Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
“Your actions are not only deplorable, but seriously reprehensible…Your action is without precedent and in my opinion seriously embarrassing to yourself.”
While this may read like a transcript of a conversation between my high school principal and me, this was in fact a memo written by outgoing chief of the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS) at the U.N., Inga-Britt Ahlenius, to current Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. OIOS’s job is to sniff out and expose corruption from within the United Nations.
This public and unprecedented rebuke of a sitting Secretary General and the organization as a whole, is stunning in its scope, ferocity and detail. It is testimony that at the U.N. today the “existing culture is one of secrecy” and contributes to “a process of decay.”
And that was just the cover letter.
She continues for fifty more pages, excoriating the lack of accountability, transparency and will to stamp out corruption.
For the past few years, I’ve had a chance to see firsthand the depths to which the U.N. has fallen away from its grand ideals. Through producing my documentary, U.N. Me (www.unmemovie.com), I’ve seen how corruption eats away at the core of the United Nations.
While the revelations of this memo are unsurprising to me or any ardent observer of the United Nations, it is still an extraordinary look into a high-ranking U.N. official’s long-simmering frustration with the world body and its inability to police itself. It shows that the United Nations has become so putrefied that even senior officials in the U.N. have been forced to recognize and publicly proclaim it.
I would like to see this as an inflection point. I wish it could be a moment of bright clarity for the institution, a chance to reevaluate and reset itself again, allowing it to begin the deep and necessary process of reform.
Unfortunately, recent history has shown us otherwise.
While I will not take the time to enumerate the copious examples that substantiate this point, I will mention one recent and wholly under-reported example that, to me, exposes the United Nations and its “process.” This example begins, as many United Nation’s initiatives do, with right-minded intentions that along the way become either laughingly ineffectual or dark and dangerous.
In January 2006, a task force was created by the United Nations to investigate corruption in peacekeeping procurement, an effort that should rightly be applauded. It was headed by former U.S. federal prosecutor Robert Appleton and staffed by 18 white-collar crime experts.
This task force did an admirable job and uncovered a pervasive pattern of corruption and mismanagement involving hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for fuel, food, construction and other materials and services used by U.N. peacekeeping operations. This corruption came with a price tag of more than $610 million. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
But instead of staffing up the task force to complete a more thorough investigation of U.N. efforts, Appleton and his experts were obstructed and attacked for their efforts at every turn. In the midst of their investigations, and with billions worth of contracts yet to be investigated, they were fired. The U.N. bureaucracy refused to follow up on their findings and ignored many of their recommendations.
Ahlenius, in her outgoing report, dealt with this culture of obstruction and obfuscation forthrightly and candidly and for that she should be applauded. But for it to have the effect that she intended, the reformation of the United Nations, it has to be taken seriously by the leadership at the U.N. Unfortunately, they have already begun the process of attacking both Ahlenius and her memo. To not heed her calls for reform is a slap in the face not only to us here in the United States that fund the U.N. to the tune of six billion dollars a year, but also to the vulnerable populations whose needs were not met due to the siphoning of money and aid in these corrupt dealings.
It is clear that something is rotten in Turtle Bay. The leadership of the United Nations should be ashamed.
Monday, July 26, 2010; 12:56 PM
UNITED NATIONS -- An internal review of the United Nations' ability to investigate itself has been launched and a Canadian woman who was chief auditor for the World Bank has been nominated to take over the internal watchdog agency, senior U.N. officials said Monday.
The unusual review of the functions of the Office of Internal Oversight Services that conducts investigations, audits and inspections will focus on "areas where OIOS is not active," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, told colleagues in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.
The agency serves as the U.N.'s chief tool for accountability and oversight for the world body's billions of dollars a year in spending and many of its agencies, programs and policies.
The memo was sent to colleagues on Friday, the same day that Ban sent the General Assembly his nomination of a Canadian woman to serve as the next undersecretary-general for oversight and take over OIOS.
A U.N. diplomat identified the woman as Carman Lapointe-Young, who was appointed auditor general of The World Bank Group in August 2004. She is currently serving on the Institute of Internal Auditors' Global Capacity Development Task Force and is an external member of the audit committees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because her appointment has not been officially announced.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky declined to confirm Lapointe-Young was Ban's selection when asked about it Monday. He said the name would officially be released "quite soon," but probably not Monday.
Lapointe-Young would replace Sweden's Inga-Britt Ahlenius, who departed this month at the end of her five-year term by sending Ban a 50-page confidential memo that described her office as severely hamstrung and blamed many of the problems on Ban's leadership.
Ahlenius accused Ban of blocking her appointment of a permanent investigative director and taking other measures that reduced her supposed independence within the U.N. In her memo, she described Ban's attitude toward OIOS as seeking "to control the function and to suppress it as an effective instrument."
