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As UN Pleads in Doha, For Money and with Mugabe, Who Will Bail Out UN's $12 B Pension Loss?

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- As the UN in Doha urges member states not to decrease contributions, a question being asked in New York is who might bail the UN system out? A little noticed report this month by the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions discloses that the UN Pension Fund has lost a over $12 billion, or 29.6%, so far this year. How will this shortfall be made up?

   Some member states are anticipating an appeal for a bail-out from the UN, which will compete with their in-country responsibilities. They question the wisdom of the UN going forward with its multi-billion dollar renovation plans, exemplified most recently by the lavish ceiling in Geneva the UN spent $25 million from Spain's international cooperation budget on. When the UN's Ban Ki-moon says "be generous," is he talking about the poor or about the UN itself?

  Inner City Press earlier in the month asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas about the then-reported $4.5 billion in losses at the Pension Fund. Ms. Montas said there had been no real losses, and called this no more than a "fluctuation." Is the since-disclosed $12 billion decline just another fluctuation?

 Ms. Montas also told Inner City Press on November 26 that in Zimbabwe the UN has converted aid funds at rates set by Robert Mugabe's Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and that while the UN may informally track its losses compared to non-governmental rates, "that would not be available to you." In Doha, Ban met with Mugabe, "secretly" as one report put it, asking for a political compromise. It's certainly been paid for...

UN's Ban in Doha, $11 B loss, Mugabe meeting not shown

  During the November 24 debate of the UN Pension Fund's losses before the UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee, U.S. Representative Michael Scanlon suggested that the pensions of UN officials who stole from the organization should be frozen or "attached." He said that legal authority to do this should be clarified.

   While he did not say it, some assumed he was referring to recently retired Guido Bertucci, who despite being responsible for a range of irregularities including the discredited Thessaloniki Center in Greece all left with his entire pension.  Greece's Deputy Interior Minister, off camera at the Security Council stakeout to talk recently about an upcoming migration conference in Greece told Inner City Press that the corruption at the Thessaloniki Center was for the UN itself to address. But when will it?

Footnote:  at the Doha conference, the UN has allocated six seat for Palestine, the same as for the World Bank (minus Robert Zoellick). Some wondered if Tony Blair, purportedly working for development in Palestine would take up one of the six seats. Earlier in the week at UN Headquarters, on a day when both the UN Security Council and General Assembly debated Palestine, Fatah's Foreign Minister Riyadh Al-Maliki criticized Hamas but denied his party stoked the strikes in Gaza Strip. Most observers see the work stoppage by teachers and hospital workers as an attempt to cripple Hamas. But Fatah Minister Riyadh Al-Maliki denied this. Video here.

  He and Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour both noted that the Security Council had agreed on two paragraphs about the scene in Palestine, but that November's Council president Jorge Urbina hadn't read it out load. "Ask him why," they both said. But Urbina has more pressing business to attend to. Not him but a deputy appeared to read a statement about Guinea-Bissau.

   The previous evening the visiting Fatah Minister was found in the UN's Visitors' Lobby, praising an exhibition of photographs by Anne Paq and the Images for Life Program of the Al-Rowwad Center in the Aida Refugee Camp. The photos show Jahalin bedouins, and the key over the camp, with its "Not For Sale" sign. Waiters passed out egg rolls complete with guacamole, there was fruit juice but no liquor. This is serious business.

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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