Project Management

Publishing

Wednesday
May232018

War, Peace and Development | May 2018


Preface

It could be said the world and the global order both stand at a crossroads. Countries have never been so connected as they are today because of the communications revolution that began in the 1990s. The trade linkages brought about by the most recent phase of globalization (post-1980s) have dramatically increased prosperity for some regions and countries, China being the most obvious example. But, as we are reminded on a daily basis, the environment is stressed, with species depletion and pollution being the more obvious signs of this stress. And war and civil strife are still with us.

In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 15 years after it had launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Both sets of goals attempt to benchmark progress on improvements to human well-being and to give countries and the international community a road-map to what is most important. The eight MDGs have been followed up with 17 SDGs (and many views on how effective such a strategy really is). It seemed as good a time as ever to reflect on what role I have played in this period, as well as to look forward to what will happen over the next 12 years (2030).    

The Quotes

"The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members."

“We must build a new world – a far better world – one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected.” 

US President Harry S. Truman

"Today continuing poverty and distress are a deeper and more important cause of international tensions, of the conditions that can produce war, than previously."

"The stark and inescapable fact is that today we cannot defend our society by war since total war is total destruction, and if war is used as an instrument of policy, eventually we will have total war."

"The grim fact is that we prepare for war like precocious giants, and for peace like retarded pygmies."

 

Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson

"A shift is necessary toward lifestyles less geared to environmentally-damaging consumption patterns."

"We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse."

Maurice F. Strong, Former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations; Founder of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 

"a super-crate, to ship a fiasco to hell"

"a sinister emblem for world power"

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright 

 

The First Development Phase 

 

From its founding, the United Nations was constructed around the highest human aspirations after two devastating World Wars, while also drawing fire from its critics and skeptics (American architect Frank Lloyd Wright being one of the more biting).

In January 1949, US President Harry Truman set forth a challenge for the remainder of the 20th Century. The wealthy nations must aid the poorer ones to become wealthier and more democratic: in short, to become like the United States (Starke 2001: 143). The means of accomplishing this was to be international development, and its tool, foreign aid. 

Development as defined by President Truman at the start of the first international development period of the 20th century meant “nothing less than freeing a people from want, war, and tyranny, a definition it is hard to improve on even today (Starke 2000: 153).”

I grew up in the Canada of the 1970s and 1980s. For most of that time, the charismatic and internationally-minded Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was in power. Canada's profile and role in the United Nations and international development was high at this time, in particular in 'peacekeeping' missions. 

Peacekeeping holds a special place for Canadians. An innovative initiative from then-Ambassador to the United Nations and later Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the 1950s (he received the Nobel Peace Prize for it), Canada has since had a long history with peacekeeping missions.

When I served with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve in the early 1980s, we trained not only for war with our Cold War foe the Soviet Union, but also for peacekeeping missions. In fact I nearly went on one if not for my acceptance to study at the University of Toronto in 1985. Otherwise, I would have been off on a peacekeeping mission that year.  

This phase of international development and the United Nations was framed by the Cold War and its tensions and limits: the world divided between opposing ideologies and economic systems and travel between these two worlds (Communism versus free markets and democracy) was severely restricted. 

And when I graduated in 1989 from the University of Toronto, all this fell apart very quickly. The First Phase of International Development had come to a swift end. 

Above: Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chretien and Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Photographed 4 April 1967. Source: Digital Library of Canada. Below: David South photographed at Hillcrest High School, Ottawa, Canada, 1985.

The Second Development Phase

In 1997, I was hired to head the communications office for the UN/UNDP Mongolia mission. It was a pivotal time in international development. With the forces of 'globalization' unleashed (and China's rapid rise already well underway), the UN was clearly also in a period of great change and stress. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and its trading system (Comecon), pitched former Communist countries into severe crisis. Comecon locked-in Soviet Union satellite allied nations (including Mongolia) into a reciprocal arrangement of trade links and subsidies. The Mongolia I arrived in in 1997 was a country in turmoil. Poverty was widespread, food was difficult to get, unemployment was very high, families were falling apart under the stress of the crisis, and people's health was poor, with very high rates of alcoholism and STDs. 

This second phase of international development can be characterized by the international response to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the adjustment to the rapid changes brought about by the forces of globalization. The communications revolution was getting underway at this time as the Internet began to arrive, even in Mongolia, which had been cut-off from full relations with the Western world during the period of Communism. Mobile (cell) phones were around but still a luxury item used by wealthy businessmen or senior government officials. International aid and development was primarily in the domain of large international institutions and bilateral donors. 

