The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) along with the World Meterorological Organization (WMO) is a “parent” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and of its more recently-hatched sibling, the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
About 13 months ago, as I had posted, George Russell, the Executive Editor of Fox News, had brought to readers’ attention the fact that:
The U.N. is telling countries how to save the planet, but its own environmental housekeeping is a ‘scattered’ mess, according to a report by a special group of internal investigators.
When it comes to telling the rest of the world how it must behave in order to save the planet from environmental calamity, and lobbying for trillion-dollar solutions to those problems, no organization in the world makes greater claims to being the leading authority — and global arbiter — than the United Nations.
Except, it seems, when it comes to its own behavior as an environmentally friendly global citizen. There the U.N. system is, according to members of a special group of internal U.N. inspectors, in chaos.
Among other things, the group, known as the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), found:
• U.N. efforts at setting internal guidelines on environmental housekeeping and management across its sprawling network of global organizations are “uncoordinated ad hoc efforts” that “continue to be scattered.”
• Most of the environmental measures implemented by the central organs of its many funds and programs, not to mention the central U.N. secretariat, “are not based on any specific guidance and are not documented in a clear and transparent way.”
• When it comes to the U.N.’s own contributions to solving the global greenhouse gas problem, the organization’s efforts are, according to the inspectors, not only unsystematic but sometimes indecipherable.
With the U.N.’s external efforts at world “environmental governance” a seeming jumble, and its internal environmental management an apparent mess, the JIU’s inspectors have made a striking case over the past year that one of the major environmental problems the world faces may be — the U.N. itself.
I never did get around to reading the full 70 page report, because I got sidetracked by a link within the report to … another report: The 2008 Annual Statistical Report on United Nations Procurement.
Addressing today’s environmental challenges is largely beyond the capacity of individual countries. Only concerted and coordinated international action will be sufficient. The arena for such actions is the United Nations, and the focal point for such action is UNEP. Governments have called for a more coherent system of international environmental governance as part of the UN reform process, and are exploring the role and responsibility of UNEP and other UN entities in relation to environment and development issues. [emphasis added -hro]
There are a few highly questionable turns of phrase in the above claims, but this seems to be par for the UNEP course. Nonetheless, to this noble end, the UNEP appears to have a plethora of programs:
So I thought it might be interesting to see the procurements that the UNEP had made – in the interest of saving the planet. There are two lengthy tables in this report: one is a listing of “Goods” for which the PO was > $30,000 and the other for “Service Contracts” of > $30,000. In true “do as I say, but not as I do fashion” four of the UN’s agencies purchased a good number of Toyota Landcruisers and similar vehicles:
|UN Organization||Total (US$)|
|Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)||3,891,916.33|
|United Nations Development Program (UNDP)||11,086,190.00|
|United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)||18,117,003.24|
|United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)||1,894,038.16|
|World Food Programme (WFP)||7,984,614.02|
I also found that the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had six entries totalling $437,782.15 for which the vendor or contractor were listed – along with the country – but the description was “N/A”. Mind you, this pales (almost into insignificance) in comparison with the UNDP’s 360 entries with a description of “N/A”, totalling $40,796,920.00.
As for the UNEP’s procurements, there were none (nada, zero, zilch) listed. Mind you, the text of this “statistical report” indicates that their compilation methodology depended on each agency’s voluntary self-reporting. So, it appears that the purchasing powers that be at the UNEP had decided that their procurement activities should not be subject to scrutiny by anyone.
The United Nations Environment Program, the flagship for environmental consciousness and creation of a new era of “global environmental governance,” doesn’t know how its money is spent or even who it may be dealing with when it comes to hundreds of corporate, public and non-governmental partners that are “key” to fulfilling its mission, according to a confidential internal study obtained by Fox News.
UNEP, a $450 million U.N. organization, is also an administrative mess, which ignores its own financial rules, and sometimes doesn’t even reveal who is authorized to sign its checks, the study says.
UNEP apparently agrees. It has accepted all 17 recommendations contained in the internal study, and is currently attempting to enact them.
According to the study, that process is supposed to be completed by the end of this month.
In response to questions from Fox News, a UNEP spokesman declared that “The recommendations of the auditors are now being implemented by UNEP under a practical and agreed time-scale and via a Task Force […]
Moreover, the global organization has sometimes failed to enforce its own rules for staff disclosure, leading to cases of apparent conflict of interest and potential self-dealing. And sometimes, UNEP departed from its normal legal paperwork entirely, as in the case of a licensing deal with the Thomson Reuters Foundation to use UNEP-generated news stories on a humanitarian website, AlertNet, apparently without going through proper channels.
The 25-page report by the U.N.’s internal watchdog Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was published on Dec. 30 last year under the dry title “UNEP Project Delivery by Partnerships.”
The study, which was forwarded to UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner after incorporating his own management team’s responses, covers a 25-month period from January 2008 to April 2010.
Those dry figures, however, understate the importance of partnership arrangements to UNEP, and increasingly to the entire U.N., in an era of shrinking budgets and increased skepticism about the global organization’s ability to deliver on its expanding mountain of political, economic and social mandates.
With less than a half-billion dollars in its 2010-2011 budget, UNEP is one of the smaller members of the U.N. constellation of funds, agencies and programs (the U.S. contributes about $6 million a year directly to the total). But it has some of the most grandiose ambitions: to remake the world economic and environmental order, reshape human patterns of production and consumption, and help shift trillions of dollars in wealth from rich to poorer nations.
Its mission, as described on the UNEP website, is to “provide global leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”
In one example of the resulting chaos, the auditors noted that a divisional director had signed an $858,000 deal with a completely separate U.N. agency, even though his signing authority was limited to $200,000.
In the same vein, the auditors noted that “an organization-wide corporate strategic approach for the identification of partners did not exist,” and UNEP officers often used word of mouth or Internet searches to find them.
Once found, there was no established due diligence process to vet them and document the results. In many cases, auditors inferred, UNEP was simply trying to get around its normal commercial procurement process.
In response, UNEP promised to do so, and have it done by the end of June, 2011.
Whether that will happen on time, of course, is another question. Near the time when the auditors’ analysis of UNEP’s partnership arrangements was completed, OIOS issued a list of previous audit recommendations across the U.N., including UNEP, that were still not implemented.
Some of the previous OIOS recommendations to UNEP, which were still not accomplished, dated back from three to 12 years. [emphasis added -hro]
One might be inclined to conclude that the UNEP has a rather firmly ensconced culture of non-compliance with any measure of accountability. So it is not surprising that the UNEP’s “gold standard” offspring, the IPCC had also been found to be “breaking their own rules” as well as lacking in the transparency, conflict of interest and accountability departments by the InterAcademy Council.
As the saying goes … like parent, like child.
UPDATE: 11:41 PM I’ve now read the full 25 page report linked to in Russell’s article. It contains many jaw-dropping revelations into the practices of the UNEP, and is well-worth the time to read. But for those who don’t have time to read the whole thing, for your convenience – and as a public service – I’ve extracted into a pdf the 3-page annex containing a summary of the 17 recommendations as well as the “actions” required by the UNEP.