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UN's University for Peace Pays N. Korean Travel, Maurice Strong Still On Its Council, UNDP's Role in Question

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- Ten officials of the Kim Jong Il regime in North Korea were flown to the University of Lund in Sweden in August 2006, according to UNDP spokesman David Morrison, by the UN-affiliated University for Peace, on whose governing Council still sits Maurice F. Strong, who ostensibly left the UN system following being linked, through a South Korean lobbyist, to the Oil for Food scandal in April 2005.

            In continued reporting on the North Korea and audit controversy which led to a deferral of UNDP's North Korea program by its Executive Board last week, Inner City Press asked UNDP to describe its role in the travel of 10 North Korean officials to University of Lund six months ago. Having received no response to its written questions, on January 25 Inner City Press asked the head of UNDP's Office of Communications David Morrison the same question, after a press conference on the upcoming audit of UNDP. Mr. Morrison replied that the travel was paid by the University of Peace, "which is part of the UN system," with UNDP only arranging the travel, through UNDP's Beijing office.

            Further inquiry reveals that while serving as both President of the University of Peace and as Kofi Annan's envoy to North Korea, Maurice Strong, "convened a working group on energy" in the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea." According to the University for Peace's web site, Strong's group presented its findings, to the nations in the Six Party Talks just prior to their meeting in Beijing in late 2005.

Maurice Strong photo on Council website

            Despite statements that Maurice Strong has left the UN system following corruption scandal involving hiring relatives, as of January 28, 2007, Mr. Strong is still on the Council of the UN-affiliated University for Peace. (Click here and scroll down, noting that the web site has already been updated to include the photo of Ban Ki-moon.) And the energy work with the Kim Jong Il regime has continued. The ten DPRK officials flown to Sweden in August 2006 by the University for Peace were, Inner City Press has been informed, the following energy officials:

Mr. Kim Chang Sok, Director, Coal Production
Mr. Ju Yong Sam, Deputy Director, Electricity Production
Mr. Ri Kwang Su, Senior Officer, Power Resources Development
Mr. Ri Tok Song, Deputy Director, Coal Technology
Mr. Ri Song Guk, Room Head, Electric Power and Remote Control Institute
Mr. Choe Min Chol, Civil Designer, Power Design Centre
Mr. Choe In Su, Researcher, Power Design Institute
Mr. Hong Yong Chol, Senior Officer, Hydro Power Generation
Mr. Jon Yong Ryong, Expert, Environment and Energy
Mr. Hong Nae Sim, Environmental Expert and English Interpreter

            Maurice Strong stepped down as Kofi Annan's envoy in April 2005, fall-out from the Iraq Oil-for-Food Scandal. As reported by Agence France Press on July 18, 2005:

"Strong had voluntarily suspended his duties as Annan's adviser on North Korea in April after questions were raised about his ties to South Korean lobbyist Park Tongsun, who is suspected of bribing UN officials with Iraqi funds. An independent inquiry led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker has been investigating Strong's ties with Park, who was indicted earlier this year in US federal court as an unregistered Iraqi agent under president Saddam Hussein. Strong's UN contract expired last week and has not been renewed, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Tuesday but noted that the Canadian, a longtime friend of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, had voluntarily put himself on suspension pending the outcome of the Volcker-led enquiry. 'He (Strong) had also indicated earlier than he did not want to continue to work at the same operational pace,' Okabe said. 'The secretary general has valued the service of Mr. Strong (who) for many years has served with distinction. He (Annan) valued his advice and expertise on Korean affairs and (said) he would see about any future and formal role for Mr Strong following the findings of the Volcker enquiry,' the spokeswoman added. Strong's stepdaughter also resigned from a UN job earlier this year after it was learned Strong had put her on his payroll in possible violation of UN rules... The Canadian reportedly also served on the board of a company with Annan's son Kojo, who is also being investigated in the oil-for-food enquiry. In a related development, Okabe said she was unaware of the whereabouts of Benon Sevan, who headed the former UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and is the target of a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The UN spokeswoman said there was no indication that the Volcker panel had had any problem with Sevan's cooperation with the investigation."

