As UN Makes Play for Bailout
Funds, Currency Exchange Losses to Dictators Undermine Its Pitch
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 15, updated Feb. 23
seemed like a parody headline, "UN
lobbies for share of bank rescue funds," like something from
satirical newspaper The Onion. To those who know the UN system better,
ham-handed attempt to latch on to a buzz word or money train was
dishearteningly in character. While there is little doubt that people
developing world will suffer from the global financial crisis, for the
cite this fact as a way to raise its own budget, half of which goes to
salaries, without yet reforming its procurement
exchange and coddling
of dictators, is par for the course at the UN.
The pitch for
0.7 percent of the bailout and
stimulus packages, including the $787 billion approved last week by the
Congress, was made by the UN Millennium Campaign. This unit, run by the
Development Program, was in the news last year when its director, Evelyn
Herfkens, was exposed as taking $280,000 from the Dutch government for
housing while also being paid by the UN. Herfkens' doubled-dipping
by the UN, until finally she left, without repaying a penny of it. This
unit asking for more money? [See update of Feb. 23, below]
answered are questions raised by
the UN's begrudging admission that it was losing at least 20% of the
raised from the public for Myanmar in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. First
denied the loss, then when Inner City
Press obtained and published internal
memos admitting it, the UN temporarily changed its tune, its top
official John Holmes saying that a review would be conducted. But now
to saying there never was a problem, without disclosing in what
other countries it accepts government-dictated currency exchanges at a
loss. This is how funds would
be exchanged in the future?
UN's Ban Ki-moon and World Bank's Zoellick,
at right, reforms not shown
payments of $700 billion in Troubled
Asset Relief Program funds to the likes of Citigroup,
which tried to buy
another jet, and Bank of
America, which signed off on huge Merrill Lynch
bonuses and office rehabilitations, are equally troubling, as is U.S.
Geithner's failure to timely pay taxes, and attempt to
continue to evade based on the statute of limitations.
Geithner spoke at the
G-7 meeting in Rome with a confidence he lacked in Washington, and the
Bank's Bob Zoellick called the 0.7% request a vulnerability fund, which
would be spent on such programs as "work for food."
In Myanmar, that has reportedly meant using
aid to induce villagers to build roads for the military.
In Sri Lanka, the UN is
appealing for money
to partner with the government which is reportedly preparing detention
for civilians in the Tamil Tiger-held war zones it is assaulting. These are
how the funds would be used?
Until reforms are in place and
assured, the UN is not the right mechanism for such transfers, even for
who believe in them.
Update of February 23,
-- A week after the piece above and the
questions that triggered it, the Global
Media Coordinator of the UN Millennium Campaign
called and said,
among other things, that the UN Millennium Campaign "doesn't receive
funding from the UN" and "we don't speak on behalf of the UN
system." Not only in light of the "United Nations" in the
Campaign's name, but since the Campaign's
Eveline Herfkens was admitted to have
violated rules prohibiting a UN staff member from taking money from
governments, this claimed "no relation" with the UN seemed strange.
(Ms. Herfkens is still prominently displayed
on the Campaign's website, here.
An Inner City
Press correspondent notes that UNDP manages a trust fund called "EC
Trust Fund for the European Millennium Campaign Against Poverty,"
pointed to budget documents showing that $350,000 was contributed to
this UNDP trust fund. The correspondent states, "So I don't think it is
accurate to say that the Millennium Campaign "receives no money from
the UN system"; It is probably more accurate to say that UNDP launders money from UN member
states to Eveline Herfkens' Millennium Campaign. Click here
for UNDP's partially-retracted spin about Herfkens. In fact, UNDP
itself refers to "the Campaign, which is financed by a trust fund
administered by UNDP."
It's also worth noting
that E/2008/5 states that 'The Millennium Campaign has been
working as a United Nations system initiative.')
web site does not meaningfully explain the relations between the UN
and the UN Millennium Campaign, much less publish the Campaign's
requested paragraph on UN - UN Millennium Campaign connections, with an
emphasis on the financial claim, has not been received.
However, from the Campaign's website we
wish to note this
press release, which while calling for a vulnerability fund
-- a term used by the World Bank's Bob Zoellick, who called for 0.7% of
stimulus packages -- does not call for 0.7%.
Inner City Press has
array of official from the UN system -- or were they from the UN? --
the president of ECOSOC, the president of the General Assembly and
explain what the UN is calling for with respect to the poor, from
countries at the G-20 meeting. If the UN Millennium Campaign doesn't
speak for the
UN, who DO they speak for? We will work toward a second article on this
but, again, for now note this
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
Reporter's mobile (and
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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