INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
10 November 2017: The following is the text of the statement to the Economic and Social Council by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the Repositioning of the UN Development System, in the Context of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. The statement is a melange that will make little sense to anyone unused to UN jargon -- and perhaps even those familiar with UNese will make little sense of what is proposed. [The proposals have been issued as a Report of the Secretary-General dated 21 December. It is reviewed in the adjacent column.]
"On July 5th, I briefed this Council on my vision and proposals to reposition the UN development system in line with the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. [The report, issued in December 2017, is reviewed in the adjacent column.] I committed to work with you to match the boldness of the 2030 Agenda with ambitious reforms.
"This process can only succeed if it is done in partnership with all of you.
The Deputy Secretary-General has led, on my behalf, a robust consultative process. I thank each of you for your engagement." [The "robust consultation" seems to have been a meeting at which a handful of states spoke.]
"We have also taken important steps to deliver the system-wide strategic document you have requested. We are focusing on targeted actions for system-wide coherence, functions, instruments and funding, in support of the 2030 Agenda. I welcome the opportunity to meet with you today, in advance of my follow-up report next month. The contributions of this debate will be very important for the drafting of that report. I count on your insights and perspectives.
"Your feedback has been very helpful. We have heard you loud and clear. I will enumerate some of the points we have heard loud and clear.
"Allow me to zero in on five issues that have stood out in our consultations and will be at the core of my next report.
"We can achieve a major development impact without major budget increases. We know, however, that our development coordination function is vastly underfunded today. We are exploring multi-funded approaches that would combine contributions by Member States and more robust cost-sharing across agencies.
"We will be discussing with you detailed cost-estimates ahead of the December report. It would also allow for a stronger development coordination office – a renewed DOCO, for more robust support to RCs and better results management.
"It is absolutely critical to reinforce the accountability of UN Country Team members to RCs – and RCs to the countries themselves and to me, through the UNDG Chair and with a focus on development results.
"At the country level, we envision a dual reporting line. Agencies would report to RCs on system-wide results -- and to their own home agencies on matters that require specific technical backstopping and guidance.
"The report will also detail measures for common back-office functions, with a focus on the country level. We will present our broad roadmap to harmonize business procedures. This is something you have long asked for, and we will be trying to respond. It will make the UN development system more nimble, more swift and effective; and it could generate many hundreds of millions in savings for taxpayers and added resources for the countries and people we serve.
"Second, to realize the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we need a revamped regional approach. We have conducted a review of UN regional capacities. It confirms the richness and diversity of our assets across regions, but also unfortunately the fragmentation of action within each region. And regional structures of different UN entities are substantially different."
"So I will propose to proceed in two steps.
"First, optimizing existing arrangements. This means clarifying the division of labour and improving the interface between the UN regional coordination structures, for greater policy impact.
"Second, Regional Economic Commissions must progressively refocus to truly become the think tanks and providers of the intergovernmental platforms that the regional space requires. In doing so, they will draw on the bottom-up expertise from our Country Teams and strengthened interface with DESA.
"Under my direction, DESA has started its own internal review to better serve as global policy hub -- particularly on Financing for Development -- and better coordinate with the regional level as it improves its support to Member States. Over the longer term, we will continue to explore measures for further regional consolidation.
"Third, we must strengthen accountability to you, the Member States, and to the people we serve.
"I am moving forward in detailing my proposal to strengthen system-wide evaluations. We need evidence of impact at a system level. I have also urged all UN entities to report their expenditures through the International Aid Transparency Initiative."
"There is a profound need for strategic guidance on system-wide action. I am convinced the ECOSOC can play an ever stronger role. I propose, for example, institutionalizing two sessions of its Operational Activities Segment – one to improve system-wide policy guidance; another to guide governing bodies of development entities to ensure a system-wide approach.
"A Joint Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNICEF and UN-Women would unify Member States’ voice and ensure a coherent approach, following guidance from a strengthened ECOSOC. A Joint Board would eliminate the need for multiple meetings of multiple boards, simplify reporting, and focus discussions. It would be done progressively, under the guidance of Member States."