UN/UNDP Mongolia played an important role in helping to stabilize Mongolia during the late 1990s and to put in place the foundations for recovery from crisis (called "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever" at the time). Mongolia eventually, briefly, became the fastest growing economy in the world by the second decade of the 21st century.

In the 1990s, the UN was being challenged to think and do things differently and to respond to the communications revolution. This presented a great opportunity to use the Internet and computing to communicate in new ways; to innovate and experiment. Despite its crisis, Mongolia was able to embrace these new ways and was called a "role model" for the wider United Nations by 1999 (the end of my assignment in Mongolia).   

United Nations identity card circa 1997.

UN head of communications for Mongolia, David South (seated front row centre), 1997-1999.

The Third Development Phase

With the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, it could be argued, a third development phase had begun. The turn of the century was also during the so-called 'Dotcom Bubble' when investment in the Internet economy was peaking, and China was on the cusp of being accepted into the WTO (World Trade Organization) and getting set for another period of rapid expansion and growth. Both phenomenon were fueling greater trade and connectivity, especially between the countries of the so-called "global South". 

The MDGs were an attempt to guide and focus development at the international and national level by setting forth eight goals as a challenge. But, just as these internationally agreed goals were being rolled out, something was quietly happening away from New York. In China, it was clear the country had done something truly remarkable: following its own development goals and plans, China lifted the largest number of people in human history out of poverty in the shortest space of time. Those who are students of history will know how stunning an accomplishment this is: China was once a country held up as a poster child for poverty, political instability, frequent famines, human misery and global isolation. China had been the country featured in the charity and famine appeals pleading for relief and aid, just as the countries in Africa and Southeast Asia were to become.

China's growing export power was also powering globalization. And liberalized trade was powering growth for many countries in Asia and Latin America. This increasing export trade and global connectivity was creating new wealth for many countries and growing the middle classes of the so-called 'global South'. At the same time, the Internet revolution was being joined by the mobile technologies revolution. These communications tools were making it possible to connect with people who had been frozen out of global markets, while simultaneously creating whole new digital economies employing people and creating new wealth.

Beginning in late 2006 after working around the world in various UN missions on assignments related to the MDGs, I began an exciting new opportunity with the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation - UNOSSC).   

From 9-11 December 2017, I participated in the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hosted by the a2i (access to information) division of the Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Office, the implementing unit for Digital Bangladesh, it was convened by the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). Senior Partner David South is third from the left on the panel. Photo: Yoko Shimura

21 Years of Creating International Change | 1997 - 2018

Timeline

Early to Mid-1990s: Covering the United Nations as a Journalist. Stories included the Canadian peacekeeping mission in Somalia, debates over the response to the conflict in the Balkans, and what constitutes appropriate food aid. In 1993 I covered the World Health Organization's Canada-wide roll-out of the Healthy Cities initiative in the feature Taking Medicine to the People: Four Innovators in Community Health for Canadian Living magazine. In 1996 I covered, from Port-au-Prince, the Canadian UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti for Id Magazine

1997: Begin a two-year assignment as head of communications for the UN/UNDP Mongolia mission (1997-1999). Called "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever", I was thrown into the deep end as part of the UN's efforts to rescue Mongolia from this severe crisis. I established the award-winning UN/UNDP Mongolia Communications Office (a high-profile and lively hub staffed by media professionals) and quickly developed and launched the award-winning UN Mongolia Development Portal (www.un-mongolia.mn) (called a "role model" for the United Nations). I developed and launched the mission's first newsletter, Blue Sky Bulletin, as well as the first Mongolian Human Development Report, the Mongolian AIDS Bulletin, the UN's and Mongolia's first online magazine, Ger, while overseeing the country's largest bilingual online and offline publishing operation. In Starting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition, I document the challenge to re-start Mongolia's data collection after it was wiped off the mainframe computers that once stored it during the Communist period (a cautionary tale for our times if there ever was one!). In Freedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media in Mongolia, I give an account of a workshop for Mongolian journalists keen to learn more about the discipline of investigative journalism and how important it is in a democracy. In Partnership for Progress: UNDP in Mongolia, I painted a picture of Mongolia's country conditions in 1997, what was at stake, and how the UN was responding.   

