At UN, Nigeria Gives Myanmar
$500,000, Bypassing UN Programs, Also UN-Transparent
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive
December 25 -- Two days before
Christmas, Myanmar's mission to the UN got a gift with no strings
the dimly-lit Indonesia Lounge next to the General Assembly chamber,
Permanent Representative Joy Ogwu handed
her counterpart from Myanmar Kyaw Tint
Swe a check for $500,000. This was Nigeria's response to the UN's
funds to continue to respond to Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May.
The UN has
first by Inner City Press, for allowing the military government
of Myanmar to take 25% of aid funds through currency exchange.
Nigeria gave its
money directly, in U.S. dollars, and apparently with no requirement to
back on how the funds are used. This is the type of hard currency for
Senior General Than Shwe is desperate.
December 23, Inner City Press asked a South Asian diplomat active on
budget why he thought Nigeria gave direct. "You make more friends that
way," he said. "If you give through the UN, you don't know how your
money's used. If you give it direct, you can ask for reports if you
if you don't want, that's fine to. You just have a new friend."
There are at
least two possible explanations of Nigeria's direct "south to south"
contribution. One is that there's a lack of confidence in the UN system
as a transmitter
of funds. For example, the UN has not
even committed to disclosing, in the
Consolidated Appeals that it issues, how much it loses in
currency exchange. The second is that Nigeria wants a friend in
perhaps even a piece of the resources for which China and India, along firms
such as Total and even Lloyds, and South
Korea's Daewoo, are competing.
Ogwu's statement, a copy of which Inner City Press obtained and puts
professes Nigeria's "unflinching support for the government" of Myanmar.
Swe and Joy Ogwu, check in foreground, oversight not shown (c) M.Lee
half-light on December 23, there were only two reporters present. Inner
Press asked Ambassador Ogwu if the UN's envoy to Myanmar, fellow
Ibrahim Gambari, had played any role in this donation. No, she
told Inner City Press that her government had invited Gambari to
try to mediate the Niger Delta conflict not as a UN official -- that
the conflict, she said -- but rather as a Nigerian
Myanmar government, too, opposes internationalization, not
only in the form of UN peacekeepers, but even election monitors. Ban
was told to leave the country when voting in the run-up to the
elections, which exclude Aung San Suu Kyi, was held.
asked a aide to Kyaw Tint Swe how much the check was
"None of your business," he replied. Hardly an auspicious beginning
to transparency in aid use.
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