United Nations’ first tech envoy departs amid workplace harassment probe

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A former ally of UN Secretary-General António Guterres will not remain the world organization’s first technology envoy after months of investigating allegations of workplace misconduct, according to people familiar with the matter.

POLITICO reported in May that Chilean diplomat Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond – who was appointed UN Envoy for Technology in January – was the subject of an investigation into discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of office by current and former employees.

While the UN did not release the results of the investigation, two people directly informed of the tech envoy’s position said that Hochschild would lose the title. “What is clear is that he will not continue,” said an EU official with first-hand knowledge. The application process for the new tech ambassador to the United Nations will be resumed “immediately,” added the person who wanted to speak on condition of anonymity to discuss the diplomatic exchange.

The end of Hochschild’s short-lived tenure as UN Technology Envoy crowns a saga that surfaced on Guterres as he sought a new term as Secretary-General and delayed the panel’s attempts to become an international voice on technology.

As the United Nations searches for a replacement for Hochschild, the bullying investigation also complicates efforts to raise funds for his position that need funding from outside contributors, including possibly the European Union.

Hochschild, a Chilean diplomat, was Guterres’ first choice for the newly created role of tech envoy. While Guterres said earlier this year he was unaware of the timing of his appointment for harassment claims, POLITICO coverage showed that Guterres’ head of cabinet had replied to emails regarding the complaints a month before his appointment.

Hochschild was given a leave of absence five days after his appointment amid allegations, but continued to draw his salary of more than $ 200,000 a year during his leave of absence. Hochschild and the UN declined to comment on the investigation and Hochschild’s future role in the organization.

“The accountability process is ongoing. In view of the confidentiality requirements, no further information about the process may be provided, ”said a UN spokesman.

EU flexes its muscles

As the United Nations seeks a replacement for Hochschild, it needs to take into account outside views about the type of profile required – particularly from countries and organizations involved in funding the position.

None is bigger than the European Union, which is seen as a major source of potential money.

At the end of September, Guterres received input from Margrethe Vestager, the digital tsarina of the EU, during a 20-minute and finally one-hour meeting in New York City.

According to a reading of the meeting, which was made available to EU countries and viewed by POLITICO, Guterres submitted – unsolicited – “plans to open a call for tenders for the position of UN Tech Envoy (TE) towards the end of the year”.

The Envoy for New Technologies should be “both a scientist and a politician” who “is able to lead a global discussion that focuses on inclusivity and connectivity; a regulatory framework; Online Safety; and boundary problems (like AI) ”, Guterres is supposed to have said.

In response, Vestager stressed the importance of choosing someone with the right profile to be the next technology ambassador and stressed that EU funding for the role depends on the person’s profile and mandate, the readings read.

The Portuguese Guterres described the EU’s vision for technology as “by far the closest to the vision of the United Nations”.

Find that

He advocates the EU’s technology vision as the United Nations tries to raise funds for this job.

A second round of fundraising proves difficult amid media scrutiny of the tech ambassador’s role, and little progress has been made in nearly a year, worrying other donors who wonder if they will ever get a return on their investment said a European diplomat.

“Significant” EU funding would require “the big picture, the person, the mandate, the plan to be something we can identify with,” said an EU official.

In Hochschild’s absence, the Tech Ambassador’s office was headed by Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, an Italian who is currently Deputy Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. on social media, Hochschild is still listed as a technology ambassador.

In an interview with Guterres, Vestager emphasized that, unlike the last time, the process must be transparent and the candidate must have the right profile.

The candidates nominated by the EU countries include the former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Finnish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and the Dutch politician Marietje Schaake, who is currently international policy director at the Cyber ​​Policy Center in Stanford.

“If [Guterres] wants this to be someone who can really push what the UN wants, he has to have someone with visibility, knowledge and willingness to endure the heat, “the EU official said.

A United Nations spokesman declined to provide information on the application process for the new technology envoy, but said the office would continue to be funded by “extrabudgetary funds” such as donations from member countries.

In addition to the EU, Guterres courted other donors such as Switzerland. The Swiss, who had also proposed a candidate for the role of tech ambassador, insisted on filling the position in Geneva.

“The Secretary General is aware of the need to put digitization much higher on the agenda, but also knows that digitization is the new way of talking about human rights and is more concrete than decisions,” said the EU official.

Closing the technology officer’s office would be a major blow to Guterres, who personally helped create the role.

“If the envoy’s office was to close, it would be because the general secretary had decided to appoint Hochschild. It would be a big flop and a loss of authority for the Secretary General, ”said the European diplomat.

This article is part of POLITICSPremium Tech Police Coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools enable you to seamlessly seek, track and understand the developments and stakeholders that shape EU technology policy and make decisions that affect your industry. E-mail [email protected] with the code ‘TECH’ for a free trial.


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