1998: Develop and launch Mongolia's first web magazine, Ger. Lead two international media tours of the country, one in 1997 (Scandinavian media), and the other in 1998 (women journalists). Many stories were generated from the two international media tours and were compiled in books published by UNDP, including  In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9). Read an example story here: The Milk of Kindness Flows in a Peculiar Land A Steppe From Nowhere by Leslie Chang (The Asian Wall Street Journal, 15 August 1998). 

1999: Publish many books on Mongolia's development, including In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9) and the Mongolian rock and pop book (ISBN  99929-5-018-8). Whilst working for a UK-based international development consultancy, I prepared papers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID), for various UN agencies including UNCTAD and UNAIDS, and coordinated the preparation of the report and launch strategy for the World Bank's Task Force on Higher Education.    

2000: My work in Mongolia is covered and cited in various books published after 1999, including Wild East: Travels in the New Mongolia by Jill Lawless (ISBN 97814-5-964-5783), Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists by Morris Rossabi (ISBN 9780-5-209-38625), and Dateline Mongolia: An American Journalist in Nomad's Land by Michael Kohn (ISBN 9781-5-7143-1554)Ukraine. Work on the strategic re-launch of the UN Ukraine web portal and advise on the communications strategy for the UN Resident Coordinator. This is also the year in which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were launched and the new development portal reflected this in its structure and content. 

2001: Begin work on the development of the award-winning GOSH Child Health Portal for the National Health Service (NHS). As part of the NHS' Modernisation Plan, it was called a "role model" for the NHS and one of the “three most admired websites in the UK public and voluntary sectors,” and was developed and launched under heavy public and media scrutiny. Each stage of the Portal's development would coincide with a high-profile media launch. For example, the Hospital's 150th birthday celebrations included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and pop star Madonna.  

2002/2003: Win the Childnet Award in 2003 for the Children First website. 

2004: South Africa. Work at the University of Pretoria for UN South Africa on a digital communications and marketing strategy for a youth volunteer organization.  

2005: Turkmenistan and Mongolia. Work for UN missions on an MDGs communications strategy and on the country programme review. 

2006: Turkmenistan. Work for UNICEF. Begin working for the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC) in New York

2007: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC).

2008: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC).

2009: Research and write UN e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC).

2010: Begin development of the new global magazine Southern Innovator with the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and a design team in Iceland led by Solveig Rolfsdottir. Develop and launch the new branding for David South Consulting and its website, davidsouthconsulting.com, all designed by one of Iceland's top graphic designers and illustrators, Solveig Rolfsdottir. 

2011: Launch the first issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Rome, Italy. 

2012: Launch second and third issues of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Vienna, Austria.

2013: Launch fourth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Nairobi, Kenya.  

2014: Launch fifth issue of Southern Innovator Magazine at the GSSD Expo in Washington, D.C. U.S.A. 

2015: Develop scale-up plan for Southern Innovator Magazine.

After the arrests in 2015 related to the unfolding UN Bribery Scandal (read more on this here: The Strange Saga of "South-South News"), the budget for the UNOSSC was suspended pending the outcome of two internal audits conducted by the United Nations (Statement Concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation). The second audit can be found online here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/307245166/OIOS-Audit-of-Ng-South-South-News-OIOS-Cut-Out-Ban-Photo-Op-with-Ng-at-UNCA-Ball.

UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) had the following to say about the UNOSSC's senior management up to 2015 under the Directorship of United Nations Envoy for South-South Cooperation, Yiping Zhou, calling it "unsatisfactory":

"The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is an independent entity created by the General Assembly in 1974, General Assembly resolution 3251(XXIX), to support cooperation among developing countries.

UNOSSC receives its mandate and policy framework from General Assembly decisions and resolutions. UNOSSC also serves as the Secretariat of the High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation, a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.

UNOSSC is hosted by UNDP and, as is the case with similar entities, is expected to follow UNDP rules and regulations, including those pertaining to financial and HR management. UNOSSC is likewise subject to UNDP’s oversight and due diligence instruments.

UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’.

The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations." Excerpt from Statement (5 May 2016)

The retirement in 2016 of Southern Innovator's Editor-in-Chief, Cosmas Gitta, meant the magazine lost its strongest advocate within the UNOSSC and thus was not included in the next budget post-audits. 

The US investigations by the F.B.I. leading to arrests and subsequent court trials from 2015 onwards, were joined by Australian authorities in 2018. These revelations and confessions paint a picture of a high-level, multinational criminal conspiracy to launder money and pay bribes at the United Nations that also included the collusion and aid of various senior UN officials at the time. Not only do these revelations offer new context to Southern Innovator's attempts to gain future support from the UNOSSC, they explain why Southern Innovator faced extensive obstruction, deception and unethical and unprofessional behaviour during this time, despite the documented success of the magazine and its associated e-newsletter to reach and inspire readers, and shape UN strategic policy on innovation (Strategic framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperatio, 2014-2017).   

