Sunday, November 30, 2008

UNDP's Agostino Zacharias: -"Mugabe is a brand name and he should be protected.."

HARARE – United Nations resident representative to Zimbabwe Agostinho Zacharias has said the country could become a failed state in the mould of anarchic Somalia if current efforts to create a power-sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition flop.

Zacharias told a delegation of prominent figures led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that visited southern Africa a week ago to assess Zimbabwe’s escalating humanitarian crisis that Mugabe was interested in protecting his legacy and that of his ruling ZANU PF party.

He said power-sharing talks between ZANU PF and the opposition had not fully addressed the issue of what would happen to Mugabe and his lieutenants should they agree to give up power, hinting this was one issue also blocking quick resolution of Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

"When asked by Mr Annan what would be the future of Zimbabwe were no political agreement reached, Mr Zacharias replied that it would become a "Somalia", a failed state," Annan’s delegation said in a report made available to ZimOnline Sunday.

Annan, former US President Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, who are part of a group of prominent figures and former statesmen called The Elders, had planned to visit Zimbabwe from November 21 to 22 but were refused entry.

The Elders however proceeded to make an assessment of the country’s humanitarian crisis from Johannesburg, using information gathered during several meetings with representatives of regional governments, political leaders, aid agencies, business and civil society representatives from Zimbabwe.

Zacharias spoke to the Elders delegation during a meeting also attended by World Food Programme representative Alberto Mendes, acting UNICEF representative Roeland Monasch and the International Organisation for Migration’s Marcelo Pisani.

"When asked what President Mugabe wants, Mr Zacharias explained that his interest is that of protecting his legacy and that of his political party. At one point negotiators had proposed that he be appointed the founding President of Zimbabwe to protect him from prosecution, and that he enjoy this status of life," the Elders’ report said.

The report said Machel inquired whether there was more at stake than simply trying to ensure Mugabe's immunity from prosecution for human rights abuses and other wrongs committed during his nearly three decades in power.

"Mr Zacharias concurred that President Mugabe is a brand name, but that there are many others behind him who must also be protected,” the report said.

It said it was generally agreed that many ZANU PF leaders fear being prosecuted for past wrongdoings and that this "issue has not yet been fully addressed in power sharing talks”.

Annan’s group said that while it was desirable that Mugabe – whose controversial policies are blamed for ruining once prosperous Zimbabwe – steps down from power, his exit would have to be managed carefully or it could create a “power vacuum that would cause worse violence".

Zimbabwe’s rival political parties last Thursday signed a draft constitutional bill that – once passed by Parliament – will allow Mugabe to form a new unity government outlined under a September 15 power-sharing deal.

However a unity government is unlikely to be established anytime soon because of a variety of other issues that the main opposition MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai wants resolved before it can agree to join the government.

Tsvangirai’s party, which holds the most seats in Parliament and could very easily block passage of the constitutional amendment, wants further discussions on the sharing of key ministerial posts, distribution of gubernatorial posts, ambassadorships and other top government posts.

Analysts say a unity government would be best placed to tackle a severe economic crisis ravaging Zimbabwe and seen in the world’s highest inflation rate of 231 million percent, acute shortages of food and basic commodities. – ZimOnline

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Doha, UNDP Elusive while UN's Ban Praises Turner While Zoellick Is Absent

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 28 -- Kicking off a meeting in Doha which both the World Bank and IMF chiefs have decided to skip, the UN's Ban Ki-moon said that while Ted Turner has lost ten of his two billion dollars in assets to the vicissitudes of the stock market, he has still given $1 billion to "the UN Fund," as Ban called the Turner-launched UN Foundation. Ban asked, why can't countries be that way? One answer is that countries that have electorates cannot just decide off-the-cuff like Ted Turner. It is one of the jobs of the UN and its Secretary-General to convince global electorates to be more giving. Whether this one is up to the task remains to be seen.

   At Ban's press conference in Doha, his spokesperson Michele Montas told assembled journalists that only three questions would be allowed. The first not surprisingly given the venue was in Arabic, but there was a problem with translation. And so television coverage turned away.

  Traveling with some fanfare to the Doha meeting is Zimbabwe's embattled Robert Mugabe. While sanctions against his government continue to tighten, he managed to capture financing from the UN system, by until two weeks ago requiring that aid funds be converted at rates set by his Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe - click here for Inner City Press' exclusive story of November 27, since picked up inZimbabwe press.

   There is also the question of how development aid is spent. Earlier this month, faced with a controversy of the use of Spain's international cooperation budget to build a $25 million ceiling at the UN in Geneva, Ban did not mention the issue while speaking under the dome; his spokespeople dodged the issue four days in a row. In a time of dwindling aid budgets, the UN should be willing to speak, and even clean up its own house, on these issues.

Qatar's Emir, UN's Ban and plant, Mugabe funding and Zoellick not shown

   On the eve of these much-hyped Doha talks on financing and development,  Ban's office issued a statement to demonstrate his seriousness. But, some wondered, why couldn't he have even gotten World Bank president Robert Zoellick to attend? On November 26 at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas if Zoellick's non-attendance was not in fact a snub. She answered by reading out loud an obviously prepared statement:

Inner City Press:  reported the failure of the head of, particularly the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, to go to the Doha talks has been described as a snub of Ban Ki-moon.  Does he view it that way, has he spoke to Mr. Zoellick about it, does he view it as a good sign that the head of, neither the IMF either will go to the Doha talks?  What's his response to that?

Spokesperson Montas:  Well he spoke to both of them and he’s encouraged by the fact that there is a 25 strong delegation, 25-member strong delegation of the World Bank going over there, and from what I gather, the Bank delegation will be lead by Chinese national Justin Lin, who is Senior Vice President and Senior Economist of the World Bank, and he will represent Mr. Zoellick. The SG did discuss the participation of Mr. Zoellick when he met him at the G-20 meeting in Washington, but there were enforcing circumstances requiring Mr. Zoellick to stay right there in Washington, so we certainly welcome the World Bank’s critical participation in the Doha conference.

As you know developing nations have a very high expectations for the World Bank, particularly at this time of crisis, and we must all work together, the UN, the World Bank, IMF, the community of nations and … what is important in that meeting in Doha is that the voice of developing countries be heard.  There are number of side events that have been organized, one by the World Bank, one by the Financing, the Innovative Financing for Developing Mechanism, so what is important is that we get results in Doha.  And the participation of the World Bank is crucial.  It is very important.

