"....The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability....."
- UN Staff Union
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
EXCLUSIVE: Report Slams $100M Aid Effort in Burma, But U.N. Plans to Keep Program Alive
- August 24, 2010
Despite an independent assessment of a $100 million United Nations Development Program aid effort in Burma that calls it “disappointing” and suggests that major portions be discontinued, the director of UNDP intends to keep it alive with as-yet unspecified fixes.
An independent assessment of a $100 million United Nations Development Program aid effort in Burma calls it “disappointing,” and “unsatisfactory,” and suggests that major portions of the program be discontinued next year. Nonetheless, the director of UNDP intends to keep it alive with as-yet unspecified fixes.
The assessment of the UNDP’s Human Development Initiative suggested there were “modest or only limited differences” between the Burmese villages that got UNDP support and those that didn’t.
Among the areas of negligible impact: health care, education and “food security,” meaning the vital business of whether the poorest were producing and saving enough food to eat in the military-controlled country also known as Myanmar.
There will be no mention, however, of the wind-down suggestion in a condensed version of the assessment report that will be presented to UNDP’s 36-nation supervisory executive board when it holds a regularly scheduled session in New York City starting Aug. 30. (The U.S. is a board member.)
Instead, the head of UNDP, Helen Clark, suggests in her note to the board that the most criticized parts of the aid effort require a “revision of the program concept and design in order to enhance the impact on poverty.” Clark also holds out the possibility that the “strategic framework” of the programs might require only “modest changes” -- including closer cooperation with local elements of the brutal Burmese regime.
Clark recommends that the board give her the widest latitude to implement changes to the Human Development Initiative “as appropriate.”
The issue of aid assistance to Burma -- which has largely cut itself off from the outside world -- is a hot-button issue, especially after the Obama Administration last week announced that it would support an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese regime. (Among other things, the regime has kept its chief critic, opposition political leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since 2003.)
At the same time, international concern has been growing about whether the regime has been developing a clandestine nuclear program along the lines of its ally, North Korea, even as international aid agencies of all kinds commit hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid to the country.
Making sure that UNDP’s funds stay out of government hands in military-dominated Burma was one of the strings attached from the virtual outset to the Human Development Initiative by UNDP’s executive board. Testifying to whether the arms-length distance has been kept is one of the annual tasks assigned to the independent assessors, who also take the opportunity to examine the effectiveness of UNDP efforts in the country.
For years, the assessors have given the program a clean bill of health on the issue of government involvement -- but they have also grown increasingly critical of the effectiveness of much of UNDP’s grass-roots “community development” programming, now under way in some 60 of Burma’s 325 townships -- in part precisely because it lacks greater government involvement.
Last year, the assessors told UNDP that it should be examining the relationship between the length of time the organization had been handing out aid and the impact of the assistance -- which led to this year’s unsettling conclusions that in many cases the impact had been less than significant.
The main focus of assessor skepticism is a double-barreled UNDP program known as the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) and a sister program, Community Development in Remote Townships (CDRT), which are administratively joined at the hip.
Ostensibly self-help programs, the community development initiatives have instead, the assessors say, become studies in mission-creep, in which aid-givers have grown their focus of assistance into primary health care, environmental concerns, HIV/AIDS relief, training and education and food security. The assessors quote one senior UNDP official as admitting that the Human Development Initiative is trying to do “everything under the sun.”
UNDP made matters worse, the report says, by expanding the program dramatically, adding to the resource stretch. Yet another complication was 2008’s Cyclone Nargis, which devastated coastal regions of Burma and further diverted aid efforts (though the report notes that with 500 people on the ground in its HDI programs, UNDP was in a good position to pitch in and help with Nargis). Finally, voluntary funding for the HDI effort has been tiling off, largely as a result of the increasingly hard-line behavior of the Burmese regime.
Even while admitting that Burma is a “difficult and unpredictable” environment for HDI, however, the assessors state firmly that UNDP’s own problems with community development programs are the most significant. Among them: lack of clear focus; inability to show that it has accomplished much beyond the delivery of tangible goods, such as fertilizer; lack of staff training; and perhaps most importantly of all, lack of any clear strategy to wean the people they are helping off continued outside assistance.
The U.N.’s fabled bureaucracy also takes a toll: the assessors note that an “inexplicable number” of reports are prepared by UNDP aid-givers each month at the local level, with some technical specialists estimating they spent 20 percent to 30 percent of their time creating paperwork.
