Clark reappointed

April 13th, 2013 at 2:58 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has been appointed for a another term in her role at the United Nations.

Miss Clark was first appointed as the UN Development Programme Administrator in 2009.

She said it had been an “honour and a privilege” to serve in the role for the past four years.

“I thank the Member States of the United Nations General Assembly and the Secretary-General for their confidence in me to lead the organisation for another term,” she said.

Four years goes quickly.

The position has a tax free US$450,730 salary and US$240,000 housing subsidy which is a total package of US$690,000 tax free. That is NZ$803,500 net which is equal to NZ$1.19 million gross. A lot better than being PM! I suspect she’s still like her old job back though.

Her new term will expire in April 2017.

UNDP slated by its own board

January 16th, 2013 at 8:43 am by David Farrar

Michael Field at Stuff reports:

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty. The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review. US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.  But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011.

Anyone who knows the UN won’t be totally surprised by this critique. What is surprising is that it comes from the UNDP’s own executive board, which suggests major discontent internally.

A longer story is at Fox News, along with the full report and the management response.

Bottom line: after spending more than $8.5 billion on anti-poverty activities between 2004 and 2011—and just how much more is something of a mystery– UNDP has only “limited ability…to demonstrate whether its poverty reduction activities have contributed to any significant change in the lives of the people it is trying to help.”

Those devastating conclusions come in a densely worded, official “evaluation of UNDP contribution to poverty reduction,” which will be presented to the agency’s 36-nation supervisory board at its next meeting, which begins on January 28 in New York.

Among other things, the document casts significant doubt on the extent to which UNDP is actually living up to its declared identity as “the United Nations anti-poverty organization—a world partnership against poverty,” a claim the report says was made by UNDP’s then-chief—James Gustave Speth—in 1995.

Moreover, it lays a significant part of the blame for that failing on the way that UNDP has spread itself across a growing range of activities in the name of promoting “development” –from environmental projects to trade promotion and border management—that “dilute” its anti-poverty effort.

The normal problem of bureaucratic empire growing rather than focusing on actually achieving things.

I love the buzz words in the management response:

Towards the goal of transformational change in the context of poverty reduction, the UNDP theory of change represents a holistic, pragmatic and consistent approach that impacts the lives of people, particularly the most vulnerable. The theory of change presents an end-result of an empowered, resilient and equitable society. 

UNDP must be stuffed full of management consultants!


July 18th, 2012 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has reacted with shock that a business award she gave was to India’s top tobacco company.

Clark, who is now head of the United Nations Development Agency, presented India’s largest cigarette maker, ITC (formerly Indian Tobacco Company) with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) highest prize for improving the environment and removing poverty.

This drew an angry reaction from a leading Indian health advocate who termed it a travesty of justice.

In New York, UN watcher Inner City Press asked Clark to explain her award.

She replied with a written statement.

“I have worked tirelessly throughout my career to achieve a smoke free society in New Zealand, and was, thus, shocked to learn that a World Business Development Award, supported by UNDP, was given to a company which derives a substantial proportion of its profits from tobacco,” she said.

“Unfortunately the criteria for the World Business Development Awards did not exclude projects implemented by companies from certain sectors like tobacco. This has clearly been a serious oversight. “

Clark said UNDP would review its rules and regulations and ensure than an incident like it never happens.

“UNDP will not participate in these awards in the future unless companies like this are excluded,” Clark said.

Heh, I’d love to have seen the reaction when Helen found out. Rather unbelievable that you can present a major global prize to a company and not know what they do. A two minute check of their website or even Wikipedia would have found this out.

Anyway isn’t it a good thing a tobacco company is improving the environment and reducing poverty. While tobacco is a legal product (as it is in every country on earth), we will have tobacco companies – and isn’t it better they be encouraged to do good things such as reduce poverty and improve the environment?

One index to rule them all

July 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Philip Booth blogs at the IEA:

The UNDP held a forum this week entitled: ‘Beyond GDP: Measuring the Future We Want’. What they actually mean, of course, is ‘measuring the future the UN wants’. The best way to ensure that we get the future we (the people) want is to have a free market, governed under the rule of law, with good protection for property rights (including, where appropriate, property rights for environmental goods). The seven billion people in the world all want a rather different future from each other. We can only achieve those different aspirations if we are free.

That is not to say that an argument cannot be made for the subsidisation of, for example, education and health care for the poor and for other forms of assistance through government. However, the success of the human race as a whole cannot and should not be measured by some kind of unified aggregate index.

Specifically, Helen Clark has proposed that the UN develop an index that combines: ‘Equity, dignity, happiness, sustainability’ arguing that ‘these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP.’ Just because something is fundamental to our lives does not mean that we need to measure it and combine it with other variables into a single index measure. Relationships are fundamental to our lives, but do we need to measure the success of the relationships of seven billion people and combine that measure with other data into some kind of aggregate index? Indeed, it is interesting that the best conditions for GDP growth in the history of the UK were created before we even started measuring GDP.