  So why didn't Zoellick go?

Footnote: the UN Development Program also got in on the action, with UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis vying for face-time on Al Jazeera English. Back in New York on November 26, UNDP lured reporters with the promise of economist Joseph Stiglitz. Then they disclosed that Stiglitz would not come, but rather a trio of Latin American finance minister. Inner City Press nevertheless went to the briefing, in a small room on the 22nd story of UNDP's tower.

  The chief and deputy chief of UNDP's Latin America division spoke, in Spanish, as did the First Lady of Guatemala and the finance ministers of Honduras, Ecuador and Costa Rica. The latter bragged about his country's trade talks with China, without mentioning any connection to the nation's switch from Taiwan to mainland China. There was no mention at the briefing of what UNDP actually does in Latin American countries, which includes accepting government funds in order to hire people in the same countries, to get around hiring and even anti-corruption and nepotism rules. Road to Doha indeed...

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

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.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Friday, November 28, 2008

World Bank and IMF worried of another "NETAID fiasco" in the making in DOHA

The chief executive officers of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two financial institutions based in Washington, have decided to skip the U.N. conference on Financing for Development (FfD), scheduled to take place in the Qatari capital Doha over this weekend. World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn have both opted to skip the U.N. conference, even though Ban Ki-Moon and Kemal Dervis worked "extremely hard" to upgrade it to a summit meeting.

Sources close to WB and IMF quote the fear of the event being stolen and mismanaged from UNDP and the newly appointed Executive Secretary of UNCDF - David Morrison - to another soap-opera like NETAID.

"They are not coming," Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the 192-member General Assembly, told reporters Tuesday.

As usual whenever someone has the courage to afront the corruption inside the UN and disagree with UNDP and its leadership, they are immediately identified as being "pro" US. Without identifying the United States by name, d'Escoto Brockmann said the two Bretton Woods institutions "are controlled by a member of the United Nations who is anti-United Nations."

D'Escoto told reporters that he was asked whether he received a notification about the absence of the two officials from Doha.

"They wrote to the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon)," he said, "But they didn't write to me."

Referring to Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn, D'Escoto said: "Of course, they will not tell me that I don't exist. It is not that I do not exist. It is the General Assembly [of 192 members] that does not exist" [in their eyes]," he added.

At international conferences, it's the elected president of the General Assembly who is given a higher diplomatic status, protocol-wise, than the secretary-general, according to one U.N. official.

The president of the Assembly is also ranked with heads of state and heads of government, while the secretary-general has the status of a foreign minister. The president, not the secretary-general, represents the U.N.'s 192 member states.

Asked why Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn were not attending the Doha summit, the executive secretary of FfD, Oscar de Rojas, said the IMF managing director had cited "pressing work-related reasons in a personal letter to the secretary-general".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Amnesia, Followed By Near-Total Recall

Amnesia, Followed By Near-Total Recall
Claudia Rosett 11.27.08, 12:00 AM ET

Blowing the whistle on the U.N.--10 years too late.

It's now more than six years since I first labeled a file "Oil-for-Food" and began reporting on the former relief program for Iraq that has since become shorthand for United Nations corruption.

In all that time, one of the greatest frustrations has been the shroud of secrecy, evasions and lies with which the UN to this day has veiled not only its handling of Oil-for-Food, but the long series of scandals that have continued to brew in its diplomatically immune depths.

For outsiders, one of the biggest obstacles to uncovering the truth about the UN is the sheer tedium of its procedures and lingo. Waste, fraud and abuse--when disclosed at all--tend to come wrapped in generic labels, referring in many cases to unnamed officials, with the shockers often embedded deep in lengthy, bloodless reports. Investigations too often devolve into drawn-out coverups, while UN officials look for ways to contain not the harm to the public, but the damage to the UN's reputation.

Even in the reports of the supposedly tell-all 2004-2005 UN-authorized inquiry into Oil-for-Food, led by Paul Volcker, it is hard in many places to draw a line between exposé and coverup. One of my favorite examples is Volcker's first interim report, released in February 2005, in which his committee described disturbing behavior by the person who was then deputy secretary general, Louise Frechette, referring to her 12 times without once mentioning her name.

When Volcker finished his inquiry, instead of heeding congressional urgings to release the underlying evidence, he turned the archive over to the black hole of the UN's own legal department. This not only ensured that many lingering questions would remain unanswered; it obscured the matter of whether they had ever been asked in the first place.

So, it was with great interest that this week I picked up a new book on the UN, Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy by Michael Soussan. Framed as a coming-of-age story, this is an insider memoir by a former UN staffer turned whistle-blower.

Born in Denmark and schooled in France and the U.S., Soussan went to work for Oil-for-Food in 1997, arriving as a wide-eyed young man with a desire to "make a difference." In 2000, about halfway through the 1996-2003 program, he resigned in disgust. Four years later, when scandal erupted over the program, he began to speak up.

Soussan spent much of his time at Oil-for-Food at the right hand of the program's executive director Benon Sevan, an Armenian Cypriot whose Byzantine management style earned him the in-house nickname of "Pasha." This was a prime perch from which to observe the UN's inner workings.

Soussan writes with a crisp sense of the absurd, lampooning a long list of characters and UN practices. For those who would see no evil in the UN, there is plenty here to illuminate its internal contradictions, endless infighting and the self-serving ethos of its ever-expanding operations. There are anecdotes here that ought to warn off any U.S. administration from placing any serious trust in this institution.

But it was with a certain disquiet that I reached the end of this 332-page book. To get to the real news, you have to turn to page 295. That's where Soussan discloses, 10 years after the fact, that he was present at the moment when the alleged deal went down between the Iraqis and Sevan for the Oil-for-Food director to start receiving payoffs from the government of Baghdad. (Sevan, who has been living for more than three years beyond reach of U.S. extradition on Cyprus, says he is innocent of all wrong-doing.)

In considerable detail, Soussan now recounts the scene (1998, at a lavish lunch hosted by an Iraqi official at the Baghdad Hunting Club) complete with quotes, the fish and salad on the menu, and the bistro attire of the waiters. Hit with indigestion, Soussan was making trips to and from the men's room and did not hear the full conversation between the official and Sevan. But he heard enough, both at the table and on the way back out to the car, to reconstruct a fair chunk of the exchange, including Sevan's inquiry about how to procure Iraqi oil contracts for a friend.