2016: Many books have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and Southern Innovator Magazine. They include: Beyond Gated Communities edited by Samar Bagaeen and Ola Uduku (Routledge: 2015), Chile in Transition: Prospects and Challenges for Latin America's Forerunner of Development by Roland Benedikter and Katja Siepmann (Springer: 2015), Export Now: Five Keys to Entering New Markets by Frank Lavin and Peter Cohan (John Wiley & Sons: 2011), Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina and João Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing: 2016), New Directions in Children's and Adolescents' Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014), A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants by Toni Schofield (Cambridge University Press: 2015). 

Many papers have been published citing stories from the e-newsletter and the magazine. They include: Afro-futurism and the aesthetics of hope in Bekolo's Les Saignantes and Kahiu's Pumzi by Mich Nyawalo, Journal of the African Literature Association, Volume 10, 2016, Issue 2, Autonomous Systems in the Intelligence Community: Many Possibilities and Challenges by Jenny R. Holzer, PhD, and Franklin L. Moses, PhD, Studies in Intelligence Vol 59, No. 1 (Extracts, March 2015), Decoding the Brand DNA: A Design Methodology Applied to Favela Fashion by Magali Olhats, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Florianopolis, 2012, Edible Insects and the Future of Food: A Foresight Scenario Exercise on Entomophagy and Global Food Security by Dominic Glover and Alexandra Sexton, Institute of Development Studies, King’s College London, Evidence Report No 149, September 2015, Evaluation of Kenyan Film Industry: Historical Perspective by Edwin Ngure Nyutho, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nairobi, 2015, Evaluation of the Regional Programme for Africa (2008-2013), UNDP Independent Evaluation Office, 2013, High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation Seventeenth Session: Framework of operational guidelines on United Nations support to South-South and triangular cooperation: Note by the Secretary-General, 22-25 May 2012, New York, The New Middle Class and Urban Transformation in Africa: A Case Study of Accra, Ghana by Komiete Tetteh, The University of British Colombia, 2016, Propagating Gender Struggles Through Nollywood: Towards a Transformative Approach by Nita Byack George Iruobe, Geonita Initiative for Women and Child Development, 17 July 2015, Reberberation: Musicians and the Mobilization of Tradition in the Berber Culture Movement by TMG Wiedenkenner et al, The University of Arizona,  2013, Recasting ‘truisms’ of low carbon technology cooperation through innovation systems: insights from the developing world by Alexandra Mallett, Innovation and Development, 5:2, 297-311, DOI: 10.1080/2157930X.2015.1049851, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015, "Slam the Slums": Understanding architecture through the poor by Malini Foobalan, November 26th, 2009, Song Lines: Mapping the South African Live Performance Landscape: Report of the CSA 2013 Live Mapping Project Compiled by Concerts South Africa, Samro Foundation, 2013, Strategic Framework of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, 2014-2017Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Office for Project Services, 27 to 31 January 2014, New York, Wearing Your Map on Your Sleeve: Practices of Identification in the Creation and Consumption of Philippine Map T-shirts by Pamela Gloria Cajilig, paper presented at the 6th Global Conference (2014): Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom, 15th to 18th September 2014,  Young Girls' Affective Responses to Access and Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Information-Poor Societies by Dania Bilal et al, New Directions in Children's and Adolescents' Information Behavior Research, Library and Information Science, Volume 10, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014, Youth Empowered as Catalysts for Sustainable Human Development: UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017United Nations Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy.

2017: Invited to speak at the Workshop on Innovations in Service Delivery: The Scope for South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

2018: 

Stories

Aid Organization Gives Overseas Hungry Diet Food: Diet Giant Slim-Fast Gets Tax Write-off for Donating Products

Somali Killings Reveal Ugly Side of Elite Regiment

Does the UN Know What it's Doing?

