"The Impossibility of Getting it Right"
L E T T E RS T O G ABR IELLA AUTHOR COMMENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS ON CORRUPTION WITHIN THE UNITED NATIONS. IN THE END, WE WILL REMEMBER NOT THE WORDS OF OUR ENEMIES, BUT THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS - MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., 1967 11 MARCH 2007 The Impossibility of Getting it Right "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful concerned individuals can precipitate change in the world ... indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" Margaret Mead With his usual regularity Rafael Marques, an Angolan, sent me a copy of his paper “Angola: The New Blood Diamonds.” It is a paper based on a Public Seminar at the School of Oriental and African Studies – SOAS University of London - Economics and Development Studies. This is really a continuation of his ongoing investigations and reporting on diamond mining in Cuango in Angola that can be found in more detail at http://www.cuango.net/, www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=12804 and www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=13414 He recounts how diamond mining in these areas is simply an “unchecked feeding centre for generals, members of the ruling class and, in particular, foreign interests whose provisions of services cannot be rewarded and paid via more conventional and transparent means.” “One of the consequences of the collapse of State authority, in the area, is that the threat to national sovereignty stems from the privatization of the State itself.” “People are, once again, left out in the cold. The government is concerned with the legislation and other political mechanisms to ensure the growth of the diamond sector, but has said nothing regarding the respect for human rights. It simply does not care.” Rafael continues to investigate and explain his courageous witness for the human rights of his fellow Angolans, but also finds the time to regularly send me messages of support in my own struggle, investigating and reporting on the appropriateness and efficiency of development aid and humanitarian assistance concentrating very much, but not exclusively, on corruption within the United Nations. I still remember my first encounter, very brief, with Rafael. I also vividly remember a Sunday afternoon spent on the beach, discussing Angolan literature. He had his family, his wife and young son, with him that day, and it made me feel a bit sad since my circumstances were such that I was separated from my own family and my own young daughter. Our last meeting happened in the early hours of the morning, in a vibrant and noisy pub in Luanda, a chance encounter, a brief hug and a short conversation before he left leaving me with a persistent sense of unease as to what would happen to him. For a while we were each drawn into our own concerns and our own struggles for survival and lost contact. The only obvious overlap in our respective interests occurred when he made a very brief statement on RTP, the Portuguese Television station, that people who work for the United Nations only come to Angola to have a good time. My concerns are based on my experience, also in Angola, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and which I eventually recount in a book, whose back cover summarizes it so: “War in Angola lasted intermittently for more than forty years. After a failed attempt at peace from 1994 to 1998 a full scale conventional war broke out again at the end of 1998. This marked the end of a United Nations attempt, lasting more than twelve years, to make peace in this country. It was one of the first big UN missions after the Cold War and turned into a spectacular and expensive failure. Throughout this last "War for Peace" from 1998-2002 the author lived and worked in Huambo, at the epi-centre of the war, implementing a United Nations project. This project, poorly planned initially, was restructured locally and achieved considerable successes before finally succumbing to UN incompetence that saw two thirds of its funding disappear and degenerated into a web of lies, excuses and accusations as the UN refused to provide an explanation to donors, the Angolan government and people, project staff and the press of what went wrong and why.” In this book I state that I do not fully agree with the above statement by Rafael. People in the UN also come to Angola to make money; lots of it. It is something that occupied me for a number of years, and from which there are still elements in which I am seeking closure. I was the subject of threats and intimidation by UN officials, yet throughout this saga I received substantial support, in a great many ways, from many Angolans, especially senior civil servants who spoke to me, gave me access to documents and wrote many letters on my behalf to the United Nations. In his report Rafael Marques starts of on a disturbing note: “First of all, I would like to share with you a dilemma that has been of great concern to me. Recently, an influential member of the Angolan ruling class gave me a message: that the regime hates me for speaking ill of it abroad.” He continues: “In the meantime, on October 16 2006, the Angolan government, through its embassy in Washington, sent a letter to the Northcote Parkinson Fund, which awarded me the 2006 Civil Courage Prize, demanding transparency. It denounced me as a nobody. I should add, they did, however, acknowledge my status as an Angolan citizen.” In order to make a point here, I need to set aside, only for a moment, the deep- seated misgivings that I have regarding the tendency to call somebody – anybody - a nobody. The point that I would like to make is this; by default nobody can be such as thing if a national government, especially the government of a struggling but emerging regional superpower, has to take the time and make the effort to pronounce that this is so. A copy that I receive of this report from http://www.africafiles.org/ makes the request that “We need to be ready to defend (Rafael Marques) at any time as we are able.” This leaves me with an awful dilemma. It is the very same people that had always been so nice to me that now also threaten one of their own citizens. How do I provide the support that this brave and courageous person deserves, not only to reciprocate the support that he always offers me, but also in possible specific circumstances, when it may be required or requested - and especially when it is not requested - without compromising the good and fruitful relations that I had built up with many Angolans of authority over many years and on whom I may have to rely again in the future? “All Angolans are good people.” I am told by Rosa Gaspar, a dynamic and outspoken woman who lives in a small village in the northern part of the Angolan province of Malanje. Having spent a large part of my adult life in Angola I am inclined to agree with her. “Not even the government is bad,” she continues, “no Angolan do bad things because they are bad people, they are not corrupt or greedy or violent by nature, only when they are forced to be so. Sometimes they just don’t know.” Rosa Gaspar had survived many waves of displacement, long separations from her five children, all younger than fifteen, and had left for dead or buried another three children. Her husband, a stocky, muscular and stoic man, had spent many years “hiding in the bush,” the current euphemism for having fought with UNITA, the rebel movement that had waged war, with only brief intervals, from 1975-2002. She is not the only person that says these sorts of things. Her experiences are also not unique. Many senior Angolan officials have suffered through similar things. “The UN hates all Angolans.” She also tells me emphatically. She is also not the only person who says these sorts of things. On 29 November 2006, the BBC transmitted a report on Haiti that included a young girl saying: “The UN hates Haitians,” as part of recounting the abuse that she had suffered at the hands of UN peacekeepers. In spite of this she is one of the lucky ones. The vast majority of abuse meted out to people in the third world by UN officials at all levels (and to some extent by NGO’s) go unreported and unresolved even in the very few instances when they are reported. Over a period of a few months I had had many conversations with Rosa Gaspar and we had built up a close bond, and I was determined to demonstrate to her that this is not so, although I was there not under the auspices of the UN, but of the Danish Refugee Council. Unfortunately the Country Director of this Danish Refugee Council, an ex- domestic servant from Sweden, called Yvonne Cappi, soon discovers where my sympathies lie, and I soon find myself treated with the same abuse and disregard she had up to this point reserved for the local people. “We never trust the local people, that is how humanitarian assistance works!” I hear her shout only shortly after my arrival. “Is that not so, Mr. Kukkuk?” She tries to solicit my support, the only other foreigner in the room. A staff member politely and tentatively suggests how something can be improved and made more appropriate. It is a simple matter, yet one that the organisation had gotten consistently wrong for three years. “When the ship has a captain, the sailor has no say.” This staff member is told, before being dramatically and arbitrarily demoted and sacrificing by far the largest part of her salary. Exasperated by this and much more I solicit the support of the Desk Officer, Anders Engberg, based in Denmark. Upon his arrival I point to the large number of documented complaints that had built up over the years, complaints that this same person had in fact ignored in the past, and how they are mostly framed in the language of racism. From past experience I know that concerns framed like this are often dismissed and glossed over. “It is not really a question of racism, but rather of a complete disregard for human beings.” I say by way of starting my argument. “(Yvonne Cappi) does not have any regard for human beings, I agree with you, but over and above that she is also a racist.” I am told. That is the last thing that we agree on before I myself become the subject of accusations. “I cannot be expected to do that.” I say in my defence, “to do that would require me to break the law.” “We don’t care. We have our rules and you shall do what you are ordered to do.” I am told. It is not the validity of the law that is in question – it is not that kind of law - simply the requirement of me having to comply with it. Several times I point out that demands made upon me would require me to misrepresent what the organisation is doing or to break the law or both. Each time I receive the same response. Anders Engberg’s priorities are purely and exclusively devoted to receiving money from the donors so that he can then receive his salary. In a last attempt to divert attention from an unprovoked attack on me and return to the relevant issues I claim that staff at the organisation had been abused to the point where many of them have no personalities left. “I have spoken to her many times about that, she is not going to change.” I am told. Over the following weeks as I then realise the need to get away from this spurious organisation and trying to figure out what the least confrontational and damaging way would be to do this, I am contacted again. Receiving an apology for being ignored for so long, I am then told, on 4 December, that if I leave immediately it may still be possible for me to arrange an alternative income for myself for the month of December. “I have an income for December, I do not need to go and look for one.” I respond and then become the focus of a vicious and vindictive campaign to get rid of me without providing any justification or compensation. Documents that allow me to remain and work in Angola, and which is in the possession of the organisation, disappear mysteriously. I receive a signed notice: “We remind you that you shall observe secrecy with regard to any situation and any information that you have become aware of in the course of your employment and which, due to the nature of the issue, must be considered confidential.” I am required to agree to this by signing the document. Yet again I can rely on the support of a number of Angolans, ordinary citizens and civil servants alike. A young woman from the office of the deputy prime- minister, Aguinaldo Jaime, rushes about tirelessly on my behalf. I am summoned to the office of another civil servant. “We value your contribution to Angolans and are available for any assistance you may require.” He tells me. Every day, sometimes twice a day, he phones, inquiring after my welfare and if there is anything that I need from him. Even the notorious Immigration Department do all they can for me by bending their inflexible laws and regulations to breaking point. Fortunately the campaign against me proves to be as amateurish and inept as the projects of this organisation and I am soon, with generous compensation, and without having to have signed myself to any secrecy, able to pursue my own interests. During the following months I would many times question whether I should not have followed up on the abuses that I had witnessed, and the waste of public money, with more vigour. Sometimes I felt that more could be achieved by challenging the system as a whole and encouraging it to change rather than concentrating on specific instances. The option and opportunity to resolve the issues through constructive dialogue was not left open to me. It is not left open to anybody. The correct course of action, of course, is to always do a little bit of both. Point to specifics and then link that to weaknesses in the system. Many times serious issues cannot be resolved because people concentrate on things and events rather than the links between them. What took me a long time to realise was that I was dealing with people who are desperate to be seen as the good guys. I have no problem with this; it is the absolutism of this pursuit that is of such concern. There is also an attitude based on the notion that we intend to do good, therefore everything that we do must be good. The problem with this notion once again lies within the fact that it is not based on any notion of self criticism and, more disturbingly, is not tempered in the slightest by any outside pressure or processes that can define, quantify and evaluate the extent and nature of this so-called good. Stumbling out of a confrontation with the United Nations and into another with an international humanitarian organisation made me realise, for the first time, what the core of the problem is. Following, with intense interest, the work of Rafael Marques to protect the rights of his countrymen drives the issues further towards the core of things. We – like everybody else – are the most important people around. It is an important principle, can only be important, even vital, if it applies, and apply equally to all of us. It is important to realise that people are more important than their institutions, people are always people, institutions are only valid for as long as it realises this. The problem is also that people are people that can often do things that are stupid, or bad and even evil. People can do this for many reasons, sometimes because they had not been told the whole story; sometimes because they had taken hold of some idea or set of ideas that has given them the excuse to regard other people as expendable, or bad or even evil. It is not always possible to know that you are right and they are wrong. The important thing is to keep on trying to find out. It is truth that matters – not the sort of truth that is simply an image of ourselves; thinking the way we think, doing the way we do, turning policies into megalomania and reasoned certainties into dogma. The first step in being wrong is not allowing the free exchange of ideas, attempting to turn of the lights of knowledge and to demand that our particular certainties are the only possible certainties. The only way to react when seeing something wrong is to shine a spotlight on it, and to point it out to others. When dealing with people and institutions that are generally more good than they are bad this frequently has the desired, positive, effect. It is when dealing with people and institutions that are generally more bad than they are good that one could quite easily find oneself in trouble, the target of all sorts of threats, insults and insinuation. I am certainly not, and I think I can confidently say that neither is Rafael Marques, against anything or anybody. We are both for democracy and justice. We are for it, not only for ourselves - which would make it meaningless - but for everybody. We