He quotes the Iraqi official inquiring "What is your ... friend's name?" He describes Sevan's mumbled response, and the Iraqi's reply: "Tell your friend to contact us again." He describes the doubts voiced immediately afterward by a UN colleague who was also present and remarked in an aside to Soussan, "This is not the proper way to conduct official business."

But despite his self-appointed role as whistle-blower during the investigations in 2004 and 2005 into Oil-for-Food, during interviews with the UN-authorized Volcker inquiry and with federal prosecutors, that conversation apparently slipped Soussan's mind so thoroughly that he says he never mentioned any of this dialogue. By his account, it was not until Volcker in August 2005 produced a report alleging corrupt behavior by Sevan that a light bulb went on, and he realized what he had heard. By that time, Sevan, after almost a year of lingering in New York to "assist" in the investigations, had quietly skipped town.

In his book, Soussan muses: "Had I connected the dots earlier and talked to the authorities about Pasha's efforts to introduce his 'friend' the oil trader to the Iraqi government during our lunch at the Baghdad Hunting Club back in 1998, it is possible that the District Attorney's office might have moved against him much faster and arrested him while he was still in New York."

Soussan rationalizes this missed opportunity by suggesting that had Sevan been found guilty early on the investigations might have stopped there. "Chances are we never would have found out about the true extent of the corruption that plagued our international system."

Come again? Actually, had Sevan been arrested and persuaded to turn government witness, he might have shed a great deal more light on figures inside the UN; in the end, not a single employee was fired and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan by 2006 was dismissing the biggest fraud ever exposed at the UN in terms such as "If there was a scandal... ."

Granted, the mind plays tricks, and Soussan deserves congratulations for deciding to speak up at all. But it's hard to believe that in the thick of the investigations, while testifying to Congress and writing articles about the program, he had no clue what he'd witnessed.

On March 11, 2004, just three days after Soussan published an article in The Wall Street Journal describing Oil-for-Food as corrupt, former Journal staffer Therese Raphael wrote a long and detailed article (to which Soussan makes no reference) describing documentation found in Baghdad pointing to alleged oil payoffs to Sevan. Over the following year, as investigations went on, there was enormous coverage available to anyone following the story--which Soussan certainly was--on how the graft worked, including further allegations about Sevan.

Nor does it seem that the questions put to Soussan by investigators were overly subtle. He recounts that "After one interview in which I refused to speculate about Pasha's guilt, an assistant DA asked me point-blank whether I was protecting Pasha out of a sense of loyalty."

In the end, to this welter of amnesia followed by near-total recall, Soussan adds that he was relieved not to have had to testify against Sevan, glad that this man "who had taken me under his wing when I was an absolute beginner in the world of international diplomacy would be spared the prospect of spending his retirement years in jail."

On a further upbeat note, Soussan concludes that the Oil-for-Food scandal kicked off a new era of radical reform at the UN--one in which he himself sounds ready to re-enlist if called upon (which is what he tried to do between resigning in 2000 and turning whistle-blower in 2004). He claims that "UN whistle-blowers were offered new protection. A steady progression toward greater transparency was in motion, and to the best of my ability I would contribute to this process in the future."

In truth, the Oil-for-Food scandal sparked a huge debate at the time and may have served some purpose in alerting American taxpayers to the corrupt nature of the UN, which their dollars so substantially support. But of genuine reform, there has been almost nothing.

Promises of transparency faded into policies of "financial disclosure" that require no public disclosure at all. The ever-expanding budget remains an opaque and largely unaccountable morass. UN internal audits are now at least made available to the public by the U.S. Mission, but even when they expose wrong-doing, few seem to notice. and almost nothing gets done.

An Ethics Office set up to protect whistle-blowers has proved toothless, as illustrated by the firing and subsequent mauling of whistle-blower Tony Shkurtaj, who called attention to the "Cash-for-Kim" abuses in the UN Development Program's North Korea office. The vaunted reform of the Geneva-based, depraved UN Human Rights Commission into the new Human Rights Council has offered no improvement--unless one counts the $23 million new ceiling recently installed, courtesy of Spanish taxpayers, in its meeting chamber.

Soussan's tale is a complex and interesting one, and I thank him for two kind references in the book to my own reporting. But to frame Oil-for-Food as a coming-of-age story, either for the author of this book or--more important--for the UN itself, is dangerously misleading.

Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for

Ad Melkert roept op tot 'change'

Geplaatst: 08 november 2008 06:00, laatste wijziging: 08 november 2008 09:57

door onze redacteur Aldwin Geluk

BREDA - De wereld is de afgelopen decennia alleen maar welvarender geworden, maar de allerarmsten hebben daar niet van meegeprofiteerd. In een bevlogen toespraak met hier en daar Obama-achtige elementen riep Ad Melkert gisteren in Breda op tot verandering. ,,Vroeg of laat veranderen ongecontroleerde markten in ongetemde beesten.''

Misschien is het de locatie die ertoe uitnodigt, maar hij klinkt als een dominee. In zijn aanloop soms een beetje saai, maar uitmondend in profetisch klinkende voorspellingen, zijn toehoorders confronterend met hun zondige daden en hun toch een mooie toekomst schetsend. Mits zij bereid zijn daar zelf aan te werken.

Ad Melkert, oud-bewindvoerder bij de Wereldbank en tweede man van de UNDP, de onwikkelingsorganisatie van de Verenigde Naties, houdt in de Grote Kerk Breda de Multatulilezing, die elk jaar ingaat op de verschillen tussen culturen.

De voormalige PvdA-politicus schetst hoe de afgelopen kwarteeuw de wereldeconomie groeide als nooit tevoren. Hoe er meer rijken bij kwamen en zij steeds rijker werden, maar hoe tegelijkertijd de armen even arm bleven, en de kloof alleen maar groter werd.

Het is een opmerkelijke analyse uit de mond van een voormalig bewindvoerder bij de Wereldbank, een van de instituten die ontwikkelingslanden juist jarenlang voorhield hun markten open te stellen en mee te gaan in de globalisering.

,,Onder de 'bubble' van ongeremd financieel kapitalisme is in de afgelopen 25 jaar de afstand tussen de 'haves' en 'have nots' (zij die hebben en zij die niet hebben, red.) steeds afzichtelijker geworden'', zegt Melkert. ,,Van alle redenen die bijdragen aan het in stand blijven van beschamende armoede, ondanks jaren van economische groei, zijn ontkenning of diepe minachting van de armsten de hoofdzaak.''