            As Volcker panel updates, Benon Savan has now been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and despite Volcker's findings, Mr. Strong's future role has included serving on the Council of the UN-affiliated University for Peace. While the U.S. administration might now be expected to focus on the Maurice Strong coddling Kim Jong Il officials angle, it is worth noting the nationality and party affiliation of the chair of the Strong-convened working group: "UPEACE council member and former US Secretary of Energy William Martin" who "also served as Executive Secretary of the US National Security Council and Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan."

            A random question asked of First Lady Laura Bush in Costa Rica on May 18, 2006, from White House transcript:

Q: Did you know that here in Costa Rica we have a University for Peace?

MRS. BUSH: Oh, you do, that's great.

Q: We do.

MRS. BUSH: That's wonderful. Costa Rica has, as you know, a wonderful reputation as a country of human rights, and a leader, certainly in Central America, on human rights.

Q: In that sense, do you believe that education for peace should be an item, a topic that should be included in the curricula of children all around the world?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think, certainly, we all need to be educated about each other. We need to know about each other. We need to -- I think once we know the traditions of another country, and know other languages, for instance, we have more of an empathy and a sympathy for each other. And I think that's important.

            On October 19, 2006, the president of the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, spoke at University for Peace's Toronto campus (which was closed a month later, for lack of funding, click here for announcement.)

            The University for Peace was "mandated" by the UN General Assembly in 1980, in GA Resolution 35/55.  It has a Central Asia Program, funded by, among others, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and the United States, but without a street address as contact, just an email address in Geneva, click here to view. The Asia Pacific program has no contact at all, just a web page labeled "Manila -- Under Construction." (Click here to view.)  Elsewhere, its web site recites that "former Secretary-General Annan took a number of measures since early 1999 to reorganize, strengthen and internationalize more fully the University for Peace." By 2006, its headquarters campus in Costa Rica had 100 students, from 38 countries. Click here for those in the alumni network, which is impressive.

  The Maurice Strong-convened group's report -- which says on its first page that the group was "convened by the United Nations" includes chapters by Nay Htun, formerly of UNDP and reportedly the guide in Sweden for the 10 North Korean officials in August 2006, and UNDP-GEF's Frank Pinto, later to lead a UNDP junket to Goa (click here for Inner City Press' report on the junket).

            A week ago, confronted with findings that it had paid to fly DPRK officials to the UN in New York, UNDP said it would do it no more. At the Executive Board meeting of January 25, UNDP's Ad Melkert said that UNDP will focus on more concrete projects rather than "capacity building" for the DPRK government, of the type exemplified by flying 10 DPRK officials to the University of Lund.

            The UN-affiliated University for Peace, on whose Council still sits Maurice Strong, has funded just such travel, after convening a working group involving Reagan administration official William Martin.  Will the UN-affiliated University for Peace continue paying for such travel, and continue with Maurice Strong on its Council? Both questions have been asked of the University for Peace, and responses will be reported on this site.

            UNDP has been asked in writing, four days ago, to

"confirm or deny that in October 2004, UNDP expended $100,000 from the Asia / Pacific Regional Sustainable Energy Program, to contribute to the UN University for Peace, and separately whether this project was related to the DPRK. If so, please describe the use of the funds and state if the following were involved, and how: Maurice Strong (President of the Council of the UN University for Peace), Mark Malloch Brown and the aforementioned Nay Htun... please confirm if the tour was led by Mr. Nay Htun, Mr. Hafiz Pasha’s predecessor as UNDP Director for Asia and the Pacific, and that the funding was signed off on or approved by Mr. Pasha -- and any other (please identify)."

            While UNDP has yet to respond to these written questions, UNDP's David Morrison, when asked Friday about the travel of the 10 North Korean officials, was clearly aware of, and had a UNDP-protected answer to, the question: it's the University for Peace. But what about the reported funding from UNDP to the University for Peace? And UNDP officials' role in considering and approving the trip and travel payments? UNDP's response, whenever received, will be reported on this site. Developing.

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UNDP Backslides on Audits and N. Koreans' Travel, Scope Expands to UNICEF, WFP, and UNFPA, FAO and UPEACE

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 26 -- The day after the UN Development Program acknowledges it was told by its Executive Board to more narrowly focus its North Korea programs away from building the capacity of the Kim Jong Il government, and to become more transparent, Friday there was already backsliding, on audits and on DPRK travel.

            During the last day of the Executive Board meetings, UNDP's Ad Melkert said that while he now hopes to finalize some additional availability of audits by the Board's next session, this will not include management audits, which are the kind that would have earlier revealed the issues in North Korea, including accepting government staff and not auditing "nationally-executed," but UNDP-funded, programs.