State of Decay: Haiti Turns to Free-Market Economics and the UN to Save Itself

Opinion: Canada is Allowing U.S. to Dictate Haiti's Renewal: More News and Opinion on What the UN Soldiers Call the "Haitian Vacation"

Starting from Scratch: The Challenge of Transition

Philippine Conference Tackles Asia's AIDS Crisis

Lamas Against AIDS

UN Contest Winner in "State of Total Bliss"

A UNDP Success Story: Grassroots Environmental Campaign Mobilizes Thousands in Mongolia

Freedom of Expression: Introducing Investigative Journalism to Local Media

Traffic Signs Bring Safety to the Streets

Eco-cities Up Close

Smart Cities Up Close

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2007

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2008

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2009

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2010

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2011

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2012

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2013

Stories: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions | 2014 

Books + Publications

A Steppe Back?: Economic Liberalisation and Poverty Reduction in Mongolia

Blue Sky Bulletin Newsletter UNDP Mongolia | 1997-1999

Human Development Report Mongolia 1997

In The Interests of the Exploited?: The Role of Development Pressure Groups in the UK

In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 

Innovations in Green Economy: Top Three Agenda

Lima to Delhi: What Can Be Learned on Urban Resilience?

Mongolia Update - Coverage of 1998 Political Changes

Mongolian AIDS Bulletin 

A Partnership for Progress: UNDP in Mongolia 1997

Pax Chaotica: A Re-evaluation of Post-WWII Economic and Political Order

The Sweet Smell of Failure: The World Bank and the Persistence of Poverty

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 3: Agribusiness and Food Security

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization

Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 5: Waste and Recycling 

Southern Innovator and the Growing Global Innovation Culture: Background Paper 

South-South Cooperation for Cities in Asia

UNDP in Mongolia: The Guide | 1997-1999

UNDP Travelling Seminar: Environment and Development | Mongolia 1998

What is the Next Agenda for the Next 21 Years?: The Fourth Development Phase?

© David South Consulting 2018 

Wednesday
May022018

Investigative Journalism: Haiti Assignment | 1996

Former colleague from Canada's Id Magazine, photographer Phillip Smith (now an epic web guru/Digital Product Developer based in Palo Alto, California), was going through his archive of photo journalism and dug up the following two photographs from our Haiti assignment in 1996. The stories from that assignment can be read here: http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/stories/2015/6/12/state-of-decay-haiti-turns-to-free-market-economics-and-the.html

Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti for Id Magazine in 1996.
© David South Consulting 2018 
Tuesday
May012018

Billy Bragg at Bank of England | 19 April 2018

On 19 April I had the pleasure of (briefly) meeting legendary musician Billy Bragg as he addressed the One Bank Flagship Seminar at the Bank of England, located in the financial heart of London's City, a centre of the world's economy. The topic of his seminar was accountability in the 21st century and you can read the transcript here: https://braggiesblog.wordpress.com

Or watch the livestream here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=r6zGgR-PeO4

It was an unusual step for the Bank to take (having a popular musician address the men and women of London's financial sector) and seems to indicate a desire to open up to the outside world the inner workings of this powerful and historic financial institution (founded in 1694). Read more about the Bank of England's history here: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/about/history

Billy Bragg speaks with youth at the Bank of England.

© David South Consulting 2018
Sunday
Mar042018

The Strange Saga of "South-South News" | May 2018

"We will be asking: is bribery business as usual at the UN?", US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

"If proven, today's charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.", US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

"Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.", Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018

"It is important to send a message, to the people at the UN itself and to other institutions in this country, that perverting the decision-making or attempting to pervert the decision-making through bribes will not be tolerated.", US District Judge Vernon Broderick, May 2018

"South-South staff found him to be 'humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,' said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau." The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

It is a story that has it all: the gambling sin-bin of Macau, human and sex trafficking, bribery, corruption, money laundering, spies, and, if they are to be believed, naive UN officials hiding behind their laissez-passer passports who knew nothing about all of this but were happy to take the money for a five-star conference and a trip to China (and a free iPad). How the UN ended up in this quagmire leaves many puzzled and perplexed. Then there is a so-called "21st century" media service that really is a "conduit" for bribery and money laundering (and possibly fake news), and who to this day is still reporting from the United Nations. 

May 2018 saw the ending of one chapter in the ongoing corruption saga surrounding the executives of South-South News and their alleged bribery and money laundering conduit targeting the United Nations (UN). On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being the ring leader of an elaborate, multi-year, multinational scheme to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States.

On 28 February 2018 Jeff Yin received a seven-month prison sentence related to the corruption scandal that first erupted in September 2015, with the arrests in New York (home of the UN's global headquarters) of his boss, Macau casino owner and businessman Ng Lap Seng and assistant, Yin, by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Foreign Policy called the case one of "The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015". Read the US Justice Department Docket here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng-and-jeff-c-yin.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, Preet Bharara, released a flowchart  showing how the alleged bribery scheme targetting the United Nations worked. A series of court trials followed for the various co-conspirators, including senior executives and board members for South-South News, culminating in the 27 July 2017 conviction of the alleged ring leader of the scheme, Macau casino billionaire Ng Lap Seng, on six counts "for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo". He used the news service South-South News as a "conduit for bribery and money laundering" at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by various co-conspirators in court and under oath.

