Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Obama Siding With U.N. Against Reforms Proposed in U.S. House

By BENNY AVNI, Special to the Sun | August 30, 2011

UNITED NATIONS — Even as the Obama administration admonishes the United Nations for an “unwarranted” pay hike for staffers, it is going to bat for the United Nations against legislation proposed in Congress that would revolutionize the way America finances international institutions and give Washington better leverage over them.

Proponents of the legislation, offered today by the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Florida, say that no matter how hard the administration fights against it, the current political climate presents an opportunity to rethink how American taxpayers finance Turtle Bay.

“This is the only way to create real reform, especially given U.S. budgetary stringency,” the former ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, told the Sun. “This is the time to act,” he added. “The State Department may lobby hard” against Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s proposal, “but the times they are a changin’.”

Mr. Bolton has long advocated reforming the way America pays its dues to the world body. He has called for Washington to finance only those U.N. units and programs it deems to advance America’s interests, rather than pay according to an assessment made by the General Assembly. His initiative is widely considered the basis for Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s bill.

State Department officials say that voluntary-based U.N. dues would cut the amount of American contribution to the U.N. by half and undercut its world leadership. “In the long run, we would end up shouldering — by ourselves — much more of the costs and the burdens of defending and advancing vital U.S. interests,” said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the American ambassador here, Susan Rice.

In speeches around the country, Ms. Rice has argued that the U.N. advances America’s interests, that paying for it puts America in a position to urge reform, and that it saves money.

A blue helmeted peacekeeper, she said in a February speech at Oregon, “costs a fraction of what it would cost to field a U.S. soldier to do the same job.” In another speech, at a gathering in June of an American U.N. advocacy group, she said America is “pushing real reforms that can enable the U.N. to do more with less.”

But the reform push is yet to change the U.N.

The American ambassador charged with management reform, Joseph Torsella, is complaining about how, as American government officials’ salaries were recently frozen, the salaries of approximately 4,800 U.N. staffers in New York were recently raised by nearly 3%.

“As a result of the global financial crisis, the United States government believes that no increases in either the base salary scale or post adjustment are warranted or appropriate at this time,” Mr. Torsella wrote yesterday in a letter to Kingston Rhodes, chairman of Turtle Bay’s International Civil Service Commission.

Yet diplomats here say that while America pays a larger share of the U.N. budget than any other country, its push to freeze salaries isn’t likely to succeed. Decisions involving U.N. expenditures are taken either by the secretariat or in various budgetary committees of the General Assembly, where the vote of a country that contributes little carries as much weight as that of the largest contributor.

“When you pay pittance there’s no reason you should be concerned about how the funds are used,” says the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer, who has written extensively on U.N. budgetary issues. Mr. Schaefer supports the principle of voluntary contribution, which, he says, will introduce a “market-based mechanism that is lacking” in the current U.N. assessment system.

The U.N. Charter does not define the basis on which countries should pay their dues. It only determines, in Article 19, that a U.N. member “which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions” loses its voting right at the General Assembly.

Rather than being constitutional, so to speak, the U.N. system of assessing dues results from a legislative process at the General Assembly, which presumably can be changed.

In the 1940s America paid nearly half of the organization’s budget. More recently the General Assembly decided to assess the dues each country owes the U.N. according to its share of the world economy, based on GDP. The final sum due is subject to negotiations, however. This has allowed America to cap its U.N. dues on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

In the 1990s, Senator Helms successfully frustrated the Clinton administration’s attempts to pay its U.N. dues in full. Only at the end of the decade did Helms arrive at an agreement with Joseph Biden, then a leading Democrat in the Senate, to end the impasse.

The 1999 Helms-Biden compromise lowered America’s contribution to the U.N. running budget to 22% from 25%. Washington’s share of the U.N. peacekeeping budget was reduced to 25% from 30%. A decade later a new compromise raised the peacekeeping share back to 27.14%t. All told, last year America contributed $516 million for the U.N. regular budget and $1.887 billion for peacekeeping.

Now Ms. Ros-Lehtinen proposes to rethink the whole thing. The new legislation “ends the era of no-strings-attached contributions, and gives us leverage to pressure the U.N. to finally make concrete reforms,” Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement today. “Making U.N. funding voluntary will give the U.S. control over how our contributions are spent at the U.N. Otherwise, U.S. taxpayer dollars will keep being spent on the bad, the ugly, and the indefensible.”

Approached by the Sun today, Secretary General Ban declined to comment on the proposed legislation’s effect on the U.N.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

After FoxNews reporting - Susan E. Rice tells Ban Ki Moon to take the 3% increase in UN Staff Salaries and shove it up...

After a FoxNews Reporting this is the reaction from USUN

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, NY
August 29, 2011

Kingston Rhodes, Chairman
International Civil Service Commission
Two United Nations Plaza, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10017

August 29, 2011

Mr. Chairman:

I am writing you regarding the increase to the post adjustment index for New York that went into effect on 1 August 2011. As a result of this increase, the net compensation to UN staff in the professional and higher categories serving in New York has also increased, effectively raising the salaries of approximately 4,800 international staff by nearly 3%. My government is deeply concerned by the decision of the Secretariat of the International Civil Service Commission to increase the post adjustment index in New York and strongly objects to this increase.

Such a raise is inappropriate at this time of global fiscal austerity, when Member State governments everywhere are implementing drastic austerity measures such as layoffs, service reductions, revenue increases, and reductions in pay and benefits for civil servants. While we have the highest regard for the many dedicated professionals in the UN system, in these difficult times we must—at a minimum—forgo salary increases. Failure to do so could well lead to more draconian approaches to budget-balancing in the future.

