Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Australian: - Ted Baillieu to dump carbon target

THE Baillieu government will today dump state Labor's 20 per cent greenhouse emissions reduction target by 2020, in the latest pro-jobs policy shift designed to shore up support among an ambivalent business community.

An independent review of Victoria's Climate Change Act will warn against keeping a state-backed target when the national benchmark is as low as 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

The review also will cite modelling stating that even with an emissions trading scheme, meeting the 20 per cent target would require the Baillieu government to spend an extra $2.2 billion to buy international offsets.

The decision to dump the 20 per cent reduction target by 2020 -- based on 2000 levels -- comes despite the Coalition refusing to oppose the target when it was passed during Labor's last term in power.

The target is included in state law but will be repealed by the government, which has control of both houses of parliament.


The Guardian: Cleaning up the Global Compact: dealing with corporate free riders

US dollars notes are checked at the Kore
Now there is a realisation that companies must look beyond profit to their environmental and social impacts if they want to ensure long term performance. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

If you want to know whether greenwash is alive and well, look no further than the thousands of companies being thrown out of the world's largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative, the UN Global Compact. More than 750 businesses, including major corporations in Europe and America are likely to be kicked out in the next six months alone, with hundreds more to follow. These are on top of the 3,100 businesses already delisted in the past few years.

Executive director Georg Kell is on a mission to clean up the organisation and ensure that members are building sustainability into their core activities and not using the Global Compact for PR purposes. While some companies have been removed because of bankruptcies and mergers, Kell says he is dealing with "free riders who joined but had no intention to stay engaged."

Non-governmental organisations have long criticised the Global Compact, which promotes 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption, because it has no effective monitoring and enforcement provisions.

They also accuse businesses of using it to oppose any binding international regulation on corporate accountability and for benefitting from the Global Compact's logo, a blue globe and a laurel wreath, which is very similar to the UN logo, while continuing to perpetrate human rights and environmental abuses.....


Saturday, March 24, 2012

If you know how to rap and are from South Korea (i.e. Ban Ki Moon) than you qualify for World Bank Prez

World Bank nominee Jim Yong Kim showcases rapping talent

President Obama has announced that he is nominating a Korean-born American academic, Jim Yong Kim, to be the new head of the World Bank.

President Obama also listed Dr Kim's many extra-curricular talents including basketball and golf.

After the announcement, footage emerged of the new nominee starring as a rapper in an "Idol" competition last year at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, where he is president.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scientists who invented GLOBAL WARMING will be immune from any prosecution - UN will give them full diplomatic immunity-privileges

Fox News - Fair & Balanced

Mammoth new green climate fund wants United Nations-style diplomatic immunity, even though it’s not part of the UN


Published March 22, 2012

| FoxNews.com

EXCLUSIVE: The Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to help mobilize as much as $100 billion a year to lower global greenhouse gases, is seeking a broad blanket of U.N.-style immunity that would shield its operations from any kind of legal process, including civil and criminal prosecution, in the countries where it operates. There’s just one problem: it is not part of the United Nations.

Whether the fund, which was formally created at a U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa last December, will get all the money it wants to spend is open to question in an era of economic slowdown and fiscal austerity. Its spending goal comes atop some $30 billion in “fast start-up” money that has been pledged by U.N. member states to such climate change activities.

A 24-nation interim board of trustees for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is slated to hold its first meeting next month in Switzerland to organize the fund’s secretariat and to get it running by November, as well as find a permanent home for the GCF’s operations. The board expects to spend about $6.7 million between now and June of next year.

But before it is fully operational, the GCF’s creators—194 countries that belong to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and who are also U.N. members—want it to be immune from legal challenges and lawsuits, not to mention outside inspections, much like the United Nations itself cannot be affected by decisions rendered by a sovereign nation’s government or judicial system.

Despite its name, the UNFCCC was informed in 2006 by the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs that it was not considered a U.N. “organ,” and therefore could not claim immunity for its subordinate bodies or personnel under the General Convention that has authorized U.N. immunity since the end of World War II.

A UNFCCC resolution granting similar immunities would need to be “accepted, approved or ratified” by each individual member of the Kyoto Protocol before it took effect, the U.N. legal office advised. Even if UNFCCC members decided to ask the U.N. General Assembly to grant them similar immunity it would require each U.N. member state to make changes in domestic legislation, the opinion declared.

Click here for the legal office communication.

The immunity that the UNFCCC wants also governs where the Green Climate Fund can make its home. Among other things, the GCF board is charged to consider whether any would-be hosts have “the ability to provide privileges and immunities to the Fund as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes, and to the officials of the Fund as are necessary for the independent exercise of their official functions.”

In other words, without offering immunity, you cannot host the Green Climate Fund.

Click here for the resolution launching the fund and seeking immunities.

Countries interested in hosting the Green Climate Fund have until April 15 to let the board know. The U.S. is not considered likely to be one of them.

According to an official of the U.S. Treasury, which strongly supports the existence of the GCF, the full extent of the immunities still remains to be worked out by the fund board, although the wording of various UNFCCC resolutions indicate that immunities like those held by the U.N. are clearly envisaged.