In felle woorden bekritiseert Melkert de westerse cultuur waar ,,de jetset de magneet van de massa is'' en waarin veel mensen armen het liefst maar de rug toekeren. ,,Of we staan ze een aalmoes af. Compassie teruggebracht tot charitas, met miljarden dollars gefinancierd. Met open oog voor de gevolgen, maar met gesloten lippen over de oorzaken van de werelden van verschil.''

Nu de kredietcrisis heeft toegeslagen, vindt Melkert het moment aangebroken om stil te staan en zich te bezinnen op de principes waarop de wereldeconomie draait. Hoewel hij het kapitalisme medeverantwoordelijk houdt voor de toegenomen kloof tussen arm en rijk, is hij genuanceerd in zijn oordeel. ,,Er is geen reden de markteconomie als zodanig tot zondebok uit te roepen'', zegt de VN-topman. ,,Gezond gereguleerde markten bieden vele mensen veel meer kansen dan enig alternatief.''

Maar toch, vervolgt hij. ,,Het zou goed zijn wanneer de ontnuchtering over de kwetsbaarheid van de wereldeconomie zou leiden tot herbezinning over het economisch beleid.''

De kredietcrisis brengt volgens Melkert namelijk aan het licht dat er wereldwijd gebrek is aan politiek en economisch gezag ,,om een wereld te besturen die geleid wordt door globalisering maar die globalisering niet weet te geleiden''.

Die bezinning is nodig, want anders bestaat het gevaar dat de crisis alleen maar leidt tot een grotere kloof tussen arm en rijk, waarschuwt hij. De harde concurrentiestrijd van de globalisering maakt dat overheden zich gedwongen voelen belastingen te verlagen, waardoor zij minder geld overhouden voor de samenleving. ,,De bereidheid tot solidariteit tussen rijke en arme landen zal verder verminderen. De fiscale ruimte om te investeren in basisvoorwaarden voor gelijkheid - onderwijs, zorg, huisvesting - staat onder zware druk'', schetst hij dit scenario.

Maar het kan ook anders gaan. De kredietcrisis stelt de wereld voor grote vragen, stelt Melkert. Hij begint over verandering. ,,Zou de crisis van 2008 een keerpunt kunnen zijn in de herijking van de fundamenten van economie en samenleving, bij onszelf en wereldwijd?'', vraagt hij zich af.

De meestal vrij zakelijke en soms wat kille PvdA'er ontpopt zich in de Grote Kerk in Breda als visionair. ,,De tijden mogen ongerijmd zijn, ze zijn even buitengewoon als kansrijk'', zegt hij. ,,Na jarenlang hameren op het aambeeld van de 'harde kant' van de economie ontstaat nu, uit noodzaak en herbezinning, ruimte voor de 'zachte kant' van de samenlevingsopbouw.''

Melkert wijt het aan de ,,marketing van de globalisering'' dat een zakenman in de publieke opinie jarenlang meer aanzien genoot dan een leraar, en dat die weer belangrijker was dan een sociaal werker. ,,Making money (geld verdienen, red.) boven serving people (mensen dienen, red.).''

En nu lijkt het of alles kantelt. ,,De ruime meerderheid van Amerikanen heeft nu gekozen voor een opbouwwerker uit Chicago boven de trotse bezitter van zeven huizen in het land van vijftig miljoen zorgonverzekerden.''

Melkert haakt aan bij het momentum dat de verkiezing van Barack Obama tot president van Amerika lijkt te hebben veroorzaakt. ,,Dit kan een van die momenten zijn waarop geschiedenis wordt geschreven als keerpunt ten goede'', zegt hij met enig gevoel voor retoriek. ,,Dit zijn de momenten waarop het besef kan doorbreken dat vroeger of later ongecontroleerde markten in ongetemde beesten veranderen en het failliet wordt erkend van het idee dat extreme ongelijkheid het onvermijdelijke bijproduct is van welvaartsgroei. Het moment van de herwaardering van het primaat van de samenleving boven het dictaat van de economie.''

Dat is de verandering die Melkert voorstaat: niet economische groei, maar rechtvaardigheid als basisidee van de wereldeconomie. ,,Rechtvaardigheid dient te zijn gegrondvest op gelijkheid van rechten en plichten voor individuen'', zegt hij. ,,Zijn wij bereid menselijke waardigheid tot universele norm te verklaren voor al ons economisch, juridisch en politiek handelen?''

Gewone burgers kunnen daarmee al beginnen, aldus Melkert.

,,De blanke Amerikaan die zich niet de kaas van het brood laat eten door Latino's; de Europeaan die Afrikaanse migranten als bedreiging ziet; de Arabier die de Bengaalse bouwvakker of Filipijnse dienstmeid denkt te kunnen inruilen voor tien anderen - wie heeft het echt voor het zeggen, wie deelt werkelijk in rechtvaardigheid?''

Melkert raadt hen aan na te denken over hun eigen bereidheid om ,,de taal van de markt in te ruilen voor het appel van het ideaal: het ter harte nemen van menselijke waardigheid als universele norm voor een betere wereld''.

Meer geld ontwikkelingshulp
Ad Melkert is voorstander van een ,,kritische toets van de effectiviteit van ontwikkelingssamenwerking'', zei hij gisteren in Breda. Hij sluit daarbij aan bij een politieke en maatschappelijke discussie in Nederland over het nut van ontwikkelingshulp. Hij vindt dat daar méér geld naartoe moet. Melkert roept op ,,meer in plaats van minder bij te dragen aan de bestrijding van conflict, honger, discriminatie en gevolgen van klimaatverandering''.

Maar vooral moet er aandacht zijn voor ,,versterking van handelscapaciteiten, bouwen van scholen, klinieken, toiletten en alles wat ons leven leefbaar en waardig en het leven van zovele anderen onleefbaar en onwaardig maakt.''

Beeldvorming en het spook van Melkert

Beeldvorming en het spook van Melkert

logo_beeldenstorm.jpgHad ik me net ingesteld op een avondje reality en entertainment, komt RTL Nieuws al in de eerste reclameonderbreking van De Frogers: Effe niets te makken met een extra bulletin dat het aftreden van minister Ella Vogelaar (PvdA) meldt. Zeven minuten voor negen, dat is een hoogst ongelukkig moment voor de late actualiteitenprogramma’s, zeker nadat Bram Schilham in het NOS Journaalvan acht uur nog had geconcludeerd dat je niet kon zeggen dat de positie van de minister op het spel stond.