"South-South staff found him to be 'humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,' said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau." The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

Background

The "21st century" media service South-South News (which still exists) was founded in 2010 by Ng Lap Seng and Ambassador Francis Lorenzo with US $12 million. According to the FBI, Seng did this with the objective of bribing UN officials, laundering money into the United States - bringing US $4.5 million into the US in cash over a period of two years - and lobbying for the building of a new UN facility in Macau for the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) - a "Geneva of Asia". The new facility would cost US $3 billion and be built by Ng Lap Seng's construction company.

Macau has been called by a former UN official in charge of the organisation's anti-human trafficking work a world centre of modern human slave trafficking. Ng Lap Seng, in a 2010 assessment by International Risk Ltd., was found to be "characterized in the media as a 'Macau Crime Lord' and kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade".   

Ng Lap Seng's Sun Kian Ip Group was barred from the UN's Global Compact, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Seng was flagged up as a person not to do business with, including by Interpol. Despite this track record and multiple warning signs, both South-South News and the United Nations took money from Ng Lap Seng. The UN has clear rules regarding due diligence for income sources and has rules against bribery, corruption and human and sex trafficking in all its forms.

One of the co-conspirators in the scheme was former UN General Assembly President John Ashe. He died due to a weightlifting accident before he had to testify in a New York court room.  

Other Co-Conspirators and Charges: 

John W. Ashe, President of UN General Assembly: Filing False Income Tax Returns

Heidi Hong Park (Piao), Global Sustainability Foundation - Finance Director: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery

Shiwei (Sheri) Yan, Global Sustainability Foundation - Founder and CEO: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery

Francis Lorenzo, Deputy Permanent Respresentative to the UN for the Dominican Republic: Bribery

Sources: Foreign Policy, Stanford Law School, US Justice Department, The Wall Street Journal.

Update: As the net has widened, others have also been charged and associated with the original plot to bribe UN officials and launder money. They are: 

Jeff Yin, aide to Ng Lap Seng. South China Morning Post: Ex-aide of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, jailed by US in fallout from UN bribery scandal, blames 'traditional' Chinese upbringing

Ying Lin, Air China. Reuters: Ex-Air China employee wins dismissal of U.S. smuggling charge

Roger Uren, formerly of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. The Sydney Morning Herald: Charges loom for ex-intelligence official Roger Uren after ASIO raid

Julia Vivi (Vivian) Wang, Vice President, South-South News. Law 360: Woman Who Helped Bribe Top Diplomat Cops To FCPA Counts. WKZO: Chinese-born executive pleads guilty in U.N. bribery case . Stanford Law School: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Clearinghouse. Case Information: United States of America v. Julia Vivi Wang.

In the Headlines

2015

March

USA News Online.com: South-South Cooperation and Chinese Sun Kian Ip Group Signs [sic] Cooperation Agreement

August

Macau Daily Times: UN Holds High-Level Strategy Forum in Town for South-South Cooperation

September

ABCNews: FBI Arrests Chinese Millionaire Once Tied to Clinton $$ Scandal

October

News24: UN Looks at Donations Linked to Bribery Scandal

South China Morning Post: UN rejects US$15 million donation from Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng pending bribery investigation 

The New York Times: Former U.N. President and Chinese Billionaire Are Accused in Graft Scheme

The Wall Street Journal: U.N. Team Had Cleared Group at Center of Bribery Case: Officials met in April with Ng Lap Seng, didn't detect any problems

"South-South staff found him to be 'humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,' said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau." The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

Jhon William Ashe, Presidente saliente de la Asamblea General de la ONU preso por corruption

The Sydney Morning Herald: Australia-China social queen Sheri Yan arrested for bribery

Vice: Feds Say Former UN General Assembly President Lived Large Off Chinese Bribes

Telegraph: United Nations officials charged with accepting massive bribes from China businessmen

November

Nikkei Asian Review: U.S. prosecutors allege Ng paid bribes until arrest

"Ng is charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to former United Nations diplomat John W. Ashe, primarily to get him to push for the construction of a "multibillion dollar" U.N. expo center in Macau for the benefit of Ng's Sun Kian Ip Group."

