Time to stop the world’s biggest welfare cheat

WHO are you

Being a welfare cheat is not a bad way to describe the United Nations.

In 2000, twenty-nine UN agencies employed a total of 48,500 staff. Scroll forward to the latest figures in 2018 and that has blown out to near as makes no difference, 110,000 across 38 distinct agencies. In 20 years time, one imagines the UN will be aiming to be twice the size with a whole new raft of agencies seeking new funding.

What the UN tends to do is conceive new agencies within its womb and then give birth to them leaving them to make their own way, generally by “small” under the radar voluntary payments under “trust” which grow exponentially over time. To its credit, the UN nails bureaucracy.

The more puzzling question is how can our governments be so blind as to keep encouraging this welfare cheat to claim more benefits for its ever extended family? What is the return on all that investment?

One should be disturbed at the way the UN lists the voluntary payments made by individual countries as an “honour roll.” That somehow we are not worthy unless we play ball. Cash for access? Not exactly. That all depends on who you are.

Analysing the UN “regular budget” papers reveals that prompt payment is encouraged. Australia just missed out on a podium position as it was the 4th nation to remit its full-year contribution on January 11th, 2019. All US$61 million.

China might have been a bit late to wire its 2019 contribution of US$343.7 million to the UN coffers but it is seen as the future. The United States was conspicuous by its absence from the honour roll board figures despite chipping in US$674.2 million in 2019. Mind you, this excludes all the other voluntary payments made to other UN bodies and peacekeeping units.

Is it any wonder that Trump wants to defund it. Can you name one other charity that treats its #1 philanthropic patron which contributes twice the amount of any other country in aggregate – 24% of the total – with such disdain? It is not as though the US has reduced its generosity over the past two decades. On the contrary. It has grown proportionally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) deserves particular attention. It has grown from 3,672 staff at the turn of the century to 8,153. The USA gifted WHO over $281 million in 2018 or 10% of its total income. In 2000 the US gave $148 million.

What gives? WHO has more than doubled its staff levels. In 2018, it raked in $2.9 billion in income, more than twice that of eighteen years ago. Yet with all these extra resources, it couldn’t provide superior intelligence much less improved outcomes. It reminds us of the Australian fire services during the recent bushfires.

How was it that WHO couldn’t give any sensible or consistent guidance about how the world needed to prepare for coronavirus? Why did it tell us there was no risk of human-to-human contact? Surely if those nations that volunteer 10s if not 100s of millions of dollars for a subscription service had the correct information, borders would have been shut way sooner and the devastation mitigated.

For if WHO had done its own homework in Wuhan, it would never have criticised Trump’s travel ban “on the basis of “unnecessarily interfering with international travel and trade” and “increasing fear and stigma.“, something that was lazily just dug out of the pandemic playbook from 2017. Since when have ever pandemics played to a one size fits all prescription?

Why was WHO blindly parroting whatever came out from Beijing’s propaganda ministry instead of using its $190 million annual travel budget to investigate China’s watered-down claims for itself? Why did it take so long to call a pandemic? One assumes that pandering to its future is the way to keep the gravy train going, even if it unnecessarily costs countless lives.

What do all these surplus to requirement staff across UN bodies actually do for all the extra money lobbed at them?

UNICEF has more than trebled its workforce since 2000. Over 1/3rd of its $6.7bn income in 2018 was spent on “cash assistance.” If cash transfers are the largest expense line, should we just settle for the notion that we need 3x the number of staff to administer it? Most of this cash is distributed to countries that rank amongst the worst in terms of corruption. The audited accounts talk about fraud mitigation strategies. That makes sense when only $438,000 is detected and $15,000 recovered on $2.3 billion of cash assistance. At 0.02% of funds misappropriated, any major bank would blush with performance figures like that.

To get a grasp of how children move onto their own welfare teat, the UNFCCC, aka the climate change cult, had a $99m budget in 2018 to feed 738 mouths. When it was spun out of the parent UN in 2011/2012 it had a $30m budget across 461 staff. For 2020-21, the UNFCCC is looking for $177 million. Within that, $31.2 million is set aside for “complementary activities broadly mandated as beneficial to achieving UNFCCC objectives and goals.” Another $21 million for IT and data. Of course, it requires $36.3 million in “oversight and administration

Governance and oversight have never been a strong suit at the UN. UNAIDS gave us a perfect example of how sacred cows are protected by the parent.

Independent experts concluded that UN AIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé,  had been responsible for creating a toxic environment that promoted “favouritism, preferment and ethical blindness.” Sidibé accepted no responsibility for any sexual harassment, bullying or abuse of power that occurred under his watch.

The investigation started after Sidibé’s deputy was accused of forcibly kissing, groping and trying to drag a colleague into his Bangkok hotel room in 2015.

In a survey of the 670 staff members at the UN agency conducted by independent investigators, 18 admitted they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous year and a further 201 said they were on the wrong end of workplace abuse.

One staff member went on the record saying, “U.N.AIDS is like a predators’ prey ground…You have access to all sorts of people, especially the vulnerable: You can use promises of jobs, contracts and all sorts of opportunities and abuse your power to get whatever you want, especially in terms of sexual favours. I have seen senior colleagues dating local young interns or using U.N.AIDS resources to access sex workers.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who made it clear he had a zero-tolerance policy with regards to sexual harassment when he took office,  refused to fire him. Despite his term ending in January 2020, Sidibé has offered to quit in June 2019 in order to ensure a stable transition period! In what world does a person outed for turning a blind eye to such a poisonous culture get to leave on his own terms?

Perhaps the economic devastation that will result from coronavirus will be the perfect excuse for countries to drastically wind back payments to these UN bodies. There appears overwhelming evidence that more money doesn’t always buy better outcomes much less lift ethical behaviour. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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