L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

24 July 2007 Blog Home : July 2007 : Permalink

Melkert, Shkurtaj & the UNDP revisited

Not too long ago I wrote about the UK's new Minister for Kleptocrats had been in charge of the UNDP and how a whistleblower there had been treated in exactly the way you would expect once his stories turned out to be true (i.e. publicly thanked and given a promotion fired ASAP). Well the whistleblower - Artjon "Tony" Shkurtaj - has been having a nice chat with some people from "Inner City Press" and what fun it is too. Unless of course your name is Ad Melkert or some other toady who works at the UNDP that is.

Unfortunately for someone like me who really doesn't care about scummy dutch politcians (its the scummy British UN bureaucrats that get me worked up) there is nothing about former UNDP administrators. There is however a nice follow up where we get the follwing fun sumamry of the efficiency and dedidcation to openness displayed by the UN:

So at the UN, a 90 day audit cannot be carried out in substance in over six months. And a 45-day review to determine if a complainant is a whistleblower, a determination that must be made before any protection can be offered, cannot for some unexplained reason be reached even in 45 days.

Close observers of the UNDP North Korea saga, the first scandal to erupt on Ban Ki-moon's watch, just 19 days into his term, offer a range of interpretations of the slow-down or gridlock. UNDP is dead-set against Mr. Shkurtaj being acknowledged as a whistleblower, because it would make a number of UNDP actions since January constitute retaliation, which itself is misconduct under UNDP rules.

Given Mr Melkert's apparent dislike of Bush appointees it seems ironic that the person calling for him not to be fired (yet) is the US representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who appears to have been appinted by Bush. Mind you it isn't exactly strong backing, indeed it reminds meof the backing Melkert gave a certain Wolfowitz in some other international institution recently

On Monday afternoon, Inner City Press asked U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen what she thought of recent calls for UNDP Associate Administrator Ad Melkert to resign or be fired. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen replied that

"I want to make sure that the problems in the system are addressed rather than just boot one individual and then there'll be a feeling that, 'oh we've gotten rid of X, and so then the problem has been solved.' It's such a systemic problem, it has to be done in a more comprehensive way. That doesn't mean that that guy should keep his job, but sometimes when you start to roll heads, it gives you the feeling that you've dealt with the problem and let's move on, and it's far deeper than that."

Its fun stuff. But there's more...

One reason why I did an update on this was that over the last couple of days I've had a number of hits on the blog from googlers looking for Shkurtaj and Melkert from the Netherlands. Inspired by that I thought I might see what the Google thinks the Dutch news is saying. Answer:

Nederland moet Melkert

Algemeen Dagblad - 1 uur geleden

DEN HAAG - Nederland moet aandringen op het ontslag van Ad Melkert als tweede man bij het ontwikkelingsprogramma van de Verenigde Naties UNDP. ...

‘Stalinistische Melkert moet worden ontslagen’ Elsevier

'Ad Melkert is een stalinist' Quote

Ad Melkert zwaar onder Amerikaans vuur BN/De Stem

All of this seems to originate with an interview given by John Bolton, a man well known for straight talking:

THE HAGUE, 21/07/07 - John Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, thinks Ad Melkert should resign from his post at the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The Dutchman is incompetent, in his view.

Bolton, who is seen as a confidante of President George Bush, told TV programme Nova that Melkert, as the second-in-command at the UNDP, has failed to investigate and take action against alleged abuse of UN donor money. The US suspects that "hard currency went to the government of North Korea" directly that was intended for humanitarian aid, according to Bolton.

Towards American requests for appropriate action, Melkert has "adopted a very defensive attitude". "We find his behaviour puzzling. Why deny the existence of the problem," said Bolton. It "remains to be seen" how the affair works out for the US contribution to the UNDP and UN as a whole, he warned.

Apart from having a "bunker mentality", Melkert "insulted our ambassador Mark Wallace and threatened him with retaliation," added Bolton. Elaborating on the Dutchman's "undiplomatic behaviour", the American stated that "perhaps attitudes in your country are different" but internationally "the civil servants work for the member governments, not the other way around."

As if that were not enough the Dutch also had a chat with Mr Shkurtaj, a man who seems to be following in the Bolton school of tact and diplomacy:

THE HAGUE, 25/07/07 - Tony Shkurtaj, who previously headed the UN's development organisation (UNDP) in North Korea, considers that Ad Melkert cannot stay on as associate administrator of UNDP. "He must be sacked," says Shkurtaj in Vrij Nederland weekly.

Shkurtaj was the operating head of the UNDP office in North Korea. He saw how millions of euros in aid flowed to the North Korean regime without UNDP having any idea about the spending of the funds. When he warned his superiors, including Melkert, that UNDP was systematically breaking its own rules in North Korea, his contract was not renewed, according to Vrij Nederland.

Shkurtaj told the Dutch weekly that UNDP took its revenge because he told his story to the Americans. He says Melkert is personally responsible. "He runs a Stalinist reign of terror. (...) Anyone not following the party line is kicked out. (...) All at once, I was a dangerous person who was refused access to the UN building (...) The staff in New York are dead scared now they have seen what happened to me."

I love the "stalinist reaign of terror" quote. I also rather like this bit:

In the interview with Vrij Nederland due to appear today, Shkurtaj says the American criticism of Melkert is unrelated to the role Melkert played in the Wolfowitz affair. "In the Netherlands, Melkert cries out that he was attacked by this nasty conservative Bush regime. Personally, I hate Bush. (...) I have nothing in common with conservative Republicans. But still, I say they are right to push for an open and transparent United Nations."

There's a saying about "what goes around comes around" it looks like Mr Melkert may be learning the truth of this. Personally I'm waiting for the dots to show up connecting all this to the Minsister for Kleptocrats who was, let us not forget, in charge of the UNDP while the N Korean money laundering was going on.

PS Welcome UNDP folks who have been sent this by webmail, I hope you enjoy this site.