In Nigerian Electoral Chaos, UN Hides Role of UNDP,
Kemal Dervis' Boasts
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- As the chaos
surrounding the Nigeria elections
the United Nations system's descriptions of its involvement have become
contradictory. On April 17, Inner City Press
asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson,
in light of reports that the first round of elections in Nigeria on April 14
was filled with fraud and should be redone, "is the United Nations in any way
involved? Has Mr. Ban made any calls?"
The spokesperson replied that "the United
Nations is not, for the time being, involved in the electoral process.... The
United Nations is not officially monitoring it."
The following day, the spokesperson
repeated that the UN is not involved, saying that "ECOWAS is monitoring the
election. You have a number of other international observers accredited by the
Electoral Commission. But the UN as an institution is not.... All this depends
on the request from the Member State....There was no request made, and the
request went to ECOWAS."
Inner City Press followed-up that "it
was reported that UNDP was actually asked to help with some aspects of the
election. I'm not sure if they have, but that they were asked to do it. Is
that a request to the UN? When you said the UN had no role in the election, is
that just the Secretariat or the UN system as a whole?"
I would be surprised that UNDP would be asked to participate as an electoral
observer. It would be the United Nations Secretariat that would be seized of
the matter, not UNDP.
Press: You mean the observers?
I'm talking about international observers to the election.
Also, I wanted to ask you about the exhibit commemorating the Rwandan
genocide... when you think it will actually be reopened, and whether the
language will be shown to any missions prior to that taking place.
Spokesperson: The language is being
changed right now. I don't know if it will be shown to anybody. I do know that
the exhibit is to open very shortly, either at the end of this week or at the
beginning of next week. [Click
for an update.]
Following that exchange, an associate
spokesperson rushed into the press room near the end of the briefing and the
following was read out: " I have some additional things on UNDP and the
Nigerian elections. While the UN is not observing, as I said, the Nigerian
elections, but we have been providing advisory services and technical assistance
to Nigeria's Election Commission through UNDP, which is managing a basket fund
of assistance from multiple donors. So that is the role that UNDP is playing."
the Nigerian publication This Day / Africa News has
"an expert from the United Nations Development Program will monitor the
elections in all the country's six geopolitical zones." Click
partner Shell's oil flares in Nigeria - in smoke like excuses
So in one
day, the message went from "the UN is not involved in the Nigerian election" to
"we have been providing advisory services and technical assistance to Nigeria's
Election Commission through UNDP." Finally, there are reports of UNDP's direct
involvement in "monitor[ing] the elections in all the country's six geopolitical
UNDP (and the UN) be concealing its role in the Nigeria elections? Surely it is
not humility. When Kemal Dervis took the helm of UNDP on August 16, 2005, UNDP
put out a press release calling itself "the largest UN program," which is at "the
forefront of the UNís... democratic governance efforts."
the more recent downplaying of UNDP's role in Nigeria springs not only from
wanting to distance itself from failure, but also concern about other
controversial entanglements by UNDP in Nigeria. Last August, Friends of the
Earth and other environmental groups harshly
criticized UNDP for partnering with Shell
Petroleum, which has a long and
tattered history in Nigeria, including a role in the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
a report of "a security arrangement between a Shell Nigeria subcontractor and a
criminal group in Odioma."
UNDP used to brag about its role in Nigeria's election. The publication This Day
of October 10, 2005 ran a Q&A with Kemal Dervis, including:
Q: We understand you are interested in our
elections in 2007 and you mentioned good governance. Good governance is a core
area of UNDP. How can governance deliver a credible elections in 2007?
Kemal Dervis: I do not have time to go
into the details but we are now supporting elections around the world on average
twice a month. This has become a real activity of UNDP. And of course what we
are doing is making sure that the process is organized, open, there is no fraud,
that the citizens can register and vote. As you know even in the richest
countries in the world it is not an easy thing. In my country, election
organization is not an easy thing at all. There are always controversies; itís
the nature of politics. But the approach is quite clear and I think we are
getting better at being good advisers on this.
are the advisers now? Busy covering up their role.
worth noting that current UNDP chief of staff Tegegnework Gettu
was UNDP's resident representative in Nigeria when Dervis visited in October
2005 -- UNDP claims, as a show of Dervis' independence and decisiveness, that he
recognized Gettu's skills and brought him to New York. UNDP insiders, on the
other hand, say that Mark Malloch Brown and Gilbert Houngbo set the whole thing
up. And now Dervis' UNDP conceals its role in Nigeria.
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.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
At the UN, Ban's Coherence Plan Is Critiqued, Lead
Agency UNDP is Headless and Silent
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- Like several
Secretaries-General before him, Ban Ki-moon has proposed for the UN system
greater "coherence." But what's in a name? Monday as Mr. Ban's proposal was
unveiled in the General Assembly, its structure was questioned not only from the
side of the developing nations in the Group of 77, for also from the donor side.