both make that clear in almost everything that we write and say. There should not be any confusion about this. In our respective quests we do not claim to speak on behalf of anybody or for the people. We speak on behalf of ourselves and what we believe is right. It is those that are the main subjects of our concern that make these claims, and this claim is in itself a matter of concern. This claim – the claim to speak for the people – is implicit even in the names of the major players in Angola; The MPLA, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola and UNITA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, ostensibly the major opposition party, in reality simply the flipside of the same coin. The United Nations and International Humanitarian and Development Organisations habitually clothe everything they say in their concern for and representation of the poor, the vulnerable, the excluded and the incapable. The only way that I can put this in context is to recount here an anecdote that I am very fond of: In the early nineteen-nineties, as South Africa was embarking on the difficult process to democracy, a politician published a report that stated that 66% of the population of one of the provinces, the Free State, are absolutely opposed to these changes. In a television interview he confidently defended this report: it was done by a very reputable company, the very same one that the government uses in fact; a very large sample was taken, ten times larger than required to be representative of the entire population; only one unambiguous question was asked “Are you in favour of the current changes or not?” There was no doubt whatsoever in his mind; two-thirds of all people, by common consent a very large majority, did not want South Africa to change. He insisted that this needed to be taken seriously. “What percentage of the people surveyed were black?” He was then asked. This politician looked surprised for a moment at this strange question, then confused, even offended. “None.” He said, stating the obvious. In the subsequent elections the ANC, the party that had fought for democracy, won in that province with a 76% majority. The truth of the matter is that there are not all that many white people in South Africa. The fact that they were in charge for such a long time did not make them the people. Not once, in spite of their protests over many decades - more than a century - did this politician even think of considering that a black person may have a voice and that perhaps it should be listened to. There is a tendency, and it exists in all countries, democratic or otherwise, for those in power to simply exclude their critics from their definition of the people. As criticism mounts this tendency continues until all these politicians really represent are themselves and that all that is left is a pretence, a pretence to represent the people and a pretence that everything that they do is for the people. As this pretence becomes more glaringly obvious so too does the demand that everybody must participate in this pretence and this demand becomes increasingly vicious and violent. Communists were quite good at it. Capitalists are proving to be equally adept at it. The purpose of Communism is to protect communism. The purpose of Capitalism is to protect capitalism. The purpose of power and influence is to get it, then to keep it at all costs. Every single one of us, Rafael Marques and I included – and perhaps especially the two of us – should be aware of listening only to our own voices and pretending that we are listening to others. Rafael Marques does not pretend to speak for anybody but himself, he is a nobody, even, it seems, by his own admission, and I happen to agree that he is a nobody. Why then does he attract such a violent reaction from the Angolan Government? This is a question that I had thought of every since I first heard of him and the first time that the Angolan authorities took excessive measures against him. The answer is in fact frightfully simple and obvious. He is one of them. Rafael Marques worked for a long time as a journalist on the National paper, Jornal de Angola. Instead of showing the appropriate gratitude for having received this influential position and enjoying the prestige and financial rewards that this would bring he decided to start questioning the very system that offered him so much. In following his conscience, he reminded every single other Angolan in a position of authority and privilege that some day they too may have to examine their own consciences and make difficult decisions. It is not an easy decision to make, I know, I have made it a few times myself, not very many people do, and very, very few understand why people would want to do it. I have my own experience in trying to explain this through a long discussion with James Lee, the UNDP Ombudsman, and in my opinion a somewhat weak and cowardly man, whose only self-esteem seem to come from his employment within the UN system. “Why are you doing this?” He asks me over and over again. “Surely it cannot be for altruistic reasons?” I explain to him my need to find justice, even, if all else fails, a sort of narrative justice, an acknowledgement that things had gone wrong and need to be fixed. He seems to like this explanation yet still seem unsatisfied. “If you are doing this for money UNDP will not talk to you.” He ventures. He then tries to threaten me. He warns that severe measures can be taken against me. What he is especially concerned about is an article that had appeared in a newspaper under the headline “UNDP is at Fault.” “All those Dollar signs!” He exclaims. I was not responsible for the layout of this article. In fact all I had done was to provide the information upon which the journalist had drawn his own conclusions. The journalist even concludes that he had tried to contact UNDP to verify the facts but was ignored. James Lee does not show any dismay at these people; his mirth is directed purely at me. This may perhaps be because they are not available but more probably because, in his mind, I am supposed to be one of them. He simply cannot understand why I refuse to be. When I dismiss his threats out of hand he comes to the only conclusion that he is capable of: That I am simply looking for a nice UN job. He seems satisfied with this, and although making promises to the contrary, he never again gets in contact with me. I am sure that Rafael can recount similar experiences and similar difficulties to be understood. I myself had done some very stupid things in my life, things that had put me in excruciatingly embarrassing positions. I myself am the beneficiary of terrible wrongs; I am, after all, a white South African. It would be stupid of me to try and deny this, and give long justifications or to try and confuse the issue by piling all sorts of irrelevant and unrelated arguments over the obvious facts. I could easily have been part of the problem; my life would certainly have been easier. It is my choice not to be. It is a choice that has to be made constantly. I see many similarities between myself and Rafael Marques, although he, in my opinion, is already speaking quite eloquently, whilst I am still trying to find my voice. We are both people that make as much noise as we can, we say things that people would rather not hear; we name names and embarrass individuals. We both proudly and unrepentantly attach our names to all we say, write and do. We both struggle with the fact that by and large we only manage to preach to the converted and that many of the names that we mention are only because those are the names that crop up in our investigations and that these individuals may also have many redeeming features. We both know that there are real evil bastards out there who need to be exposed but who never sign documents or make public statements. We are both confronted with a great many complexities, a huge amount of information that need to be digested, the knowledge that terrible crimes may lurk not in the documents, laws and public statements but in the cracks between them, and that this need to be presented concisely and coherently in such a way that the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Both our approaches are mostly journalistic in nature. We do not claim to be able to solve the problems. We are simply pointing to the problems and making an appeal to those that are qualified and responsible to do so find these solutions. There are people that are qualified and responsible to do this, or, at least, there should be. In our own respective spheres we are practically alone in our campaigns. There are also many differences between us. Rafael Marques does not struggle with legitimacy. There is no process that can make him become unborn in Angola. There is no doubt whatsoever about the existence of an Angolan identity and nationalism. Angolans have fought many wars over many generations to define and protect that identity. It is supported by a very rich culture, literature and music. There is an internationally recognised system of governance in place. The institutions to support this governance, the Presidency, ministers, governors and administrators are all legitimised by Angolan laws, according to international standards, and are all filled by Angolans. A great many Angolans, nobodies, each and every one of them, contribute to many aspects of this governance: Civil servants who arrive at work every day on time and do the best job they can; police stations manned by nobodies who diligently serve the people with the little resources at their disposal, large numbers of young Angolans, men as well as women, joined the military, and a great many of them died to protect their identity. Granted, many aspects of the Angolan identity still need to be defined, only Angolans can do this, and, amongst other things, they are still in the process of determining who exactly has the right to govern them, how this governance will function and what the exact responsibilities and roles of Angolan institutions could be and should be. Most of all, Angolans want to know how officials in high office are using the power of their office to benefit all Angolans. This is of great concern to almost all Angolans, I know. It is discussed around dinner tables, in restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. It is the subject of street corner conversations. It is discussed in buses and taxis. Poorly dressed husbands and fathers discuss this whilst working in the fields. Overworked, underfed and barefoot wives and mothers discuss this whist taking their day’s pickings to the market. It is discussed in ministries and embassies abroad. The fact that it is happening quietly does not mean that it is not there. These are all nobodies; they are nevertheless the only thing that Angola has who can create a credible notion of what it is, or should be, to be Angolan. It is not an easy process. Many people, Angolans and foreigners alike, take advantage of many weaknesses and loopholes of the current Angolan circumstances for their own benefit. This is normal in some ways, it happens to all countries in similar circumstances. This threat to the Angolan identity is very serious but in spite of this there is only one Angolan making a concerted and serious public effort to highlight this threat. There are many reasons why not more Angolans have the confidence to join him in this, and only one of the reasons is because of their deep, and justified, distrust of the international institutions that have been set up to support them in this - institutions that promise to assist them in this and which Angolans expect to be available to represent their interests in instances where their own systems fail or where there are international implications and causes for their plight. It is the legitimacy of these institutions that is of concern to me and which I am pursuing vigorously. The notion of a global democracy is still in a very embryonic state and there are still a great many loopholes and weaknesses in both the system and the institutions that had been set up to support it. Many people take advantage of these many weaknesses and loopholes for their own benefit. The system is also full of inherent contradictions. It depends for its existence and survival on the notion of an International Community. There is absolutely nobody, nor will there ever be anybody, that was born in the International Community. The International Community includes everybody, but for the purpose of some arguments and certain circumstances, many individuals are routinely excluded. This is the only way to avoid intolerable, inherent contradictions and in some instances the International Community may for all practical purposes only consist of a few individuals. Much of the formal International Community is simply a motley collection of organisations, a few individuals that had conferred upon themselves a series of mandates of their own choosing, and now function as a mutual backslapping society, giving one another high office and all the power, influence and prestige that go with it. There are no elected officials representing the International Community, and it is very unlikely that there will ever be. There is no, nor can there ever be any, inherent legitimacy in the International Community. The institutions set up under this umbrella can only ever depend, for their legitimacy, on the quality of the work that they do and the quality of the people that they employ to do this. This is a legitimacy that these people had comprehensively squandered. In my book I attempt to show up the consequences of this fraud, based largely on my experiences in Angola, but do not shy away from criticising the Angolan government either. I take great care to ensure that this criticism is appropriate, and within the rather narrow sphere that I had established for myself as legitimate and already within the public domain. In a few cases there are criticisms that I had raised directly with Angolans. In these cases they accepted this for what it is and responded to it positively. It has to be remembered though, although some Angolans may say otherwise when it suits them, that I am not one of them. Many of those Angolan civil servants that I know and that speak English had asked for, received and read copies of my manuscript or parts thereof. I received only one negative comment and this was that I should revise the section on Rafael Marques and remove the inclusion of his article “The Lipstick of Dictatorship.” “I don’t like it.” Was the only justification that I received for this comment. When I mentioned that such a justification is not good enough, this person thought for a few minutes then offered that all he can think of are reasons why it should be included. This article is eloquent, confrontational and highly indignant, much more so in the original Portuguese than in English, and it frightened me the first time I read it. At a very general level it was a direct, frontal attack upon the deep identification with and admiration for the Southern African Liberation Movements that I had had all my life. By implication its accusations included everybody that I dealt with in the Angolan Government as a result of my work, many of them that I liked very much and some that were, and still are, some of my closest friends. In some very important ways it also attacked the very justification for me being in Angola and the type of work that I was doing, or wanted to do, there. The reason that it is included in the book is that this was the first time since the brutal suppression of the Nito Alves Revolt in 1977 that any Angolan had dared to confront the Angolan system head on. To date this person is virtually the only one to do so. To this day there are Angolan government officials, some of them in very high office, who must wake up every morning, grateful for the extreme stroke of luck that allowed them to survive the aftermath of this revolt. Because of the nature of my book, I also happen to mention many of the same officials that are now targeted by Rafael Marques. The deputy prime-minister, Aguinaldo Jaime, was dismissed in the early nineteen-nineties as Minister of Finance, largely as a result of his concern about burgeoning corruption and a lack of clarity regarding the expenditure of state finances. Although I stand corrected in this, his considerable talents were then lost to Angola as he worked at the African Development Bank. By the end of the decade he was invited back as Director of the National Bank. He accepted this position only on condition of a great deal of autonomy to set policy and push through difficult reforms. At the bank he was instrumental in stabilising the Angolan economy as well as for a substantial increase in the transparency of