I believe it’s timely, with the recent announcement by AFICS/NY of its upcoming annual meeting, to renew the call for a boycott of FAFICS -- the Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants with 60 associations world-wide, the purported representative of UN retirees including on important matters such as pension.
See CISUA’s letter to the Secretary-General dated 21 February 2024 posted, below about the firing of four whistleblowers in the UN Pension Fund's Office of Investment Management, amid indications that more may be terminated, (quote): “We are also very concerned that the Organisation has failed to uphold Secretary-General Bulletin 2017/2/Rev.1 on Protection against retaliation for reporting misconduct and for cooperating with duly authorized audits or investigations [and] . . . that your actions, in firing so many OIM staff at once and in preventing staff from raising genuine concerns, creates an unacceptable risk to the management of Pension Fund assets.”
This is only the latest action in which the Pension Board and FAFICS are active participants -- not merely complicit -- in the secretive and repressive culture surrounding the Fund, and in enabling the Fund leadership to avoid accountability, retaliate against, and now fire whistleblowers.
Perhaps the FAFICS rallying cry many of its members are most familiar with is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (documented in its 2020 annual report)! -- while they risk breaking it by their own action and inaction.
Recall that in 2020, FAFICS led the charge (again, evident in its 2020 annual report) to dismiss and shelve the almost 200-page independent governance report by Mosaic Governance Advisors, that reportedly cost the Fund (us, the Fund owners) $200,000.
Mosaic compared the Fund with best practices among international public pension funds and found (quote) "insufficient clarity, transparency, and communication at all levels within the governance structure and with stakeholders (and) …rebuilding trust should be a priority”.
Let that sink in: ‘rebuilding trust’. Mosaic found a lack of trust surrounding the Fund, one of the most fundamental values that one would expect to be present in any pension fund.
Not surprisingly, Mosaic also found “confusion” about roles, mandates and the meaning of fiduciary responsibility among Board members. Overall, and using diplomatic language, it found “significant variance” between Fund governance and best practices in the industry, and included “appropriate fiduciary training” for its members (II.I.B) among its many recommendations for aligning the Fund with industry standards.
Recall that AFICS/NY revealed its anti-transparency antics as far back as 2016 when it notoriously and secretly wrote to OIOS discouraging an audit of benefits payments during a period when the Fund was experiencing unprecedented delays by which some Fund members were waiting up to two years for their pension payments.
FAFICS has never relented in its tactics, and was part of the effort of the Pension Board to adopt onerous “confidentiality” requirements to use as a cudgel to quash dissent.
In July 2022, facing a threat of expulsion from the board, CCISUA (the authors of this recent letter) chose to withdraw from that year's session of the Pension Board, as, it said, it “does not believe that a culture of secrecy contributes to the effective governance of an $80 billion public pension fund…”
Make no mistake: it's not only about retiree interests. The actions of the purported UN retiree representative organization impacts ALL Fund members -- active and retired UN staff. FAFICS has non-voting status but punches far above its weight on pension matters.
FAFICS makes periodic cosmetic changes in its leadership. But the culture remains closed and autocratic. And no matter who’s publicly “leading”, the same AFICS/NY emerati-for-life continue to hold leadership positions and pull the strings from behind the curtain, while also occupying key seats on Pension Fund committees.
I understand that the AFICS/NY boycott that I called for some years ago may have had more of an impact than I expected. AFICS/NY leaders have managed to get donations from the UNFCU to make up for a gap in member donations. (I hope UNFCU leaders will read this post).
I’m now calling again for UN retirees worldwide, retired or about to retire, to withhold payment of dues or decline to join FAFICS-- all its associations -- or attend meetings and events, until the FAFICS leadership commits to real organizational change concerning its responsibility to its constituents including in transparency, communication, and most important, responsible Fund oversight as members of the Pension Board.
UN retirees and staff must actively demonstrate our support for CCISUA's efforts. We cannot in good conscience stand by idly while UN staff union leaders are divided and co-opted, and whistleblowers in the UN Pension Fund are fired for voicing their concerns.
Often the only way for those responsible to get the message is through their dwindling coffers. The fate of those fighting for our common interests, and the sustainability of our Fund, are at stake.