As you know, the United States federal civil service is currently subject to a pay freeze; while this freeze is reflected in the UN’s base salary scale, the United States believes that to a meaningful, common-sense definition of “salary freeze” means that it should apply to net remuneration as a whole. Further, the United States federal civil service is subject to “locality pay” analogous to the UN’s “post adjustment” for international professional staff. In a letter to Congress dated 30 November 2010, President Obama, exercising his authority under Section 5304a of Title 5 of the United States Code, indicated that “the current locality pay percentages…shall not increase from their 2010 levels”.

Under the Noblemaire principle, the salaries and conditions of service international professional staff are determined by reference to those applicable for the comparator. Given both the pay freeze and the freeze in the locality pay percentages applicable to the United States federal civil service—the comparator for international professional staff—as a result of the global financial crisis, the United States government believes that no increases in either the base salary scale or post adjustment are warranted or appropriate at this time, and respectfully requests that the Commission take appropriate steps to restore the post adjustment index for New York.

Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.


Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella

Monday, 29 August 2011

OIOS Report: Development Policy and Analysis Division (DPAD)

UN/DESA - DPAD Mandates:

DPAD’s overall components and functions include:

  • The Office of the Director (OD) coordinates the activities of the division, administers and executes various development account projects, manages its human and financial resources, and manages its relations within DESA, with the inter- governmental process and with other United Nations and non-United Nations agencies and the general public.
  • The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) secretariat provides substantive servicing to the CDP including administrative support and parliamentary documentation and the review, application and monitoring of the criteria for determining least developed countries (LDCs).
  • The Development Strategy and Policy Analysis Unit (DSP) is in charge of undertaking economic and social research into fundamental development issues and trends and formulating advice for the United Nations development agenda. The unit coordinates the production of the World Economic and Social Survey (WESS), DESA’s flagship report which has been published annually since 1948.
  • The Global Economic Monitoring Unit (GEM) monitors global economic trends and contributes to United Nations reports, briefings and notes in the area of macroeconomic analysis. The unit coordinates the production of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP), the joint report of DESA, UNCTAD and the regional commissions on the state of the world economy and emerging macroeconomic policy challenges. In addition to the main report, a mid-year update for the WESP is issued, as well as a series of monthly briefings on the world economic situation and a world economic vulnerability monitor issued approximately quarterly.

UN/DESA - DPAD Budget:

OIOS Evaluation Results:

However, the direct impact of DPAD’s work on intergovernmental resolutions appeared to be limited

19. Interviews with DPAD management confirmed that accurately assessing the impact of DPAD’s reports and analyses on the intergovernmental processes and decision-making was a challenge, as the ownership of the subjects for discussion lay with Member States. At the same time, publications could be used in more informal ways, such as in its working papers for informal discussions, etc. Such usage, while possible and likely, was difficult to quantify. Evidence of direct impact of DPAD’s work on General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions was therefore elusive. In 2009, there was no reference to either WESP or WESS in a General Assembly resolution.20 Similarly, no ECOSOC resolutions in 2009 or 2010 referred to either of these publications.

20. Nevertheless, there were some indicators of indirect impact of the WESP and the WESS upon the intergovernmental process. For example, one General Assembly resolution in 2010 “noted” a report of the Secretary-General (on the subject of the new international economic order), which in turn referred to the warnings contained in successive editions of WESP on the increasingly unsustainable global balances that DPAD drew attention to prior to the financial crisis of 2008.21

21. Additionally, some impact was suggested by the fact that Members States delegates occasionally quoted the WESP and WESS during their speeches. For example, in a General Assembly plenary debate in September 2010, the President of a Member State stated, “According to the 2010 WESP, developing countries as a whole transferred USD 891 billion to developed countries in 2008 and $568 billion in 2009.” In the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, another Member State stated it shared the opinion of the WESP 2008 that “strong economic growth, while not the only condition, is essential to ... generating the necessary resources to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”22 In the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, a Member State delegate relied on the WESS and stated, “As the Report on the World Social Situation in 2005 and the WESS in 2006 have revealed, the region remains behind others in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”23

22. An analysis of the debates of the 65th session of the General Assembly showed that Member States delegates had on two occasions relied on analyses produced by the IMF and the WB with respect to the expected growth rates in their countries. Also, as noted in the DESA- wide evaluation report, during the United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis in New York in June 2009, delegates did not publicly reference DESA’s forecasts for the world economy and instead mentioned IMF forecasts in their discussions.

While regional commissions’ and UNCTAD’s inputs to the WESP contributed to a unified United Nations view on the world economic outlook, they, in turn, made limited use of DPAD’s outputs in their publications

27. Since 2008, DPAD has played an enhanced role in promoting policy coherence vis-à- vis other United Nations entities, as it has been mandated to foster and disseminate a “unified United Nations view” on the world economic outlook and its implications for the prospects of developing countries. DPAD currently measures its performance by an increase in the number of inputs from United Nations system entities and Member States to the dialogue on the WESP. Interviews with stakeholders demonstrated that the institutional cooperation between DPAD, the regional commissions and UNCTAD to produce the WESP had improved. Regular inputs by way of WESP chapters were provided by the Financing for Development Office (FfDO), the regional commissions, and UNCTAD. The integration and institutionalization of the regional commissions’ and UNCTAD’s views into a single publication (WESP) demonstrated that DPAD had made progress in fostering and disseminating a unified United Nations view; earlier, UNCTAD’s views were expressed in separate reports.