government transactions once the funds had reached the central bank. Aguinaldo Jaime is a highly qualified, extremely intelligent and by all accounts a very decent man, and many Angolans, with their implicit - not always justified - faith in their leadership expect much from him in his position as deputy prime- minister. There are many moments in the history of Angola when the country had been saved from calamities even greater than that which besets it now. In almost every instance Kundy Paihama, the Minister of Defence, was in some capacity or another, instrumental in that rescue. He is held in very high regard by a great number of Angolans on all sides of the various political and social divides. Kundy Paihama is himself a member of a group of people who are trying to maintain a distinct identity in the face of tremendous odds. He is one of very few senior Angolan officials to speak several African languages and to do so proudly. Many times that I had seen him with ordinary people he seemed much happier and at ease than when he is surrounded by important men dressed in impeccable suits. I believe him when he says “We are also human.” Both these men are influential and powerful politicians who deserve to hold high office. If they had not been born as Angolans they would have been powerful men in other countries. Both these men have the capacity and opportunity to do many positive things at a difficult time in their history, yet not nearly as difficult as previous times, when these men had shown what they are capable of, and did so with dignity. These men are as easily part of the solution as they can be part of the problem. I ask them not to squander the opportunities that they have, and had worked for, but to use it judicially in the interest of all Angolans. I am also asking them to acknowledge that every single Angolan has a voice and an opinion, and that they should be allowed to use that voice without fear and that, at the very least, it would be listened to. There are many Angolans that can, and would gladly, assist them in finding solutions to the multitude of challenges that they face. I am asking this as a nobody, not even an Angolan citizen, but as a human being. I am also asking on behalf of my daughter, who was born and lives in Angola, and who I am determined shall not inherit, as an adult, the same Angola into which she was born. Those of us that are concerned often resort to all the myriad policies, laws, academic papers and formal investigations for the arguments on which to base our concern. Yet it is often the small things and chance encounters that provide the clues as to how disturbing things are and how urgent it is to find a solution. In a coffee shop a stranger sits down next to me and introduces himself as a UN official. He laments how his agency is receiving so little support from donors that there is almost nothing for him to steal. He remarks on how some months he is even obliged to live entirely off his own salary. After a public talk on Angola I am approached by a man who claims to be involved in diamond mining in Angola. He tells me: “We have a legal agreement with the government. We cannot mine if there are people living there. The police were reluctant to remove them so we contracted a legally registered security company to do it. They had a legal contract to do this, they were not thugs. If people got hurt it is because they resist. If they just move off our land by themselves there would be no trouble. The corrupt Angolan authorities are trying to complicate my life with social responsibility and development. All I want is my diamonds. There is nothing wrong with that.” I try to explain to him that the diamonds are not his and can never be, no matter how many pieces of paper say so, especially if these pieces of paper are based on the letter and not the spirit of the law. I try to explain that the legitimate use of force is limited to duly mandated authorities linked to national governments to be used sparingly and in rare instances. I try to explain that he is not an Angolan citizen, that he does not reside in Angola, that he has no intention of spending his wealth anywhere near Angola. Unrepentant he maintains that all he wants are his diamonds; nevertheless he refuses to tell me who he is and what company he represents. Every time I fly into Angola I end up sitting next to some charlatan – businessman, UN official, Aid worker – who proudly informs me on how they are going to Angola to make a quick buck and then to bugger off. It is a feeding frenzy and every vulture wants a part of it. Only once do I sit next to the daughter of a well-known and influential member of the Angolan ruling class. She shares with me her frustrations in being unable to find, in Angola, a job commensurate with her intelligence and qualifications. Rafael Marques summarises this with chilling conciseness: “one has to understand the word “confusão” in the Angolan mindset. Its literal translation means confusion. But, it also means a window of opportunity in which one can play without rules and the winner gets to set the rules.” If this is true then by definition one can never rely on the winner to change the system. We are expected to believe that these days the United Nations are so very busy reforming themselves. The Angolan government is in the midst of a very active campaign to demonstrate how much they are doing for the benefit of Angolans. The best that both these institutions can do, by definition, is to make new rules that are more convenient to them. It is only by listening to the voices around them, and pressure from the outside to make them listen, that will lead to meaningful change, and get rid of this mentality that there must always be winners and always be losers. In the real world either everybody wins or nobody wins.  Letters to Gabriella, Florida Literary Foundation, 01 June 2005. ISBN 1891855670 POSTED BY LEON KUKKUK AT 09:56 0 COMMENTS LINKS TO THIS POST LABELS: ACCOUNTABILITY, ACTIVISM, ANGOLA, BLOOD DIAMONDS, CORRUPTION, TRANSPARENCY, UN, UNDP, UNITED NATIONS 18 FEBRUARY 2007 Fighting Corruption with Corruption In June 1998, less than a month into my new employment on a United Nations project in Huambo, Angola, a country at the time on the brink of war, I determined that something needed to be done with urgency to relieve the enormous stress I was under. This stress was caused not so much by the very insecure circumstances that surrounded me; the grinding poverty, the cynical fatalism and the fear of war. It was caused by some very basic questions that I was asking myself: “What am I supposed to do?” “How am I supposed to do it?” “Who will support me in doing it?” I felt that the lives of many people depended on the answers to those questions. I also felt that these were pretty basic questions, and that asking the right people for answers would be relatively easy and that the answers would be, should be, pretty straightforward. The only reason I found myself in Huambo, after all, was to use other peoples’ money to assist in making the lives of the people in Huambo at least a little better. In the end, however, I had to figure out the answers for myself, and in doing so, had to come up with many, many more questions. I am still searching for answers to those questions. My first port of call was the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the agency that had planned and financed our project. I would eventually go round and round in circles but always come back to this agency. There I met many people, immaculate people, with ready smiles and a ready promise to answer my questions. It took me years to realise – and it took so long because first my innate belief in the basic decency of human beings had to be destroyed – that what these people were saying was: “Come let us lead you up the garden path, and, guess what?, we are going to make you pay for the journey.” Because what these people were doing in fact was stealing. The project that I was working on, and it was and is by no means an exception, had little, if anything, to do with making the lives of local people better. Behind an apparently legitimate façade, and unbelievable, seemingly needless complexity, it was a basic run-of-the-mill scam to siphon of development money for individual benefit. Behind their immaculate smiles and glib rhetoric all these nice people I met from the UN really were, to put it very bluntly, but a bunch of crooks. Not real crooks, that one can secretly admire, if one is so inclined, for their initiative and creativity, preying on the greed of others to take what is not theirs. What we are dealing with here are bottom-feeders, unscrupulous parasites that prey on the poorest of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the victims of war, famine, drought and floods. In other words those already so burdened with the effort of basic survival that they are unable to defend themselves from further abuse by those who arrive, often unannounced and uninvited, to steal from them in the name of humanitarian and development aid. I would come across one Erick de Mul, a thirty-odd year veteran of UNDP, and a man in a senior position, that is so convinced that UNDP has the right to plan and finance all manner of things, yet have no need to accept responsibility for the consequences of what they plan and finance, that he puts forth this argument under a UNDP letterhead, signs it and sends it out into the world with all the smug confidence of somebody that considers himself outside of and above the law. This is a man who dealt with my questions by courageously instructing his minions to lie, deceive and threaten on his behalf. He is by all accounts a much admired and respected official of the UN system. Almost too late I realised that it is pointless asking the crooks any questions since that would require them to admit that they are crooks and even to tell me why they are such a thing. I thought it may be a good idea to write a book. It was also time to inform The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) of my misgivings. There were however several lawyers, with whom I was also in contact, who seemed to feel that it is not recommended to place much faith in this organisation. The problem with this office, created somewhat reluctantly by the UN, only in 1994, after considerable pressure from a small number of member states, is that it is not fully independent of the system, as one would expect it to be. This meant that in effect it was subject to all the weaknesses in accountability so common with in the UN, and it appears as though it was pretty quickly co- opted to provide a façade of transparency that did not in fact exist. As just one of many possible examples, on 02 June 2006, FOX News published an article “Report Slams UN Investigators” raising questions about the UN’s ability to investigate wrongdoing and Secretary General Kofi Annan's willingness to do so. The article details an independent investigation by Washington lawyers Jerome Ackerman and John Vanderstar into charges that that former Under- Secretary General Dileep Nair was promoting favourites in violation of UN rules and possibly doing so in return for money and sex while serving as head of OIOS. The report revealed that Nair violated UN promotion rules exactly as charged. Nevertheless, Kofi Annan ordered the case closed because the investigation apparently found no evidence that Nair received money or sex in exchange for promotions and even wrote Nair a personal letter expressing “personal dismay” for suffering “unnecessary and unmerited public innuendo.” He also ignored details in the report on how personnel at OIOS stonewalled investigators by failing to provide requested computer records and internal documents, The report stated: “To date, neither a response from OIOS to the March 2006 request nor any further OIOS documents have been provided,” and that OIOS “limited interviews of individuals who might have provided relevant information.” Dileep Nair, refused to make himself available to investigators and dismissed the investigation as a “witch hunt.” The leader of the investigation expressed surprise at the low level of cooperation given by OIOS, the very office charged with enforcing UN regulations. "We did not get what we thought we would get," he told FOX News. Misgivings that OIOS is not to be trusted seemed to bear out when my attempts between 2003 and 2005 solicited not a single response from them, apart from the occasional acknowledgement that they had received material from me. On 30 November 2006 I wrote to them once more, more out of habit, than in the expectation of any real results: “Christopher Burnham, (ex) UN Under-Secretary-General for Management, invites anybody, at any level, with information about UN corruption to come forward and that they will be protected. I am nevertheless unable to find out how to come forward, and exactly how people are protected except through OIOS, an institute which I do not trust and have been told not to trust. On several occasions have I informed OIOS about this issue, without response, then also informed them about my book on the matter, before and after publication also without response.” Remarkably, on 15 January 2007, I received a response from one Ellen F. Gardner, Investigator, Investigations Division:“Our office, OIOS, received your email and document regarding a book you have written whereby you state there is corruption and misuse of foreign aid to Africa by Non-Governmental Organizations and the United Nations Agencies in particular UNDP. In order for me to look into this case would you please contact me at your earliest convenience at the telephone number below.” Although a welcome sign of life, in a sea of indifference over many years, I still had some misgivings. In the first instance I felt that the UN should concern themselves with “corruption and misuse of foreign aid to Africa by Non- Governmental Organizations” only once it had gotten its own house in order. I do write about my own concerns on this issue reasonably extensively. I hardly believe that the United Nations has any moral authority to deal with them. In the second instance I was afraid that the request for me to phone her would once again be an attempt to lead me up the garden path, once again at my own expense. Therefore, expressing nevertheless my pleasure at hearing from her, I suggested that she rather call me. It was also a way of asking, perhaps demanding, but doing so as politely as possible, that maybe the organisation should first establish a relationship of trust with me, before making any demands on me to work with them, phone them or making any commitments to them. OIOS has since that date once again been prominent only in its silence. One of the main problems that I have with OIOS reports, is that they tend to make large sweeping statements: “The UN has done a great deal to increase efficiency and overall accountability,” that it is working hard to “promote efficient management and reduce waste, fraud and abuse,” that it had “recommended millions in savings and recoveries for the UN and persuaded UN programme managers to implement hundreds of recommendations for improving management and internal controls,” and that “OIOS investigations also led to successful convictions of UN staff and others for fraud and stealing UN funds.” In spite of all these claims, none of the reports ever mention any names. They tend to be so weak on specific detail that it is nearly impossible to confirm the truth of their claims one way or the other. On the rare occasions when one does manage to find some detail, it is invariably for misdemeanours. With disturbing regularity, complainants, even highly credible ones, are admonished for “harming the good name of the United Nations.” Some reports go to such extremes not to offend anybody that it does little more than narrate the issues at hand before politely requesting the interested parties to be a bit more diligent. It seems to act entirely in the best interests, not of truth and justice, but of a corrupt and inept bureaucracy, that is self-perpetuating, self- serving and self-absorbed. OIOS often comes across as a farce, acting primarily in the interests of the multitude of the “petty despots” that abound with the UN system. It is many of these selfsame “petty despots” that I name and that I feel that need to be investigated. For the sake of completeness these are the individuals that I personally name and believe need to answer to allegations, some of them serious: “Mark Malloch Brown, James Lee, Dimitri Samaras, Bisrat Aklilu, Michele Falavigna, Erick de Mul, Michel Balima, Stanislaus Nkwain, Stephen Kinloch, Francisco de Almeida.” These are by and large senior UN public servants. Dimitri Samaras for example, is an individual who