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IFAD's Nwanze Dismissive on Land-Grabs, Says Indian Suicides Not New

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- When the President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development Kanayo Nwanze held a press conference at the UN on October 13, Inner City Press asked what seemed a simple question: is IFAD against land grabs?

  Numerous UN system official have criticized large scale leases of agricultural land to foreign investors. But on October 13 Nwanze said these are mis-reported, and praised projects -- which he didn't specify in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka.

  Ethiopia's land leases are among the most criticized; Sri Lanka's banning of Tamils from lands in the North continues to be a problem. The new Free UN Coalition for Access is looking into collusion with such abuses from within the UN.

  But Nwanze, based in Rome, seems to move in a different world. To another questioner he said that the suicide of Indian farmers is "nothing new."

  Nor is this. Back in October 2010, Inner City Press reported on Nwanze living like an emperor, with swimming pool and soccer fields and UN funded bodyguards.

  Nwanze used Ban Ki-moon's increased UN system security guidelines as his justification for having security guards at his office and luxurious villa on Rome's Villa Antica.

  The press in Rome picked up on it, quoting disgusted IFAD staff and diplomats and alleging bookkeeping games to hide the extravagance.

One English language publication, still active in covering IFAD and FAO, said:

Since he became president Mr Nwanze has stepped up personal security, installing an armed guard in front of his office and using the official presidential driver more often than Mr Bage, who often preferred to drive himself around Rome, the sources say. IFAD sources say the changes follow a perception that security may have been lax in the past rather than reflecting a change in leadership style, however. 'We have had security assessments,' said one IFAD staff member. 'According to UN standards we need to upgrade security to meet the standards of the UN. Some steps are being taken.'

An Italian publication, as translated by a Friend on Inner City Press, reports that

Rome (Oct. 29) - Felix Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), the UN agency which has as its mission to eradicate poverty in the world, recently made cuts of 2.5 million dollars to the organization's budget but has opposed in every way reducing his extraordinary personal expenses, including rent of a luxurious villa ... a house with a park of two hectares, a swimming pool, gym, soccer fields and a basketball court and a garage to house the cars of the President, two BMWs, a Jeep and a limousine with diplomatic plates.

An official of the Office of Audit and Control of IFAD... says that the total cost of the villa and its maintenance, which is entrusted to a team of gardeners, is about 400 thousand euro a year. Not to mention the expense of 197 thousand euro for bodyguards hired specifically for Nwanze. Other officials questioned he explained that the costs were divided into nine different budget categories to make them look lower. 'I go out into the field to pay farmers in areas where we lend farmers $5 to $25 to buy chickens and this completely changes their lives,' says the IFAD official, speaking on condition of anonymity, who has left Rome and now has gone to work at the UN in New York. 'Now these programs are cut while he throws away millions.'

  Ban's then-spokesman Martin Nesirky reacted to questions on October 28, 2010 by asking to know if the journalist was present at Ban's meeting with Goodluck Jonathan.

In today's UNaccountable UN, what follow up on this was there? We'll return to this.

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