Escritório Regional da FAO para a América Latina e o Caribe

Q&A on the case of FAO’s appointment of Nadine Heredia Alarcón as Director of the agency’s Liaison Office in Geneva.

The appointment process was transparent and followed FAO’s ordinary procedure.

How was Ms.Heredia recruited for the post?

The appointment process was transparent and followed FAO’s ordinary procedure. Ms. Heredia applied for a Director Vacancy Post at FAO and filed a standard application. At the time she was First Lady of Peru.  She was among a number of candidates interviewed by a panel made up of senior FAO officers as well as by an independent external company. Candidates that the panel endorsed, including her, were placed on a roster comprising individuals deemed eligible for Director-level positions 

That short-list was then presented to FAO’s Director-General who chose several candidates for positions that needed to be filled. Ms. Heredia was offered the possibility to take up the Director’s post at the Geneva office.  This was after an assessment of her management skills by the independent company, which assists FAO and other United Nations agencies and which works routinely for FAO. She accepted the position.

This comprehensive report assesses in detail the candidate’s strengths and gaps in relation to each competency. She was found excellent for strategic vision, capacity on communication and for capacity to promote ideas and positions to others.

Her qualifications and experience, and her past association with the work of FAO, including her outstanding advocacy skills in favour of some United Nations and FAO initiatives such as the International Year of Quinoa and the International Year of Family Farming, impressed all those involved in the selection process.    

Don’t the emails between Ms. Heredia and FAO’s Director-General suggest she was on a privileged track?

No. If they demonstrate anything it is exactly the opposite.

There was no irregularity at all. It is quite normal for an interested party to ask FAO staff members (in this case the DG) about availability of jobs and selection procedures at FAO. The Director-General informed her that to pursue one she would have to file an application via the standard competitive procedure open to all and available on-line.   

The exchange of mails demonstrate in fact that all relevant procedures were observed.  The messages, issued by the highest authority of FAO, confirm that there was no privileged treatment, and that there was a need to ascertain that the candidate knew, in addition to Spanish, two other languages. There was also a need to review her academic qualifications. As mentioned above an independent company which works for organizations in the United Nations system assessed the candidates’ managerial capacity.  For obvious reasons, these assessments are confidential.  The status of the candidate did not confer upon here any privileged treatment.

The Organization views with utmost concern a situation where exchanges of private mails are made public without the consent of the parties.

Does she have the requisite qualifications for the job?

Yes. Her application profile met the professional requirements as assessed by the official panel who interviewed her. FAO also verified her academic credentials, a standard procedure for all applicants.  

How can FAO appoint a person involved in judicial proceedings in their home country?  

It is essential to underline, in very clear terms, that Ms Heredia is only the subject of an investigation.  No formal charges have been brought against her and a fortiori she has not been convicted by any court of law.  FAO can only assume that the fundamental, basic principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise is universally respected, as it is not possible for the Organization to base its workings and its operation on a different assumption.

Ms Heredia is simply under investigation. Peru’s legal system, like that of Italy for example, requires that an investigating magistrate – in the case of Peru the Primer Juzgado de Investigación Preparatoria Nacional – inform citizens at an early stage of the fact that a judicial probe is underway that may affect them. This is her status at the current time.

There is no indictment, and the Primer Juzgado is not the magistrate that will preside over any eventual trial proceedings.

Ms Heredia did inform FAO of the situation.  And FAO examined the matter closely as part of a due diligence review process. 

From 16 October, i.e. more than one month ago, a prohibition to leave the country expired and there were no restrictions on Ms Heredia’s ability to travel.  Ms Heredia is still required to report for measures of control at regular intervals in Peru. Moreover, Ms Heredia did inform the Magistrate of her plans and of her travel.

Is FAO granting Ms. Heredia diplomatic immunity?

Ms Heredia has the same diplomatic status of senior officials in the United Nations system, of which FAO is a part.

FAO is fully aware that privileges and immunities are accorded to officials not for their personal benefit, but in order to safeguard the independent exercise of their functions in connection with the organizations of the United Nations System, as well as the independent nature and status of the organizations. FAO has always taken the necessary measures to prevent any abuse of immunities.  

FAO will continue to monitor all relevant developments as it has done up to now.

In any case FAO clearly and emphatically states that the Organization will never allow any staff member to use the privileges attached to their posts to cover any illicit activity.