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At the UN, Belated Focus on Under-Investment in Africa, UNDP's Redlining

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- With poverty remaining prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday held a meeting of its new Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group, and afterwards took questions from reporters. Inner City Press asked a question it had asked earlier in the week, without answer:

Inner City Press: This week, at the UN Development Program Executive Board meeting, a number was put forward in which the UN, its main development program, last year put $1.3 billion into Latin America and $526 million into Africa.  So, some people were saying - what can be done to make sure that the UN system, for a variety of reasons, puts most of its resources where it is most needed and where the MDGs are running behind. And also, for the Deputy Secretary-General, in the Working Group, another that came up in this meeting which I have been covering, was - somebody had said that maybe there’s a competition for resources between UNDP and the World Bank – this was one of the Member States that said it, threw it out there.  What can the UN do in your Working Group to make sure that there’s not a turf war, and that everyone actually works together.  Thanks a lot.

            In fact, these very questions were asked of UNDP's putative MDG expert Guido Schmidt-Traub on Wednesday. On the first question he said he didn't have the numbers. On the second, he said to ask the member state. Video here. And so the questios had to be asked again on Friday. Thank, Guido.

            UNDP's Administrator Kemal Dervis attended the Steering Group meeting, and was listed as attending the press stakeout. But he did not come, perhaps concerned of more questions about UNDP's retaliation against whistleblowers. This left Ban Ki-moon to try to explain UNDP's under-funding of Africa:

 Ban Ki-moon: The UN system is fully behind, and working very closely together, led by this UNDG chair. We have many specialized agencies, funds and programs.  Their priority is focused on this, realizing MDG goals.

            But what about Africa?  Video here, from Minute 31:33. In fact, one of the UNDP whistleblowers, Mathieu Koumoin, states that he was let go by UNDP in Senegal for having opposed a UNDP official's quiet instruction to siphon $8 million of $30 million meant for Africa to entities based in France and in Canada. Click here for that story. So even the money that's said to be spent in Africa is directed, at least by UNDP, elsewhere.

Africa and UN(DP) funding: off-kilter

Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro gave a longer answer:

DSG:  As you have heard, I will be chairing the Working Group.  The Working Group will constitute officials, at the working level, from the  institutions that have been represented in the Steering Group of the Secretary-General.  The intention there is, first of all, to look at the actual actions that will have to be taken in order to give further push to the MDGs.  And, as the Secretary-General has said, this will identify  the areas, resource mobilization, the sectors that need to be focused and so on.  But one of the intentions of having this meeting so inclusive is to ensure that each one of us plays a role, with the United Nations taking the lead, at the initiative of the Secretary-General. 

So what we will do, will not only look at actions that need to be done, but also actions that can be scaled up by those who are going to participate in this.  But it is not only this side, but also the side of the nations themselves.  That is why the African Union has talked of national resource mobilization and acts that have to be taken at the national level as well.  This will ensure not only ownership, but also sustainability of the various interventions that will have been identified, and for which the Working Group will be looking to, in order to ensure that this initiative of the Secretary-General succeeds.

            The Working Group meets on September 20 on the UN's 38th floor, the UN's press guide says "media coverage arrangements (TBC)" - we'll see.

  Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540