            After a press conference by UN Controller Warren Sach about how the audits announced and then scaled-back by Ban Ki-moon will be conducted, the head of UNDP's Communications Office, David Morrison, spoke to reporters in the hall. Inner City Press asked Mr. Morrison to answer a question previously posed in writing, regarding UNDP's involvement in the August 2006 trip by 10 members of the North Korean government to Lund University. Mr. Morrison responded that "University of Peace, part of the UN system, did." Click here for University for Peace's self-description, complete with photograph of Council member Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press' source name these 10 as the travelers:

Mr. Kim Chang Sok, Director, Coal Production
Mr. Ju Yong Sam, Deputy Director, Electricity Production
Mr. Ri Kwang Su, Senior Officer, Power Resources Development
Mr. Ri Tok Song, Deputy Director, Coal Technology
Mr. Ri Song Guk, Room Head, Electric Power and Remote Control Institute
Mr. Choe Min Chol, Civil Designer, Power Design Centre
Mr. Choe In Su, Researcher, Power Design Institute
Mr. Hong Yong Chol, Senior Officer, Hydro Power Generation
Mr. Jon Yong Ryong, Expert, Environment and Energy
Mr. Hong Nae Sim, Environmental Expert and English Interpreter

            Mr. Morrison added that UNDP "may have facilitated travel arrangements" through its Beijing office. Mr. Morrison stated, rhetorically, "Have we funded travel? That's what UNDP does." He continued, "Can I say there is not going to be any more travel? Absolutely not."  So then what, one wonders, is being limited about UNDP's North Korea program pending the audit?  Melkert in Belarus

            UNDP's Mr. Morrison also provided a closely argued distinction between hard and soft won, stating that even paying in hard won, as apparently the World Food Program does for half of its national staff in the DPRK, is just the same as paying in Euros, except the UN gets less for its money because the DPRK is able to set the exchange rate. Inner City Press asked how the salaries of those seconded by the DPRK government are set. "There is a negotiated salary," Mr. Morrison replied. Negotiated how? Since UNDP allowed the North Korean government to order whom to hire, how could UNDP have leverage on how much they'd be paid?

            Warren Sach was asked when the Secretariat knew of the issues in North Korea. "Only very recently," Mr. Sach replied, emphasizing that there is an "absolute and total delegation to the Administrator of UNDP" on financial matters. So who's holding the bag, one reporter wondered.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach to explain how the North Korea issues, identified in withheld UNDP internal audits of 1999, 2001 and 2004, were not even included in the 374-page most recently public audit of UNDP. Video here, from Minute 24:13. Mr. Sach directed Inner City Press to the UN Board of Auditors, "only they can answer." We'll see.

            Inner City Press has received a response from UNICEF in writing that

"Of the 30 UNICEF staff in the Pyongyang office, 10 are international professionals recruited through New York headquarters and stationed in Pyongyang for up to five years.  They have the bulk of their salaries paid to personal overseas bank accounts. Twenty are local staff.  For local staff, UNICEF transfers their salaries to the host government, which in turn is responsible for paying each of the 20 national staff members.  The salary rate per month is 358 Euros for National Program and Operation staff, and ranges from 243 to 315 Euros for drivers and maintenance staff. DSA for overnight travel by international or national staff is paid directly to the staff, by check in Euros."

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach whether UNICEF would be included in the audit, along with WFP, which has orally represented paying half of its national staff in DPRK in Euros, and UNFPA, which while refusing to answer is known to pay in Euros, and to have 80% of its programs in North Korea executed by the DPRK government. Video here, from Minute 25:12.

            Mr. Sach indicated that all four agencies will be included in the audit. He decided to name more agencies, other than mentioning UNHCR. Inner City Press earlier this week asked the Food and Agriculture Organization, in writing, to explain its North Korea programs. FAO's spokesman's response was to inquire into Inner City Press' right to ask the question, and then to archly state "we are considering how we can respond to your request for this very large amount of information, and I will revert in due course."  We'll be waiting.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Sach to confirm something Inner City Press has asked UNDP orally and in writing without any response, that UNDP's chief auditor Jessie Rose Mabutas is now leaving in mid-February. Video here, from Minute 43:53. Mr. Sach responded, "I think it can be confirmed, what you indicated." There -- was that so hard? Beyond what has previously been reported about Ms. Mabutas, close observers note that the U.S.'s Ms. Bertini brought Ms. Mabutas into the UN system at a high level. And yet what is the U.S. now saying about the quality of UNDP's audits? Developing.

