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A Now-Retired UN Force Commander From Norway Double-Billed for Expenses

Kristin Lund, who, until her retirement in 2019, headed the UN mission in the Mideast for two years, based in Jerusalem. Before that, she was the first woman UN force commander, in Cyprus. Now she is accused of billing simultaneously for moving and other expenses from Norway and the world body. HELGE MIKALSEN/VG/NTB

Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund of Norway double-billed her government and the United Nations for moving expenses, according to a new report from The Norwegian Business Daily (Dagens Naeringsliv/DN). Lund was the first woman force commander for the UN, holding the post at its peacekeeping mission in Cyprus. That stint was followed by her heading the UN mission in the Mideast, based in Jerusalem. She retired in October 2019 and is back in Norway.

Norway is an elected member of the UN Security Council through 2022.

During four relocations, Lund, 62, was reportedly reimbursed by both the UN and Norway’s military. The UN is also investigating Lund for other matters, the DN article said, related to the UN mission in Israel, called Untso, or the UN Truce Supervision Organization.

The Norwegian Armed Forces said that it paid just under 170,000 krone (about $20,000) for moving military equipment and personal belongings of Lund. The amount included round-trip shipping to both Cyprus and Israel.

Lund, the article said, also received “relocation” money from the UN, which typically provides a grant for such situations, including every time a staffer has an assignment that lasts for more than a year. Lund confirmed to DN that she received such a payment from the UN four times, totaling $43,000. The Norwegian military said it was not aware of the payment from the UN when it reimbursed her for the same moves.

Lieut. Col. Vegar Norstad Finberg, from the Ministry of Defense, said to PassBlue, “Generally, if a third party covers expenses for personnel, the Norwegian Armed Forces will not cover expenses related to the same matter.” DN said the military was looking into the matter.

Lund is from a rich family, DN reported, with a taxable wealth of just under 137 million krone (about $16 million). The money comes from a family company, L.A. Lund, which for more than 100 years sold building materials. PassBlue was unable to contact Lund for a comment.

The news on Lund is the third recent public controversy for Norway in global affairs, as PassBlue reported on a prominent Norwegian diplomat, Terje Rod-Larsen, who with his wife, Mona Juul (now the country’s ambassador to the UN), were central negotiators to the 1993 Oslo peace accord between Israel and Palestine. He resigned his post as president of a New York-based think tank, the International Peace Institute, in October 2020, after admitting to having taken a personal loan from Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted pedophile (now deceased). The revelation about Rod-Larsen’s loan from Epstein was first reported by DN.

In February 2021, PassBlue, based on a DN article, reported that Tor Wennesland, the new UN envoy to the Mideast and a Norwegian diplomat, vouched in 2019 for Dan Gertler, the Israeli billionaire who is sanctioned by the US under the Magnitsky Act, in his role for the release of a Norwegian-British citizen sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As for Lund, she told DN that she followed general rules for seconding personnel — that is, when another organization makes personnel available. The newspaper also said that in an email response, Lund replied that the money from the UN was “given in connection with relocation, for example for force commanders.” DN asked the UN about the double payment but said it “only received a general statement about the relocation grant” from the UN, which noted it had “nothing further to add.”

Of the money she received from the world body, Lund is quoted by DN as saying: “This covers a lot. Most people choose to take the sum themselves and do the relocation work themselves, package, write manifestos, insurances etc. When you deploy as a boss, there is a lot to bring, flagpoles, flags, pictures, profiling articles, military equipment etc.”

The UN money is also for start-up costs, according to Lund, “of which there is a lot when you go to a leadership job at the UN.” A UN report on the expenses does not say anything about start-up costs, DN said.

Additionally, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said in an email to DN that the UN mission in Jerusalem “at one point received a complaint that led to an investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services,” or OIOS. “We are aware that, following the reception by UNTSO of a complaint of misconduct, the OIOS conducted an investigation into an allegation of misuse of UN resources and administrative failings by an UNTSO official,” he wrote.