Even beyond the U.N., immunities from outside inspection and legal action have become a hallmark of international organizations, whose members often consider them a necessity to keep their operations, and their officials, from facing harassment in national courts. Among others, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), an organization initially sparked by Bill Gates, has been granted such immunities under U.S. law, according to the International Organizations Immunities Act. The World Bank, among other development finance institutions, also enjoys immunities.

Critics of such immunities, on the other hand, say that they are a barrier to proper external oversight of vast amounts of international spending, a potential facilitator of corruption, and a dangerous weapon against the protection of property rights and other civil rights of those affected by the institutions’ actions.

“Immunities amount to a veil of secrecy,” says Bea Edwards, executive director of the Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based whistleblower protection organization.

“They are an immunity from external audit or oversight. They build in a structural conflict of interest at any immune institution for any internal oversight mechanism.”

Those differing views could be even strongly felt in the years ahead due to the sweeping environmental actions that the GCF intends to finance and foster in its bid to forge a new, global “green economy” to forestall hazardous “climate change.”

For one thing, there is the hoped-for size of the GCF: $100 billion in annual spending would be more than well more than double the amount ($44 billion) spent in 2010 by the World Bank , heretofore the world’s largest development institution. The scope of the climate fund’s ambitions is also likely to vary widely across much of the developing world—where oversight is already weak, and national governments, which would execute most of the GCF’s projects, are often spectacularly corrupt.

For another, private investors as well as public-private partnerships, in addition to governments, could be contributing resources through the GCF, meaning that private interests could also benefit from the cloud of secrecy that immunities would place over the fund’s operations.

(Under U.N. immunity rules, property and funds “administered” by a U.N. agency “in furtherance of its constitutional functions” count as its own.)

That cloud of secrecy and privilege—at least, as codified by the U.N., is formidable.

According to the U.N.’s convention on privileges and immunities as applied in 1947 to U.N. “specialized agencies,” their property and assets “shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process,” except when waived. And even then, waivers can never apply “to any measure of execution,” meaning whatever was done with them.

U.N. premises as well as property and assets, are immune from “search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative judicial or legislative action.” All archives and documents, including even those “held” by the agencies, are considered “inviolable.”

Such agencies can move money, gold or any kinds of funds outside of any national regulation; are exempt from taxes, customs duties and import or export restrictions.

The same bulletproof status goes for their officials.

In the case of something like the GCF, this is “an issue of extending privileges and immunities to property rights,” in the opinion of Allan Meltzer, a distinguished professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University. “And these privileged people will not necessarily protect the property rights of others,” he adds.

A consultant at various times to the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and Congress, Melzer also chaired a Clinton-era congressionally-mandated advisory commission on International financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Says he: “Rather than extending immunities, we should be emphasizing the rule of law. If we want to do environmental things, we should do them above board, not in secret.”

Judging from the course it has set for itself, the masters of the Green Climate Fund evidently disagree. However, questions sent last week, and again early this week, by Fox News to the CGF regarding its operations and immunities had received no reply before this article was published.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter@GeorgeRussell

Click here for more stories by George Russell.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees blasted for poor financial handling


By George Russell

EXCLUSIVE: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, two years ago was sitting on a stockpile of $437 million in unspent cash, even as a U.N. auditing agency warned that its sloppy handling of funds imperiled future contributions from U.N. member nations.

The report, issued last year but only introduced for member-state review in the U.N. General Assembly, cites UNHCR for sloppy bookkeeping, poor financial oversight, managerial disarray, and a lack of tools to judge how well it was doing its job of helping tens of millions of the world's displaced people.

The U.N.'s independent Board of Auditors used remarkably straight-forward language to lambaste the refugee agency, whose largest donor, the United States, contributed $712 million to UNHCR in 2010, according to the State Department. The auditors noted that the relief agency, which is financed largely by voluntary contributions, spent about $1.9 billion in 2010; its budget two years earlier was about $1.1 billion.

The auditors pointed out that there were “strong indicators of significant shortcomings in financial management" at the agency, headed since 2005 by Antonio Guterres, a former Socialist prime minister of Portugal. "This is a major risk for UNHCR," the auditors warned, "given the increasing pressures on donors to justify why they provide public funds to international aid organizations."

Moreover, the inspectors did not seem optimistic that the situation would change soon, even though UNHCR's management now says that it is working hard on a wide variety of fronts to change the disturbing situation.

The Board of Auditors report, written last year but only recently published, amounted to the first major external assessment of UNHCR's behavior after its spending began to balloon dramatically in 2008 in line with a new strategy known as the Global Needs Assessment, a novel way to encourage donors to come up with more cash.

Rather than looking at its donor pledges and then determining its budget, UNHCR is now using the Global Needs Assessment to determine the amount that it feels it needs to spend, then building a budget to accommodate that perspective -- though, in the end, it still must manage with the amount it takes in.

