Won't Say How It Chose As Partner Fortis, Reported Funder of Pipeline and
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, June
5 -- As the UN Development Program prepares to present itself as increasingly
reformed and transparent, it currently is neither, even in connection with a
program it chose to announce itself on June 5, in the run-up to the G-8 meeting.
out a press release, without dateline, announcing it is "teaming up with Fortis
[the] banking and insurance giant" which UNDP has designated as "the financial
services provider for UNDP's MDG Carbon Facility."
release listed a contact at Fortis, Wilfried Remans, to whom Inner City Press
directed a request
"for Fortis' comment on two issues: how
was it selected for the MDG Carbon Facility: was it a competitive process, how
many other companies bid and what were the criteria, specifically, did the
criteria include human rights? what is Fortis' response to
public criticism of its investments in
Myanmar and, separately, in the Trans Thai-Malaysia pipeline?"
responded with a request to hold off on the story:
Subj: Press questions re Fortis' selection
for MDG Carbon Facility and re investment in Myanmar, Trans Thai-Malaysia
From: melanie.dunn [at] fortis.com
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
Date: 6/5/2007 12:01:10 PM Eastern
Dear Matthew, Many thanks for your
questions to Fortis. We are endeavoring to get all the answers for you this
evening, as you requested. However, as it may be tomorrow morning before we can
provide you with reactions to all the points raised in your questions, I just
wanted to clarify immediately that Fortis has no investments in Myanmar. Could
you please confirm that tomorrow morning (European time) would be acceptable for
seemed strange since Fortis, along with UNDP, had prepared and put out the press
release about the designation. Fortis followed up with a referral to UNDP:
"To get back to
you on your first point - we were selected via a Request for Proposal. I suggest
you contact the UNDP for the details of the number of participants etc."
would seem that transparency in selecting and praising a "banking and insurance
giant" is just the sort of best practice that UNDP claims, and preaches to
others, Inner City Press immediately sent not only Fortis but also two separate
UNDP press contacts, in New York and in London, the following:
Can you state
which firms responded to the RFP and what criteria were used for selection?
Ms. Dunn, does your response below mean
that Fortis contests / contested public reports at the time (click
to view)? Please respond, as it would seem Fortis would have at the time, to
the material in that report, which is also online on the Amnesty International
business and human rights site.
ten hours that followed, on the day that UNDP and Fortis had loudly announced
their partnership, not a single of these questions was answered. Fortis did not
respond to the report, nor on the pipeline; we note that Fortis appears to also
fund oil tankers, click
The road to global warming, funded by Fortis,
not state how many institutions responded to the supposed RFP, nor what criteria
it used, not what it reviewed.
Wednesday UNDP's Assistance Administrator is now slated to proclaim yet again to
the media how transparent UNDP has become, "you ain't seen nothing yet."
sure ain't seen nothing... Early on May 29, Inner City Press asked UNDP about a
report that six of its staff in Myanmar
have been fired in a corruption probe.
After ignoring the written questions, UNDP's spokesman David Morrison on June 1
said that the press reports are not accurate. They name the wrong province, he
said, without disclosing the right one. Rather than six fired, it was four staff
whose contracts were not extended, and one who was demoted, for violating the
terms of their contracts. But Mr. Morrison said nothing about what the
violations were about.
Friday's briefing, Inner City Press again asked in writing, including to UNDP's
two most senior officials. Their personal spokeswoman Christina Lonigro
responded that "on
Myanmar, David answered this question at the briefing." But he pointedly did not
say what the violations concerned, nor where they occurred. Video
from Minute 25:44 to 33:33.
Inner City Press asked about Ad Melkert's
statements months ago that he was committed to transparency, that "you ain't
seen nothing yet," and that UNDP would move to make its internal audits
available at least to the countries on its Executive Board, and to implement
financial disclosures at last similar to the Secretariat's. Mr. Morrison's
response made clear that the internal audits are still not being made available
-- this he blamed on the need to consult with other agencies -- and that, on
financial disclosure, "no one has signed yet."
Nevertheless, in an email later on June
1, Ms. Lonigro claimed that "both Kemal Dervis and Ad Melkert have filled out
financial disclosure forms." Who is to be believed? David Morrison ("no one has
signed yet") or Ms. Lonigro?
At the June 1 briefing, after Inner City
Press asked if UNDP's future financial disclosure regimen will include review by
an outside accounting firm, as the UN Secretariat's program does, Mr. Morrison
said, "We could undertake to find that out for you." But four days after the
briefing, and after two email reminders from Inner City Press, even this simple
answer has not been provided. Nor have answers to longstanding questions about
UNDP in Georgia and how many people UNDP employs. Following UNDP's last
press conference about the environment, UNDP has declined to provide any
description of its claimed "Biodiversity" program in North Korea.
We ain't seen nothing yet...
Again, because a number of Inner City Press'
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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