-lieve-ably goodie two shoes country. Why, should I have checked?
Q: It's in the code of ethics given to every U.N. employee.
A: Is that in there?
A: I just wanted to get going. What was my budget? How did I get a secretary? A phone? Sorry, eh, I didn't have time for that kind of thing. I had a feeling of urgency to get my work off the ground."
In addition, she only flies business class:
"Of course I understand that some people think that's luxurious. Those are people who only fly for vacation. For me, there were practical reasons. If you fly economy class, you have to check in much earlier. I'm not going to waste any time on that...If I work fewer hours, if I'm less efficient because economy class is more tiring _ So I consider that too."