Sweden's Minister Counselor on
Development Issues Harald Fries noted that "many agencies are concerned about
the neutrality of the resident representative system managed by UNDP," the UN
Development Program. Following a question from Inner City Press about how long
the General Assembly process on Ban's "system-wide coherence" proposal might
take, Mr. Fries said "in the next several months, or half-year, or year."
Inner City Press asked if within the
Group of 77 there is a split between the poorest nations, who favored
consolidation of UN funding into a single source, and the moderate income
countries, which dispute Ban's plan's "narrow" focus on the structure of UN
development programs in countries, without trying to bring democratic or
populist control to the World Bank and IMF.
From the South Center, a Geneva
think-tank closely associated with the Group of 77, Vicente Paulo Yu
acknowledged that in Geneva, he has heard least developed countries "looking at
the positives" of the plan, that is would reduce the "load of reporting"
required of them. South Center is, Mr. Yu said Monday, skeptical about the
proposal, which would make the UN "just another developer" like the World Bank,
rather than an advocate, a norm-maker, a global governance institution with a
universal membership. The chairman of South Center's board of directors is
Tanzania's ex-president Benjamin Mkapa, who was on the panel that drew up the
plan. (The timing makes this less of a conflict, or less ironic, than might
appear, Mr. Yu argues.) The South Center will be releasing a critique of the
proposal next week, which Inner City Press has requested and will be reviewed on
Earlier on Monday, Ban Ki-moon spoke in
the Economic and Social Council chamber, in a "special high-level meeting with
the Bretton Woods institutions" -- that is, the IMF and the World Bank. On his
way in, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban is he had any advise for embattled World
Bank president Paul Wolfowitz. "I have no comment at all," Mr. Ban answered, not
without a smile.
Level Troika Re World Bank - GA President, S-G, President of ECOSOC: coherent?
Smiling more openly was
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. Asked by Inner City Press for his views in
the hall outside the General Assembly before a 4:30 debate on Ban's coherence if
not coherent plan, Amb. Churkin laughed. "System-wide coherence, oh yes," he
said. The rest of the UN press corps, and the ambassadors of the Permanent Five
nations on the Security Council, were focused on the day's meeting about Darfur
in Sudan, click
for Inner City Press' story. But as Ban said last week,
"I am going to
propose again my own recommendations on system wide coherence next Monday. I
hope this will receive a good debate among the Member States so that the United
Nations can work and deliver service as one United Nations. This will be one of
the important reform agendas for me in the coming few months."
Good luck. Mr. Ban has also
said that he will ensure that under his watch, the heads of UN funds and
programs will be accessible to the media and will answer questions. Thus far
with UNDP, this has not been the case. UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis has not
held or attended a press conference in the more than 100 days of the Ban
administration. On Monday, Inner City Press
Mr. Ban's spokesperson, video
Press: We've heard that UNDP people -- Kemal Dervis, and Ad Melkert -- are
away. If so, we'd like to know where and who runs UNDP in their absence?
Why don't you talk to UNDPís public information people?
know why? Because last week while you were away I was referred to them on a
very simple question about Mr. Melkertís hiring of a Dutch Labor Party official
and they never sent me any response at all. That's why I'm asking you if you
could just get an answer. If the two are away, and if so, who's running UNDP
I would suggest you talk to them again. You call them again.
Particularly in light of the calls for
"One UN" and of Mr. Ban's statements that the heads of UN funds and programs
will be available to the media, this referral to the Kafka-esque echo chamber of
UNDP is disconcerting. Even so, Inner City Press immediately reiterated its
questions in writing to UNDP:
Unanswered UNDP questions: Philippines, Mr Keij, retaliation, where are #1 &
Date: 4/16/2007 12:53:03 PM Eastern Standard Time
To: david.morrison [at] undp.org, ad.melkert [at] undp.org, kemal.dervis [at]
undp.org CC: [Spokesperson at] un.org,
From: Inner City Press
Morrison, Melkert and Dervis, and Michele via cc --
March 25 question regarding UNDP's hiring of Eelco Keij, NY secretary of the
Dutch Labor Party of which Mr. Melkert was leader, reiterated to you on April
12, has still not been answered. Nor have other 3/25 questions...
here is a simple factual question, also on deadline for today--
Administrator Kemal Dervis out of New York? If so, where and doing what? Direct
question: medical leave?
Associate Administrator Ad Melkert out of New York? If so, where and doing
what? Given Mr. Melkert's granting of a quote to the FT about Paul Wolfowitz,
and since-released documents, where and when will Mr. Melkert respond to
questions on this important UN system matter?
-if both are
out of New York, who is in charge of UNDP?
other questions which UNDP has not answered or even acknowledged [including]
An update on
the status of the urgent audit of UNDP's North Korean operations is needed,
and is requested. As the Secretary-General was asked earlier today, is the
90-day time line being extended? Is UNDP aware if the auditors will be able to
enter North Korea? Did Timo Pakkala and Mr. Povenzano speak with the U.S.