The new approach has given more of a social welfare tilt to UNHCR relief efforts, even though it is still thought of primarily as a front-line relief group that doles out emergency food and shelter to populations displaced across national borders by war, famine and drought.

Click here to see the Auditors Report.

The Obama administration has apparently found the Global Needs approach convincing. U.S. contributions to the relief agency increased by about 40 percent between 2008 and 2010,before tailing off only slightly last year.

For this year and next, when UNHCR hopes to spend about $3.3 billion a year under its Global Needs, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News, U.S. support "will depend on current crises to which UNHCR responds."

For UNHCR's external auditors, however, the issue is not so much the agency's needs as its financial and management capabilities -- and these it found dolefully lacking. Among other things, the auditors' report notes:

--UNHCR could not balance its many checkbooks. No fewer than 99 of its bank and investment accounts, holding more than $375 million, 'lacked up-to-date reconciliations, a key financial control.' The auditors had warned about the same problem a year earlier, and not much was done about it. (The backlog had been cut to three active accounts before the auditors' report was published.)

--the agency wasn't even prepared for its own audit, reflecting "significant deficiencies in the systems in place to prepare its financial statements, and in the quality of the supervision and ownership of these processes, from the most senior executive level downward and across the entire organization."

--UNHCR "remains unable to gather and analyses basic management information on its operations," or "to get a full grip on the performance of its implementing partners or the delivery of major initiatives." Translation: it doesn't know what it is actually doing.

--UNHCR's own share of what it takes in from donors is high. Despite roughly 22 percent of its $1.9 billion in actual spending for 2010 that went to "administrative overhead and staff benefits," the report notes. At the time of the audit, UNHCR had 6,300 regular staff working in some 380 offices located in 125 countries.

-- despite those overheads, roughly one-third of UNHCR's spending ($667 million) went to "implementing partners," meaning non-government organizations and others who carried out relief operations. Who they all were, and how well they functioned, was not at all clear. The process of selecting those partners, the auditors noted, "lacks rigor and transparency, increasing the risk of fraud, corruption, inefficiency and poor partner performance."

--More than half of the implementing partners had worked for UNHCR for more than five years, and the auditors found "little evidence of any kind of competitive selection process," cost comparison or matching of capabilities with requirements. The Board of Auditors said it was "particularly concerned at the lack of transparency in partner selection processes and the increased risk of fraud and corruption to which this exposes UNHCR."

--however badly the partners -- or for that matter, UNHCR staffers -- performed in the field, however, the Board of Auditors did not think highly of the agency's ability to judge it. "Performance from its country network does not enable management to make effective judgments as to the cost-effectiveness of projects and activities or to hold local managers accountable for performance," the report says.

If anything, the Board of Auditors report underplays the seriousness of UNHCR's lack of field intelligence on its own operations, many of which stem from a multimillion-dollar fiasco involving installation of a new, systemwide software system, known as Focus. The software was supposed to integrate financial and human resources information, in order to propel UNHCR toward better "results-based management."

According to another internal U.N. inspection report, which Fox News reported on last May, there have been "years of delays" in installing Focus, and the lack of information has affected hundreds of millions of dollars in UNHCR spending.

Asked how the U.S. viewed the Board of Auditors report, a State Department spokesman declared that "we follow the institutional and operational issues closely." The spokesman also pointed to statements made by the U.S. at a meeting of UNHCR's executive committee last October, where a U.S. diplomat declared that "several of the findings of the Board concern us," without going into detail. At another "ex-com" session in Geneva, U.S. Ambassador David Robinson underlined that "the United States remains a committed partner with UNHCR and the beneficiaries it serves."

How does UNHCR itself intend to deal with the management swamp outlined in the Board of Auditors report?

Not to worry, according to the agency's management. In a report nearly as long as the auditors' investigation, UNHCR last September outlined a lengthy list of "measures taken and proposed" to improve things. Some of them, however, seemed vague, or less than wholesale.

On the alarming bank account reconciliation process, for example, the agency reported that it had already done a great deal, and that “bank accounts held at Headquarters are fully reconciled and are routinely reconciled on a monthly basis.” But this excludes accounts in the field, where the auditors are particularly critical of oversight lapses.

In addressing what the auditors call "deficiencies in country office financial management and reporting capacity," UNHCR says it will "review relevant audit and inspection reports, consult with Headquarters and Bureaux and continue to analyse data ... to focus on those country offices in need of greater strengthening of financial management practices. Based on this review and analysis, UNHCR will develop workplans to address the identified gaps." It hopes to have the process completed by the end of this year.

When it comes to adopting a "risk-management" approach to its partners in relief operations, as the auditors recommended, UNHCR says it first must adopt a "Differentiated Risk-Based Framework" and then apply it appropriately. The agency projects, somewhat murkily, that the "overall development application of the Framework will be completed by 2014."

Click here to read the 'Measures Taken' report.

Asked by Fox News last week whether it was on track to meet the many promised deadlines in its "measures taken" report, UNHCR had not replied before this article was published.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter @GeorgeRussell

Click for more stories by George Russell