Saturday, September 20, 2008


by Nicole Kurokawa - September 19, 2008

It’s widely acknowledged that the United Nations is not perfect. From the oil-for-food debacle to the pending Security Council membership of Libya in 2009, there are a few idiosyncracies (!) here and there that could make a casual observer a little… critical.

The latest scandal? A lack of transparency in the United Nations Development Program, an agency with a budget of $5 billion per year. An internal audit of the UNDP program in North Korea uncovered rampant waste, fraud, and abuse; it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that these problems might be repeated elsewhere. Presently, these internal audits are kept confidential even from the governing executive board, and efforts are underway to keep it that way.

In a statement by China and the G-77 to the UNDP in January:

the Group believes that UNDP and UNPFA should not disclose information contained in their internal audit reports, particularly country programme-related audit
reports, without the permission of the Executive Board. Such requests should
first be based on a justifiable need for disclosure and put to the Executive
Board for its consideration. There should also be means of insuring that the
requester of such confidential information can be held accountable.
At this point, the UN has punted on the transparency issue, lumping this into a larger ethics package. Meanwhile, political maneuvering has stalled the process further. The only reason this issue is even being discussed right now? If the U.S. State Dept determines the program isn’t sufficiently transparent, U.S. financial support will be cut back by congressional mandate.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think shrouding programs in secrecy looks a little dubious — especially coming from a body that claims to value the rule of law. And hiding behind procedural rules to avoid public accountability looks a lot like corruption and cowardice.

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