Before UNDP Meeting, North Korea Reaches out to G-77 and Deal for Silence Reached, Unless a "Wrinkle"

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

UNITED NATIONS, January 15, 11:10 am, updated here -- The night before the expected showdown on North Korea and audits at the UN Development Program's Executive Board meeting, a deal was reached, Board diplomats say. Under the deal, according to one of its proponents, UNDP would suspend its programs in North Korea pending an audit. The diplomats predicted that unless any "wrinkles" emerge when the agenda item is called later this morning, the United States will not speak on the item. With a whimper, not a bang, one observer mused.

            A delegate from Lebanon provided a different perspective on the process. North Korea made a pitch to the Group of 77 organization of developing countries, rallying support to the idea that suspension and an audit would create a precedent for further "politicization" of development and of UNDP. This too appears to have had its effect.

            A diplomat seen as demanding reform pointed out that even if the audits are done by the same Board of Audit which previous concealed the North Korea - UNDP internal audits of 2004, 2001 and 1999, this time that Board is led by France, which has said it can and does use outside counsel and auditors. It is said that between Ban Ki-moon's Friday announcement of urgent worldwide inquiry into all activities of UN funds and programs and his Monday narrowing of scope, agencies and diplomats complained of the dangers of a full external audit. And so this deal, which as of 11 a.m. in the press gallery appears to be on track. We'll see -- it sounds as if the sides' understandings or spin of any deal are quite different.

UNDP & flags

            Also seen from the bleachers, to which the working press was confined, was a team from UNDP's Communications Office, including a blond woman accused by an Executive Board member's spokesperson of seeking to eavesdrop of what the spokesperson was saying. Notes were being taken, and spin was being prepared. It has twice been announced that UNDP's Ad Melkert -- who is said to have led the overnight negotiations, rather than Administrator Kemal Dervis -- will take media questions after the morning's session.

Update of 4:45 p.m. -- The fix in fact was in, or was finalized between 12 noon and 12:30. Ad Melkert read out a statement, and the chairman banged the gavel to approve it. Only then did the speechmaking start, following by two Q&As at the Security Council stakeout. And they will be reviewed, on this site, after UNDP makes available information it said it would, including on the specifics of the Nationally Executed programs it has allowed in North Korea, and after a few further inquiries. Watch this site -- new update at midnight, click here to view.

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on --

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At the UN, from Casamance to Transdniestria, Kosovars to Lezgines, Micro-States as Powerful's Playthings

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

Stop Bank Branch Closings and Monopolies in the Katrina Zone, Group Says, Challenging Regions- AmSouth Merger

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

On Lebanon, Russian Gambit Focuses Franco-American Minds, Short Term Resolution Goes Blue Amid Flashes of Lightening

Africa Can Solve Its Own Problems, Ghanaian Minister Tells Inner City Press, On LRA Peace Talks and Kofi Annan's Views

At the UN, Jay-Z Floats Past Questions on Water Privatization and Sweatshops, Q'Orianka Kilcher in the Basement

In the UN Security Council, Speeches and Stasis as Haiti is Forgotten, for a Shebaa Farms Solution?

UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

UN Still Silent on Somalia, Despite Reported Invasion, In Lead-Up to More Congo Spin

UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

In DR Congo, UN Applauds Entry into Army of Child-Soldier Commander Along with Kidnapper

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

At the UN, Dow Chemical's Invited In, While Teaming Up With Microsoft is Defended

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

UN's Guehenno Speaks of "Political Overstretch" Undermining Peacekeeping in Lower Profile Zones

In Gaza Power Station, the Role of Enron and the U.S. Government's OPIC Revealed by UN Sources

UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

BTC Briefing, Like Pipeline, Skirts Troublespots, Azeri Revelations

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

In Uganda, UNDP to Make Belated Announcement of Program Halt, But Questions Remain (and see The New Vision, offsite).

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

UN Habitat Predicts The World Is a Ghetto, But Will Finance Be Addressed at Vancouver World Urban Forum?

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

Other Inner City Press reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on --

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