as Deputy Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) had received in excess of $160 000.00 to provide Administrative and Overhead Support (AOS) to our project in Huambo. With that money he may have visited the project once, although there is no confirmation of this, and had written, or instructed somebody to write, not a single report regarding the support that they were supposedly providing, nor did he ever bother to respond to concerns raised over a number of years. When those concerns culminated in a request for an audit, he became highly indignant, claiming that a project that he clearly knew absolutely nothing about was a fantastic success, and writing: “So to question it today, as it was done by UNDP new Leadership was indeed not a plus in terms of projecting a positive image but rather was felt as some kind of “retaliation” for which UNOPS is not part of.” If this Dimitri Samaras considers something as routine as an audit - and surely for the expenditure of more than one and a half million Dollars, an audit should be routine – as “some kind of “retaliation,” is there perhaps not some chance that he may not also consider an OIOS investigation as “some kind of “ retaliation?” Is he likely to co-operate with this investigation? Is OIOS capable of taking him to task? I need some sort of assurance on these sorts of issues, and not having heard anything from OIOS in almost a month I wrote to them on 14 February 2007: “I am following up on the e-mail that I had received from you in order to establish if you are indeed following up on this case, and if so, what progress you had made to date. Notwithstanding the fact that I had refused to phone you (it is a matter of principle), I am nevertheless pleased that finally there seem to be at least the possibility of some meaningful progress regarding my concerns. I am sure that not many people go through the trouble of reading all OIOS reports, but I do, and based on this as well as my previous experience of being dragged into all sorts of UN “investigations” (read cover-ups), invariably at my own expense in terms of time and money, I am reluctant to become the recipient of the apparently standard OIOS procedure that invariably finds a few token irregularities (usually in procurement), mildly admonishes the wrongdoer(s) for this, then concludes by castigating the complainant(s) for “harming the good name of the United Nations.” I would be far more co-operative once I have some confidence in the process. I would also be very interested in finding out exactly what it is that you are investigating (or intend to investigate). Although my concerns are often framed within the context of my own experiences, they do in fact go a lot deeper than that, in the manner that funds are managed by the UN (specifically UNDP) in general. It is encouraging to read that the Secretary General has now ordered an investigation into all UN Programmes and Funds, yet it still remains to be seen to what extent it will be able to penetrate the quagmire of abuse and fraud that it is bound to encounter. From the literature you may pick up on the fact that for a long time there had been some concern about the manner in which UNDP had decided to micro- manage the UNDP Trust Fund in Angola (worth some $100 million) and how most project proposals were not authorised even years after they had been submitted. Locally it had been felt, and there is probably some truth in this, that the reason for this state of affairs was that all project proposals were subjected to a single requirement, and if it did not meet this requirement, then it was simply ignored by the staff at UNDP. This requirement was “What is in it for me?” That is probably the reason why the RUTEC project was implemented, in spite of being totally inappropriate, in spite of local objections, in spite of not following the required procedures for authorisation, why it always bounced out of the way of any audit and why such a large succession of UNDP officials went to such lengths to cover it up. It remains nevertheless only the tip of the iceberg, maybe of importance only because one person had the courage (or stupidity) to keep on asking questions. I hope that it would contribute in its own way to having far larger concerns and questions raised and finally answered. I had perhaps to date been singularly unsuccessful in having even basic questions answered, that may be disturbing in itself, and indicative of how much may in fact be wrong within the UN system, but I am convinced that by asking questions for long enough, eventually the lack of any response will become its own answer. Finally I would like to request your assistance in two other issues that I am following up upon. Regarding the claim that “OIOS investigations also led to successful convictions of UN staff and others for fraud and stealing UN funds” that has made an appearance on the OIOS website and several reports over the years; I attempted to track down some such convictions. Although my efforts have resulted in a number of interesting responses from various authorities, I have not been able to track down any specific cases. I am most interested in finding out if any staff at UN development agencies had ever been prosecuted, specifically in Africa or as a result of programmes implemented in Africa. Specific, but not necessarily comprehensive, information that can both quantify and qualify this OIOS claim would be particularly useful to me. I am also interested in following up on the statement made by a number of Secretary General documents published in 2005 and 2006, that UN staff responsible for waste and abuse of funds would be required to reimburse the organisation for those losses. Has this ever happened? I hope that you would either be able to get this information for me, or alternatively put me in touch with somebody that can do so.” It is not only important that justice is done. It is not even good enough to be told that apparently justice is being done. It has to be seen to be done. It may be highly embarrassing to the individuals involved, but claims that “investigations also led to successful convictions of UN staff and others for fraud and stealing UN funds” is virtually meaningless unless one can also follow up on who was convicted, for what, through which system of justice and what was the sentence that was passed down. Without that the “fight against corruption” becomes but a façade; and that façade is in itself but a form of corruption. POSTED BY LEON KUKKUK AT 21:27 0 COMMENTS LINKS TO THIS POST LABELS: CORRUPTION, INVESTIGATION, OIOS, UN, UNDP, UNITED NATIONS, UNOPS 27 NOVEMBER 2006 Stumbling About in Blissful Arrogance "You cannot run away from a weakness. You must sometimes fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?" Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish author, 1850-1894) Humanitarian assistance and development was subjected to yet another bout of introspection and criticism with the publication in March 2005 of “Our Common Interest” the report of the Commission for Africa. The report was commissioned by Tony Blair, ably, one presumes, assisted by a number of influential people, mostly political leaders, public servants and private sector representatives from Africa. It was their job to define the challenges facing Africa, and to provide clear recommendations on how to support the changes needed to reduce poverty. Sounds familiar? Reports such as these, all with good intentions, appear about twice or thrice a decade. They all say more or less the same things, all have a similar logic and all recognise the same weaknesses and suggest comparable solutions. They are well thought out and often have powerful supporters and support. Why then do these noble intentions invariably come to nothing? Why does Development not work? Thousands, perhaps millions of hours, had been spent by many people, intelligent people, discussing this. Pressure on official development assistance funds and greater demand for public accountability over the last few years have placed greater focus on ensuring that Development achieves results, yet these pressures never seem to reach down to the implementation level where they are the most needed. Why not? Perhaps the roots of a solution do not lie so much in what is discussed publicly, as it lies in that which is alluded to constantly in private conversations, yet for some or other reason prohibited from being mentioned in the public domain. Considering the extent of UN corruption that is now, with the Oil-for-Food scam, amongst others, reluctantly, becoming public, perhaps it is time for this type of discussion to become more open and direct. And to realise that even this cannot not do much more than touch briefly upon the tip of the iceberg of an industry characterised by incompetence, arrogance, paranoia and racism beyond belief. How did Development, with all its incurable romantic allusions, its sense of moral superiority, its utopian faith blended with undimmed eighteenth century idealism regarding the perfectibility of man, become such an unmitigated embarrassment, the domain of all sorts of freeloaders, fraudsters and outright criminals? And why is nobody even allowed to talk about it? Partly it must be because one cannot reduce issues of international importance to the level of juvenile truths. Nevertheless the first question vexed me for quite a while, until I started thinking, for no particular reason, about that other great failed human experiment: Communism. It was in the failure of this system that I saw the similarities with Development assistance as a human endeavour. The Commission for Africa report suggests that; “When you are stuck with a really tough problem, Albert Einstein once said, you have to change your mental approach entirely. More of the same will not get you anywhere. You have to move your thinking to a different level. The same is true when it comes to Africa, and the question of how the world is to finance the changes that are required. The problems we are addressing are huge. They are the result of three decades of stagnation. To agree a few more incremental steps along the road already travelled will get us nowhere. Change requires a quantum leap.” It then promptly refuses to make this quantum leap. Let’s try and make it now. Three main entities are mentioned by this report; National Governments, Donors and some vague thing called the International Community. Weaknesses and shortcomings in the first two are identified. Donors come in for special criticism when they are told to “change their behaviour and support the national priorities of African governments rather than allowing their own procedures and special enthusiasms to undermine the building of a country’s own capacity.” African Governments are chastised for not being transparent enough, not accountable and not responsive to the needs of its people, in other words that they are not democratic or that their democracies are too weak. By the way, and this is a bit of an aside, it is ordinary people that make democracies work and not governments or even institutions. What the International Community could be is not specifically defined (it will be somewhat arbitrarily defined as United Nations Agencies (UNA´s) and International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGO´s) for the purpose of this argument. Bob Geldof, Bono and Angelina Jolie may well be dismayed to find themselves excluded but they form part of a rather separate argument.), neither is it subject to much criticism apart from the very brief “and the UN must increase accountability for its performance at the country level” stuck in as an afterthought near the end of the report. And it is exactly at the level of the UN - not much more than a hornet’s nest of ignorance, sloth and infighting - and INGO´s - individually and collectively an impenetrable bureaucratic labyrinth accountable to no one - where one finds the bottleneck that is the cause of much of the stagnation in Development Assistance. What is of importance is also not so much these entities - National Governments, Donors and the International Community - and their respective weaknesses by themselves, but the way that they interact with one another. And it is here that the closest analogy can be found with Communism. Communism in its purest form is characterised by its level of central planning and the major difference with a free-market system is the extent to which the economy functions as a competition for resources instead of for market share. The most important priority for industry then becomes access to the central planners, those who can provide them with access to the resources they require. The customer in effect becomes an afterthought, often irrelevant and even a nuisance. It is the customer, ostensibly the rhyme and reason for economic activity, which pays the price in poor quality consumer goods, shortages and a reduced standard of living. The prime example of this topsy-turvy world is probably the ubiquitous “Five Year Plan.” These famous five year plans were introduced by Stalin in 1928 to force the pace of industrialization and build the backbone of the Soviet economy. This enshrinement of a centralised plan was probably quite well suited to the rapid transformation of a backward but emerging state into a superpower. Although it ensured rapid growth, exacting heavy sacrifices from Soviet citizens in the process, it hardly led to the clockwork functioning of the economy. In the long run it spawned rigidity, waste and lopsided development and proved hopelessly inadequate for resolving the more sophisticated problems of modernisation which caused the eventual downfall of the Soviet empire. By the same token, and twenty years after central planning has been discredited, the Development world is constantly presented with “Plans” - “Jubilee 2000,” “Millennium Development Goals,” “Vision 2020” to mention but a few - faultless blueprints that would invariably solve all problems. All programmes and projects are always based on a Plan, a plan invariably created by INGO´s or UNA´s; sometimes, but rarely, in collaboration with a government, and always in line with priorities and deadlines defined by a donor. The Plan is then proffered as the key to scientific management of manpower and resources, the unerring lever for achieving maximum results, the Utopian device for the co-ordinated function of a system ostensibly to solve some of the world’s most intractable challenges. The Plan becomes the fundamental law, one of the most incessant incantations of the Development world. Publicly, the Plan is treated with almost mystical veneration, as if endowed with some superhuman faculty for raising mortal endeavour to a higher plane, freed from human weakness. And with the Plan comes all the weaknesses associated with Communism; their Central Planning and “Five Year Plans.” A co-ordinated plan, and a central financing procedure, is perhaps not such a bad idea for responding to emergencies, man-made and natural, but as a mechanism for responding to the far more complex, long term demands for sustainable development it is hopelessly inadequate, spawning, as in the case with Communism, rigidity, waste and lopsided development. With variations and embellishments programmes and projects follow the same trajectory with monotonous, and disturbing, regularity. Arbitrarily defined goals and outputs are followed religiously, pursuing equally arbitrarily defined deadlines, in spite of the reality, often in the face of changing circumstances and more often than not bulldozing over any comments, and even complaints, that beneficiaries and local staff may have. In a village of fewer than three hundred people, only periodically accessible by road, three schools are being built by three different organisations, each complying uncritically with the demands of their respective Plans, to build twenty-five or fifty schools (these are always nice round numbers). The fact that, in addition to the lack of possible pupils, there would also be no desks, books or even teachers is not considered; it is not in the Plan. The representative of one organisation, upon hearing that a non-descript building in the same village had once been used a school, becomes ecstatic with the possibility that this can also now be rehabilitated. In addition to having to build schools, his Plan also requires him to rehabilitate a number (always a nice round number) of schools. Where they should be and how all of this must fit into the educational policy and priorities of a government is not stipulated in the Plan, therefore irrelevant. His only priority is to meet his targets. These targets develop an iron logic all its own, totally divorced from any sort of reality. In addition, the chronic problems that bedevil