28. Despite the progress in fostering a unified United Nations view of the world economic outlook noted above, four regional commissions and UNCTAD made uneven use of the WESP and WESS in their publications.30 (See Table 4) These stakeholders suggested some areas for improvement. This included more thorough and regular consultations to obtain their inputs. As stated by one, “a unified UN view of the global economic outlook is a common vision that should be gathered through a process of shared analysis and discussion.” Stakeholders considered that such a unified United Nations view could be measured by various factors including considering references to WESP and WESS in regional commissions’ publications, and increasing the number of meetings, video conferences, etc. dedicated to the analyses and discussion of global economic outlook with the objective of reaching consensus.

C. DPAD’s strategic framework posed performance measurement difficulties

38. In this respect, there were limitations in how DPAD measured it own performance and impact. Specifically, one element of DPAD’s 2010-2011 Strategic Framework was not appropriately drafted to accurately measure its performance in strengthening and assisting international debate in the General Assembly and ECOSOC. As currently formulated, the indicator of achievement for “increased number of debated economic policies and actions to achieve internationally agreed development goals” leaves open the question as to how such debates on economic policies and actions can be attributed to DPAD’s work rather than the cumulative and hard-to-differentiate efforts of multiple stakeholders all desirous of shaping and influencing the content and direction of debate at the intergovernmental level.

39. Furthermore, DPAD’s second 2010-2011 Strategic Framework indicator in this regard, namely, the “increased level of satisfaction by Member States with the substantive support provided” was better formulated to capture the effectiveness of DPAD’s work, but has encountered difficulties in implementation. Management’s efforts to gauge the satisfaction of Member States about its work and publications have met with marginal success owing to poor feedback; only seven Permanent Missions to the UN responded to a DPAD initiated survey in 2008.

Collaboration with other DESA divisions was rated more highly by management than by staff

47. Interview and survey data showed mixed results with regard to how well DPAD collaborated with other DESA divisions. Examples were offered of how it had collaborated to utilise the inputs and expertise of other DESA divisions such as the Statistics Division (SD), Population Division (PD), Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (OESC) and Financing for Development Office (FfDO).

48. However, when asked to characterize the frequency with which they met with staff members from other divisions, 76 per cent of staff who responded replied that they did so infrequently or only on an ad hoc basis. Staff also indicated that there was need for greater collaboration between the teams preparing the WESP and the WESS.

The gender and human rights linkages of DPAD’s work were weakly perceived by stakeholders

49. DPAD’s analyses and publications inherently support economic and social human rights, in particular, the rights enshrined in Articles 6, 7 and 9 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.46 Despite this linkage, however, most stakeholders were either unsure or did not believe that the division had mainstreamed human rights into its work. With regard to gender mainstreaming, less than half of DPAD stakeholders (38 per cent) believed that it had effectively mainstreamed gender perspectives into its work. Among DPAD staff, only 52 per cent considered that it had effectively mainstreamed gender into its work.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Nepali Congress blames United Nations for all Nepal problems

'The fault lay on the part of the United Nations for having imbalanced and partisan relations with Nepali political parties in the past, as a result of which Nepal is undergoing tumultuous times'.

Direct attack on the UN body. Courage must be admired.

The Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala made this frontal attack upon meeting the visiting Director of the Department of Political Affairs, Asia Pacific Bureau of the United Nations, Samuel Tamrat. Big blow indeed!

But why this Tamrat comes to Nepal every now and then? The fact is that as and when he comes to Nepal, the political tussle here takes a fierce dimension. The NC anxiety has thus logic, claim matured political observers.

The UN body in Nepal including the UN Peace Mission, UNMIN was labelled as a ‘Maoists Tail’ by the then Defence Minister Bidya Devi Bhandari. Except the Unified Maoists Party, all other parties were against UNMIN’s Nepal stay.

Sushil Koirala putting the entire blame on to the United Nation is quoted as saying by one of the leading national dailies, “Nepali people are suffering because of the UN failure in maintaining a fair and balanced relation with all the parties in the past.”

“We scrutinized UN’s role in Nepal and analyzed prevailing political situation here, we also thanked the UN for its continued support”, said Ram Saran Mahat who was also present at Sushil-Tamrat meeting.

Let this thanks offered by Dr. Mahat to the UN official be the last one, opine analysts. The general people get annoyed and irritated whenever they listen to the news that Tamrat is visiting Nepal.

Has Tamrat a frightening face? He must have or else why the Nepali people get scared as and when he drops in Nepal?

The UN body’s image is sinking in Nepal for sure.

The meeting took place at President Sushil Koirala’s personal residence in Maharajgunj, Kathmandu.

Tamrat will meet leaders of other political parties on Monday it is reported. He has already met with Prime Minister Jhal Nath Khanal.

Tamrat must understand now as to how his visit is being taken by common Nepali men including the leaders.

UNIDO China chief likely to face action - acted without permission of UNIDO HQ entering into legal contracts with 3rd parties

click here for this story on


HONG KONG, Aug 21: The headquarters of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has indicated possible action against chief representative of the UNIDO office in China following the disclosure that UNIDO had not entered into any valid contractual agreement with the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) to undertake development activities in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

“Disciplinary action may be taken against the chief representative of the UNIDO office in China,” said a source at the UNIDO headquarters on Saturday.

The preparation for action indicates that Hu Yuandong, chief representative of the UNIDO office in China, had reached an agreement with the APECF on providing “institutional assistance” for Lumbini project without first consulting the UNIDO´s Vienna-based headquarters.

Yuandong had reached an agreement with Xiao Wunn, executive vice-chairman of the APECF, on providing technical cooperation for Lumbini Special Development Zone in Nepal on July 15.

But the UNIDO headquarters had clarified that it had not entered any deal as such. “UNIDO has not entered into any valid contractual agreement with the APECF, and therefore is not involved in any activities related to the Lumbini Special Development Zone in Nepal,” said Mikhail Evstafver, UNIDO Advocacy and Communication Coordinator, said in a statement on Friday.

