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UNDP: Rose Tint my World
Leon Kukkuk

OURKINGDOM

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Posts: 2 Joined: 2007-05-31

How democratic are the institutions upon which we depend for the promotion and protection of democracy? The truth is that that many of them, especially the international ones, are not democratic at all. In most cases they are not even representative. This may seem to be 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 profound effect on the lives of people and that can be very powerful in their own right are not elected but appointed, and they can be in charge of institutions that are likewise neither created nor run democratically. Heads of law enforcement agencies are good examples.

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THEMES arts & cultures conflicts democracy & power ecology & place faith & ideas globalisation media & the net people OUR WRITERS Alan Greenspan provides perhaps the most illuminating example of how an appointed official can have enormous influence and power. Appointed by Ronald Reagan to head the Federal Reserve and surviving in a demanding post over a period of 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 on people all over the world – determining the health of the American economy and its currency and the influence of this economy on the world economy. Although now retired and well into his ninth decade of life, he still plays a very active and influential role in the public sphere. Although he is probably an exception, even the most ardent believer in democracy would hesitate to argue that such an important position should be left to the vagaries of an electoral process. It is essential to get the best qualified and most competent person into such a vital post. It is also true that the vast majority of people whose lives could be influenced by his decisions are not even eligible to vote for him. The reality is that once the basic institutions of democracy are in place and more or less functional, the people can more or less stand back from it. They can let their chosen delegates do the job they were elected to do. This job includes appointing key officials and creating important institutions. These days it may even include playing a role in creating international organisations for various purposes. The way to hold their emissaries responsible and accountable is not only through fair and free ballots every once in a while but also relying 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. 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 and credibility. In the international arena, where the notion of elections becomes a practical impossibility, it should not be strange that undemocratic institutions are created with the specific purpose of promoting democracy and the development that is supposed to come with it. The prime example of one such an institution is the United Nations Development Programme (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 this it has an important co-ordinating role at the country level, has 135 offices worldwide and operates in more than 160 countries. In poor countries and countries with weak governments the responsibility for development can rest for all intents and purposes with the representative of UNDP in that country.

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(parliament)

Even UNDP claims for what they are doing can be ambitious. On most of their websites there is usually a section “What we are doing?” followed by something like: “UNDP collaborates with the Government, UN sister Agencies, Donors, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders in promoting people-centred development and building partnerships to fight poverty through UNDP's core five practice areas: Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Energy and environment, HIV/AIDS.” Ambitious stuff. They want us to be democratic, rich, at peace, behaving responsibly 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 myths regarding democracy: • Democracy is not a fantastic system that must be promoted at all cost. The manner in which it gets to be promoted and the institutions that do this, plays at the very least, a pivotal role in justifying why it should be promoted. • It is maintained that democracies are more peaceful than dictatorships. The two most belligerent countries, by far are Israel and the United States. China is one of the most peaceful and benign of countries. • Democracies are said to be inherently stable or, if not, they are able to successfully incorporate the instability inherent in politics. The Weimar Republic, under one of the most democratic constitutions of the time, gave birth to Adolf Hitler. Democratic Italy has had 50 or more governments since Mussolini. The bloodiest civil wars in history erupted in Republican Spain and, seven decades earlier, in the United States. Czechoslovakia and the USSR fell apart upon becoming democratic, having survived intact for most of a century as dictatorships. • Democracies are said to be conducive to economic growth (in fact there cannot be any economic growth without democracy, it is said). In history the fastest economic growth rates go to imperial Rome (in contrast to Republican Rome), Nazi Germany in the years 1933-38, Russia under Stalin, and China after Mao Zedung. It must be granted though that the most sustained, long-term economic growth goes to the United States. Democracy is not perfect. Democracy is a moral dilemma much more than a practical one. It is about how we do things. It is about being fair, unbiased and reasonable. Democracy is not primarily about making us richer, more peaceful or healthier; it is about making our societies more just and responsible. It may then be argued that any institution promoting democracy should work to the highest moral standards. In addition, there is no evidence whatsoever that anybody has ever developed anybody else or enforced democracy anywhere. On the contrary, there are dozens of cases in the last generation or so, where countries had intervened, often by force of arms, to reverse and nullify the outcomes of wholly legal and legitimate popular and democratic elections. Often brutal and kleptocratic dictators had been instilled in place of the deposed elected officials. There are just as many examples of how perfectly viable societies had been destroyed by “development” usually in the form of unfair trade deals and a blind adherence to the “benefits” of “free markets” and then subsequently further undermined by the influx of “development agencies” who brought with them nothing but a range of unrealistic fantasy projects. So there is a dilemma that needs to be faced here. An undemocratic agency is created, 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 of which 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 only alternative 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 are supposed to have, is legitimacy. This legitimacy should be based on the quality of

