Foreign aid boss quits after criticism

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Poul Engberg-Pedersen, the head of Norway’s foreign aid agency Norad, is stepping down, a full year before his term was up. His tenure has been marked by internal unrest and charges that he bullied and harassed Norad employees.

Poul Engberg-Pedersen has agreed to leave Norad after many complaints over his leadership style. PHOTO: Norad

Engberg-Pedersen, a Danish expert on foreign aid, was recruited from the World Bank to the post in 2005 by the government minister in charge of Norwegian foreign aid at the time, Hilde Frafjord Johnson. His term was supposed to extend until 2011, but he announced last week he was leaving early.

Engberg-Pedersen said in a prepared statement that he had been hired “to develop Norad as a professional agency,” and felt he had succeeded at the task. “For the past five years we have contributed to a stronger focus on results and use of foreign aid as a strategic tool in development politics,” he said.

But he added that it was “always demanding” to be a top leader, and he had decided that “the time had come to think about the time after Norad.”

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that there was more behind his early departure than that. While some employees hailed his work to make sure foreign aid is used as well and efficiently as possible, others claimed Engberg-Pedersen could be insulting, offensive and was known for bullying co-workers.

Aftenposten was told he could erupt in fury, make employees cry and instill fear in many. State labour officials stepped in last year to monitor the situation, and filed a report confirming claims of harassment and a poor working climate.

In recent months, the labour officials were joined by one of the top bosses at the Foreign Ministry, Bjørn Grydeland, who had meetings with Engberg-Pedersen and employee representatives. Engberg-Pedersen finally agreed to quit, as of October 1.

Grydeland told Aftenposten that the search is already on for his replacement. Employees’ representative Brit Fisknes said they hope their new boss will “be someone who can nurture an open, secure atmosphere and have respect for the employees” in addition to being an expert on foreign aid.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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