Attorney's office / SDNY? Did anyone else at UNDP?
the sudden retirement (party) for Luis Gomez-Echerverri;
or deny that Nora Lustig is now in line for a consulting contract with UNDP,
including as related to immigration laws;
or deny that senior UNDP officials discussion with the Slovak foreign minister
in late February possible movement of jobs from (or in the alternative to)
Bratislava, and separately whether there is consideration of moving regional
centre from Bratislava to another city, possible (and specifically confirm or
Feb. 1 -- someone gave me a copy of an advertisement in the Weekly Pakistan
Express of September 15, 2006, for a UNDP fundraiser held Sept. 24, 2006, with
the involvement of Pakistani president Musharaf, with Grand invitations for
two costing $10,000. Can it be said how much money was raised, and the
purpose and use of the money?
One would think that the UN agency
proposed by the Secretary-General to take on new powers would be able, in two
and a half months, to answer simple questions about its fundraising. But if you
thought that, at this time, you'd be wrong. Despite all of the question above
and more having been reiterated to UNDP on Monday at 1 p.m., by 9 p.m. only part
of one question was answered:
Subj: Answer to
question in noon briefing
Officer to the Administrator at] undp.org
5:46:07 PM Eastern Standard Time
Mr. Dervis is
on official business in Washington today and tomorrow. Ad Melkert is in Europe.
of them are outside of the country, an officer in charge is designated.
But even the identify of this "officer in
charge" is not provided, nor the nature of Mr. Dervis' "official business" in
DC, nor Mr. Melkert's presumably non-official business in Europe, right in the
midst of the scandal of the World Bank, whose "ethics committee" Melkert chaired
until he came to UNDP.
UNDP refuses to answer any of the other
written questions, only (part of) the one asked during the UN's noon briefing.
In the spirit of coherence and "One UN," to get questions answered, putting them
in writing to UNDP apparently does not suffice. Is this coherence from UNDP?
On Darfur, Sudan and UN Speak Two Different Hybrid
Languages, Arguing in the Hall
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- Following an afternoon of
meetings about Darfur, the head of UN Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno stood
before the cameras with Sudan's Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdalmahmood
Guehenno made everything sound
fine. The so-called
"Heavy Support Package" had been agreed to, and he implied that Sudan will
accept non-African peacekeeping troops if not enough Africans can be found.
But minutes earlier, Abdalmahmood
Abdalhaleem had told reporters that it is Sudan's position that the Darfur Peace
Agreement that it has signed prohibits the introduction of non-African Union
peacekeepers. Speaking exclusively to Inner City Press by the espresso bar of
the UN's Vienna Cafe, Amb. Abdalhaleem complained that Sudan's experience with
the UN has been "bureaucratic and unforthcoming." Asked if the purpose of his
letter to Ban Ki-moon was only to trigger funding, Amb. Abdalhaleem said that
the Security Council has to come forth with funding "or we will withdraw our
Having heard this real politik, it
was not surprising when the meeting and interviews broken up that Amb.
Abdalhaleem and Jean-Marie Guehenno were opening arguing as they walked in the
hallway from the Vienna Cafe to the UN's Conference Building. The happy talk of
earlier in the day gave way to acrimony. UN insiders tell Inner City Press that
Ban Ki-moon so much wants to declare success in Darfur that he convinces
himself, and than others, that Sudan's commitments and motives are not what they
are. For his part, Sudanese Amb. Abdalhaleem accused some reporters who asked,
as Inner City Press did, "who will fly the helicopters" that have been agreed to
purportedly without strings, of only looking for problems, of trying to cast
Sudan in a negative light. Under the camera lights after the meeting, it was the
UN that tried to hold to two positions at once, a balancing act that broken down
later in the hallways when it was thought no reporters were around. But we are
Ban Ki-moon had praised Amb.
Abdalhaleem's letter, telling reporters:
"This morning, I have received an official
communication from the Sudanese Government through their Permanent
Representative in New York, informing me that they agreed on the heavy support
package in its entirety, including the helicopter component. This is a very
positive sign, and I and the African Union intend to move quickly to prepare for
the deployment of the heavy support package and the hybrid force."
But Permanent Representative Abdalhaleem
said again and again that given Sudan's position that the Darfur Peace Agreement
prohibits UN peacekeepers, a force would be hybrid only in that the UN could
provide a "backstop," and funding.
Peacekeepers: still in the bullpen, still on
African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, speaking
in French, told reporters that the AU peacekeepers have been doing their job,
they are just underfunded. When Inner City Press tried to ask Jean-Marie
Guehenno what has happened on Senegal's threat to pull its troops from Darfur,
Mr. Guehenno said, "I think I'll stop answering now." Minutes later, he was
arguing in the hallway with Amb. Abdalhaleem. Heavy Support Package indeed...
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