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UNDP Rose Tint My World

UNDP Rose Tint My World

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Published by Leon Kukkuk

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Published by: Leon Kukkuk on Aug 23, 2010
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UNDP: Rose Tint my World| | | | | | | |
Leon Kukkuk 
Posts: 2Joined: 2007-05-31
How democratic are the institutions upon which we depend for the promotion andprotection of democracy?The truth is that that many of them, especially the international ones, are notdemocratic at all. In most cases they are not even representative. This may seem tobe a bit of a contradiction.It is not as contradictory or as undesirable as it at first appears.Even in the most dedicated democracies many officials that can have a profoundeffect on the lives of people and that can be very powerful in their own right arenot elected but appointed, and they can be in charge of institutions that arelikewise neither created nor run democratically. Heads of law enforcement agenciesare good examples.Alan Greenspan provides perhaps the most illuminating example of how anappointed official can have enormous influence and power. Appointed by RonaldReagan to head the Federal Reserve and surviving in a demanding post over a periodof several administrations his decisions had a profound impact not only on Americans– their savings and debt, job security and ability to own homes, for example – but onpeople all over the world – determining the health of the American economy and itscurrency and the influence of this economy on the world economy. Although nowretired and well into his ninth decade of life, he still plays a very active andinfluential role in the public sphere.Although he is probably an exception, even the most ardent believer in democracywould hesitate to argue that such an important position should be left to thevagaries of an electoral process. It is essential to get the best qualified and mostcompetent person into such a vital post. It is also true that the vast majority ofpeople whose lives could be influenced by his decisions are not even eligible to votefor him.The reality is that once the basic institutions of democracy are in place and more orless functional, the people can more or less stand back from it. They can let theirchosen delegates do the job they were elected to do. This job includes appointingkey officials and creating important institutions. These days it may even includeplaying a role in creating international organisations for various purposes. The wayto hold their emissaries responsible and accountable is not only through fair and freeballots every once in a while but also relying on a number of oversight structuresthat should be in place. These include, but are not limited to a judiciary, audits,oversight committees, access to information and an independent and respectedmedia. Making democracies function well is more complicated than having elections.It has very little to do with participation but a lot to do with representation andcredibility.In the international arena, where the notion of elections becomes a practicalimpossibility, it should not be strange that undemocratic institutions are createdwith the specific purpose of promoting democracy and the development that issupposed to come with it.The prime example of one such an institution is the United Nations DevelopmentProgramme (UNDP). UNDP is considered to be a very important institution.UNDP is important because it is a $5 billion-a-year program. This is a quarter of the$20 billion-plus that the United Nations has available annually. Over and above thisit has an important co-ordinating role at the country level, has 135 officesworldwide and operates in more than 160 countries. In poor countries and countrieswith weak governments the responsibility for development can rest for all intentsand purposes with the representative of UNDP in that country.Imagining Britain, JonBright The EU's democraticdeficit is a myth, saysRichard Corbett MEP Join the debate atdLiberation A change inPalestinian languageis more than justrhetorical, saysMariaStephan 
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Even UNDP claims for what they are doing can be ambitious. On most of theirwebsites there is usually a section “What we are doing?” followed by something like:“UNDP collaborates with the Government, UN sister Agencies, Donors, Civil SocietyOrganizations and other stakeholders in promoting people-centred development andbuilding partnerships to fight poverty through UNDP's core five practice areas:Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Energyand environment, HIV/AIDS.”Ambitious stuff. They want us to be democratic, rich, at peace, behavingresponsibly and be healthy.Important questions that should therefore be asked are:“What right does UNDP have to do these things?”“How effective are they in doing this?”In order to answer these questions it may be necessary to debunk a few mythsregarding democracy:• Democracy is not a fantastic system that must be promoted at all cost. Themanner in which it gets to be promoted and the institutions that do this, plays atthe very least, a pivotal role in justifying why it should be promoted.• It is maintained that democracies are more peaceful than dictatorships. The twomost belligerent countries, by far are Israel and the United States. China is one ofthe most peaceful and benign of countries.• Democracies are said to be inherently stable or, if not, they are able tosuccessfully incorporate the instability inherent in politics. The Weimar Republic,under one of the most democratic constitutions of the time, gave birth to AdolfHitler. Democratic Italy has had 50 or more governments since Mussolini. Thebloodiest civil wars in history erupted in Republican Spain and, seven decadesearlier, in the United States. Czechoslovakia and the USSR fell apart upon becomingdemocratic, having survived intact for most of a century as dictatorships.