It is just about possible, nevertheless, to make a coherent case for measuring GDP. GDP does, at least, make a reasonably rigorous allowance for trade-offs that different people make in their everyday lives. If I give up £1 worth of apples to buy £1 worth of oranges and Mark Littlewood does the opposite, it can (within certain bounds of reasonableness) be said that we both have £1 of utility from the transaction. Austrian arguments can certainly be made regarding the undesirability of aggregating data and the fact that all transactions involve consumer surplus, but there is some reasonableness and consistency there.

We can also look at other statistics such as working hours, travel time, leisure time, carbon footprint (if it is thought necessary), and so on, to obtain a more comprehensive picture if we wish. However, once we try to produce an aggregate index of everything that is important, the index will lose all meaning. How can we trade off a small increase in reported happiness for somebody in Zambia for an extra £500 a year of national income per head in New Zealand? How can we trade off a tiny change in the Gini coefficient in Rwanda with a small change in the stability of marriages in India, and so on? These things have completely different values to different people.

Even trying to track one of these datasets is problematic. As the IEA’s monographs on happiness economics showed, well-being measures are suspect. There is no clear indication of a relationship between reported well-being and almost any other reasonable indicator of social progress.

Overall, we have the biggest folly imaginable: the body that some would desire to be a world government attempting to measure in a single index number everything that matters to everybody.

GDP does record economic activity only, and that is not everything – absolutely. But trying to come up with one master index will never work, because as the IEA states, we all value different things.

Media criticises Clark for lack of openess

October 20th, 2009 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

There was a fascinating radio interview at 7.40 am on National Radio today. It was from a specialist newspaper that reports on the UN, and complaining about the refusal of Helen Clark to do press conferences, how Clark and Heather Simpson try to handpick journalists for interviews and a general lack of accountability.

You can listen to the interview here.

It sounds like the UN media is less compliant than some of the NZ media has been. Some extracts from the interview with Matthew Lee the founder and editor of the Inner City Press that focuses on the UN:

In the six months she has been in office there have been a number of UNDP issues that have arisen and repeatedly, I would say half a dozen times, myself and other journalist have asked that she comes and do a press conference, an actual Q&A and take questions and it is yet to happen.

He points out she is the third most senior official at the UN, and not a single press conference in six months.

It has become somewhat striking, a total failure to answer questions about the agency as they arise. … Once requests were made for Helen Clark to do a press conference there were a flurry of calls from her two spokespeople at the UNDP to specific media outlets saying do you want a one on one. One of them responded and said Okay here’s the journalist who will do it. But UNDP responded No No we prefer this other journalist who works for you. That’s a degree of micro-management of press coverage that is almost unheard of in the UN.

But very familiar to people back in New Zealand. And many in the media went along with it, or they risked losing access.

If she is the third highest official in the UN, she needs to come and take questions because everyone else does. The Secretary-General does it on a monthly basis, the head of peacekeeping every two weeks.

Almost funny that Helen’s managed to actually lower the standards at the UN!

He also goes on to say how the only briefing anyone in the UNDP has given for some months has been about relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.

Geoff Robinson: Are you the only journalist, is yours the only organisation raising this as an issue?

Lee: No, No … In July an issue arose about a hiring, a kind of nepotism hiring took place in UNDP. Inner City Press had the exclusive but after that it was covered by the Times of London, Reuters and even newspapers in Italy. All four of these publications wanted answers from UNDP and none of them got them. I sent e-mails to her long time staffer, Heather Simpson, to make sure we got her answer as to why this nepotism scandal was not a problem. There was never any response at all.

Heather’s job is to block media, not facilitate them!

But here is what is really interesting. All the media listen to Morning Report. Yet this quite stunning and significant interview has not been reported anywhere else at all!

UNDP Watch

August 13th, 2009 at 11:25 am by David Farrar

A few Kiwis will become regular readers of this blog – UNDP Watch.

I only discovered it after it linked to a profile I did of Helen Clark a few months back.

The blog is not run by the vast right wing conspiracy, but by a group of UN staffers who are critical of the UNDP for its lack of transparency.

Clark gets UNDP Administrator job

March 25th, 2009 at 10:24 am by David Farrar

The well informed Trans-Tasman has just told subscribers that Helen Clark has been appointed Administrator of the United Nationals Development Programme. The role, is the third most senior at the UN, and needs to be confirmed by the UN General Assembly.

Kiwiblog broke the news on 7 February that Clark was seeking the job, and that the NZ Government was backing her for it.

Congratulations go to Helen Clark for gaining the job. As I blogged back on 7 February I do think she will do a good job, and on balance supported her candidacy – not without reservations of course. And the fact she was successful does show she is highly respected for the contribution she can make to development issues.