all projects in spite of planning is staggering, protracted bickering over priorities within and between different organisations, on all levels, means that even if work do proceed swiftly, and has at least some relevance, the price is paid in quality. Projects can be self-defeating in ironic little ways. An eighteen month Water and Sanitation Project worth €1.8 million has no expenses for nine months but the recruitment and subsequent dismissal of a series of engineers. They are being dismissed because their recommendations run counter to the irrational demands of the Project Director, a fully qualified Graphic Artist, to save money for the donor. With no scientific training, and negligible relevant experience, combined with a total disregard for local people, her recommendations fall well within the realms of the absurd. Criticism and suggestions for improvement are countered by intimidation, humiliation and serial dismissals. Towards the end of the project this farce reaches its climax in an orgy of hasty, ill-conceived, “money saving” construction that succeeds only in depriving communities from access to water. Everything is done for the benefit of the donor, thousands of kilometres away and ignorant and disinterested in what is done in their name. The only thing donors know from all of this, are their brief visits to elaborately staged “Opening Ceremonies,” to water systems that deprive people from water; hospitals without equipment, beds or doctors; clinics with no nurses or medicine; schools without teachers; micro-credit funds that function as pyramid schemes and loan-sharking operations; all hidden behind glossy reports that wax eloquent about successes but fail to stand up to even the most basic scrutiny. This fanfare is often only a way of whipping up fervour and projecting prestige in order to be able to get even more money. Behind all of it lies a level of deceit that is obscene. From the distance at which donors view things everything can appear fine and nobody of any importance or relevance are ever allowed up close to where all this frantic activity reveals itself to be but window dressing. Projects belong to no-one, not to donors, or governments, or beneficiaries, and certainly not to the organisations implementing them, so no-one cares about it. Constant haggling and hassling over targets and objectives, short-changing, phoney figures and systematic deception exist on all levels. Cover-ups are the order of the day. At the Danish Refugee Council in Angola, from whose amateurish and inept fiascos the above examples are taken, the most persistent mantra happened to be that “We do not lie to the donor.” What they meant by this in fact, was that under no circumstances whatsoever would they report anything other than outstanding success in any of their endeavours, even if this required them to systematically lie and misrepresent themselves and what they are doing. Likewise, persistent claims that they had excellent relations with their main donor, DANIDA, did not mean that these relations were based on open and honest discussions on their activities, discussions to adapt programmes and projects to changing realities, creating mechanisms to mitigate, often unintended, negative consequences or any other signs of the give and take normally associated with good relations between any two entities. What it meant was simply that they could get away with any degree of deceit without any sanction whatsoever from the donor. For the Danish Refugee Council, any notion of accountability and answerability began and ended with the donor. This organisation is singled out simply because I have some experience of them, and thus the documentation to substantiate these claims, not because they are in any way fundamentally different or worse than any other organisation of this type. To the hypersensitive management any open admission of failure is unprecedented. Everybody has to pretend that all is well. And then the money keeps on flowing. It is all a pose but true to this intellectual environment everybody seems oblivious to the disquieting reality or the implications of their inability as they spout catechisms of optimism from every culture. “The government hears only its own voice while all the time deceiving itself, affecting to hear the voice of the people while also demanding that they support the pretence,” said Karl Marx in 1842. In his time there were no NGO´s and no UN, but undoubtedly he would have been able to recognise this not only in the largely undemocratic governments of his time, but also the prevalence of this attitude in these organisations in this age. Many of these organisations, quite properly, have taken it upon themselves to chastise us for being wasteful of consumer items with built-in obsolescence and for squandering natural resources, the environment and energy. But even the most wasteful society is not as bad as the Development industry of people and ideas; which stifle not only critics but anybody with an urge to improve the system, able managers, researchers and technicians, whose ideas are regularly aborted or stillborn because the system so rigidly resists originality. The deep suspicion, the overreaction and narrow escapes from drastic actions to things trivial, quietens any possible dissenting voices; it is just too dangerous to speak out. Thousands of ordinary, dedicated people that do work hard, often with no outside funding, to make meaningful differences in their communities - people who experiment, evaluate, learn and improve - are frequently ignored, their efforts sidelined and often destroyed to make space for an International Organisation. The top-down structure is essentially to blame, but not all bottlenecks can be blamed on the system. The Commission for Africa is not far wrong in its assessment that “African voices often fail to be heard within the development sector, including in international processes. This is partly due to an arrogance that expert outsiders or domestic elites ‘know best’ and partly due to institutional pressures for quick, consensual and anticipated results,” but fails to delve deeply enough into the problem. The Plan is certainly the brake on its own growth and the donor driven agenda may explain why allocating aid to African countries remains “haphazard, uncoordinated and unfocused, why donors continue to commit errors that, at best, reduce the effectiveness of aid, and at worst, undermine the long-term development prospects of those they are supposed to be helping. It may explain why rich countries pursue their own fixations and fads, often ignoring the needs prioritised by African governments and why the amounts they give are so unpredictable. It may explain why they are insufficiently flexible when it comes to reallocating aid to new priorities in the face of a national emergency, or why they don’t respond quickly, or appropriately, when natural or economic disasters strike, such as droughts or floods, unexpected hikes in oil prices or falling commodity prices.” What it cannot explain is the growth of a huge parasitic, criminal enterprise that has demonstrated its willingness to misrepresent political, social and cultural facts for financial gain, ignores charges of sexual abuse and harassment, even paedophilia within its ranks, turns a blind eye to its own obvious and at times devastating failures and to participate in inexcusable fraud and corruption. The problem with this Development Enterprise is the fact that any organisation can mandate itself to participate in it absolutely without merit and without any risk. (UN Agencies like to claim that they are mandated by the General Assembly and accountable to this body, but that is simply a roundabout way to say that they are accountable to nobody.) And not only can they participate, almost entirely on their own terms, but they can compete against governments for funds with a comparative advantage, not based on any real results from their past performance, or representing anybody, but based purely on the perception of their integrity; a perception based on and perpetuated entirely by their own reports and their own propaganda about themselves. They operate almost entirely in an ethical vacuum of their own making, being legally and morally accountable to absolutely nobody and functionally immune to any possibility of prosecution. Bizarrely there are now a huge number of public servants, none of whom are democratically elected, making decisions and affecting policy for countries of which they themselves are not even citizens. Within the UN a widespread sense of impunity and the confidence of not having to face the consequences of one’s actions, knowing that one can run from however much trouble one causes in one country simply by being promoted to a position in another country, is so pervasive that an entire generation of UN officials considers this sort of behaviour to be the most effective avenue to promotion within the system. A Dane working for a French organisation funded by American money, based in Kenya and running projects in Somalia or Sudan is effectively as outside of the law a Libyan, planting, in Germany, a bomb on an American plane that explodes over Scotland. Although the need for reform is recognised, it assumes that the International Community will reform and regulate itself, and to perpetuate the pretence a whole plethora of self-regulating organisations and coalitions have sprung up such as the “Humanitarian Accountability Project,” “Sphere Project,” and the “One World Trust.” All of them make a lot of noise about accountability, but none of them has ever pointed a finger at any of their members, nor do they have any executive powers with which to oblige their members to follow their guidelines. All of them are based in European capitals and run by Europeans. Since the 1950´s, the UN, for example, has faced a constant barrage of management studies, policy reviews, reform proposals and even actual reforms every now and then. True African voices, truly African investigations, local solutions based on local knowledge are not countenanced or tolerated. This mentality does not invite an adequate response to the challenges facing these organisations. Furthermore, the very language used throughout their texts tends to be imposing, demanding and intimidating in many ways. It often suggests there are consequences associated with a failure to deliver the ideal outcomes as sought by donors. The language speaks for itself: “performance review,” “consistency,” “goals,” “objectives,” “results and ‘performance indicators’ that meet standards,” “effective,” “performance reporting,” “meets management’s expectations.” The result of being confronted with a rapid succession of such words is to create a language suggestive of a parental relationship. The pressures to perform (as opposed to learn and grow) – real or perceived – are considerable. It is not difficult to understand why – given this kind of language – project staff might bend over backward to tell a donor what it wants to hear. The result, I maintain, is to create a culture, not of mutual learning (and there is a lot to be learnt from Africans), but rather to establish a relationship that is less than helpful to the improvement of institutions and practices relevant to development assistance. In the real world of development work, criteria and expectations that have currency in a donor’s context can be problematic amid the structural and cultural realities of Africa. Development should be for people as much as about them and the institutions that are supposed to serve them. Yet nothing will be meaningfully reformed as long as those who are responsible for creating these needs, whose mismanagement has resulted in the abuses so endemic within the system, are also responsible for driving the reform process. They certainly do not support a thoughtful and constructive reform process aimed at creating stronger and more effective institutions. Throughout the Commission for Africa report the weaknesses of the International Community is glossed over, ignored or it is assumed they will magnanimously sort themselves out. The report assumes that the forces that create poverty, exclusion and injustice exist only in governments, public policies and market institutions. They lie within the so-called International Community as well. The large number of common deficiencies with the services provided by this sector include: limited coverage; variable quality; amateurish approach; high staff turnover; lack of effective management systems; poor cost effectiveness; lack of co-ordination; and poor sustainability due to dependence on external assistance and no connection to or representation of the people that they are supposed to assist. INGO´s and UNA´s have had a choice in the way they respond: they could acknowledge that it is precisely in times like this that it is important for them to reset standards, that the only way to force governments to be accountable is by demonstrating accountability themselves, yet they have largely been ignoring calls to clean up their act; choosing instead to perpetuate the rather unhelpful attitude that they are “superior.” They encourage us to think that their organisations behave in ways that are inherently different from other kind of organisations, such as donors, government departments or businesses. Yet all accountability mechanisms presume that the integrity of organisations is not protected by good intention or by a heavenly gift, but are acquired by hard work, vigilance and respect for good practices. Both governments and business function in an environment of risk; the risk of a backlash by the population for failed policies, the risk of periodic elections, the risk of prosecution and imprisonment for bad business practise and deceit, and especially the very immediate risks of losing market share and legitimacy. Within the International Community no realistic and applicable risk mechanism exists. INGO´s and UNA´s may be different from other organisations in some respects, but in many others they operate in the same way, and are subject to the same universal human weaknesses and temptations. Because the Development Industry is now more powerful - certainly the sector considered as a whole, but often as individual organisations in their own right - they should apply this reasoning to their own behaviour. They should stop seeing themselves as fundamentally different from other kinds of organisations, somehow cleaner and more immune to the diseases of power and privilege. They should accept that they have similar responsibilities to report on their activities, follow agreed principles of behaviour, and be accountable when they fall short. Even if their motives are more idealistic, they are no less subject to human imperfection. These values may, in certain instances help them to perform well; this does not mean that precautions against short-sightedness, self-interest, temptation, even incompetence and irrelevance, are not necessary. On the contrary, respect for the values that this sector represent requires, if anything, a higher sense of vigilance and a higher degree of risk. Although the analogy with Communism may well explain many of the weaknesses in the Development Community, it falls dramatically short when trying to find solutions. The weaknesses of Communism can be overcome by moving to a lesser or greater extent into free-market systems. Nevertheless the strengths of the free-market system do not readily translate itself into solutions in the development context. A free-market system in theory responds to the demands of the market, in other words the consumer. One must also realise that economic endeavour is perhaps the most important activity for the development of societies and for individual fulfilment and that it is this very importance that provides the impetuous to make it work. Also it generates much of its own resources with which to regulate and police itself. In the areas where it fails to look after itself, the government is usually sufficiently motivated by the importance of the economy for its own survival, to regulate - and finance the enforcement of these regulations - from its own resources. A plethora of gatekeepers and regulators keep watch – lawyers, auditors, commissioners; a wide range of international agreements and arrangements, many of which are enforceable. Conceded, things still go wrong; Multinational companies indulge in slave labour practices in China and Indonesia; there is Enron, WorldCom and ImClone. Yet high level officers of the economy loose their jobs, they do get prosecuted and sometimes even go to prison. Even in Africa, where formal justice systems can be weak, the economy is based to a large extent on cultural and social networks that are founded on