The directorship position has been unfilled since mid-2006. Ahlenius left it open for 2 1/2 years, but blames Ban for her inability to fill it since roughly the end of 2008. A series of acting directors has run the investigation division for the past four years.
The current acting director, Michael Dudley, e-mailed colleagues after the Ahlenius memo leaked to contradict some of her assertions.
"Since I have been in this position, there has never been any attempt by the secretary-general or his staff to influence an investigation or my supervision of the investigation division," Dudley wrote in the e-mail obtained by AP.
Ban was studying Ahlenius' memo "in its entirety," Nambiar wrote to colleagues, but the secretary-general "fully recognizes" OIOS' independence.
Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Richard Black | 17:22 UK time, Friday, 23 July 2010
It's not being touted as such, but the latest document from the United Nations climate convention (UNFCCC) is the clearest admission we've yet had that UN talks are in the mire.
Add it to the latest word from the US Senate, and "mire" hardly seems strong enough.
Let's take the global document first.
At the last round of UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, the convention's secretariat was asked to prepare a "what if?" document.
In this case, the question is "what do we do if the Kyoto Protocol discussions don't agree a set of carbon cutting targets and other outstanding issues that can come into effect in 2012 when the current set of targets expires?"
The secretariat's role in this isn't political, but legal. Its mandate was to set out options that governments could elect to pursue; what to do is their choice.
The reason for the discussion of Plan B options is this: if there are no agreed industrialised country targets agreed by the time the current ones expire, how are governments supposed to set regulatory frameworks on carbon emissions, and what would induce companies to make low-carbon investments when the financial carrots and sticks might vanish in less than two years' time?
The document throws up a range of options.
One would see governments agreeing to continue the existing arrangements until 2014 rather than 2012. A second would see the adoption of some kind of "opt-out" rather than "opt-in" rule; another would see measures adopted by a majority of countries rather than by consensus, as of now.
Stepping back from the minutiae of what's being proposed to the wider issues thrown up here, there are two to pull out.
One is the sheer complexity under which the UN negotiations are currently labouring.
Try this for size:
"The acquisition and transfer of emission reduction units (ERUs), certified emission reductions (CERs), assigned amount units (AAUs) and removal units (RMUs)27 under Articles 6, 12 and 17 of the Protocol for the purpose of fulfilling commitments under Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol relating to the first commitment period until one hundred days after the date set by the CMP for the completion of the expert review process under Article 8 of the Kyoto Protocol, otherwise known as the true-up period..."
As Star Trek's Mr Spock might comment: "It's English, Jim, but not as we know it."
Or maybe the UNFCCC has been infiltrated by the spirit of James Joyce bent on penning a sequel toFinnegans Wake.
The more complex things get, the more scope there is for governments to pick holes in any text and prolong negotiations, whether for genuine or for tactical reasons.
The other issue is what's signified by the document's mere existence: essentially, that the UN process is in trouble.
Yes, the rounds of talks go on and yes, a wide range of governments have pledged action, through theCopenhagen Accord, than ever before.
But the carbon curbs so far generated are a pale shadow of what is needed if you acceptthe 2007 conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - which virtually every government says it does - and the process doesn't look like generating anything stronger any time soon.
The year 2012 is an obvious deadline because of the expiry of the Kyoto targets.
If that's missed, then effectively there is no target date for a new set - extension to 2014 can easily become 2016, then 2020, and before you know it governments will still be talking about what to do by the time CO2 concentrations top the 450 parts per million figure that some profess to regard as an unbreachable upper limit.
The single biggest factor missing from the negotiations is, as it has been for a decade, the lack of a strong and equitable US commitment.
The emergence of such a thing looks even less likely following the admission that the Senate will not be able to pass domestic cap-and-trade legislation during this session.
With mid-term elections due in November, the mathematics of the Senate next term are likely to be worst for those backing legislation.
And already, less than two years after green fanfare surrounding Barack Obama's election, some observers are giving the bill its last rites.
If President Obama couldn't deliver climate legislation, who can? There are reasons to argue that a Republican president would be better placed than any Democrat - but only, of course, if he or she backs such legislation in the first place.
As I've mentioned before, the mood and tone within the UN process has shifted a vast distance since the run-up to December's Copenhagen summit.
You could say it's now much more in tune with the political realities than the ebullient trumpeting of seismic global optimism that characterised the arrival of delegates into the snowy Danish capital.
There are something like 700 international environmental agreements in operation across the world now; about most of them, we hear nothing. Meetings happen, progress is made or not, delegates come and go, and the years pass by.