The final report has been forwarded to the UN’s Human Resources office, “which will consider any further measures,” DN said. “The UN takes any allegation of misconduct by its personnel seriously,” Dujarric noted, adding that the report will not be made public.

The investigations into Untso regarding Lund have been continuing since 2020, and several employees at the UN base in Jerusalem have been interviewed. The investigators have also talked to Lund about her use of UN vehicles and personnel and other matters. DN described some details of an episode that have been reviewed by the UN’s investigation office, it said.

DN writes: “In February 2019, Lund and other military leaders were to travel to a conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. There was a plane scheduled, but the Norwegian Major General didn’t board it. Instead, she traveled with two armored vehicles and armed security guards. On the way, they passed the Katharina Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments according to the Old Testament. The area has for several years been affected by terrorist activity from IS, including an attack on the monastery in 2017.

“An internal UN program describes the purpose Lund and her entourage had at the monastery, before moving on to the conference.” Lund flew home again, while the cars had to be driven back, DN added, noting that the trip is more than 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles). Lund declined to comment to DN on the matter.

From 2017 to 2019, Lund headed Untso — the first woman to do so. The mission deploys military observers to the UN mission in Golan (Undof) and in southern Lebanon (Unifil). It also maintains liaison offices in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria; the Jerusalem base covers Jordan and Israel. Separately, several Untso civilian staff members were placed on administrative leave without pay during a UN investigation last year regarding a video that surfaced online showing people having sex in a UN-marked vehicle. That investigation is continuing.

As the first woman UN force commander, Lund was stationed at the mission in Cyprus, from 2014 to 2016, at a relatively low-key operation that involved supervising cease-fire lines and maintaining a buffer zone. That was set up after violence flared in 1974 between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island. Negotiations on the island’s future have risen and fallen over decades as the current demarcation remains the status quo. (A new mediation attempt by the UN is underway this week in Geneva.)

Lund had decades of military command and staff experience at national and international levels when she was assigned to Cyprus. As brigadier general, she served as deputy commander of the Norwegian Army from 2007 to 2009; that year, she became the first woman army officer to be promoted to the rank of major general and was appointed chief of staff of the Norwegian Home Guard, where she was the first woman to join as a youth.

Before Cyprus, her experience at the UN included service with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon and the UN Protection Force in Sarajevo and elsewhere in the Balkans. Lund worked in multinational operations as well, including deployment to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at NATO’s headquarters in Afghanistan. She graduated from the Norwegian Defense Command and Staff College, the Norwegian Defense University College and the US Army War College, where she earned a master’s degree in strategic studies.

In an interview with PassBlue in 2017, about encouraging women in Cyprus to be more involved in peace talks, Lund said: “As a woman, they [the people of Cyprus] trusted me and I trusted them. I reached out to the whole community. I created a network with female officers and noncommissioned officers from the UN and the ROC National Guard [Republic of Cyprus] and even brought the two first ladies [from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides] together to inspire the peace process and to encourage women to take a role in unification.”

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, she has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel and Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and back in New York at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

2 thoughts on “A Now-Retired UN Force Commander From Norway Double-Billed for Expenses”

  1. I find this article to be badly presented and one sided. Every time a s/m changes mission they are given a re-assignment GRANT, which is 30 days DSA (in Israel, for example, this would be around $6000). This pays for hotels etc until they can find more permanent accommodation. It is a lump sum and you can spend it or not as you choose. In addition the s/m is entitled to movement of PERSONAL possessions which the UN will arrange and pay for you or give you an agreed sum and do it yourself. There is a set limit of kilos but could amount to around $5,000. As she is both a staff member and a military contingent member, her MILITARY related possessions, weapons, flag pole!!!! etc. would fall under contingent owned equipment which is paid by the contingents government, not the UN, so there would be two claims. I think that before attacking one should have all the facts. What is clear is that women are much more likely to be attacked without basis than men. There is a great deal of resentment amongst the misogynistic male military that women are now being given such high levels and any dirt they can throw, true or not, is a feather in their caps. We should not add to this.

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