reciprocity, trust, dependability and above all, some degree of honesty. None of this can be usefully applied to the concept of Development assistance. In a sector that diligently strives towards mediocrity and avoiding responsibility; pointed questions are rarely asked of its leadership, no one has ever been prosecuted and a number of individuals that should be in prison hide behind immunities they do not deserve and should not have. The economy is complex, multifaceted and multi-layered; consisting of many mutually supporting, reciprocal arrangements and benefits, where one person’s raw materials are another’s end-product, where the line between consumers and producers is blurred, a complex self-regulatory and self-perpetuating system. By contrast Development assistance is a simple linear continuum, an almost entirely unnecessary activity, except insofar as it is an acknowledgement that things had gone wrong, and often had gone wrong dramatically; with donors, and their priorities, at the one extreme, and beneficiaries, and their demands, at the other. The Commission for Africa echoes many other voices in its constant repetition that “It is also about delivery and results. These are powerfully strengthened when local communities are involved in decisions that affect them.” It is a noble idea, one that would require the International Community and donors to respond to the demands of their beneficiaries, in theory; “the People,” in practice; hundreds of thousands or even millions of clamouring and disparate voices, largely the poor and disenfranchised, by definition unable to “put their money where their mouth is.” In line with our economic analogy it would also need to assume that beneficiaries of Aid, like consumers who can choose whether or not to buy a product, can choose whether they accept Aid or not, or from whom they are prepared to accept it. That would mean that different organisations would need to compete with one another for a share of the beneficiary market, in the same way that commercial enterprises do for customers. It is not certain that such a model would be either practical or desirable. It is also important to look at people as communities, societies and individuals and not simply as consumers. Yet another significant difference with the economy is that the customer is also the one with the money. The beneficiary of any product or service in essence has absolute control over that product or service through the very simple expedient of having the financial power to purchase it or not. Throughout the Commission for Africa report we are told “for accountability to be effective, a government’s policies, actions and systems need to be open to scrutiny by its people. This openness is not just a question of attitude; it has to be woven into the very systems through which the state operates.” Yet scrutiny by itself is meaningless, and without a significant change of the system, ordinary people will remain helpless and only able to express its outrage at the situation. The report states further that “Clearly, the responsibility for managing resources lies with the state. But the international community also has a role to play in maintaining high standards of governance. If it does so in its own activities – and demands it in the activities of private sector agents, like the multinational companies active in developing countries – then it will be better positioned to encourage similar high standards in the way African countries manage the cash from their natural resources.” But in order for the International Community to play a role in running world affairs it must also be able to run itself. It has emphatically shown that it is not able to do that. Giving voice to people - and assuming that those that need assistance most are able to articulate their needs and thus receives assistance instead of the International Community simply assisting only those most able to articulate themselves - consistently run into the difficulty of who these people can complain to. A government may be unresponsive but there always exist the possibility of complaining in the international press and embarrassing the government; government officials are known by their names; there are also demonstrations, strikes, passive resistance, even revolutions and armed uprisings if necessary. Governments have nowhere to run to, dictators may in some cases disappear to become ordinary citizens or fugitives in other countries, but as a rule they tend to hang around and try to reach a compromise with their people. Unreasonable civil servants can be replaced with more reasonable ones. Even dictatorial governments know that power through fear is inherently unstable and strive to gain power by consent. (Exceptions of course only serve to prove the rule.) Unfortunately much Development for all intents and purposes these days rests with a plethora of NGO’s and United Nations Agencies over which weak and struggling governments in Africa often have very little, if any, control. They are completely removed from ordinary people. They can have a lot of power, but it is a strange sort of power based not on fear or consent or legitimacy, but a power based on agreements made entirely amongst themselves and a power that they can exercise on any number of different stages; invariably the most convenient stage at any moment in time being the one where they cannot be held accountable. They have no connection to people, no constituency but themselves, and an uncanny tendency to disappear when funds dry up or when they had caused so much resentment through consistent failure and arrogance as to make their further presence untenable (to then reappear somewhere else). Many of the Commission for Africa recommendations sound excellent but have no possibility of success under current practice. For example: “(I)mpact has been greatest where they integrate with public health systems. African governments should enable community involvement to improve health outcomes as well as increase accountability.” Perhaps because the health sector provides such excellent opportunities for pretending to do any work, and because it is a relatively simple activity that so obviously appears to be doing good, there exist today several hundred so-called Emergency Health Organisations. The overwhelming majority of them have absolutely no capacity to respond to any emergency and usually appear in droves after an emergency (or even in places where there has never been an emergency) to provide a haphazard, inconsistent, very expensive and very basic service just when a country needs sustained, co-ordinated and cost effective effort to improve their health services. They invariably stay for as long as they have funds; usually three to six months, sometimes up to a few years. Usually overwhelmed by unfamiliar surroundings, foreign cultures and completely uneducated as to the needs of the people that they are supposed to serve it is inconceivable to imagine any of them listening to the voices of anybody but themselves. The last thing that they want is for their actions and systems to be open to scrutiny by people. These are the quintessential vultures of the Humanitarian Aid world, arriving in that window of opportunity after every emergency, when it is safe enough to operate and travel but before the emergency funds have dried up or had been redirected to development (sometimes they manage to attract some of these funds to only then work totally outside of their emergency mandates, and cause even more harm). Invariably these organisations, as well as a number of disaster tourists, have their eyes firmly fixed on the donor and are ardent followers of the “Plan,” the plan in this case often being a project proposal written and submitted for funding months before they had even arrived in a country. Whatever people may have to say would be very unlikely to be included in the “Plan,” in other words irrelevant to them. Even in the unlikely event that people could have the resources to identify and track down the managers and leaders who make the decisions that affect their lives, these individuals would in all likelihood be surprised and probably offended that “People” would be so arrogant as to want to speak to them and ask them pointed questions. For all the Commission for Africa’s urgent lamentations that the voices of people should be heard, and as noble as this may appear, the sad fact is that the majority of decisions made on behalf of people in the developing world are made, not by elected officials, but by the self-appointed and self-mandated managers of organisations headquartered in far away countries. A disturbingly large segment of this management tends to be arrogant, contemptuous and racist. Even a short visit to any African country by any concerned individual, quickly and amply demonstrates the extent to which many international organisations are managed through fear, humiliation and intimidation of local authorities, staff and beneficiaries. Drawing once again from my experience with the Danish Refugee Council whose staff had for a number of years raised a series of concerns over the way in which the organisation was mismanaged by the fully qualified graphic artist and the abuse they suffered from her. Their concerns were supported and echoed by the authorities, by beneficiaries and even by other NGO’s, local and international. This organisation dealt with these complaints by heavy-handedly, and often brutally, threatening staff, prompt (and illegal) dismissals sending a clear message that no criticism will be tolerated. In the words of one local staff member: “We are barely considered as human beings, much less as individuals who can think for ourselves and express an opinion. Whenever we do express ourselves, this mere fact causes such offence within the management that any notion of redress or response becomes out of the question. Their only reaction is immediate and severe punishment.” The last thing that managers and staff of many of these do-good organisations want is for the “victims” in question to really end up making a contribution to whatever gets done in their name - and, God forbid! - to cease to be victims. All that is really expected of them is to merely stand around whilst foreigners erect meaningless structures all around them and screw up their water supplies. Even the new jargon of ‘rights-based programming’ simply lead to labelling poor and vulnerable communities as essentially powerless victims or potential victims of crisis rather than as actors. More and more studies are exposing organisations that are supposedly in charge of looking after the poor and excluded but instead guilty of extensive violations of the rights of those dependent upon them. For far too long too many donors and leaders of both the developed and developing world were content to allow this foolishness to continue, and to continue funding it. And it will only stop when a sufficient number of concerned people, and organisations that do in fact represent the aspirations of ordinary people, point to this collective ineptitude and insist to put an end to this abuse and the horrible waste caused by it. For all the emphasis that the report place on Democracy - an emphasis based no doubt on the general regard and prestige that democracy enjoys (and in most instances deserve) – and the consistent harping on accountability – a word threatened to loose any meaning unless it can become associated with consequences – it should recognise that Democracy has its limitations. Assistance in Development is inherently an un-democratic affair where people with money offer to assist people that do not have any money. In such a scenario there will always be a stronger partner and a weaker, often silent or fearful, partner. It is our inability to move away from the notion of “charity” - and the arrogance that comes with it - and closer to a notion of assistance and co-operation that lies to a very large extent at the root of the problem. Little good ever comes from charity. Historically, it is hard work that rescues the poor and unfortunate from their plight, not charity. If the poor, the marginalised and the incapable ever do have much success at looking after themselves, it will be largely to be through their own efforts, and through the fact that they are fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to sell the results of their own efforts, however small the effort and however miserable the price. The only important contribution made by the benevolence of richer people is that these have very, very occasionally had the good sense and the decency to understand this elementary truth about poverty and how to relieve it, instead of merely salving their unthinking consciences by throwing a few coins out of their gilded carriages. If Development is the moral imperative of the developed world to assist the undeveloped world it is the moral responsibility of the Development world to hold the agents that act on their behalf legally responsible for their actions and to punish them if they do not act in morally responsible way; in other words they should be held accountable. It is a management and leadership issue, not a democratic one, and the structures required should be enforcement (investigating and arresting wrongdoers), judicial (putting them on trail) and punitive (sending them to prison). If African governments are to become more democratic and more accountable to their people as the report urges, it is imperative that they be allowed the tools and the authority to monitor and, when necessary, take steps against foreigners and International organisations spending other peoples’ money on behalf of their citizens. A report that can suggest how this can be done would be far more useful than the current one with its emphasis on truism and hyperbole. This brings us to three specific aspects of the Commission for Africa report that should be clarified within the context of this argument. Under the heading “Delivering existing commitments, better international leadership and co-ordination of aid” one hopes to start reading about many of the arguments elaborated above, alas, only to discover that the authors of this report is simply using it as a ruse for asking for more money and accusing “the international community (for) not coming up with the money to match its promises.” The report appears to be a bit vague, and contradictory, when talking about money. The authors do not mention how much money they think is being spent currently on Development aid. Either they do not know, as I do not myself know, or they are not saying, but they remain persistent, if somewhat contradictory, in their demand that it should be increased: “we call for an additional US$25 billion per year in aid, to be implemented by 2010. Donor countries should commit immediately to provide their fair share of this. Subject to a review of progress then, there would be a second stage, with a further US$25 billion a year to be implemented by 2015.” “That is why we are suggesting a doubling of aid to Africa within the next three to five years.” “The major programme of reform we have outlined – in governance, public investment and social expenditure – will cost, we estimate, an additional US$75 billion a year.” “Aid to sub-Saharan Africa should increase by US$25 billion per annum over the next three to five years.” “Aid to sub-Saharan Africa should be doubled, that is, increased by US$25 billion per annum, over the next three to five years to complement rising levels of domestic revenue arising from growth and from better governance. Following a review of progress towards the end of this period, a further US$25 billion per annum should be provided, building on changes in the quality of aid and improvements in governance” “Within these aid budgets, particularly in the context of a potential global increase in aid of US$50 billion. . .” Whatever one wants to make of all these statements, it is clear that the amount of money currently being spent is not small - it should be in the order of US$30-40 billion per annum - and the issue probably more appropriately discussed under the heading “Delivering existing commitments, better international leadership and co-ordination of aid” should perhaps be why such an amount of money is having so little effect. More importantly it should be asked first how much money can be untied by making the system more effective, instead - and definitely before - asking for yet more money. It is not unrealistic to believe that up to 80% of current funds are lost because of unaccountable budgetary processes that prevent the people of Africa to see how money is raised and where it is going, the lack of the kind of transparency that can help combat corruption; money and assets stolen from the people of Africa by corrupt