Not much of it apparently has to do with how the aid beneficiaries themselves view things: as the assessors delicately put it, “There is presently no adequate mechanism for feedback from beneficiaries within any of the HDI structures.” UNDP, however, told the assessors it is currently working on a pilot project to do that.
Not all of the UNDP efforts in Burma are viewed as critically by the assessors as the organization’s community development work. Its micro-finance projects in Burma get good marks, though the assessors note that the country’s poorest residents are not benefiting.
The assessors also admitted that the UNDP “impact study” upon which its conclusions were based might itself be flawed, through lack of baseline data and other possible failings. But their report underlined that the survey methodology was considered “robust” by a specialist brought in to design the investigation.
In concluding, the independent experts acknowledge that UNDP itself is unlikely to make any changes before its current authorization for the aid program expires next year. But then it says, a “major revision” of the program is called for “to enhance impact on poverty.”
The experts also note, perhaps in tacit acknowledgment of a previous decade of unimpressive results, that UNDP itself “may come to a different conclusion.”
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if anyone else would have done what Eveline Herfkens did, would have long been in jail. We denounce this impunity and demand justice.
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1. UNDP’s partnership with the World Bank needs to be more effective, particularly in fragile and crisis-affected countries. 2. UNDP’s near universal mandate means its technical resources are spread very thinly. The Board does not provide strategic direction. HR management is weak. It has a weak results chain. 3. There is limited evidence of active senior management consideration of cost control. Country evidence points to mixed progress on demonstrating cost-efficiency. 4. The Executive Board is politicised and there is a lack of consensus on the key areas for reform. It is not clear that current plans for change will deliver the required depth and breadth of reform. 5. Evidence gathered at country level was highly critical of UNDP’s ability to deliver results. Its delivery can be undermined by staffing issues and bureaucratic processes. 6. Its performance in fragile states is mixed. It has reasonable training and a range of guidance and analytical tools but struggles to fill posts. 7. There is no evidence that the Climate Strategy was directly guiding resource allocation decisions
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H.E. Dirk Niebel - German Development Minister
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Share now information about illegal dealings at United Nations
If you are in possession of UNDP or any other United Nations Agency' contracts, correspondence, financial records or databases, which you believe detail wrongdoing such as fraud, mismanagement and abuse of authority, and you have failed to have UN's internal control, oversight and justice systems respond and/or react to your claims, you can send them to UNDP-WATCH and we will make them public keeping your identity anonymous and confidential.
Send an email to: email@example.com
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C'est vraiment ce que tu veux pour ta carriere?
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And I promise you as well that in future, when it comes to international development, we will want to see hard evidence of the impact your money makes. Not just dense and impenetrable budget lines but clear evidence of real effect
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT UNITED NATIONS
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Question: He recommends strongly that UNDP pays 14 months back pay to the whistleblower. Does the Secretary-General stand behind that recommendation? Should UNDP in fact pay that money, or are they free to rebuff that recommendation? Spokesperson: We will see what is going to happen. The Secretary-General of course is behind Mr. Benson on his report. There is no doubt about it. What UNDP will do, we will be seeing this; how they will implement that report.
UNDP Watch is a grouping of United Nations Staff committed to openness. We believe that everyone has the right to access information held by United Nations.
Despite a stated commitment to openness, UNDP remain a highly secretive agency.
Although a wealth of information is available on some UNDP websites, its Executive Board operate behind closed doors, much important programme and administrative information is never made available and, as a rule, information that is disclosed is provided only after relevant decisions have effectively been taken.
While UNDP has adopted “internal policies” on information disclosure, they in fact operate on precisely the opposite presumption. For the most part, they list which documents will be disclosed and when, and there is a presumption against the disclosure of all the other information they hold. They do not establish right of access, the lists of documents subject to disclosure is limited, they do not set out clear and narrow grounds for refusing access and they do not provide for independent oversight mechanisms to ensure proper implementation of the policy.
The UNDP WATCH is calling for the complete overhaul of these policies.
"...We believe that without accountability, there is impunity. We ask that you (Secretary General) not be complicit in cover-up of what happened prior to 11 Dec attack. The staff is sick and tired of the impunity extended by the office of the Secretary-General to senior managers for their failings especially in situations where it has led to death and disability."