"Fourth, we must make sure the system has the funding it needs to do its job. The Funding Compact is critical to the success of all the proposals. Fragmented funding can only deliver fragmented results.
"My proposal is of a different approach. We want to provide you with sufficient accountability, transparency and value for money to build a strong case for more flexible funding. At the same time, we rely on your support in building a predictable funding base that provides incentives for collaboration.
"I am consulting on the specifics of the Compact and look forward to hearing more from you today. This is not about creating a complex budget framework; but ensuring a new spirit of cooperation to maximize your investments in the UN and in people."
"Fifth, we need stronger partnerships, at scale, for the 2030 Agenda. Partnerships will make or break the 2030 Agenda. We need a system-wide approach to partnership for the Agenda. One that focuses on impact, and accountability to Member States.
"That also means better support to South-South and triangular cooperation, and greater engagement with the private sector and other stakeholders.
I will update in December on concrete ways to take that forward. I am already implementing change measures that can help accelerate action."
No Time to Lose
"We have 17 goals, and only 13 years left. We have to pick up the pace.
I am following through on many of the immediate actions you have requested in the QCPR. For example, you called for a more impartial Resident Coordinator system. This week, the first meeting of the UN Development Group was held under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Secretary-General.
"You asked to enhance development coordination with humanitarian assistance. This week, the Deputy Secretary-General also held the first meeting of the Steering Committee of Principals to foster synergies in humanitarian and development action. You recognized the need for stronger integrated policy analysis. I will be appointing a Chief Economist in DESA that will regain with that very important central role in the expression of UN policies on development for global discussion.
"We have no time to lose. We know climate change, inequality, rapid urbanization and other mega trends, are not abstract issues. They are life or death concerns for too many people, in too many places. We need to change – and we need to change urgently. I look forward to hearing from you -- and continuing to work with you to deliver the change that will help us deliver for the people we serve, for their hopes, for their aspirations and to better respond to their needs."
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26 January 2018: The Report of the Secretary-General on "Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda" has a grand subtitle: "our promise for dignity, prosperity and peace on a healthy planet." A more honest declaration would have been, "our proposals won't work and we're too corrupt to give a damn."
The report runs to a lugubrious 50 pages filled with heavy-breathing declarations of good intentions. The following is an example:
"One year after Member States adopted the landmark resolution 71/243, we are moving ever closer to delivering a repositioned United Nations development system and honoring the ambition of the 2030 Agenda. This is a unique opportunity that we simply cannot miss. It may sometimes be easy to get lost in the detail of what may seem to the outside world to be arcane policy. But we can never lose sight of what our work, and the present report, are all about. They are about delivering for the people we serve, staying true to our ambitious shared goals and making good on our collective pledge to leave no one behind. It is in that spirit that I count on the leadership and support of all Member States to take these proposals forward."
Rip Van Winkle Affect
The first impression on reading the report is that its authors have been in a time warp and are unaware of the Information and Communications revolutions of the last quarter century. They make just one reference to the digital realities of our time. In a 10-page "system-wide strategic document" that concludes the report it is noted that by the end of 2019, there will be “a system-wide online platform for monitoring and reporting on the contributions of the United Nations development system to progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” For the rest, the report's mindset and action proposals are firmly embedded in the 1980s.
The core of the document is a set of requests the Secretary General addresses to Member States, asking them to:
All this is seemingly innocuous until we consider the shenanigans of the UN Secretariat before and after the United Nations General Assembly adopted Agenda 2030 in September 2015.
During the negotiation of Agenda 2030 developing countries emphasized the importance of dealing with money laundering, terrorism and drug trafficking, the interrelated issues that block their sustainable development. In the two-years during which the 15,000+ word text of Agenda 2030 was negotiated, the coordinator of the process, nominated by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, managed to squeeze the major concerns of developing countries into a skimpy 25-word subclause of a broader Goal (#16.4).