leaders and managers that must be repatriated. It is widely known, although one is not allowed to admit it, that money given to any United Nations administered Trust Fund is invariably money lost to Development. A suspiciously large percentage could probably be found in the bank accounts of UN officials should the Commission for Africa’s recommendation of “Foreign banks must be obliged by law to inform on suspicious accounts” be followed up. Simply releasing the funds currently lost or misspent in misguided effort would provide more than sufficient funds to kick-start the development of Africa. For an industry that has failed so spectacularly, in spite of receiving such large amounts of money, it is remarkably naïve, not to say arrogant, to ask for even more money. And if development aid is to start providing results, as the report promises, the amount of aid needed over time should become less and less and not more and more as the report is requesting. In spite of the inconsistencies in the report’s lament that more money should be given; it is when this report starts to offer suggestions as to where this money should come from that they seem to throw reason and justification out of the window. Granted it does suggest that to “provide the critical mass of aid . . ., the aid should be front-loaded through the immediate implementation of the International Finance Facility,” perhaps not such a bad idea in principle and one that could be discussed further. Yet the report does not elaborate on this idea, harping rather on the notion that “Rich nations should commit to a timetable for giving 0.7 per cent of their annual income in aid.” It then goes further to say that “Several nations have recently committed themselves to reaching the UN target of giving 0.7 per cent of their national income in aid. Other G8 and EU nations should now follow this example and announce timetables for reaching the 0.7 percent target.” It is important to note that the United States, perhaps by far the largest provider in absolute terms of Official Development Assistance to developing countries, nevertheless apparently provides only about 0.1 percent of their Gross National Income, the G8 on average only 0.3 percent with only five countries, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden having reached the target by 2003. Recently, Finland, Spain, the UK, France and Belgium had announced timetables to reach this target. America refuses to try and reach this target; preferring to concentrate rather, with high level support from Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, on the improvement in the quality of aid. Unfortunately, even in this instance, improvement in the Quality of aid is intimately linked to American Foreign Policy and almost totally divorced from the needs and desires of ordinary people. This magic number of 0.7 percent is something recommended by the Pearson Commission in 1970. I must admit that I had never read the report of this commission, at the time my reading was limited to Noddy books, and do not know the reasoning behind this particular percentage. But just to put this into context; the report was written before the 1973 oil crisis, before the Nixon- Brezhnev ‘Détente’; a decade before Gorbachov’s ‘Glasnost’ and the Ethiopian famine; almost two decades before the collapse of Communism, three decades before 9/11. It is remarkable that the only justification that the Commission for Africa, in spite of their supposed influence, can come up with is a recommendation made by a report written thirty-five years ago. That is clearly not good enough but not nearly as frightening as an alternative suggestion hidden in a few afterthoughts and asides scattered throughout the report. The report suggests legitimately that “A number of other innovative proposals have been suggested to help address the funding gap. Further work should be undertaken to come up with specific practical proposals,” but then goes further with “Practical proposals should be developed for innovative financing methods such as international levies on aviation, which can help secure funding for the medium and longer term” and “An additional and complementary approach is to raise finance through international taxes, levies or lotteries. One example would be a voluntary levy on airline tickets to reflect the costs inflicted by carbon emissions.” This is a continuation of a notion from Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the early 1990’s to give the UN taxing powers that, alarmingly, simply does not want to die. The idea then was to raise taxies by charging for shipping lanes or a small percentage of speculative transactions that would raise the UN income to potentially hundreds of billions of Dollars. Other ways of raising additional funds for the UN that have come up in the past include levies on arms sales, transnational currency transactions, international trade (or sectors of it, such as polluting materials, mineral raw commodities), and international air or sea travel, an annual “United Nations Communications Day” with levies on all postage charges and telephone calls accruing to the UN, and an annual UN lottery. Zealous and misguided supporters of the United Nations are simply trying to give the organization powers it does not need and should not have. They assert that imposing a global tax on “speculative” currency transactions is an idea that deserves consideration. Such “speculative” transactions, a term that is not defined, could easily net some $150 billion a year for the United Nations’ coffers. This is sold as a means to give the United Nations an independent source of revenue so that the organization would not be dependent on payments by member states. Advocates of the tax assure sceptics that it would be imposed at a rate of only 0.1 percent, a minuscule burden on wealthy international currency speculators. One shudders to think what is likely to happen if the United Nations ever gains the power to tax. Merely redefining what constitutes a “speculative” transaction could net the United Nations additional hundreds of billions of dollars. Leaving aside the danger of escalating taxation, the United Nations should not have an independent taxing authority on general principle. The member states already have precious little say over what the corrupt, unaccountable and ill-managed UN bureaucracy does. They would have no input whatsoever if the United Nations had its own source of funds. Whilst the injection of hundreds of billions of Dollars into humanitarian assistance may seem to be a good idea, it would be frightening to put this sort of money into the grubby little paws of such an incompetent, unaccountable and un- transparent organisation as the United Nations. Nevertheless, the arguments presented here may be seen by some as a radical, perhaps vindictive, attack on conventional development practice. As such, they will inevitably be treated with a certain degree of scepticism, given our fear of the unknown, our resistance to change, and the sense of the impossibility of adapting and modifying a vast and complicated system which has been dedicated to pursuing a particular approach. The daunting challenge is that of shifting the paradigm of both the approach and the system - organisational, procedural, and methodological. Yet if the challenge is rejected on these grounds - and there are no other grounds on which to base a rejection of at least the possibility of the validity of these arguments - then there is little option for anything other than an increasing cynicism with respect to this development endeavour. We know already that the development sector is struggling to achieve its supposed goals; it is difficult to escape this conclusion when looking at the achievements, or rather the shocking lack thereof, to date. Cynicism, manifested as an increasing dependence on confirmations generated by adherence to, and so-called “successful” applications of, current organisational realities rather than on developmental impact itself, is already rampant within the development sector. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we cannot deny this creeping paralysis. Alternatives are called for. It will require enormous effort of will for individuals to begin to challenge the conventional. And there can be no doubt that change will depend on individual initiative - the system will not change all at once, and it will not change unless individuals begin to make that change happen. Prof. William Easterly, an economist that used to work for the World Bank, warns that: “This is bad news for the world’s poor, as historically poverty has never been ended by central planners. It is only ended by “searchers”, both economic and political, who explore solutions by trial and error, have a way to get feedback on the ones that work, and then expand the ones that work, all of this in an unplanned, spontaneous way.” Perhaps a few pre-conclusion comments may be in order here and worth adding in the form of a personal note. I am uncomfortably aware that many of my lamentations are not very well received in the world of humanitarian aid and development assistance. All I can say in my defence is that I have given a lot of thought during recent years to the issues I have elaborated. I have pondered how I and my associates can contribute effectively and ethically to the development of our continent, who wants it, why, and why it makes sense for people to accept and appreciate our efforts, and how, and how I can find satisfaction, perhaps even fame and riches, through being and having been involved in this endeavour. In other words the advice I give to others is advice I am trying to follow myself. One of the most serious criticisms I face, and face routinely, is my insistence on associating the essential goodwill of others with crime. In general, many of my remarks about the criminality of aid are based upon critical introspection and not merely an attempt to offend or stir controversy. Of course aid, development assistance and crime are not the same thing. Morally they are absolutely distinct. But what they both have in common is that they are both something-for-nothing sorts of activities, that the receivers on the one hand of aid and on the other hand of ill-gotten gains are in neither case giving much, if any, thought to what they might give to the world in exchange for what the world is giving them. Criminals after easy pickings naturally gravitate towards an industry in which there are the combination of large amounts of money and very little, if any, controls, over where that money is going. Aid, just like crime, feeds on the non- productive; it empowers the criminals in their battles against their most typical victims, the productive poor. It is acted out on a tragic scale in the Third World where entire countries have become the possessions of criminal gangs, who live off aid from richer countries. Potentially profitable societies are wrecked without a second thought, either by direct thieving, or else by follies paid for by foreign donors, which derange local markets and divert scarce local resources into ill-conceived fantasy projects. Of course, I consider that whenever one claims to be doing one thing when actually, intentionally or unintentionally, doing something very different also constitutes a crime. I know all about the temptation to describe moral failures as evidence of moral excellence. Perhaps one of the reasons you read so little about the idiocy of aid, and why the blame for rampant fraud and corruption is routinely shifted onto governments and recipients of aid, rather than on the givers and administrators of that aid, is that the kind of organisations that should publish pieces like this one tend to be organisations themselves depended upon the current system functioning the way that it does. Even so, I maintain that helping people is difficult. To help even a very small number of people - really to help them and not just throw money at them - demands huge commitments of time and intelligence. Also, given the complexities of human society, it requires a great deal of learning in the characteristics of that society merely to avoid making matters far worse, with projects which only seem helpful on the surface but which are in fact enormously harmful. If, despite all of our best efforts, huge human problems remain, this should not prove that we are wicked. It should merely prove how hard human problems are to solve. Why then does aid persist? The simplest answer is that aid is not all stupidity. It is, however, something difficult to restrain, and for that reason much more harmful, a sensible way of behaving that has gotten out of hand. Just as aid and goodwill have a way of merging into each other, so, in a morally opposite setting, do crime and aid. The world needs no more big reports by important people telling us what the problems and challenges are and how to solve them. It has become time for the poor and marginalised to define their own problems and to embark on the journey to have these solved and for us to discard the patronizing confidence that the Planners, those who had put themselves in charge of our collective destiny, know how to solve other peoples’ problems better than the people themselves do. Everybody, especially the poor, understand the need for democracy and accountability. There should not be any more demands for more money, by people who have amply demonstrated that they are unable to spend it where it is most needed. Reduced poverty and human suffering comes from the self-reliant efforts of the poor themselves in free societies. Make sure somebody is actually held accountable for making THIS intervention work in THIS place at THIS time. Concerned individuals should demand a system of accountability whereby people and institutions that make grand promises and then fail to deliver are held to account; and if they cannot explain themselves, prosecute them and put them in prison if necessary.  Yet this does not prevent the Commission for Africa report to predict that “the Millennium Development Goals will perish as yet another pious aspiration.”  Emergency – A sudden condition or state of affairs calling for immediate action. In other words a war, a flood or a tsunami, amongst others. AIDS, in spite of constant claims to the contrary, is not an emergency; it is not a sudden condition and it does not call for immediate action but for sustained effort.  