Following the new development, an official from the APECF indicated that the US$ 3 billion project has come to an end. “What we had tried to do is to promote the Lumbini project by coordinating the investors. But the investors have been disappointed as the project was entrapped into a political hostility among various forces in Nepal,” a Beijing-based UNIDO official told Republica.

Meanwhile, the APECF has removed the name of former crown prince Paras Shah from the list of its co-chairmen on its website in English version.

Earlier, Shah was introduced as a co-chairman of the APECF in the website. “He is no longer a vice-chairman of the Foundation. The reason behind that is a political one,” the official said. But the official didn´t clarify whether it was Shah´s voluntary exit.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Dag Hammarskjöld was killed and U.N. investigative panel knew and covered it up

The former UN Secretary-general who would be remembered as the only one to attempt to change the UN, was killed and United Nations own investigation was a cover up. Why would anyone want Dag Hammarkjold dead? And who at U.N. wanted to cover it up and why?


Dag Hammarskjöld: evidence suggests UN chief's plane was shot down

Eyewitnesses claim a second aircraft fired at the plane raising questions of British cover-up over the 1961 crash and its causes

The wreckage of Dag Hammarskjöld's plane
The wreckage of Dag Hammarskjöld's plane near Ndola, now Zambia. Eyewitnesses claim they saw a second plane fire at the UN chief's plane. Photograph: TopFoto

New evidence has emerged in one of the most enduring mysteries ofUnited Nations and African history, suggesting that the plane carrying the UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld was shot down over Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) 50 years ago, and the murder was covered up by British colonial authorities.

A British-run commission of inquiry blamed the crash in 1961 on pilot error and a later UN investigation largely rubber-stamped its findings. They ignored or downplayed witness testimony of villagers near the crash site which suggested foul play. The Guardian has talked to surviving witnesses who were never questioned by the official investigations and were too scared to come forward.

The residents on the western outskirts of the town of Ndola described Hammarskjöld's DC6 being shot down by a second, smaller aircraft. They say the crash site was sealed off by Northern Rhodesian security forces the next morning, hours before the wreckage was officially declared found, and they were ordered to leave the area.

The key witnesses were located and interviewed over the past three years by Göran Björkdahl, a Swedish aid worker based in Africa, who made the investigation of the Hammarskjöld mystery a personal quest since discovering his father had a fragment of the crashed DC6.

"My father was in that part of Zambia in the 70s and asking local people about what happened, and a man there, seeing that he was interested, gave him a piece of the plane. That was what got me started," Björkdahl said. When he went to work in Africa himself, he went to the site and began to question the local people systematically on what they had seen.

The investigation led Björkdahl to previously unpublished telegrams – seen by the Guardian – from the days leading up to Hammarskjöld's death on 17 September 1961, which illustrate US and British anger at an abortive UN military operation that the secretary general ordered on behalf of the Congolese government against a rebellion backed by western mining companies and mercenaries in the mineral-rich Katanga region.

Hammarskjöld was flying to Ndola for peace talks with the Katanga leadership at a meeting that the British helped arrange. The fiercely independent Swedish diplomat had, by then, enraged almost all the major powers on the security council with his support for decolonisation, but support from developing countries meant his re-election as secretary general would have been virtually guaranteed at the general assembly vote due the following year.

Björkdahl works for the Swedish international development agency, Sida, but his investigation was carried out in his own time and his report does not represent the official views of his government. However, his report echoes the scepticism about the official verdict voiced by Swedish members of the commissions of inquiry.

Björkdahl concludes that:

• Hammarskjöld's plane was almost certainly shot down by an unidentified second plane.

• The actions of the British and Northern Rhodesian officials at the scene delayed the search for the missing plane.

• The wreckage was found and sealed off by Northern Rhodesian troops and police long before its discovery was officially announced.

• The one survivor of the crash could have been saved but was allowed to die in a poorly equipped local hospital.

• At the time of his death Hammarskjöld suspected British diplomats secretly supported the Katanga rebellion and had obstructed a bid to arrange a truce.

• Days before his death, Hammarskjöld authorised a UN offensive on Katanga – codenamed Operation Morthor – despite reservations of the UN legal adviser, to the fury of the US and Britain.

The most compelling new evidence comes from witnesses who had not previously been interviewed, mostly charcoal-makers from the forest around Ndola, now in their 70s and 80s.

Dickson Mbewe, now 84, was sitting outside his house in Chifubu compound west of Ndola with a group of friends on the night of the crash.

"We saw a plane fly over Chifubu but did not pay any attention to it the first time," he told the Guardian. "When we saw it a second and third time, we thought that this plane was denied landing permission at the airport. Suddenly, we saw another aircraft approach the bigger aircraft at greater speed and release fire which appeared as a bright light.

"The plane on the top turned and went in another direction. We sensed the change in sound of the bigger plane. It went down and disappeared."

At about 5am, Mbewe went to his charcoal kiln close to the crash site, where he found soldiers and policemen already dispersing people. According to the official report the wreckage was only discovered at 3pm that afternoon.

"There was a group of white soldiers carrying a body, two in front and two behind," he said. "I heard people saying there was a man who was found alive and should be taken to hospital. Nobody was allowed to stay there."

Mbewe did not forward with that information earlier because he was never asked to, he said. "The atmosphere was not peaceful, we were chased away. I was afraid to go to the police because they might put me in prison."

Another witness, Custon Chipoya, a 75-year-old charcoal maker, also claims to have seen a second plane in the sky that night. "I saw a plane turning, it had clear lights and I could hear the roaring sound of the engine," he said. "It wasn't very high. In my opinion, it was at the height that planes are when they are going to land.