Back in December, it would have seemed unthinkable to raise the possibility that the UNFCCC, charged with tackling what many held to be the planet's most pressing problem, could join their ranks.
Based on facts on the ground since, it doesn't seem half so incredible now.
Former African Union (AU) Commission peace and security department director Geofrey Mugumya will tell next month's defenceWeb Peacekeeping Africa 2010 conference that a haphazard approach to logistics as well as to financing and force generation has hamstrung numerous past and present AU peacekeeping missions, starting with the continent's first mission in Chad in 1979.
The defenceWeb' Peacekeeping Africa 2010 conferencewill will take place at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, from August 26 to 27.
Mugumya will remind that the then-Organisation for African Unity undertook its first peacekeeping venture in Chad between 1979 to 1982. In notes prepared for the conference, he says the operation differed from the ceasefire observation missions that the OAU had been deploying up to that time.
But with the exception of the lead country—Nigeria, “there was lack of cooperation from many African countries. Among the other countries, which were supposed to provide units to the neutral African force—Congo, Benin, and Guinea, only the Congolese contingent composed of 500 troops showed up in Chad on January 18 1980.”
He will note a major lesson learned from the Chad operation was that the effectiveness of a peacekeeping mission is “commensurate with the capacity and political will of the troop-contributing countries and the centrality of cooperation by the neighbouring countries.
“The lack of a clear mandate, and concept, particularly with regard to logistics, operation and troop-generation, further demonstrated the inexperience of the OAU” he will note. Mugumya will add peacekeeping is “not a picnic but a complex and expensive operation.” Many African countries cannot afford to participate in peacekeeping operations without being assisted from outside.
Mugumya notes the a meeting of African Chiefs of Defence Staff (ACDS) met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to draw lessons from the mission, but it is not clear what they learned.
“Did the AU [African Union] really incorporate the lessons learned from its past engagement in peacekeeping operations in the planning of AMIS [AU Mission in Sudan, deployed to Darfur] and AMISOM [AU Mission in Somalia], and hence the envisioned ASF [AU Standby Force]?” He records that at the inception of AMIS, in 2004 there was only one military officer in the Military Unit of the AU General Secretariat and “none the of the regular AU senior staff especially in peace and security Department had experience in peacekeeping.”
In addition, the “planning of AMIS was made in hurry as the political leaders wanted to demonstrate political commitment and as result there was no time to look at the best practices based on the lessons learned from the past.” As a result, the “mandate of the mission was never clear. … Critical areas that are necessary for launching a successful large and multidimensional operations peacekeeping operations were lacking...”
This includes the absence of a Joint Logistics Operations Centre (JLOC) “to support and coordinate the provision of logistical support in accordance with Senior Leader Team (the SLM itself was not in place) priorities.” There was also no Joint Operation Centre (JOC) to collate situation reports and operational information to provide current situational awareness of the mission and acts as crisis coordination hub and no Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) to provide integrated analysis of information in order to assess medium and long term threats to the mandate and to support SLT decision-making.
As a result AMIS encountered serious challenges. This was made worse by the assumption that donors would come forth to support the mission and as a result “boots were on ground before predictable funding was secured.” AMIS then had no control over those who supported “in kind” in strategic areas of the mission such as aviation, fuel, ground transport, camp construction, catering, medical and insurance.
“Coupled with the inadequate administrative, procurement as well as financial rules and regulations of the AU, which were not designed to respond to the needs of such huge operations, the whole programme became a mess,” Mugumya will tell his audience. “In some instances, the first contractors to arrive in the mission, took advantage of the AU weaknesses to make deals. The Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) was not clearly negotiated and “as the result most its provisions were not implemented.” Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) were also “badly drafted and sometimes even never signed and as result some countries turned up with non-functional equipment.”
An AU “Task Force” sent in early 2005 to assess AMIS' management and logistical procurement determined that “the whole Administrative and Management structure was not in place. In particular the logistics were messy.”
By January 2007 when AMISOM was launched, criticism of the AU's performance in Darfur was robust. In an effort not to repeat what happened in Darfur, the AU simply decided that troop contributing countries (TCCs) to AMISOM should self sustain with the AU to reimburse them once it had mobilised resources, he will aver. “This was another miscalculation, because most of the countries that had originally pledged troops could not afford to cater for themselves in all logistics.
Another negative factor was that by the time AMISOM was launched, it was at the same time that AMIS was being transformed to UNAMID, and bearing in mind the challenges TCCs/PCCs encountered with AMIS, most of them shifted their pledges to UNAMID as they understood that under the UN, there is always predictable funding.”
Mugumya is to conclude that these lessons now appear to have been learned and written into the ASF. “However, success of how the future ASF shall much depend on the availability of funding, which should not only from the AU members but the United Nations as whole.” And that remains the rub.