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Posted on on September 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

UN Has Over 1000 Staff and 16 Agencies in Syria, Selective Alphabet Soup

By Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press.

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 — Amid talk of missile strikes on Syria, the UN has bristled at questions about how many of its international staff are leaving the country.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that even after the chemical weapons team left, more than a thousand UN staff remained. He did not distinguish between national and international staff — a distinction the UN did make after the earthquake in Haiti.

Instead, after US President Barack Obama announced Saturday he will take his intention for military action on Syria to the US Congress, Nesirky’s office put out a list of the alphabet soup of 16 UN agencies in Syria:

World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), and Office of the Joint Special Representative (OJSR).

This list did not include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), though the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs did include IOM on its list of UN agencies, saying IOM is part of the “UN team.”

OCHA also produced a list of international NGOs active in Syria, but then declined to answer Inner City Press’ questions about threats by the rebel ISIS group made to NGOs in Jarabulus. So the UN speaks when it wants, for its own reasons.

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