"It came back a second time, which made us look and the third time, when it was turning towards the airport, I saw a smaller plane approaching behind the bigger one. The lighter aircraft, a smaller jet type of plane, was trailing behind and had a flash light. Then it released some fire on to the bigger plane below and went in the opposite direction.

"The bigger aircraft caught fire and started exploding, crashing towards us. We thought it was following us as it chopped off branches and tree trunks. We thought it was war, so we ran away."

Chipoya said he returned to the site the next morning at about 6am and found the area cordoned off by police and army officers. He didn't mention what he had seen because: "It was impossible to talk to a police officer then. We just understood that we had to go away," he said.

Safeli Mulenga, 83, also in Chifubu on the night of the crash, did not see a second plane but witnessed an explosion.

"I saw the plane circle twice," he said. "The third time fire came from somewhere above the plane, it glowed so bright. It couldn't have been the plane exploding because the fire was coming on to it," he said.

There was no announcement for people to come forward with information following the crash, and the federal government did not want people to talk about it, he said. "There were some who witnessed the crash and they were taken away and imprisoned."

John Ngongo, now 75, out in the bush with a friend to learn how to make charcoal on the night of the crash, did not see another plane but he definitely heard one, he said.

"Suddenly, we saw a plane with fire on one side coming towards us. It was on fire before it hit the trees. The plane was not alone. I heard another plane at high speed disappearing into the distance but I didn't see it," he said.

The only survivor among the 15 people on board the DC6 was Harold Julian, an American sergeant on Hammarskjöld's security detail. The official report said he died of his injuries, but Mark Lowenthal, a doctor who helped treat Julian in Ndola, told Björkdahl he could have been saved.

"I look upon the episode as having been one of my most egregious professional failures in what has become a long career," Lowenthal wrote in an email. "I must first ask why did the US authorities not at once set out to help/rescue one of their own? Why did I not think of this at the time? Why did I not try to contact US authorities to say, 'Send urgently an aircraft to evacuate a US citizen on secondment to UN who is dying of kidney failure?'"

Julian was left in Ndola for five days. Before he died, he told police he had seen sparks in the sky and an explosion before the crash.

Björkdahl also raises questions about why the DC6 was made to circle outside Ndola. The official report claims there was no tape recorder in the air traffic control tower, despite the fact that its equipment was new. The air traffic control report of the crash was not filed until 33 hours afterwards.

According to records of the events of the night, the British high commissioner to the Rhodesian and Nyasaland Federation, Cuthbert Alport, who was at the airport that evening, "suddenly said that he had heard that Hammarskjöld had changed his mind and intended to fly somewhere else. The airport manager therefore didn't send out any emergency alert and everyone simply went to bed."

The witness accounts of another plane are consistent with other insider accounts of Hammarskjold's death. Two of his top aides, Conor Cruise O'Brien and George Ivan Smith, both became convinced that the secretary general had been shot down by mercenaries working for European industrialists in Katanga. They also believed that the British helped cover up the shooting. In 1992, the two published a letter in the Guardian spelling out their theory. Suspicion of British intentions is a recurring theme of the correspondence Björkdahl has examined from the days before Hammarskjöld's death.

Formally, the UK backed the UN mission, but, privately, the secretary general and his aides believed British officials were obstructing peace moves, possibly as a result of mining interests and sympathies with the white colonists on the Katanga side.

On the morning of 13 September the separatist leader Moise Tshombesignalled that he was ready for a truce, but changed his mind after a one-hour meeting with the UK consul in Katanga, Denzil Dunnett.

There is no doubt that at the time of his death Hammarskjöld‚ who had already alienated the Soviets, French and Belgians, had also angered the Americans and the British with his decision to launch Operation Morthor against the rebel leaders and mercenaries in Katanga.

The US secretary of state, Dean Rusk, told one of the secretary general's aides that President Kennedy was "extremely upset" and was threatening to withdraw support from the UN. The UK , Rusk said, was "equally upset".

At the end of his investigation Björkdahl is still not sure who killed Hammarskjöld, but he is fairly certain why he was killed: "It's clear there were a lot of circumstances pointing to possible involvement by western powers. The motive was there – the threat to the west's interests in Congo's huge mineral deposits. And this was the time of black African liberation, and you had whites who were desperate to cling on.

"Dag Hammarskjöld was trying to stick to the UN charter and the rules of international law. I have the impression from his telegrams and his private letters that he was disgusted by the behaviour of the big powers."

Historians at the Foreign Office said they could not comment. British officials believe that, at this late date, no amount of research would conclusively prove or disprove what they see as conspiracy theories that have always surrounded Hammarskjöld's death.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

NGOs: Are They What They Seem?


For the first time in years, I find that middle-class people I talk with in Zimbabwe don’t want to discuss politics or even economics. They want to express dismay at the stifling grip that international NGOs and aid agencies have on their lives and work. I am reminded of Joe Hanlon’s analysis of Mozambique as it emerged from the war with Renamo.[1] No-one is claiming here, as Hanlon did there, that donor communities are manipulating food aid to win political concessions. But the donor organisations have disproportionate influence as employers and investors, particularly in the arenas of agriculture and the arts. During the worst periods of the past decade, they provided a lifeline for many people among the educated middle classes who found themselves with no other employment choices. But, when the shore is in sight, do you want to remain tethered to the lifebelt?

Are They What They Seem?



Ten years or so ago in their book Empire, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt argued that NGOs like Oxfam and Medecins Sans Fronieres, actually play a lead role in laying the foundation for interventions by global capital by building public support behind humanitarian concerns. They took some crap for that. It isn't nice to question these NGOs and we all are supposed love them and see them as allies in the struggle for justice and against the global juggernaut. Not everybody does though, including some of the "recipients" of their aid. Some think the Cubans and the Chinese do a much better job at listening to the people they are "helping" then these big time NGOs.

