Friday, June 29, 2007

Where is Melkert's UNDP headed?

The latest North Korean scandal of UNDP, which seemed to come out of nowhere, could become the scandal that would change everything in the United Nations life and its modus operandus.

A political powerful international development organization whose "business" is only vaguely understood even by its own competitors, its about to implode and fall from the pedestals.

The implications of the North Korea scandal, goes beyond the borders and UNDP operations in this "tough cookie" of the globe. The North Korea scandal is about to set off a cascading collapse in public confidence towards the United Nations as a whole and UNDP itself.

Soon this scandal would be only one of the first symptoms of a disease that have somehow swept undetected through all United Nations Agencies. But this scandal is only the beginning of multiple scandals, all interlinked in some mindless spree of human greed and corruption.

As donors and UN bureaucrats are trying to patch up the situation, terrified of where the next eruption might emerge, some 3 billions dollars spread in multiple saving/investment accounts of UNDP, are still earning millions in undeclared interest thanks to its "ability to disburse fast and deliver for the poor".

But North Korea scandal did not burst out, fully grown, from the United Nations landscape in a matter of days. Across the United Nations, wide spread "corner cutting", steadily falling internal control and ethics mechanisms, and compromised financial discipline has been festering for close a decade.

Warnings about funny numbers, about unrealistic objectives and expectations, about the coming pain of reality, went unheeded as donors and member states celebrated United Nations Agencies (like UNDP, etc) pursuing reckless or incomprehensible "development" strategies that helped their name, wealth and worthiness defy the laws of gravity.

The true story about the North Korea scandal is more complex, and certainly more disturbing. For corruption at UNDP - and, no doubt, there is corruption - is just one ingredient in the toxic stew that is poisoning the UN and its Agencies. Shocking incompetence, un-justified arrogance, compromised ethics, all playing decisive roles.

Ultimately, it is UNDP's tragedy to be filled with people smart enough to know how to maneuver around the rules, but not wise enough to understand why United Nations rules had been written in the first place by its Member States.

In the last two years of the developing of North Korean scandal no single person at UNDP management bore responsibility for the debacle; and no single person possibly could. Instead, the shortcomings of a handful of executives - along with a community of donors, "clients", and consultants eager to win the UNDP fees (of 600-700 USD per day), have merged all together to create an Agency who now is destined to fail. And fail BIG for a fairly simple reason: the UNDP is spending most of its money on lousy programmes and projects, with no oversight and controls. But for how long?

Does Mr. Melkert, its Operation Chief Officer understand the repercussions of the North Korea scandal ? Does Mr. Melkert understand that its UNDP is falling from grace?

Where are you leading UNDP Mr. Melkert - the public needs to know.

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