Vogelaars voorgangster als minister van Integratie, Rita Verdonk, had de ontknoping op de autoradio gevolgd, onderweg naar Pauw & Witteman. Ze kwam daar maar twee minuten te laat binnen. Alerte redactie dus, die bovendien Vogelaars ambteloze partijgenoot Rob Oudkerk snel had weten op te trommelen. Die heeft immers als voormalig wethouder van Amsterdam verstand van grotestedenproblematiek, maar ook van door je eigen partij gedwongen aftreden én van beeldvorming in de politiek.
In een bittere verklaring, integraal uitgezonden door Nova/Den Haag Vandaag, gebruikte Vogelaar ook het woord ‘beeldvorming’. Haar beleid was in orde geweest, ofschoon de andere PvdA-bewindslieden het vertrouwen daarin hadden opgezegd, maar de beeldvorming, die was niet goed.
Juist vanwege het slechte imago van Ella Vogelaar was deze onelegante zustermoord een tactische meesterzet van partijleider en vice-premier Wouter Bos. Die verkeert sinds de kredietcrisis in een winning mood en moest de schade beperken bij een in zijn ogen noodzakelijke spelerswissel. Als het drama zich in de Tweede Kamer had afgespeeld, zoals het eigenlijk hoort, dan hadden Vogelaars  vijanden op extreem-rechts het echec als een overwinning kunnen claimen. Nu betoonde de PvdA politieke moed.
  Het gaat, zo betoogde Oudkerk  bij Pauw & Witteman om het corrigeren van een te soft integratiebeleid en het op een lijn brengen van de daarover in de PvdA sterk  verschillende inzichten. Maar met die beeldvorming heeft Vogelaar ook een punt.
Zelden is een bewindspersoon zo hard gestruikeld over onhandigheid in de omgang met de media, met name televisie. Voor een deel is dat gebrek aan talent om ontspannen te lijken als er een camera op je wordt gericht. Oudkerk noemde als ander voorbeeld zijn voormalige fractievoorzitter in de Tweede Kamer, Ad Melkert. Die was in zijn ogen een sterk politicus, maar ‘een bang wezeltje’, zodra het lichtje van de camera aanging.
Ik denk dat het wat gecompliceerder ligt, al was het maar omdat Vogelaars politieke vijanden haar onhandigheid optimaal uitbuitten. Toen Vogelaar in november 2007, ook bij Pauw & Witteman, in de mangel werd genomen door de andere gasten Heleen van Royen en Jort Kelder („u moet eens een cursusje charisma volgen!”) moest ik ook al denken aan Ad Melkert. Vooral schoot me diens optreden te binnen in het debat na de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2002, toen Melkert compleet verstrakte onder het jennen door overwinnaar Pim Fortuyn.
 Zowel Vogelaar als Melkert lijkt me een intelligente en bevlogen politicus, die slecht tegen kritiek kan. Ze hebben lang nagedacht over hun beleid en weten precies waar ze naartoe willen. Als er dan een vraag komt, die ze als irrelevant of dom ervaren, schieten ze in een autistische kramp. De blik is verwijtend en gekwetst, de kijker interpreteert dat als arrogant en ontoegankelijk.  In een televisiedemocratie ben je dan onherroepelijk verloren, ook al heb je misschien duizend keer gelijk.
 Nu lijkt het me met een portefeuille die Wonen, Wijken en Integratie heet ook niet eenvoudig om het goed te doen. Alleen die naam al vraagt om bespotting, zoals Jan Jaap van der Wal effectief deed in zijn oudejaarsconference.
Als hij geen burgemeester van Rotterdam zou worden, had Ahmed Aboutaleb er misschien mee weg kunnen komen. Maar ook hij moet uitkijken voor de valstrik van het PvdA-autisme. Toen laatst in De wereld draait door de vragen hem niet bevielen, gedroeg hij zich zo defensief, dat ik weer het spook van Melkert boven de tafel zag verschijnen.

UN Board of Auditors confirm that Krishan Batra of UNDP Procurement issued contracts to individuals and entities in the terrorist list of the UN

Security Council resolution 1267 (1999)

233. The committee established pursuant to paragraph 6 of Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) oversees the implementation by Member States of the sanctions imposed by the Security Council on individuals and entities belonging or
related to prohibited organizations, and maintains a list of individuals and entities in that respect.

234. The UNDP Contract Asset and Procurement Management User Guide (sect. E, 4.0) requires all procurement officials to verify entities with which business is conducted “against the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee’s list of
terrorists and terrorist financiers”.

235. The Board noted during its audit visits to country offices that no controls were in place to ascertain compliance with Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) and the requirements of the UNDP Contract Asset and Procurement Management User
Guide prior to the appointment of suppliers.

236. The Board recommends that UNDP, prior to dealing with prospective vendors, ensure that they are not listed on the Security Council list of prohibited suppliers.

As UNDP's Kemal Dervis Dodges on Dome-Gate and Spain's Development Aid, Will Doha Conference Be a Dud?

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 24 -- In the run-up to the Doha meeting on financing for development, the UN Development Program's Administrator Kemal Dervis was asked what should have been a simple enough question, about Spain's use of its international cooperation and development aid budget for a $25 million dome at the UN in Geneva. Inner City Press asked Dervis, is that an appropriate use of development aid, in this time of financial crisis?

   "I was told that you might be asking that question," Dervis said. But then, instead of answering, he said "I don't have the details," but wanted to take the opportunity to "pay tribute to Spain." Video here. If some of the too-few funds available for the Millennium Development Goals can be spent on lavish rooms and the UN Development Program has nothing to say, the UN should not pretend to be survived when the MDGs are missed.

  Dervis was asked if any countries have curtailed their aid because of the global financial crisis. Dervis said no, which means either he is not paying attention, or worse. Iceland has already publicly said it is cutting the aid it had promised; other UN agencies have publicly named Italy as cutting back its aid. Dervis says he hasn't heard.

  The Financing for Development Review Conference upcoming in Doha threatens to be a dud. The heads of the IMF and World Bank have decided not to go. Dervis claimed this is only because of their busy schedules. But the Group of 77 has threatened to walk out of the Doha meeting, and no text has been agreed to. Success has multiple parents, but failure is usually an orphan. 

UNDP's Dervis with UN's Jomo K.S., $25 million ceiling not shown

  Inner City Press asked Oscar de Rojas, Executive Secretary of the Conference, about the threats. "I don't think anyone is going to walk out," he answered, after acknowledging that no agreement on a text has been reached. 

