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As India and Experts Criticize UNDP on Climate, It Shuts Computer Access

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 27 -- As the issue of global warming has gained more and more currency within the UN system, the UN Development Program has jockeyed for position. This is reflected in the theme of this year's UNDP Human Development Report, "Fighting Climate Change." Tuesday at UN Headquarters, UNDP's Claes Johansson took questions about the report. Inner City Press asked for UNDP's response to criticism from UN environmental expert R.K. Pachauri, that the report is "questionable," and by India, that it is "misconceived." Johansson said that UNDP "welcomes the debate." But who, Inner City Press asked, does UNDP speak for? Apparently not even for itself: Johansson called the HDR, for which UNDP claims so much credit, an "independent" report. For the record, it is copyrighted to UNDP.

            If development is uniquely the mandate of UNDP -- often, UNDP says it cannot champion or even respect human rights because they might be inconsistent with development -- why this striking shift into the climate change debate, generally the province of other specialized UN bodies?  Johansson said that if global warming is not dealt with, there can be no development. Many, but not UNDP, would say the same of human rights, or of transparency, including in procurement. While UNDP launches its "independent" report, internal UNDP watchers noted it was limiting access to its procurement database -- click here for the (leaked) memo -- concerned about leaks like Inner City Press' recent reporting on UNDP having paid for Tony Blair's ten rooms in Jerusalem. Further secrecy will never be the answer.

UNDP's Claes Johansson, vanishing computer files not shown

            At an earlier briefing, under embargo at the time, UNDP's Olav Kjorven said that UNDP "gives advice" to countries to not, for example, engage in destructive palm oil projects. He acknowledged that there are bad projects. But what does UNDP do about them? When Inner City Press asked for UNDP's response to the call, by Al Gore and others, for a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants, until clean technology actually exists, Kjorven declined to give a UNDP view, saying it is a "political issue to be negotiated." It would see the percentage by which emissions should be reduced is also political, and is certainly "to be negotiated" -- but that did not stop UNDP from wading in. Where's the consistency?

            Here's something in which UNDP is consistent: not reporting the average income in North Korea, and not including North Korea since 2001 in the comparisons in its Human Development Index.  North Korea is off of UNDP's map -- and the U.S. and Canada are off UNIFEM's map.

UNIFEM Pulls Punches in U.S. and Canada

On Monday the "Americas" director of the UN Development Fund for Women spoke about gender-based violence, but only in Latin America and the Caribbean. Inner City Press asked UNIFEM's Americas director Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo if her agency covers the U.S. and was told, only for the purpose of exporting U.S. "best practices" to the countries to the south. But what about gender-based violence in the U.S., and in Canada? One can perhaps understand humanitarian and development agencies focusing their resources on the lowest-income countries. But agencies with explicit human rights mandates, such as UNIFEM's report "No More! The Right of Woman to Live a Life Free from Violence," have less basis to let the developed world off the hook. It's one thing to not want to offend a major funder; it's another to imply that pervasive problems like violence against women are confined or even more prevalent in poorer countries...

  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