Take a read of the long analysis below and you may have to reassess what you think. It is from African Arguments.

Parasites Of The Poor? International NGOs And Aid Agencies In Zimbabwe — By Diana Jeater

August 8, 2011

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This blog is called ‘Rethinking Zimbabwe’. It seems that a lot of people in Zimbabwe want some rethinking about the operations of international NGOs and aid agencies here. This is, of course, not a new conversation: international NGOs and donor organisations are perennially under scrutiny and criticism. But right now, it seems like an urgent conversation.

For the first time in years, I find that middle-class people I talk with in Zimbabwe don’t want to discuss politics or even economics. They want to express dismay at the stifling grip that international NGOs and aid agencies have on their lives and work. I am reminded of Joe Hanlon’s analysis of Mozambique as it emerged from the war with Renamo.[1] No-one is claiming here, as Hanlon did there, that donor communities are manipulating food aid to win political concessions. But the donor organisations have disproportionate influence as employers and investors, particularly in the arenas of agriculture and the arts. During the worst periods of the past decade, they provided a lifeline for many people among the educated middle classes who found themselves with no other employment choices. But, when the shore is in sight, do you want to remain tethered to the lifebelt?

Aid agencies are mistrusted not least because they are perceived as part of the political strategies of donor governments – whether directly through organisations such as USAID, DfID or NORAD, or indirectly through the various arms of the UN. Regardless of their rhetoric, these organisations are primarily answerable to their tax payers and thereby to their electorates. When dealing with Zimbabwe, western aid agencies have political imperatives to distance themselves from the Zimbabwean government. And so we find DfID’s summary of its work for 2011-15 commenting that, “real transformation and sustained development progress is only likely following political change.”[2] This may make a lot of sense in London; but it is not very helpful for people working damned hard in rural villages in Zimbabwe, in order to effect ‘real transformation and sustained development progress’, to be told that they are wasting their time because (subtext) Zanu-PF is not yet in opposition. And this is regardless of any actual benefits that they know their work is achieving.

Aid agencies also need to distance themselves from any suspicion of complicity with corrupt or inept local institutions, whether governmental or from civil society. Consequently a very large amount of their paperwork, strategy development, definition of successful outcomes and self-evaluation is focused on auditing of their financial management: “More than ever, in the current financial climate, we have a duty to show that we are achieving value for money in everything we do,” states DfID. “Results, transparency and accountability will be our watchwords and we are determined to get value for money for every hard-earned taxpayer pound spent on development.” But what counts as ‘value’? Value is about British tax-payers’ money, not about the quality of life for Zimbabweans:

“In Zimbabwe, DFID will embed a strong focus on value for money, monitoring and evaluation, ensuring all feedback is effectively incorporated. We will dedicate specific staff resources to improving value for money within our programme e.g. through more rigorous procurement approaches. We will harness financial improvement strategies and tools to ensure we drive continued improvement in financial management and to maintain high standards.”[3]

Of course, this makes perfect sense from the perspective of the donors. Like government aid agencies, international NGOs such as Oxfam understandably have to take their cue from similar concerns about accountability for every penny spent. But the concerns are inward-looking and reflect the vested interests of the donors. The beneficiaries become the ‘product’, not the clients; and certainly not people who might perhaps themselves have a different view on what would constitute ‘value for money’.

Moreover, there is a strong belief that these agencies are so big that they can hardly see the wood, never mind the trees – and certainly not the bugs that live on the trees, in whose name the work is being done. Their focus is the national or, at best, the district level. The ‘political change’ that DfID identifies as necessary for Zimbabwe obscures local transformations that have occurred despite, and in some cases even because of, the current government’s strategies. The supporters’ newsletter for the small but very successful Quaker-funded Hlekweni training centre near Bulawayo, for example, reported that:

“Jabulani studied at Hlekweni in 2009, and at the age of just 21 now has a thriving agriculture and horticulture business on 50 hectares of land acquired under a government scheme. While much of the land redistribution in Zimbabwe has been a disastrous failure – partly due to the lack of skills among beneficiaries – Jabulani has used his Hlekweni training to produce large yields of maize, beans and butternut, and to raise a herd of 136 cattle, creating a good income for his family and jobs for local people.”[4]

Elsewhere here on ‘African Arguments’, Clare Short argued against such small-scale projects in favour of strategic national-level intervention:

“The question was how to stop aid being lots of little charitable projects and to use it intelligently to empower countries to lift themselves up, get their own people educated, run their own ministries, grow their own economies. The point about DFID was that it ceased to be just an aid distribution department and took on analytical capacity (to work on) trade and international environmental agreements and conflict resolution and so on.”[5]

This is no doubt very exciting for those involved in grand strategy-making in London. But national-level policy-making means that consultation about what is needed often happens at the wrong level. I recently pointed out to a friend that an international NGO was taking on 22 project workers to develop beehives, boreholes and agricultural training in eastern Zimbabwe. She pointed out that, in her experience, boreholes weren’t necessarily a priority in the targeted areas. There is clearly a suspicion among people who work for aid agencies that national-level needs are divided by the number of districts, and then by the number of sub-districts, and people in those sub-districts are then provided with their defined ‘need’, regardless of whether it is actually what they want or not.

Moreover, everyone who discusses this issue with me complains that the agendas about what Zimbabwe needs are set externally. For example, Isla Grundy is a forester working to identify processed indigenous foods for the market. During the food shortages arising from drought and agricultural chaos in the early 2000s, rural people turned to indigenous foods to survive: knowledge of these foods is probably higher than it has been for many years. It is a perfect moment to find the Zimbabwean Rooibos tea.[6] Because commercial investors will not touch Zimbabwe at present, her organisation is forced down the donor route. Nonetheless, she told me, her organisation (which has a good track record with donors) has struggled for months to get any aid agency to show interest in any crops other than the mainstream maize, groundnuts and legumes, which form the bedrock of regional strategies for development.