"Statements and briefs filed by the prosecutors indicate Ng's financial activities in the U.S. surged this year in the weeks before and after an Aug. 25-26 U.N. conference in Macau at which some 200 delegates endorsed the construction of a "South-South Expo" center in the city."

"Ashe played a prominent role at the Macau meeting both as chairman of the U.N. South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development and as co-chairman of Ng's Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation, which sponsored the event."

"Francis Lorenzo, who has been charged with acting as a middleman for Ng's alleged bribes, played a similar range of roles at the Macau meeting. He was there as executive president of the South-South steering committee and the International Organization for South-South Cooperation, president of the Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation and deputy U.N. ambassador for the Dominican Republic. Around 20 U.N. ambassadors attended the meeting."

"The Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation donated $1.5 million to the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation to help finance the Macau meeting and another one held in Dhaka in May; the foundation earlier this year offered the U.N. office a further $13.5 million but U.N. officials have said that will not be accepted as the organization has launched multiple reviews of its ties to the foundation following the arrests of Ng and Ashe."

2016

March

Courthouse News: United Nations Bribery Scandal Snares Gala VP

April

Reuters: U.N. news outlet at center of bribery case defends its intergrity

Macau Business Daily: Audit uncovers trail of 'support'

"Local billionaire Ng Lap Seng made use of five non-government organisations (NGOs) which are all affiliated to his real estate investment firm Sun Kian Ip Group to interact with six departments of the United Nations in various ways – such as sponsoring their events and funding staff travel – discloses the latest published internal audit report by the Office of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS) of the United Nations (UN).

The internal audit report, which was undertaken at the request of the Secretary-General of the UN and was released over the weekend, presents evidence that the local businessman’s attempts to curry favour with the UN could date back to 2008, when one of his NGOs was listed as a participant in the organisation’s Global Compact initiative.

According to OIOS, the five NGOs that Ng was using to interact with UN bodies are the Global Sustainability Foundation, International Organisation for South-South Co-operation, World Harmony Foundation, South-South News and Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation."

"The UN audit body stated in the report that Sun Kian Ip Group had offered iPads to all participants for a co-sponsored event titled ‘High Level Multi Stakeholder Strategy Forum on South-South and Triangular Co-operation’ in the Special Administrative Region last August.

The local developer contributed US$1.5 million (MOP12 million) to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the event, which was attended by a number of UN Secretariat staff, OIOS said.

The report reads that the proffered iPads all had 64GB capacity and were engraved with the logo of the organisers on the back.

‘They received the iPads at the registration desk upon arrival, where they were informed that the forum was a ‘paperless event’; all documents relating to its meetings or presentations had been pre-loaded in the device for their use,’ OIOS wrote, adding that ‘there was no attempt by the organisers to take back the iPads’ when the event was concluded.

According to the audit department, three UN staff members who attended the forum only handed over the devices after the commencement of the audit. In particular, one from the Global Compact Office stated to the audit body that he kept the iPad for himself."

"The UN audit also found that Ng’s self-owned news outlet South-South News had funded travel for a staff member of the UN Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for two seminars in Hong Kong and Macau last April and August, respectively. The two seminars were both on the topic of ‘South-South Co-operation’.

Another staff member of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) was funded by the news company to participate in a high-level meeting in Hong Kong in April 2012. The audit report stated that the UN-Habitat later signed a memorandum with South-South News as a media partner for co-operation on the ‘World Urban Campaign’ in July 2012.

South-South News had actually been accorded media accreditation and provided office space in the UN secretariat by the UN Department of Public Information since 2010, the report claimed."

"Recent leaks from the Panama Papers have disclosed that such a company of the local businessman was established in the British Virgin Islands in May 2010, indicating the news outlet had sponsored UN events on at least three occasions."

"In the report, OIOS highly criticised the lack of due diligence checks by UN departments in selecting their partners, allowing the organisation to be involved with parties ‘whose interests may be at odds with those of the UN’.

‘Various resolutions of the General Assembly have recognised the importance of developing partnerships with the private sectors, NGOs and civil society… However, engaging in partnerships requires that a robust due diligence process is established and consistently applied to ensure that the attendant risks are mitigated,’ the audit body said.

The above instances of non-compliance with due diligence requirements exposed the organisation to the risk that it could get involved with external parties whose interests may be at odds with those of the United Nations – particularly its integrity, independence and impartiality,’ it concluded."