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their work and on the quality of the people that they employ. UNDP need to make very 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, and what 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 corrupt and inept and was never followed up. Or, at least, everybody just knew that they were inept and corrupt, but nobody was allowed to talk about it. This was followed slowly by a small trickle of publicly available information that has turned in the last few years into a torrent. Articles and allegations raise problems in various UNDP country offices, many of them going back for years. Without being encyclopaedic about the current issues they include North Korea, Burma, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Russia, Ivory Coast, DRC, Afghanistan, Somalia. It is by no means the entire list. They involve disregard for rules, intrigues, punishment of whistle-blowers, improper staffing, weak audits, selling improper travel documents, and assisting diamonddealing and other dubious involvements in war-torn or struggling countries. At UNDP headquarters, allegations involve a meaningless transparency policy, poor governance in a compliant UNDP Executive Board, UNDP management refusal to supply audit reports to that board, inadequate internal audit work, manipulation of Internet blogs, belligerent top leadership, stonewalling on major issues, serious financial management control problems, and rejection of established UN policies and an insistence on an independent operational status. A survey in 2004 of staff integrity produced surprisingly negative comments on UN leadership and the management culture. (It is true that the whole of the United Nations system is facing a crisis of credibility but concerns have overwhelmingly come to focus on UNDP.) In addition we are told that the officials working for this agency, as is the case for all United Nations staff, benefits from international immunity. Not to worry, we are told, the UN has its own justice system. All we can rely on is the fact that these internal justice systems work. But a panel of respected legal experts, hired by the staff union to examine the UN’s internal “judicial” system, reported two years ago that the UN is in violation of its own human-rights standards. States enjoy separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary. International organizations tend to run these concepts together through a unique governance system which provides the official in charge of the international organisation a wide discretion to make decisions without consultation with any board of directors or parliament. One consequence is an absence of adequate checks and balances inside international organizations. The justice system becomes hopelessly politicized and, thus, biased, distrusted, and compromised. The UN judiciary, especially, is in a state of decrepit decline as unqualified beneficiaries of patronage join the ranks. IO Watch report that “Only one serious investigation of (UN) corruption problems has ever been made, in 1992, but there are many other investigatory articles stretching far back into the past and recently appearing much more frequently. The UN has even been labelled by one close and knowledgeable observer as "probably the most unaccountable organization in the world.” This inadequate regulation of international organisation activities contribute to a legal gap where corruption goes without prosecution unless picked up by conscientious journalists or even more rarely by individual UN officials who pursue the cases as “private” efforts. There is even the ridiculous pronouncement of the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal in its February 2007 Judgment N° 2611, consideration 8, rejecting the application of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to international organizations. Nevertheless, a former judge on the UN and World Bank Administrative Tribunals, Judge C. Amerasinghe, very clearly states that international organisations are directly subject to all international human rights instruments. UNDP’s funding also does not come from clear and easily monitored contributions. It comes from various arrangements with a motley assortment of UN member states, shadowy trust funds, some financed with public money, some private; some for specific purposes, some not. Under a policy known as “National Execution,” (NEX)