Very often, there is a belief that the aid agendas serve external commercial interests more than local human needs. Today, a farming consultant told me how he despaired at the news that food aid budgets for Zimbabwe from the UN had been revised upwards.[7] ‘How will we grow our own food and re-establish our position as a food exporter when we are flooded with American grain?’, he asked. Similarly, Grundy told me of the attempts to produce a local groundnut-based famine-relief paste.[8] Zimbabwe is one of many African states that have developed their own local substitutes to the French product, Plumpy’nut: indigenous action to solve African problems. But there is an international patent row, which actively prevents local producers from making and marketing a comparable product within Africa. The billions in aid for famine relief put money back into European and US pockets.[9]

Local experts also express frustration at how the external agendas are introduced without proper research into local conditions and history. There has been a recent fad for ‘conservation agriculture’ (CA) – no-till planting. As Jens Andersson, a social scientist with many years experience of agriculture in Zimbabwe pointed out to me, there was no grassroots drive to adopt no-tillage systems. The practice was entirely driven by donor agendas, sending in NGO-funded ‘development workers’ to teach people this exciting new technique that would revolutionise their yields.

Except it wasn’t new; and it didn’t revolutionise yields. No-tillage systems had been introduced by extension workers in the past and were already part of local knowledge. Moreover, said Andersson, any benefits recorded in yield increase from no-tillage planting in the current CA campaigns would be the result of the input of the fertiliser donated as part of the project, not a result of the no-tilling strategy per se. The fertiliser, of course, has been produced by a western multinational.

The lack of local knowledge, amongst the ex pats who design and run development projects here, is a source of constant irritation. These aid workers are typically academically brilliant, well-educated and extremely well meaning. But they are also very young (‘He looks about sixteen’); they are moved around from project to project and country to country (even from continent to continent) without having a chance to develop deep local knowledge; and as a general rule they have been trained in economics or development studies, not in anthropology or history. An agriculturalist here told me in horror about working with a project leader for an international child-based programme, who had explained that there was no point in asking the children to follow the normal programme practice of describing their family trees because ‘Shona children just call everyone auntie or uncle and don’t really know how they’re all related’!. These expats employ Zimbabweans to provide the local expertise; but by this stage it is too late in the process. The planning, strategy, budget allocation, agenda-setting – and the mind-setting – have already taken place.

‘No-one is listening to what we really want’ is a constant refrain. Listening takes time, and often people don’t actually know what they want; they need a space in which to find that out for themselves. One of the most effective projects I’ve encountered, Bright Tomorrows Zimbabwe, works with care-givers for AIDS orphans. It doesn’t provide them with material goods or have outcomes that can be ticked against a box; it just encourages them to meet regularly to discuss the life journeys of the children in their care, and the support that the children will need to fulfil their potential. One exhausted old woman, who had struggled to bring up her own children only to see them all die and now having to raise her grandchildren, reported after some time on the programme that she had stopped beating her wards. The issue of beating hadn’t been raised as part of the programme. Yet she said that the experience of being in a supportive group where people listened to their needs had made all the difference: she was now able to cope with her situation and to understand how the children were thinking. She was learning to enjoy her life with them. This didn’t take a lot of money – it took time and commitment. Jeannie Sinclair, the amazingly inspirational worker who told me this story, added that their programme was tiny because no large agency wanted to fund a project that didn’t deliver tangible and measurable outcomes.

The question of how far the aid agencies engage with communities and genuinely listen to their needs is hardly a new one. When I first started working in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, I was initially impressed at how all the NGO workers I met emphasized the need to listen to rural women. I was quickly disillusioned when I realised that ‘listening’ meant ‘finding out how to present what we want to deliver in ways that make them acceptable to rural women’.[10] But ‘listening’ is becoming political. According to a recent report, a World Bank official asked the official of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce:

“Do you know why you Chinese are more successful in the aid issue?…It’s just because we know what aid we can provide in Africa while you don’t know. Since you are not clear, you ask the Africans about this and they told you what they exactly need. That is the reason you are more successful.”[11]

Once again, the priorities of communities are subsumed in the needs of external aid agencies – ‘listening’ is a means to further other nations’ strategic interests.

The perception amongst workers who are trying to make a difference at the grassroots in Zimbabwe is that big aid agencies such as UNICEF and DfID don’t engage with communities to find out what they need; they deliver to them. Jeannie Sinclair described turning up for a session with her care-givers one day, to find the village filled with DfID Land Cruisers and people from the district whom she had not met before. Apparently this was the ‘delivery’ of DfID’s gender-based violence programme. The DfID team swooped in, gave everyone free Coca-Cola and a text to keep about GBV, and then swooped out again. The free drink and the hoohah attracted scores of participants, who could be recorded on the programme report. Job done?

A combination of tight auditing and external agenda-setting influences the evaluation of projects, and this in turn affects the project design. In order to be reportable, outcomes must be measurable. In order to be measurable, they must be tangible. There is a common complaint is that aid agencies only recognise ‘things’ as outcomes, not relationships. Again, this is not new. I remember in 1990 Sithembiso Nyoni of the ORAP project in Bulawayo telling me about her struggle to get funding from Oxfam USA. They required, for auditing purposes, a commitment that a certain number of wells would be built within a certain time period. She argued that development was about changing relationships within communities, not about building things. Once the relationships were working effectively, the wells would follow and would be effective. Eventually, and unusually, the donors agreed to let things take as long as they needed. But this was an unusual situation involving an exceptionally powerful local organisation.