That achievement was followed by the promotion of the Coordinator, Ms. Amina Mohammed, a Nigerian national raised in Britain by her Welsh mother, to the post of Deputy-Secretary-General. In that office, she has continued to blank out of Agenda 2030 documentation any mention of money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Among the documents Ms. Mohammed has cleansed of those issues is the report benchmarking indicators of progress in the implementation of Agenda 2030. She has done so in the report reviewed here despite repeated calls by developing countries for balance in the implementation of Agenda 2030, a General Assembly resolution noting some relevant indicators, and a wealth of statistical and other information from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Furthermore, the issues covered by Goal 16.4 are missing altogether from the Agenda 2030 Global Database maintained by the Secretariat. The only indicator it offers to measure progress on 16.4 is "Proportion of legal persons and arrangements for which beneficial ownership information is publicly available."
The exclusion of Goal 16.4 from implementation plans is not the only problem; there has been an Orwellian effort to rewrite the 2015 text of Agenda 2030 adopted by the General Assembly. The original Goal 16.4 read as follows: "By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat terrorism and all forms of organized crime."
In the version of Agenda 2030 now on the UN web site the word "terrorism" has been erased from 16.4 and moved to a new paragraph 16.a, which reads: "Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime."
The change alters the sense of the text profoundly. The organic link of illicit financial and arms flows to stolen assets, terrorism and all forms of organized crime is broken. Terrorism, an undisputable international and political problem, has been framed as a national institutional issue in a continuum with violence and crime. The changes are not acknowledged and thus go unexplained.
The Significance of All This
To understand the significance of these peculiar goings on it is necessary to consider how Britain became the global kingpin of money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism, and why it wants to neuter Agenda 2030.
The British East India Company took up the trade in opium after it became the Mughal tax collector in Bengal in 1757. In the 19th Century, after the British fought two "Opium Wars" to force China to allow import of the drug, it became the most valuable commodity in world trade.
The flow of indentured Chinese workers to the United States in the 19th Century exported the problems of opium addiction to America and led to the drug being banned in 1905. Meanwhile Protestant missionaries in the Philippines (which the United States controlled after its 1898 war with Spain), had begun a campaign to stop the opium trade altogether. Washington took up the cause as it maneuvered to distance itself from rapacious European Powers in China.
Under American pressure, an International Opium Convention was agreed to in 1912. Nothing much happened in the next few years because of World War I, but after the League of Nations took up enforcement in 1919 the drug trade went underground. With that, Britain’s well-developed banking system took up as a daily business the receipt and transmission of funds from drug trafficking.
After World War II, as the British Empire began to dissolve, a new system became necessary to collect drug money. It emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as a system of offshore “tax havens,” most of them in small former British colonies with strong ties to London.
New arrangements were also necessary to supervise opium production and processing into heroin. Initially, when the growing areas were concentrated in the “Golden Triangle” of Burma, Laos and Thailand, the policing functions were given to Chinese Tongs and other secretive East Asian gangs.
After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 and the emergence of the jihadist Mujaheddin resistance, the locus of opium/heroin production shifted. In the 1980s, as Afghanistan became the source of most of the world's illicit opium, Britain employed terrorist organizations to oversee the production, processing and transport of the drug. It was well placed to do that, having helped in 1932 to create the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the fountainhead of all global terrorist organizations.
After the end of the Soviet occupation Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) created the Taliban to undertake those functions. (Britain had created Pakistan in 1947 and the ISI in 1948.) Ancillary terrorist movements were developed in Central Asia and Africa to facilitate the movement of drugs to major markets. In Latin America, “Leftist” guerrillas provided the muscle.
Everywhere, the money laundering services supporting the drug trade stayed predominantly with British banks.
If the UN were to set in place coherent instruments to implement the relevant provisions of Agenda 2030 it would disrupt these enormously profitable arrangements: the UNODC estimates revenues from Afghan opium/heroin to be over $60 billion annually. Hence the effort to make those issues invisible in implementation plans and to make the plans themselves as unworkable as possible.
All this reflects the worst type of corruption in the international civil service. To protect the illicit interests of a single powerful State senior UN officials have put aside their sworn fealty to the international good, compromised the Organization's basic integrity and sacrificed the safety, security and welfare of millions of the most wretched people in the world. They have made common cause with the lowest of drug dealers, sex traffickers and other servants of organized crime.