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UNDP lends itself as a secretive and diplomatically immune vehicle for transferring funds around the globe. Vague arrangements, “cost sharing” and Trust Funds circulate money from local governments to a complex web of favoured contractors and consultants, via the UNDP bureaucratic labyrinth, at times without the knowledge or authorisation of those governments. Complex internal arrangements obscure administrative and operational boundaries. Audits are strange, irregular affairs that cast cursory glances at oddly defined little bureaucratic boxes but ignore the relationships between them. Both the origin and final destination of funds quickly disappear under a mountain of paperwork of astonishing complexity. It is a set-up that invites only cronyism, corruption and abuse. UNDP, functionally and morally accountable to nobody, drenched in cash and running a global empire, can and does do whatever it pleases. It publishes virtually nothing on any of its activities, and spreads the little of what it does publish over hundreds of websites and in hugely complex, yet incomplete, reports full of self-congratulating back-slapping, meaningless platitudes and unrealistic promises. Meaningful budget details, audit results and independent recommendations are nowhere to be found. Its one-dimensional over-simplification of complex development issues; its heartless lack of empathy for staff, beneficiaries and partners; and bloated sense of entitlement is in stark contrast to its missionary zeal on the transformation, willy-nilly, of their erstwhile charges into paragons of democracy and good governance. Any form of criticism is invariably rejected out-of-hand as insignificant affairs dreamed up by those hostile to the UN and the media. The member states of the UN are routinely blamed as responsible for UNDP dysfunction. The antagonism between UNDP and everybody outside their little bubble is often palpable. Their arrogance and obtuse refusal to engage in soul searching and house cleaning do little to ameliorate this antagonism. Perhaps the most central elements of this UNDP situation can be found in serious troubles uncovered in the UNDP office in North Korea in early 2007, which led Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call for a “world-wide audit of all programmes and funds.” Trouble started when Artjon Shkurtaj, UNDP’s Chief of Operations and Security in North Korea (2004-2006) witnessed a range of UNDP abuses such as the funnelling of hard cash to the rogue regime of Kim Jong Il. He reported the issues to his superiors at UNDP. He was told not to make trouble. Finally Shkurtaj blew the whistle outside UNDP. UNDP then sacked him. Fortunately, the UN has made provision for such situations. Kofi Annan had set up an Ethics Office, housed in the Secretariat and reporting to the secretary-general. Among other things, the Ethics Office is tasked to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. So Shkurtaj took his case to the UN Ethics Office protesting that he had been sacked in retaliation for his whistle-blowing. There, the ethics director, Robert Benson, a Canadian, finally produced a confidential memo addressed to the head of UNDP, Administrator Kemal Dervis, and copied to Ban and a number of others. He saw grounds that “a prima facie case had been established” that UNDP was punishing Shkurtaj for his whistle blowing. Mentioning “independent and corroborative information” for his finding, Benson supported Shkurtaj. UNDP officials denied this, saying that he was on a short-term contract that had simply expired. By now the promised “world-wide audit of all programmes and funds,” after many delays, had shrunk to become only a single audit of the North Korea office. On 01 June 2007 UNDP issued a statement regarding the preliminary audit report on UN operations in North Korea saying: “UNDP will be transmitting a formal management response to the ACABQ shortly. UNDP would welcome a continuation of the audit process, including a visit by the UNBOA to DPRK. UNDP looks forward to the final audit report.” This audit itself was stonewalled, but did manage to find violations of UNDP regulations. Eventually this was tacitly acknowledged, then swept under the carpet by the UNDP management. In a letter sent to UNDP, Mark Wallace, the US State Department ambassador at the UN for management and reform, wrote that the auditors’ testimony shows it is “impossible” for the agency to verify whether its funds “have actually been used for bona fide development purposes or if the DPRK [North Korea] has converted such funds for its own illicit purposes.” Paradoxically enough, neither Wallace nor the U.S. government were allowed copies of the audits, which are considered “management tools” by UNDP and not even