  On tax evasion, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, told Inner City Press that this is one of the sticking points, and to to expect any breakthrough in Doha. No wonder the IMF and World Bank don't want to fly to the Gulf. Some joke that the head of the World Trade Organization is only going because he thought Doha meant the Doha round of trade talks. Whatever it takes...

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

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.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

'Kredietcrisis biedt kansen voor aanpak armoede'

datum: 07/11/08 tijd: 19:26 auteur: redactie

BREDA - Decennia van ontwikkelingshulp ten spijt is de kloof tussen rijk en arm in de wereld niet wezenlijk veranderd. De kredietcrisis in het rijke westen biedt ook weinig hoop dat aan die situatie snel iets zal veranderen, in tegendeel. Toch zou de huidige economische malaise ook een keerpunt kunnen betekenen in de relatie tussen het rijke noorden en het arme zuiden.

Door Mathieu Kothuis

Die hoop en tevens een appel aan de westerse landen bij de aanpak van de armoede werd vrijdag uitgesproken door oud PvdA-minister en UNDP-topman Ad Melkert. Hij was een van de sprekers tijdens de twaalfde Multatuli-lezing in een volle Grote Kerk in Breda.

De Multatuli-lezing, die jaarlijks afwisselend in Breda en Leuven wordt georganiseerd, ging dit jaar in op de vraag of er nog een rechtvaardiging bestaat voor de westerse bemoeienis met de Derde Wereld. Naast Melkert sprak ook de van oorsprong Pakistaanse schrijfster Naema Tahir die een groot deel van haar jeugd in Etten-Leur doorbracht. Zij werkte eerder voor de internationale hulporganisatie UNHCR.

Uit de voorbeelden die Melkert gaf is weinig hoop te putten dat de huidige crisis aan de arme landen voorbij zal gaan. Die crisis leidt ongetwijfeld tot een stijging van de armoede in die landen. En met de financiële problemen in het westen staat tegelijkertijd onze bereidheid tot een grotere solidariteit met de Derde Wereld onder druk. Toch zou die hulp juist nu moeten worden gehandhaafd of zelfs moeten toenemen, aldus Melkert.

Tahir ging in op de emancipatie van de moslimvrouw die in westerse ogen mislukt als ze niet bereid is haar hoofddoek af te leggen. Een onterechte opvatting, vindt de schrijfster, al is er wel degelijk sprake van een achterstelling van veel moslimvrouwen in Nederland.

De stichting Multatuli-lezing reikte dit jaar voor het eerst de Cordaid-Multatuli-prijs uit aan twee studenten van de Universiteit van Tilburg. De prijs wordt toegekend aan werkstukken die bijdragen aan de vergroting van de kennis op het gebied van de multiculturele samenleving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

UNDP's Spanish Trust Fund paid for spanish mural

The U.N. Human Rights Council, frequently accused of coddling some of the world's most repressive governments, threw itself a party in Geneva Tuesday that featured the unveiling of a $23 million mural paid for in part with foreign aid funds.

In a ceremony attended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo told the press that his 16,000-square-foot ceiling artwork reminded him of "an image of the world dripping toward the sky" — but it reminded critics of money slipping out of relief coffers.

"In Spain there's a controversy because they took money out of the foreign aid budget — took money from starving children in Africa — and spent it on colorful stalactites," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch.

Click here to see photos of the $23 million ceiling art.

Spanish taxpayers paid for most of the sprawling sculpture, which has been compared to the Sistine Chapel, but around $633,000 came from Spain's budget for overseas development aid.

Spain's conservative opposition party blasted the government for diverting money from projects to alleviate poverty in poorer countries, though the government insisted the funding for Barcelo's work was kept separate.

Ban himself praised the piece and thanked Barcelo for putting his "unique talents to work in the service of the world." The artwork will soar above the Human Rights Council's chambers at U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, which may soon undergo a $1 billion renovation — but only after a $1.9 billion facelift of the U.N.'s New York offices is completed.

Meanwhile, international humanitarian groups pleaded with the human rights panel to take time out from their party to address the worsening human rights "catastrophe" in the Congo, where the government is fighting a deadly battle with several rebel groups.

"Mass displacement, killings and sexual violence — involving hundreds of thousands of victims, if not more — require an urgent response," according to a statement issued jointly Tuesday by Freedom House and U.N. Watch.

Congo has been off the radar at the Human Rights Council, which removed its monitor from the African country in March when the Congolese government and a group of neighboring nations applied pressure on the council to expel the monitor.

"When the Human Rights Council was established two years ago there were about 12 or so monitors, and gradually one after another has been scrapped," said Neuer. "The other ones are all on the chopping block."

Violence is worsening in the country, where an estimated 4 million people have been killed in the past 10 years and tens of thousands have been displaced in recent months.

"The [Lord's Resistance Army] leader, Joseph Kony, is continuing his brutal and abusive tactics," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The U.S. and U.K., along with the U.N. and governments in the region, should actively work together to apprehend LRA leaders wanted by the [International Criminal Court]."

Secretary-General Ban has supported a U.N. resolution that would increase the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo by 3,100 troops and police, but some critics say that move would not be enough.

Human rights groups — and U.N. officials themselves — have criticized the peacekeeping force for failing to protect civilians in places like Kiwanja, where at least 20 people were killed this week.

The 17,000-man U.N. deployment is already the U.N.'s largest peacekeeping commitment, but is restricted by tough rules of engagement and has a massive territory to cover. Congo is the size of Western Europe, and North Kivu, where the fighting is centered, is one-and-a-half times the size of France.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Ajay Chhibber warns of social strife in Asia

By Tim Johnston
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 19, 2008; A14

BANGKOK, Nov. 18 -- A senior U.N. official warned Tuesday of the prospect of social unrest as the export-driven economies of Asia start to slow in response to the fallout from the global financial crisis.

Ajay Chhibber, head of the U.N. Development Program's regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific, said in an interview here that the slowdown in major markets such as the United States and Europe poses fundamental problems for Asian economies that have used exports to fuel their extraordinary growth.

There are still 900 million Asians living below the World Bank poverty line, defined as an income of less than $1.25 a day, Chhibber said, adding, "There are another 300 million who just came out of that group, so they are literally on the margin."

"If you have lower growth, you have rising unemployment, and that makes all these people very, very vulnerable," he said.

Chhibber said it was not just a short-term problem.

"We focus a lot on banks and businesses, but what also happens in crises is that children drop out of school and never go back," he said. "You can have intergenerational effects: Once a girl drops out of school, that is a mother who is illiterate."