As for Britain, it has betrayed the most fundamental of its duties as a permanent member of the Security Council. It has achieved a virtually unchallenged rogue status in international affairs because its managerial role in global money laundering gives it the ability to command obedience not only from a global power elite but from all the terrorist groups to which it is paymaster. As the financier of the global traffic in illicit drugs and the command center of most "tax havens," it also appropriates a trillion-dollar outflow from developing countries, devastating the most unfortunate of them.
The implications for Agenda 2030 and for the world at large are bleak. Unless something happens to break Britain's corrupt stranglehold on international affairs there is little chance of stopping the cycle of great wars and economic devastations the world has experienced since the heyday of the British Empire.
Document Reference: "Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: our promise for dignity, prosperity and peace on a healthy planet." Report of the Secretary-General. A/72/684 21 December 2017
19 July 2017: 4. In one of the most confused reports ever issued on UN reform, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres makes a complete hash of responding to the General Assembly's call to enhance the coherence and efficiency of the UN Development System and improve "its capacity to address ... the full range of development challenges of our time."
The report makes clear its authors have no idea of the range of contemporary development challenges or even what it takes to enhance coherence and efficiency today: incredibly, its 24-pages make not a single reference to "Information Technology" or even to "network."
A minimal reference to the current perilous world economic situation would seem to be essential to a presentation on the UN Development System, but there is none. Nor is there any mention of the dire problem of the loss of integrity within the UN system, including, and especially, DESA, UNCTAD, the IMF and the World Bank, all of which have been cozening the truth for so long they have forgotten the border between what is real and what is manufactured to please the powerful.
The report itself acknowledges this deficit. After declaring that the "UN development system has a proud history of delivering results (paragraph 10), and that we "have come a long way in strengthening UN coordination," (paragraph 11), the Secretary-General declares "I am convinced, nonetheless, that the current model has reached its exhaustion point and is insufficient to match the ambition, effectiveness and cohesion required by the new agenda."
Oblivious of Real Issues
The situation is actually worse than stated, for the current economic model of world development, which is to say, the capitalism of the industrial era, has been pushed to the brink of collapse by massive corruption. It cannot be rescued by a coordinated dance of Central Bankers or even by the collaboration of billionaires, oligarchs and apparatchiks because it is their role in the global "tax haven" system that is killing the existing economic system. Their underground financial system is the custodian and manager of the world's corrupt wealth, directing it to Hedge Funds and other investment vehicles that blur the line between organized criminality and economic activity.
In this scenario there is no institution primarily dedicated to the protection and welfare of the above-ground world economy, the creation of which should be the primary aim of reforming a new UN Development System. Beyond that, the aim of reform must be to create the institutional capacity to deal with the revolutionary changes being ushered in by Information technologies that range from the Internet and Worldwide Web to 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence. The combination of such technologies makes it possible to envisage a future without the need for drudge labor to meet all basic needs. It will enable a new and democratic capitalism (see ourpaper on the next generation UN).
Against the background of the rapidly evolving contemporary scene the Secretary-General's reform proposals are farcical. Its "three guiding principles" (Reinforcing national ownership and leadership; Ensuring country-contextual responses rather than a 'one size fits all approach'; and Making country level delivery for all the litmus test for success), seem like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
"Moving forward, I see a United Nations that is a valued partner for all countries - North and South alike - as they advance on the path to meeting the SDGs," the Secretary-General writes. "Our shared vision is a United Nations that advocates for the excluded and vulnerable and works with national partners in the advancement of all human rights: economic, social and cultural as well as civil and political rights. We want an Organization that is a trusted impartial advisor to Governments – one that does not prescribe solutions, but helps to broaden the options available for our partners as they seek solutions to old and new problems alike."
He asks that the report "be seen as the first milestone in reporting to member states on the direction we will be taking, as we move towards a comprehensive set of recommendations by December. I am determined to ensure that the process continues to remain inclusive and transparent as we move forward."