Thursday, October 23, 2008

UNDP's Dervis Admits Paying Saakashvili Unwise, Dodges on Congo Security and Kosovo Fees

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 22 -- After the UN Development Program had defended paying salary to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili since Inner City Press exclusively reported on it, on Wednesday UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis belatedly acknowledged that payments to such high officials "raises questions" and "may not be desirable." 

  Under the rubric of UNDP's lack of impartiality, and as limited by UNDP to post-conflict situations, Inner City Press asked Dervis about the Georgia program, about UNDP paying or processing the salary of an ex-UN employee who now works for the Kosovo government, and about a judgment against UNDP in favor of the widow of a UNDP consultant sent without security to Eastern Congo and killed. On this last, Dervis read an apology from notes, whilemistakenly locating the murder, and UNDP's negligence, as having been in Kenya. Video here, from Minute 28:15.

   After Inner City Press had reported on UNDP's Georgia program, in which it funneled money from George Soros' Open Society Institute to President Saakashvili and his inner circle, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced the program as a "privatization of the UN." Wednesday Inner City Press asked Dervis to respond to the criticism. 

   While quickly saying, "I fully agree with the Russian foreign minister," Dervis did not step away from processing such money for OSI or other -- apparently any other -- private foundation. UNDP takes a fee in such deals, although in recently months UNDP's spokesman has repeatedly declined to provide information about the fees UNDP charges. Ironic in light of this stonewalling, Dervis three times said that programs like that in Georgia "must be transparent."

UNDP's Dervis on Oct. 22, 2008, Kosovo and security answers not shown

  Regarding the verdict against UNDP of 143,000 pounds, Dervis said that UNDP now has the ability, through the freedom of so-called ex gratia payments, to provide support in such circumstances. Given the now-admitted inadvisability of UNDP's program to pay Georgia's president, it is doubtful that giving UNDP less oversight in payments is advisable. But what Dervis did not address -- along with the Kosovo question, which he did not answer at all -- was the lack of security that UNDP provided to Joe Comerford when they sent him to the Congo, where he got killed. Click here for more on the case.

   This seems to be a pattern with UNDP, which was criticized in the UN's recent reports about the December 2007 bombing of UN premises in Algiers Yet Dervis has yet to take any questions on UNDP's actions before the Algiers bombing, and his spokesman declined to comment on or even confirm UNDP's vacature of its premises in Amman, Jordan, despite the UN's head of security confirming it to Inner City Press. Transparency, indeed...

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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