Chhibber said governments should concentrate on producing expansionary, job-friendly budgets, but he warned that would not be enough.

"Having stronger safety nets for these people will also be vital because otherwise you will see a lot of unrest on the streets," he said.

He suggested that Asia experiment with conditional cash transfers, in which poor families are paid if the parents ensure their children stay in school and get their shots.

Chhibber, who worked in Asia for the World Bank before joining the United Nations, said the recent drop in commodity prices had created problems as well as opportunities for Southeast Asian nations -- problems because rural incomes have fallen, but also opportunities because inflationary pressure has been reduced.

He said that boosting intra-regional trade will probably be key to reviving the fortunes of Asia's faltering economies and that he sees producers of low-cost goods, such as Vietnam, competing against China's market of home-produced goods, while Thailand and Malaysia carve into Europe's market share of China's luxury sector.

Chhibber said Asian countries should prioritize relieving the pressure on some of the currencies of the region by strengthening the Chiang Mai Initiative, started by Asian nations after the 1997 regional financial crisis. The $80 billion network of bilateral currency swaps is designed to provide exchange-rate support.

"I think that now the G-20 meeting is over, Asia should take some more concrete steps to set up a kind of expanded Chiang Mai agreement," Chhibber said. "There are still plenty of currencies that look vulnerable and need an additional backup facility."

Thailand, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is due to formally propose such an expansion of the agreement when the group meets next month.

Friday, November 14, 2008

URGENT: UN Team in Pyongyang warns Ban Ki-moon on North Korea situation: talks about potential riots and popular rebellion

The heads of the United Nations Programmes in North Korea have meet in secrecy and agreed in updating their UN Country Security Plan. In a latest monthly assessment obtained by UNDP Watch, the UN Team in North Korea warned Ban Ki-moon that latest famine conditions in the country "have created the preconditions that United Nations should prepare for dealing with a potential fleeing in mass of North Koreans towards either China or South Korea as well as massive internal displacement towards main cities".

The report raises again the WFP and FAO evaluation of the internal food situation in which says: " the spike in food and oil prices in first half of 2008 has diminished NK's ability to purchase basic staple foods and the fertilizers and fuels needed to farm them adequately". 

The report also discusses the potential leadership vacuum and the perception of the UN Team inside NK that: " local north korean staff are being shifted more often lately from the regime and that there is a sense of unease and potential transition in horizon". 

Most importantly the Un Team in Pyongyang calls on Ban Ki-moon to make: "all necessary arrangement for joint UNHCR, DPKO and DSS assessment of the situation and if need start discussing with Chinese and South Korean authorities potential scenarios" and involvement of the UN should a crisis arise inside the country. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

UNDP's operation costs are staggering, while 1.2 Billion surplus disappear into its treasury's labyrinths

The U.N.: Even More Expensive Than It Looks

Thursday , November 06, 2008

By George Russell


How much does the United Nations cost?

Rich countries, led by the United States, take note: you already pay about three times as much for the U.N. as appears on your own books — about $17.2 billion in 2006, according to figures newly pulled together in a U.N. report. And that number includes a whopping $800 million surplus for the sprawling U.N. system.

What the U.N. did with the extra cash isn't covered in the document that for the first time reveals the full extent of U.N. anti-poverty contributions and spending across 37 funds, agencies and programs.

But as the U.N. report itself states, the difference between the U.N.'s tallies and those of the 23-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which antes up most of the U.N.'s development funds, "present a very different image of the scale of United Nations operational and development activities."

• Click here to see the report.

The different image, in fact, is of a huge and rapidly growing organizational sprawl that is much more robustly funded by the world's rich countries than the general public, and most policymakers, believe.

And there is another shocker in the numbers: while the U.N. raked in $17.2 billion in contributions in 2006, the year covered by the report, it spent only about $16.4 billion on its own anti-poverty programs. Yet that number alone is greater than the $16.2 billion that donor nations recently pledged, at the U.N.'s urging, in additional funds to help the U.N. cut global poverty in half by 2015.

All of those figures are an order of magnitude greater than the roughly $2 billion that is normally bandied about as the cost of the U.N. Secretariat, headquartered in New York, and the roughly $5 billion usually tallied for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the U.N.'s development arm.

And the numbers are continuing to grow fast: at an average annual increase of 13 percent since 2002.

Even when adjusted for inflation, the U.N.'s operational cost is climbing at 5.7 percent annually. And some agencies, like UNDP and UNICEF, grew a lot faster, at an average 14.1 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively, in unadjusted terms, since 2002.

All of the statistics — and the revelation that Western donor statistics dramatically underestimate Western contributions — are contained in a dense and ground-breaking report to the U.N. General Assembly entitled "Comprehensive statistical analysis of the financing of operational activities for development of the United Nations system for 2006," which was originally published in May, but is only up for consideration by the U.N. General Assembly this week.

The report is the world organization's first attempt to compile financial data directly from all of the U.N.'s sprawling operations worldwide, rather than gathering much of it indirectly from a variety of other sources. And it is only a first step toward sorting out the U.N.'s bewildering global finances in a comprehensive fashion.

Even now, the report says, the U.N. does not prepare a consolidated statement of U.N. financing and expenditures, and indicates that such a document — common to the finances of most global corporations — is still in the distant future.

The operations tally is just a step along the way: an attempt to gather together the total amount spent by the U.N. to carry out its myriad development programs across a bewildering span of 37 agencies, funds, programs and commissions.

That by no means encompasses all U.N. spending on itself. For one thing, the report leaves out most of the cost of the U.N. Secretariat, including only the cost of the U.N.'s regional commissions and its Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

As the report's title says, the figures represent only the U.N.'s expenditures for development, leaving out such costly areas as peace-keeping, where the U.N. spent another $5 billion in 2005-2006 (and much more since then), or for humanitarian assistance, such as emergency flood and earthquake relief.

And, as this report warns, even the tallies contained in it "understate the total financing of the specialized agencies" — meaning organizations like the International Labor Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to name just a few.

But even pulling together where all the U.N. operations spend their development money is a major achievement for the world organization. Its 37 components often do not talk to each other, use different baselines for their spending figures, and generally keep track of their finances in so many different ways that simply compiling the figures as this report does is a huge work in progress.

Until last year, overall financial data was collected directly from only five major U.N. funds and programs, and the rest gleaned from other documents. Data collection typically lags at least two years behind its publication.