Today, the auditing systems of aid agencies continue to disregard changes in relationships, as tangible outcomes of development work. At Hlekweni, Jabulani spoke about how the success of his business was only meaningful in the context of his community relationships:

My responsibility is to make sure that people in my area have enough maize and vegetables to eat. To me, business is about doing something that is good for you, and at the same time it is good for your community…At Hlekweni, I didn’t only get agriculture, but I also got my humanity from the trainers here.[12]

But ‘humanity’ is not an outcome that can be measured as evidence of ‘results, transparency and accountability’. A project like Bright Tomorrows, which transforms people’s lives but has nothing concrete to show for it, is perceived as less likely to attract funding than a plan to build an orphanage. Orphanages disrupt kinship networks and indigenous support systems; they disempower children; they are very expensive. But they can be ticked off as evidence of ‘value for money’. Many people here told me that this is what makes building orphanages attractive to aid agencies, even if they’re not wanted and not needed.

Associated with the perception that aid agencies only want to be involved in projects with measurable outcomes is a perception that money-spending is their default mode of problem-solving. Of course, this is part of a larger conversation about the value of throwing money at a problem. Clare Short pointed out in her conversation with Richard Dowden that:

“The patronising dollops of money approach to aid irritates the people on whom it is dolloped and it irritates the British tax payer. It’s just not a good way of doing it.”

But, predictably, her proposed alternative – direct budget support – is still about management of money, not about transformation of lives at the grassroots. Eugene Ulman, a film-maker and music producer in Harare, pointed out to me that Cuban involvement in the arts in Zimbabwe had been much transformative than the work of British organisations such as the British Council ‘because they’re used to working with no money. They come up with solutions that depend on creativity, not resources.’

Indeed, many of the artists with whom I’ve been speaking have been utterly demoralised by their experiences of donor funding. Arthur Chikhuwa, of the now-defunct Capricorn Video Unit, made a good living producing high-quality training and documentary films on ‘social’ issues – until the funding was withdrawn in the wake of the political crises in Zimbabwe. The donors had always determined the agenda and had provided support only for the product. There was never any money to invest in new kit, or to give the Unit space to develop its own products or market. The ‘development’ programmes did not include ‘development’ of the film-making capacity – even where their programmes included capacity-building for the projects featured in the films.

Musicians, too, feel that they have been stifled by their interactions with donors. Whereas governments provide support for the arts in Europe and Australia and philanthropists support the arts in the US and Russia, in Africa the default assumption is that the arts must be part of a development agenda, supported by donor organisations. In a clearly-argued paper, Eugene Ulman and Marcus Gora have observed that

“In Africa, the non-commercial arts, including music, are generally the domain of NGOs, often with donors from outside Africa. These NGOs generally have a socio-economic, educational or developmental agenda, rather than a strictly artistic imperative. Thus, funded not-for-profit music projects usually have a broader developmental mission.
“The mission might be good governance, an anti-corruption campaign, empowerment of women, HIV/AIDS awareness, global warming – all valuable projects in themselves, but the overall structure is not conducive to free artistic expression and unbridled innovation, and does not eliminate the need for other purely musical structures.”[13]

They are concerned that, in such an environment, the arts are controlled by people who have limited knowledge of the local artistic scene and whose primary interests are not to nurture artistic talent, but to meet ‘development’ targets:

“Even when a project is run by a dedicated arts organization, that organization in turn has to raise its budget from other donors who are usually not arts organizations, and fund the projects not for their artistic value but for whatever added value a musical element can bring to their other, non-musical project.”

A similar concern about international donors with instrumentalist concerns stifling local creativity was observed in my previous blog, about the publishing industry in Zimbabwe. Across the creative arts, the international aid organisations are regarded as having a stranglehold on structures and institutions, undermining creativity and distorting the idea of what art is for.

Jeannie Sinclair described a session with her care-givers in which they discussed a picture of a broken bridge, which people were still trying to cross, and which plunged them into dangerous water. One woman commented, ‘People come in and build structures for us. But they don’t explain to us how to fix, develop or mend them. So we go on using them even if they don’t work any more.’ It was clear that she was talking about more than just physical structures like bridges. She was talking about the organisational structures within which everyone in Zimbabwe now has to work.

Rather than seeking out NGO support, many people I spoke with now seem to be trying ways to by-pass it. David Kaulemu, of the Jesuit Arrupe College in Harare, told me that increasingly people have been turning to the churches to support their projects, because the churches create more stable civil society structures than capricious donor organisations. Similarly, the Director of the Harare-based African Fathers Initiative told me that he was increasingly working with the churches. He admitted that churches also had their own agendas, but their agendas were more likely to be set internally within Zimbabwe – and were more likely to accept that ‘gender’ included funding programmes directed towards men.

I must emphasize that I am reporting perceptions here, not empirical data. But the sense that the aid agencies are employers not helpers, who probably do more harm than good, is widespread and deep-rooted. In the very popular memoir, The Last Resort, Douglas Rogers quotes a local aid worker who had previously run a tobacco farm where he had to deal with poor soil, frost, infrastructural maintenance and the livelihoods of four hundred workers and their families:

“Now? I drive around in a white Land Cruiser handing out shitty imported maize seed to poor buggers who don’t know how to farm it. Then I collect a salary in US dollars. It’s not very moral and it doesn’t make me feel very good, but it’s easier than farming.”[14]

Or, in the words of another friend of mine (who depends upon aid agencies to fund her work in rural communities, and so doesn’t want to be named):

“They spend millions but they make no constructive difference. They just meet their funders’ benchmarks and get paid. They are parasites on the poor.”

Diana Jeater


5th August 2011