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available to the governments that finance the organization. It also turns out that UNDP, which has no ethics office of its own, is refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the UN Secretariat’s Ethics Office, promising instead that they will be making their own arrangements for a “complementary external review” that would cover both its North Korea operations and Shkurtaj’s allegations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed all of this with UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis, but none of the substance of these discussions is publicly available. Kemal Dervis has also not held a press conference since December 2006. He is simply not available to provide some sort of clarity on what is going on. On 11 September 2007 the International Herald Tribune reported that: “UNDP and other specialized UN agencies intend to meet later this month to try to define standards for whistle-blowers, since the entities contend they do not fall under UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's ethics office.” UNDP did not bring up this point when the Ethics Office was created in 2005. They did not even mention it when they became aware that this office was investigating one of their decisions. It only became an issue when this office made a decision that they did not like. Maybe it should be pointed out that the UNDP Operations Manual, Article 1.1 Point 2. states: “The UNDP mission statement emphasizes that, as part of the United Nations, UNDP upholds the vision of the United Nations Charter.” This capricious inconsistency casts the sincerity of UNDP in grave doubt - and in sharp relief its unreliability and disloyalty, its short term thinking, reduced attention span, defensive mentality and dangerous, “black and white” simplicity. The fact is that it is entirely devoid of memory. Each time yet another scandal crops up, UNDP acts with the utmost surprise and indignation as if they had never before been caught with their grubby little paws in the financial cookie jar. And in each instance a convenient scapegoat is found: the whistleblowers, John Bolton, the UN member states and now; even the rules. There is something strangely contradictory here. Either the ethics promoted by the UN Ethics Office for some or other reason does not apply to UNDP. UNDP then needs to clarify, and do so quickly, which ethics exactly it is that do apply to them. Alternatively the ethics apply to them but they want it enforced in a different manner to the “best practices” already promulgated by the UN Ethics Office. It may well be that the UN Ethics Office has no jurisdiction over them although the ethics still apply and the best practices still apply. They just want to do things differently. Why? Might it be that they simply want to promote more of the same unnecessary duplication and redundancy that has made the system so opaque in the past? It simply wants to add yet more layers of intransigent and obscure bureaucracy to an already unwieldy mammoth. They may well be afraid that somebody may just spot the real problem and be outraged enough to demand real solutions. It is just another excuse to remain openly and unapologetically corrupt and ridden with nepotism and cronyism. Why? This self-righteous and cavalier attitude towards justice would have been more tolerable if UNDP meant and practiced what it preached. But nowhere has UNDP ever created any development. There are two reasons for it. Its managers don’t know what the substance of development is and how to create it, and the immorality of so many of their bureaucrats contradicts their pious and simplistic message of development. All the programmes of that institution are expensive and dishonest. Their beautiful words hide immoral purposes. The IO Watch website suggests that “UNDP is, for most practical purposes, morphing from a development agency into a species of highly privileged rogue state operating, it seems, outside any jurisdiction.” The truth is that UNDP is simply behaving with remarkable consistency as exactly the sort of institution that it is and had been for a while. It is a crime syndicate. A significant proportion of its staff are criminals plundering a vast resource of ready cash. They are not going to give it up without a fight. Further Reading IO Watch The International Herald Tribune

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The UN Forum Eye on the UN Inner City Press ReformtheUN.org The Government Accountability Project (GAP) The Center for the Accountability of International Organizations (CAIO) The Global Policy Forum ‹ Forums guidelines/ terms & conditions It Constrains Us ›

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-Leon Kukkuk Letters to Gabriella: Angola's Last War for Peace, What the UN Did and Why http://letterstogabriella.blogspot.com

Submitted on Mon, 2007-10-01 06:16

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