Friday, January 19, 2007

Oil for Food? Meet Dollars for No-Dongs

Melanie Kirkpatrick has details of more UN chicanery -- this time propping up North Korea with hard currency transfers thanks to the United Nations Development Fund's failure to follow proper guidelines in dealing with the NoKorean regime. Read the whole piece, but here's the nub:

The UNDP's program in the Democratic People's Republic "has for years operated in blatant violation of U.N. rules, served as a steady and large source of hard currency and other resources for the DPRK government with minimal or no assurance that UNDP funds and resources are utilized for legitimate development activities." Mr. Wallace declined to speak with me, but Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission, said yesterday: "We have raised serious concerns with UNDP regarding their oversight of the programs in North Korea . . . We want to ensure that U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund illicit activities."

While the precise amount of hard currency supplied through UNDP isn't known, the documents suggest it has run at least to the tens of millions of dollars since 1998 and one source says it could be upward of $100 million. An internal 1999 audit notes a budget of $27.9 million for 29 projects. David Morrison, a UNDP spokesman, says "the overall size of the program" in North Korea has been reduced in recent years. While $22.2 million was budgeted for 2005-2006, the agency spent only $3.2 million last year and $2.1 million in 2005, he says. Programs fall into four areas: humanitarian assistance, public health, environment and agriculture, and the economy.

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Unlike Oil for Food, there's no evidence to date that corrupt UNDP officials are in on the game--though given the U.N.'s record of late, it would be unwise to rule that out before a full investigation. There is, however, plenty of evidence of willful blindness on the part of the UNDP, which let myriad rules be broken and allowed itself to become a large source of hard currency for the regime. Nor did it bring these irregularities to the attention of its governing body, the 36-member executive board.

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