There can be up to a hundred such organisations in a single country. POSTED BY LEON KUKKUK AT 00:16 0 COMMENTS LINKS TO THIS POST LABELS: COMMISION FOR AFRICA, DEVELOPMENT, ETHICS, TRANSPARENCY, UN, UNITED NATIONS Press Release Letters to Gabriella Talk about corruption is the order of the day. Of all the bad things that are happening in Africa, corruption is slowly reaching the top of the list. Corruption is perhaps not as bad as genocide, but it is also a crime against humanity. Corruption is a killer of initiative and trust. It drives away foreign investment and undermines the development of the rule of law. But most importantly, corruption robs Africans of a better life and African children especially of a future. The UN has initiated a “Convention Against Corruption” that has been signed by more than 100 countries. Some of the most infamous incidences of corruption include Mobutu Sese Seko, the former president of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) who allegedly stole somewhere between $5 and 14 billion, and Sani Abacha, former president of Nigeria, who reportedly looted more than $2 billion. Both these former leaders are now dead, but their legacy of corruption continues to afflict their nations.African governments are warned time and again that increased aid flows continue to be compromised by the issue of accountability in the face of serious and well-documented corruption. The South African government most notably wants to be seen as clean and free of corruption. Chances are, however that you still don’t know about one of the biggest scams of our time: The misuse of foreign aid to Africa by Non-Governmental Organisations, United Nations Agencies and business operating in Africa. Perhaps it is because it has been such an embarrassment to democratic governments in the developed world and private organizations who keep on believing that foreign aid will help Africa that this issue never gains the attention that it deserves. Now a new book “Letters to Gabriella: Angola's Last War for Peace, What the UN Did and Why” (ISBN: 1891855670) published by Florida Literary Foundation, takes the reader into the bizarre and murky world of development assistance, an insider view on how UN agencies function and how businesses have latched onto this world of undeserved affluence and excess to earn profits for themselves with very little effort. It names the names and points fingers at the guilty, unlike similar books on the same subject. The author himself steps into this world when he arrives in the beginning of 1998 in Huambo, Angola, charged with setting up a small business development project in this, the second largest city in the country situated in the central highlands. The country is on the brink of civil war but a project planned three years previously by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is finally being implemented through an agreement with a South African company, RUTEC. This company, under the directorship of John Dommett has sold themselves as experts in small business development and UNDP has promised them a payment of $1.65 million to transfer this expertise to Huambo. The contract however, turns out to be very vague, amongst other things it fails to state exactly which services RUTEC are to provide. Furthermore the Angolan government claims that they had not authorised this project and does not want it there. It soon turns out that RUTEC is a company that sells equipment to small businesses and not much else and this demand to sell this equipment is immediately transmitted to the project staff in Huambo. It also turns out that the equipment is not only largely irrelevant to the Angolan context but also prohibitively expensive and of very poor quality. John Dommett also looses no time to inform the UN system in Angola that RUTEC has no staff capable of travelling to Angola. Nevertheless month after month large amounts of money is paid from UNDP into the RUTEC account. A full scale civil war had also broken out at the end of 1998 with its epicentre in the area surrounding Huambo. Under these circumstances project staff, with no support, technical assistance or even salaries struggle to make a difference, with some success, against overwhelming odds. Blissfully indifferent to the circumstances of the Angolan people that he had promised to assist John Dommett, provides no support either financially or technically; instead uses his UN contract to sell RUTEC to the South African Land Development Bank and the Mineworkers Development Agency at a grossly inflated price and promptly disappears with his share of the loot. By the beginning of 2001 the author, faced with a project that had achieved some success but had received less than 15% of the funds allocated to it, with staff salaries six months in arrears and a $100 000.00 of unpaid obligations in Huambo, arrived at UNDP’s offices in the Angolan capital Luanda to find out what went wrong and why, and how this can be corrected. Correspondence to RUTEC quickly establishes that this company has no idea on where and how they had spent $1.5 million received from UNDP over a two year period. The new director was for three months unaware that RUTEC had a project in Angola and was receiving money from this project. An audit is promised. Instead of this promised audit the author is then drawn into a topsy-turvy world of lies, deceits and threats, a world where nothing is as it seems, where higher and higher level UN officials tell bigger and bigger lies, an organisation with a complete and utter disregard for a humanity that they are supposed to serve, a world of glossy reports, excessive salaries and fraud, corruption and incompetence on a fantastic scale. All of this is being perpetuated by development practitioners who are morally and practically accountable to absolutely nobody. No audit ever took place. This happened at a time before corruption was allowed to be discussed within the UN, before the oil-for-food scandal and before more members of the UN started pressuring the body to start accounting for what it is doing. This is no isolated incident. As the Angolan civil war drags on through 2001, and the mortality rate skyrockets along with a dramatic plunge in living standards for almost all Angolans, another South African businessman, Paul Erskine, noted for shady dealings in China and Russia, arrived with a lot of fanfare and a television crew from CNN and Mnet’s Carte Blance in tow. Mr. Erskine claims to represent the “Angolan Refugee Charity” an organisation dedicated to assist the people of Kuito, another city on the highlands as badly affected by the war as Huambo. This charity is registered in South Africa and on his website Paul Erskine requests donations to supply 1500 humanitarian products to the “refugees” in Kuito. These include wine, beer and cigarettes. Ignoring for the moment the fact that there cannot be, by definition, any Angolan refugees inside Angola, in Kuito almost nothing is known about Paul Erskine except for a series of complex business arrangements that he has with the local governor, a person reputed to be one of the most corrupt men in the country. Under his Humanitarian assistance guise he asks for logistical support from the World Food Programme, he calls them the World Food Organisation on his website, to bring his 1 500 humanitarian products into the city. This provokes a lot of suspicion and questions being asked about this man. Seamus Reynolds, a Carte Blanche Journalist, responded to the authors’ concerns as such: “We have been in contact with the World Food Program in Kuito and they have also expressed their concern. The Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance has also promised to send through some information about Mr Erskine, but as yet I have not received any correspondence. We are very concerned that money and supplies donated by the South African public might not be reaching the intended destination, but we need solid proof if this is the case. We are aware of Mr Erskine's previous dealings in China and Russia, and although we cannot judge the man by those businesses we do include them in our assessment. When we spoke to him originally he explained how he operated in countries where free trade was a problem, and this is obviously the case in Angola. However, the work he says he is doing now is not for gain but purely humanitarian. Now this is the question we are asking. Is Mr Erskine using the aid from South Africa to benefit his business?” It probably did, but unfortunately for Mr. Erskine, his methods proved to be a bit too crude and after few months of trying to raise funds and profit from the spectacle of compassion, he leaves swiftly, along with the TV cameras and disappears from the scene. But as long as corruption exists at its current levels in Africa, and as long as both donors and ordinary people, continue to look the other way, foreign aid will simply serve to keep Africans poor. Sub-Saharan Africa has received an estimated $140 billion in bilateral and multilateral aid from 1995-2004. Yet African countries consistently end up as the poorest countries in the world. So one may ask the (literally) billion-dollar question: Where does the money go? Admittedly kleptocrats do take a large percentage of this money, but the worst transgressors in this regard had been removed from office by the end of the last century and still large amounts of money are unaccounted for. Clearly the answer to this question must increasingly be searched for elsewhere. Non-Governmental agencies, the UN, the large number of donors and to a lesser extend private business are generally perceived in a positive light. There is an assumption that at the UN, in particular, staff are always bound to the high standards of their institution and always act in good faith and are consistently reliable and trustworthy. Because of this assumption, rather than actual institutional accountability, moral authority is not questioned but assumed; and as such scandals should pose a greater threat to the humanitarian system than they would in a democracy, for example. It is time to remove the veil of purity that has supported humanitarian institutions. The UN should not only set standards for its own conduct, it should also establish mechanisms to enforce adherence to these standards that goes beyond their tendency to simply say, “Trust us.” Aspiring as they are to the highest values of mankind, the UN cannot, without oversight, expect its employees to be above corruption, abuse, stupidity, incompetence and ignorance. The danger that exists is that current positive views, which are not fully supported by the reality, can quickly turn negative. There are some corruption researchers who are concerned that countries are typically seen as either as mostly clean or mostly dirty, with few countries falling within these extremes. For example a 2004 Gallup poll of 41 000 people in 47 countries found moderate concern over corruption in South Africa's courts, customs, business licensing, etc., yet people’s concerns regarding corruption were growing. The poll found that 51% of South African respondents expected corruption to grow worse. They were among the most pessimistic of all the people asked. It is perhaps not surprising considering that they live in what must be one of the most corrupt business environments around. On 01 Apr 2004 Business Day published an article “South Africa Plans Law Against Corruption By Local Companies In Foreign States” which stated that “Government plans to enact legislation that will make it possible to prosecute South African companies accused of corruption in foreign countries.” According to the article Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe, “called for South African companies operating elsewhere in Africa to make sure they were ethically beyond reproach and to act in such a way that they would not be deemed the "new imperialists."” He furthermore said that government was considering a special code of conduct for state-owned companies operating in other parts of Africa, and trusted “that most in the private sector would agree with our approach.” Does he in all honesty believe that the private sector would by themselves and left to themselves agree to this approach? Organized business responded to him by saying that “it would welcome the cabinet's proposed initiative, (but) it called for avenues other than legislation to be explored.” If not legislation, then what are the alternatives? One can then only turn ones hopes to the International Community. For the past decade at least we have heard how corruption and mismanagement at the UN has bruised its image. Time and again the world and especially the Third World are promised that “steps are being taken to correct the situation and refurbish the image of the UN.” “Letters to Gabriella” clearly demonstrates how the United Nations in general, and its so-called principle agency, UNDP, in particular, perform in countries where they claim to be assisting local economies and people. Time and again we find out that it is all whitewash; the UN remains as corrupt and mismanaged as ever; in fact, as this book amply demonstrates, “its standing in many countries has "never been lower".” In 2003 Mark Malloch Brown, then the UNDP Administrator, claimed in a report that “Today, UNDP has come to the close of the most dramatic four-year internal transformation in our history. We are more capable than ever before of responding to the world’s development challenges because our organization is stronger, more focused and better connected.” “Letters to Gabriella” is set against the background of this promise and shows clearly that on the ground that at best this “transformation” had not done much more than entrench old habits in an already corrupt and incapable UNDP. Survey after survey (except for UNDP surveys), demonstrate that confidence in UNDP in particular and the UN in general remain as low as ever. Recently Mr. Brown has been appointed UN Chief of Staff, specifically charged with overseeing UN reform. Could we now look forward to more empty words and more whitewashing? Mr. Tharoor, Under-secretary General to the United Nations, states that no charge against the organisation goes unanswered. “Letters to Gabriella” clearly demonstrates how a contractor to UNDP spent six years trying to get answers from an organisation regarding their ineptness and corruption, without any success. These questions are unanswered in the book and remain so today; leaving in its wake but an account of a series of lies, threats and deceit that does nothing to instil any confidence in the UN system. Mr. Tharoor also likes to state that a “blizzard of public information initiatives” is unleashed by the UN to counter attacks in the media.” Would it not be more productive to unleash a blizzard of dismissals of the freeloaders, the charlatans, the corrupt and incompetent officials that form the bulk of UN staff and tarnish its image? Would not then UN reform be more productive and more believable? The book is a very readable, fascinating and very relevant account that deserves to be read widely. The author shows not only an understanding of a number of complex issues, his compassion for the people on whose behalf he works and ultimately writes, shines through almost all of the chapters, their hopes and dreams, disappointments, their very struggle for survival dovetails neatly, and disturbingly, into the account of wholesale neglect by the international community. Corruption thrives in secrecy. When corruption prevails, the resultant misallocation of resources hits not only the poor but also the pockets of taxpayers and shareholders worldwide. Even so by far the most damaging effects of corruption are felt by its victims in the developing world, ordinary people who lack the political skill or economic leverage to bring about change. Amazon Review: If you hate the UN, this book is for you, January 12, 2006 Reviewer: Dr. W. Martin James (Arkadelphia, AR USA) - If you believe, as I, that the United Nations is a bloated, corrupt, inept, inefficient, and arrogant organization then this book is for you. The author spent several years in Huambo, Angola working on a development project under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). UNDP could not account for money spent, who it went to or for what purpose. Meanwhile, the author and his staff struggled without salaries, supplies, and guidance while still making a meaningful contribution. Plus, Huambo was in the middle of a civil war. I'd give the book 5 stars, but Kukkuk really delves into the contracts, booklets, and correspondence as he struggles to save his project. It can get to be too much, but then again, he suffered through the time period. The book has an excellent account about the Angolan civil war, but the main focus of the text is the author's unbelievable struggle with UNDP. For a program designed to help the less fortunate, UNDP in Angola, at least, does nothing but worry about glossy reports, avoiding responsibility, and waiting for pay day and the chance to go on holiday paid for by the UN. A stunning indictment of the arrogance and condescending attitude shown not only to the people they are suppose to serve, but the host government as well. POSTED BY LEON KUKKUK AT 00:16 1 COMMENTS LINKS TO THIS POST LABELS: BISRAT AKLILU, DIMITRI SAMARAS, ERICK DE MUL, FRANCISCO DE ALMEIDA, JAMES LEE, JOHN DOMMETT, MARK MALLOCH BROWN, MICHEL BALIMA, RUTEC, STANISLAUS NKWAIN, STEPHEN KINLOCH, UN, UNDP, UNITED NATIONS Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) LETTERS TO GABRIELLA Angola's Last War for Peace: What the UN Did and Why Corrupt officials, knowingly or not, display a contempt for other people, no matter how minor or seemingly innocent their corrupt acts. This contempt harbours within it the seeds of megalomania that, if allowed to flourish, will eventually blossom into grosser and grosser acts … where other people are considered expendable and other people’s lives are considered meaningless and useless. All corruption is a deceit, a lie, that sacrifices the common good or the public interest for something much less … [I]t gives comfort to social pathologies that divide, destabilise and desensitise. Not only does it point society in the wrong direction, but it also exhausts governmental legitimacy, supports the wrong kind of public leadership and sets the wrong kind of example for future generations. Gerald E. Caiden, Toward a General Theory of Official Corruption, Asian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1988, p.19 BLOG ARCHIVE • ▼ 2006 (2) o ▼ November (2) ▼ Nov 27 (2) Press Release Letters to Gabriella Stumbling About in Blissful Arrogance • ► 2007 (2) o ► February (1) ► Feb 18 (1) Fighting Corruption with Corruption o ► March (1) ► Mar 11 (1) The Impossibility of Getting it Right AUTHOR INFORMATION LEON KUKKUK VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE LETTERS TO GABRIELLA • A N G O L A : E M P I R E O F T HE H U M A N I T A R I A N S • EYE ON THE UN • W HER E IS TH E UN WINNING? • L E T TE R S T O G A B R I E L L A • TAK ING IT GLOBAL • AUTHORSDEN • LEON K UK K UK