Kudos should go to John Key and Murray McCully for their strong backing of Clark, and putting the NZ Government in full support of her bid. It is in New Zealand’s interest to have a NZer in the third most important role there and they look good for putting party politics to one side. Despite the many imperfections of the UN, we are better for its existence (parts of it could go though).

Incidentally I ran into Clark last night in the basement of the Beehive and noted to a Nat MP afterwards that she was looking pretty happy. I had heard a few days that she was the likely successful candidate, but not that she ws home and hosed.

Phil Goff should also be pleased. Once Helen leaves the country he may manage to make second place in the Preferred PM polls 🙂

Clark shortlisted for UNDP job

February 24th, 2009 at 11:37 am by David Farrar

As expected, Helen Clark has made the shortlist for the UNDP Adminstrator job. NZPA reports she is now in New York for an interview with the UN Secretary-General.

Hard to know her chances, as it depends of course on who ther other candidates are. Also whom influential countries like the US support.

Moore backs Clark for UN post

February 9th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Mike Moore has said he thinks Helen Clark is the best candidate for the UNDP Administrator job, and has been lobbying on her behalf. He thinks she has a strong chance to win, rating her ahead of the unanmed other candidates.

Helen’s new job?

February 7th, 2009 at 2:25 pm by David Farrar

I have heard from a highly reliable source that at the recent Pacific Islands Forum, support was canvassed by the NZ Government for a candidacy by Helen Clark to take up the post of Administrator of the UN Development Programme.

A few weeks ago on 12 January 2009, the UN Secretary-General announced that the current Administrator, Kemal Dervis, was retiring. His four year term ends on 15 August 2009.

The role is a very very senior one at the United Nations. It is basically third only to the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General. They chair the UN Development Group, which is a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments dealing with development issues. This is as big as it gets basically.

My initial source is not anyone within Government or Parliament, or anyone associated with them – I am happy to sign an affidavit to that. I have spies everywhere 🙂 As the story is potentially quite significant I e-mailed the PM’s Chief Press Secretary with the guts of what I had learnt, and asked if they could comment on its accuracy. They have declined to comment which suggests to me it is not without substance.

The role is not elected at large, but appointed by the Secretary-General, and confirmed by the General Assembly. So one does need to have good consensus behind the appointment – however it is not a lobbying game to the same extent say the WTO Director-General was.

Helen will not be the only candidate. It is likely there will be a couple of candidates from within the UN bureaucracy – development and aid specialists. So it will be a choice between a candidate with political leadership experience vs candidates with fulltime development backgrounds. While the decision is the Secretary-General’s, Barack Obama’s support will be influential as the UN wants to build ties with the new administration. All bar the last two UNDP Administrators have been Americans.

The annual budget of the UNDP is close to US$5 billion and they work in 166 countries. This is arguably the most senior job one could expect Helen to obtain as the UN Secretary-General job is done by rotation amongst the regions.

So what’s my reaction to the candidacy, if it is in play? I think it goes without saying that I have not been Helen’s biggest fan. It doesn’t concern me that she led a Government whose policies I disagreed with. Talent doesn’t come from just one side of the political spectrum. And I have generally regarded Clark as an able political administrator – as have most of the public.

But I do have some concerns. To me the pre 2005 Helen Clark is different to the post 2005 Clark. I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along the way Helen seemed to lose her previously reliable judgement. From 2005 to 2008 she made the wrong call on almost every big issue such as the deliberate over-spending, the initial refusal to pay back the pledge card costs, the inquiry into Taito Philip Field, the Benson-Pope sagas, the Electoral Finance Act, the “trust” campaign against John Key and most of all her continual defence of Winston that defied comprehension. I saw a disturbing commitment to the ends justify the means, which is a slippery slope.

So if the last three years had never happened, I would say supporting the candidacy would be a no brainer.  I feel much more conflicted after the last three years, but then I look at the particulars of the position:

  • Helen has a lifetime of experience and passion on “development” issues and would bring that to the job. If it was IMF Managing Director I’d be worried 🙂
  • She has a formidable international network that would be of great benefit in the job
  • As a former Prime Minister she would bring considerable status to the role, making it easier to get in the door with donor nations
  • New Zealand has a very proud history of doing our part, despite our small economy, with development issues and the opportunity to have a New Zealander heading up the UNDP is a once in a lifetime chance.

So I conclude that just as we supported Mike Moore, Denis Marshall, SImon Upton and Don McKinnon to international jobs, we should also support the candidacy of Helen Elizabeth Clark to the position of Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. There is a time to put partisan politics behind us.

I am sure there will be plenty of people agreeing and disagreeing in the comments! For those who think I have lost my marbles, well then consider that Angelina Jolie is is a UNDP Global Ambassador, so if Helen gets the top job that increases the chances Angelina may visit New Zealand 🙂