Loyalty to Whom? Conflicting Loyalties of International Civil Servants

AHA Session 22
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh
The "Crisis of the Eighties" as an Indicator of Conflicting Loyalties in UNESCO
Meryll David-Ismail, Bilkent University and Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes
Poul Duedahl, Aalborg University

Session Abstract

Loyalty is a fundamental requirement for international civil servants working for United Nations agencies. At the moment of employment at UNESCO, for example, the newly recruited professional takes an oath by which he or she solemnly swears to follow instructions only from UNESCO and not from any national government or other authority. Historical experience, however, bears witness to a much more complex reality. In countries with very different political systems, ranging from the USA with its House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s to the Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War, expectations were often that any citizen, including those working for international organizations, had a duty to show national, and often also political, loyalty to the country of which he or she was a citizen.

The session will discuss multiple dimensions of this loyalty dilemma. Concrete cases are presented and discussed. One such case relates to seven US citizens who were dismissed from UNESCO upon request from the US government in spite of their fully satisfactory service for the organization. Another case concerns a senior international civil servant at UNESCO who was withheld by the authorities in his home country, Romania, in the 1970s, which led to a two year long battle between UNESCO and Romania. A third paper reveals a loyalty conflict between part of the staff of UNESCO and its Director-General in the 1980s. Finally, a study on the radical, activist right in the USA and how it encouraged "disloyalties" within the United Nations offers a different perspective for loyalty discussions in relation to UNESCO and the UN.

"Loyalty to whom?" and "loyalty to what?" were key questions at the heart of these conflicts. The papers presented at this session will show how the issue of conflicting loyalties touches at fundamental questions on the very essence, meaning and purpose of UN organizations, all the way from the world citizenship vision and dreams at the time of creation of the UN in 1945, over the tensions during colonization, decolonization and the Cold War, to the multi-stakeholder approach in today’s multipolar global communities.

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