• Democracies are said to be conducive to economic growth (in fact there cannot beany economic growth without democracy, it is said). In history the fastest economicgrowth rates go to imperial Rome (in contrast to Republican Rome), Nazi Germany inthe years 1933-38, Russia under Stalin, and China after Mao Zedung. It must begranted though that the most sustained, long-term economic growth goes to theUnited States.Democracy is not perfect. Democracy is a moral dilemma much more than apractical one. It is about how we do things. It is about being fair, unbiased andreasonable. Democracy is not primarily about making us richer, more peaceful orhealthier; it is about making our societies more just and responsible.It may then be argued that any institution promoting democracy should work to thehighest moral standards. In addition, there is no evidence whatsoever that anybodyhas ever developed anybody else or enforced democracy anywhere.On the contrary, there are dozens of cases in the last generation or so, wherecountries had intervened, often by force of arms, to reverse and nullify theoutcomes of wholly legal and legitimate popular and democratic elections. Oftenbrutal and kleptocratic dictators had been instilled in place of the deposed electedofficials.There are just as many examples of how perfectly viable societies had beendestroyed by “development” usually in the form of unfair trade deals and a blindadherence to the “benefits” of “free markets” and then subsequently furtherundermined by the influx of “development agencies” who brought with themnothing but a range of unrealistic fantasy projects.So there is a dilemma that needs to be faced here. An undemocratic agency iscreated, and given an awful lot of money, and told to promote “democracy” and“development,” concepts that are not defined - and will never be defined - and ofwhich only home-grown examples of success exist.It is quite right to ask whether UNDP need to exist at all.Why should we trust them?It is not possible that they can be subjected to periodic elections. The onlyalternative is to rely on a number of oversight structures that should be in place.These include, but are not limited to a judiciary, audits, oversight committees,access to information and an independent and respected media.The oversight structures should demonstrate that what they do have, or aresuosed to have is leitimac. This leitimac should be based on the ualit of
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their work and on the quality of the people that they employ. UNDP need to makevery clear exactly what purpose it is intended to serve and for whom it is intended.They need to be forthright in just how well they are discharging their duties, andwhat their projects are really doing under such vague labels as “governance,”“empowerment,” and “capacity building.”Legitimacy, like credibility, is a fragile thing. It takes effort and hard work to earn,but can vaporise in an instant.Unfortunately anecdotal evidence emerged several decades ago of UNDP as corruptand inept and was never followed up. Or, at least, everybody just knew that theywere inept and corrupt, but nobody was allowed to talk about it. This was followedslowly by a small trickle of publicly available information that has turned in the lastfew years into a torrent.Articles and allegations raise problems in various UNDP country offices, many ofthem going back for years. Without being encyclopaedic about the current issuesthey include North Korea, Burma, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Russia,Ivory Coast, DRC, Afghanistan, Somalia. It is by no means the entire list. Theyinvolve disregard for rules, intrigues, punishment of whistle-blowers, improperstaffing, weak audits, selling improper travel documents, and assisting diamond-dealing and other dubious involvements in war-torn or struggling countries. At UNDPheadquarters, allegations involve a meaningless transparency policy, poorgovernance in a compliant UNDP Executive Board, UNDP management refusal tosupply audit reports to that board, inadequate internal audit work, manipulation ofInternet blogs, belligerent top leadership, stonewalling on major issues, seriousfinancial management control problems, and rejection of established UN policiesand an insistence on an independent operational status. A survey in 2004 of staffintegrity produced surprisingly negative comments on UN leadership and themanagement culture. (It is true that the whole of the United Nations system isfacing a crisis of credibility but concerns have overwhelmingly come to focus onUNDP.)In addition we are told that the officials working for this agency, as is the case forall United Nations staff, benefits from international immunity. Not to worry, we aretold, the UN has its own justice system. All we can rely on is the fact that theseinternal justice systems work.But a panel of respected legal experts, hired by the staff union to examine the UN’sinternal “judicial” system, reported two years ago that the UN is in violation of itsown human-rights standards.States enjoy separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary.International organizations tend to run these concepts together through a uniquegovernance system which provides the official in charge of the internationalorganisation a wide discretion to make decisions without consultation with anyboard of directors or parliament. One consequence is an absence of adequate checksand balances inside international organizations. The justice system becomeshopelessly politicized and, thus, biased, distrusted, and compromised. The UNjudiciary, especially, is in a state of decrepit decline as unqualified beneficiaries ofpatronage join the ranks.IO Watch report that “Only one serious investigation of (UN) corruption problems hasever been made, in 1992, but there are many other investigatory articles stretchingfar back into the past and recently appearing much more frequently. The UN haseven been labelled by one close and knowledgeable observer as "probably the mostunaccountable organization in the world.”This inadequate regulation of international organisation activities contribute to alegal gap where corruption goes without prosecution unless picked up byconscientious journalists or even more rarely by individual UN officials who pursuethe cases as “private” efforts. There is even the ridiculous pronouncement of theInternational Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal in its February 2007Judgment N° 2611, consideration 8, rejecting the application of the EuropeanConvention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tointernational organizations. Nevertheless, a former judge on the UN and World BankAdministrative Tribunals, Judge C. Amerasinghe, very clearly states thatinternational organisations are directly subject to all international human rightsinstruments.UNDP’s funding also does not come from clear and easily monitored contributions. Itcomes from various arrangements with a motley assortment of UN member states,shadowy trust funds, some financed with public money, some private; some forspecific purposes, some not. Under a policy known as “National Execution,” (NEX)
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