Where is the anti-poverty money spent? Unsurprisingly, about 38 percent goes to desperately poor countries in Africa, up from just under 30 percent in 2002.

But some 15.4 percent is spent in middle-income Latin America, where countries such as Brazil and Argentina pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.N. system so that the money can be spent on — themselves.

This "self-supporting funding" especially benefits UNDP, which then channels the money back into Latin America, albeit outside the normal budget scrutiny of the countries that gave it.

As a result, UNDP's development spending in the world's poorest countries reached only 30 percent of its total spending in 2006 — far less than the World Food Program, and below the average of the entire U.N. system.

But perhaps the most surprising section of the report is an annex, which addresses the issue of "harmonizing contributions to the United Nations system," as tallied by the U.N. itself, vs. the tallies kept by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) , the rich nations' club that foots most of the U.N. bill.

• Click here to see the annex.

As the new U.N. report explains, the OECD accounts fail to take account of so-called "non-core" spending by the various parts of the U.N., and instead only records "core," or regular budget, resources of some $5.1 billion.

"Core" spending is money that goes directly to the U.N. for spending on itself. "Non-core" resources are given to the U.N. to spend on projects that may be specified by the donor. But in both cases, the U.N. pays staff, buys whatever is required and — most importantly for the U.N. — usually charges a management fee for spending the money according to the donor's wishes.

The rich countries, however, list that money as assistance to poor countries as if the U.N. was not the middleman.

As a result, in 2006, "non-core" spending by the U.N.'s global empire amounted to $12.1 billion, which the OECD did not classify as U.N. spending at all.

As the report puts it, "the two methods give very different pictures of the size of the United Nations system's budgets for development."

Why the difference? The United Nations includes non-core contributions in its estimates, the report says, because it considers the purpose of both core and non-core government contributions "is to support its operational activities." The OECD countries do it differently because they see the U.N. agencies as "channels of delivery, as opposed to recipients of aid."

In addition, the OECD countries do not count private contributions to the U.N. for development as direct contributions, even though they totaled nearly $1.5 billion in 2006.

However the amounts are tallied, one fact remains a standout: the United States is far and away the biggest single contributor to the U.N. system. In 2006, the total U.S. contributions came to at least $2.7 billion — and that excludes the private sector, which by most independent estimates, draws most of its $1.5 billion in U.N. contributions from U.S. sources.

GAP Analysis of how UNDP’s Whistleblower Protections are being implemented in Practice

November 5, 2008 – One World Trust, a U.K. non-governmental organization that assesses the accountability mechanisms of select international organizations, non-profits and private companies, has published a GAP paper analyzing the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) whistleblower protections. This paper evaluates the gap between UNDP’s whistleblower protections on paper and in practice, drawing on the experiences of five UNDP whistleblowers. GAP’s paper concludes that UNDP is not fully delivering on the accountability commitments it has espoused. 

Click here to read the paper

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At UN, Lame Duck Labor Moves by US, Georgian War on Budget, Chinese ID Follies

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 4 -- The United States, the UN's host country and its largest donor, is even as it holds historic election preparing unprecedented proposal to change staff contrasts and working arrangements throughout the UN. In a series of secret meetings with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's management and human resources officials, the US Mission to the UN has outlined a radical reduction both in the type of UN employment contracts, and in the benefits the remaining contracts would offer. 

  In these meetings, the proposal documents have been handed out, each one numbers and then collected again at the end of the session, to prevent leaks. In recent days, the US Mission has begun lobbying the European Union and regional groups to try to find support for its proposal.

   UN sources tell Inner City Press that the Under Secretary General for Management, Angela Kane, has attended these meetings, and is not adverse to the U.S. proposal. Ms. Kane has met on the topic, for example, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad. One level below Ms. Kane, Assistant Secretary General of the UN's Office of Human Resources Management Catherine Pollard is less supportive of the U.S. proposal. The Staff Union, meanwhile, notes that it has not been consulted, and as of Tuesday afternoon did not have a copy.

Ban Ki-moon to (some) UN staff, US contract changing proposal not shown

  How the day's presidential elections will impact this eleventh hour "reform" proposal by the Bush administration Department of State is not known. There is talk of the U.S. trying to bypass consideration by the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee and taking the proposal directly to the General Assembly for a vote. Nor is it yet known how the US proposal relates to Ban Ki-moon's recent rift about harmonizing contracts, given in response to Inner City Press' questions about UN reform. Click here for that story.

  This takes place in the context of a UN employment system that ignores the most basic protections provided by U.S. labor law. There is no ability to use the U.S. or any outside court to challenge employment practices or even discrimination. The most recent example is the case of a former (and want-to-be) UN staffer who, having been rebuffed and he says discriminated against in applying for UN jobs, recently wrote to Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro complaining of a system of "red flag" blocks against hiring certain people, including whistleblowers.  

  The response he has received comes not from Ms. Migiro but rather from one Ms. Hafida Fatma Lahiouel of France, from within the Administrative Law Unit under Ms. Pollard and Ms. Kane. Ms. Lahiouel writes that since the complainant is not currently a UN staff member, the UN internal justice system is not available to him. This seem to mean that a person applying for employment in the UN, even if hypothetically rejected on explicitly racist or other invidious grounds, has no recourse at all. How the U.S. Mission to the UN feels about this is not yet know.

Meanwhile, in a so-far little noticed contested race for a seat on the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, Russia's Vladimir Alekseevitch Iosifov is being opposed by Georgia's Alexander Petriashvili. A Georgian representative told Inner City Press, "Russia thinks it owns that seat on ACABQ. We're running. We don't know if we will win, but we are running." 

  Notably, Russia did more investigative work in the Fifth (Budget) Committee on the UN's controversial $250 million no-bid contract with U.S.-based Lockheed Martin for super-camps in Darfur than almost any other delegation. But theRussia - Georgia fight, from the hot war of August, has continued in nearly every UN General Assembly committee, most visibly in the Third.

  In the Third, the Chinese delegation's able former spokeswoman Yan Jiarong is back, speaking out most recently in favor of the "sacred political right" of a people to fight for sovereignty. While how that applies to South Ossetia is not yet known, Yan Jiarong on Monday fought for her right to her old UN identification card, which was confiscated in the UN Pass office along with the admonition that "it is UN property" when she went in to ask a question. At the same time, it emerged that one Babacar Mbaye had been given an incorrect i.d. - "the pass," it was said, "does not match the man." Only at the UN...