ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14

Diplomatic double games played by UN agencies

I recollect the recent international hue and cry over Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend receiving perks she was not entitled to. Wolfowitz was ultimately forced to quit the World Bank.

Recently, there were a number of letters in the Sri Lanka media on a local World Bank chief, who has left Sri Lanka, having his girl friend, later his wife, being nominated as an expatriate consultant for UNAIDS. She replaced a local consultant who was competent and paid much less than the so-called expatriate consultant.

These are not isolated incidents. They happen all the time. The government and heads of department are to blame. The curriculum vitae of any long-term staff members, short-term consultants or short-term professionals must be studied carefully. Have they the qualifications and expertise? Are they really needed? Are the local experts not capable of carrying out these tasks?

During the post-tsunami period, Sri Lanka was inundated with so-called experts. In fact, one young consultant informed a head of mission that he had come to learn, but at what a cost! The UNDP, its allied agencies and the World Bank were guilty.

Do we know how much was spent as administrative costs, including salaries? There were instances of consultants overstaying their period, as well as entry into this country before visas were approved. How much was actually spent on short-term, mid-term and long-term rehabilitation measures?

The Department of External Resources, the UN section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant authorities must insist on transparency and monitor the cost and technical inputs. There are also instances of heads of departments, whose relatives run NGOs, which are generously funded by the respective UN agencies, for favours received.

“You scratch my back; I scratch yours!” Certainly both local and international NGOs must be monitored for their work and impact. Their financial inputs should also be periodically reviewed. You also have an international mafia, where heads of missions have their spouses working in other international agencies. Spouses of diplomats also work in UN and UN allied agencies for substantial salaries.

Fortunately I was reliably informed that Asian heads of mission are not guilty of this. Even though our countries have got independence, the global network keeps developing countries economically subservient.

An independent sovereign state has all the right in the world to maintain checks and balances. These are more important issues to address than to allow key UN personnel to visit Sri Lanka and then blast them as “terrorists!”

“Sherlock Holmes”

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.