May

Reuters: Auditors rebuke U.N. development agency after U.S. indictments 

August

The Wall Street Journal: Former Air China Manager Charged with Smuggling in U.S. for Chinese Military: Suspect is associate of Macau billionaire in U.N. bribery scheme

The Wall Street Journal: U.N. Bribery Probe Uncovers Suspected Chinese Agent: U.S. officials look into Beijing businessman's ties to indicted Macau billionaire

2017

June

ABC News: ASIO investigation targets Communist Party links to Australian political system

The Sydney Morning Herald: China's Operation Australia: Payments, power and our politicians

July

Financial Times: Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng convicted in UN bribery case: Tycoon paid inducements to promote 'Geneva of Asia' project in Macau

The Sydney Morning Herald: Charges loom for ex-intelligence official Roger Uren after ASIO raid

Global Investigations Review - Just Anti-Corruption: UN bribery trial heats up with tales of extramarital affair and cash bag carried across Manhattan

AP: UN ambassador testifies he didn't know what 'bribe' meant

"Lorenzo testified Ng paid him up to $50,000 monthly to push the ambitious multibillion-dollar project along and funneled another $300,000 to former U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, who was charged in the case before he died last year in an accident at home.

Over several days, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind elicited from Lorenzo an unsavory depiction of the ease with which Lorenzo and Ashe accepted and sometimes solicited tens of thousands of dollars to supplement modest salaries as ambassadors.

Within months of meeting Ng in late 2009, Lorenzo testified, he agreed to supplement his $72,000 salary at the U.N. with $20,000 a month as president of Ng’s new not-for-profit, South South News.

“Did you have any experience in media or in news reporting?” Zolkind asked.

“No,” Lorenzo said."

2018

March

South China Morning Post: Ex-aide of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, jailed by US in fallout from UN bribery scandal, blames 'traditional' Chinese upbringing  

April

Macau Daily Times: Prosecutors Want Six Years in Ng Lap Seng Sentencing

Reuters: Chinese-born Executive Pleads Guilty in U.N. Bribery Case

May

ABS-CBN News: Chinese Billionaire Sentenced Four Years in UN Scandal

The New York Times: Macau Tycoon Gets 4 Years in Prison for Bribing U.N. Diplomats

News Americas: Jail for Chinese Billionaire Who Bribed Caribbean Born UN Officials

Reuters: Macau Billionaire Gets Four Years Prison for Bribing U.N. Officials

LawFuel: Billionaire Jailed for 4 Years Over Casino Bribery Role

South China Morning Post: Chinese Billionaire Ng Lap-Seng gets Four Years in US Prison for Bribing UN Officials US$1.7m to Support Plans for Macau Conference Centre

The Sydney Morning Herald: Political Donor Chau Chak Wing Behind UN Bribe Scandal, Parliament told

Channel NewsAsia: Chinese-Australian Political Donor 'Linked to UN Bribery Scandal'

The New York Times: In Australia, Fears of Chinese Meddling Rise on U.N. Bribery Case Revelation

The Australian: China's UN Power Game

The FCPA Blog: Is China Trying to Corrupt the UN? 

June

ArtVoice: Judicial Watch: Russia, China may have bribed Clintons

Further Reading

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Handbook: A Practical Guide for Multinational General Counsel, Transactional Lawyers and White Collar Criminal Practitioners by Robert W. Tarun, American Bar Association, 2010

ONU: la grande imposture by Pauline Lietar 

"Le bureau de la Cooperation Sud-Sud l'a trouve tres 'humble, tres heureux d'organiser une reunion et d'etre plus proche de l'ONU', declare Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, une des membres de l'equipe." 

China Digital Times: Sinopsis and Jichang Lulu: UN with Chinese Characteristics 

Statement concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

"The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is an independent entity created by the General Assembly in 1974, General Assembly resolution 3251(XXIX), to support cooperation among developing countries.

UNOSSC receives its mandate and policy framework from General Assembly decisions and resolutions. UNOSSC also serves as the Secretariat of the High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation, a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.

UNOSSC is hosted by UNDP and, as is the case with similar entities, is expected to follow UNDP rules and regulations, including those pertaining to financial and HR management. UNOSSC is likewise subject to UNDP’s oversight and due diligence instruments.

UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’.

The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s  effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations." Excerpt from Statement (5 May 2016)

How to Report Corruption and Bribery at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)

The Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) "provides UNDP with effective independent and objective internal oversight that is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of UNDP's operations in achieving its development goals and objectives through the provision of internal audit and related advisory services, and investigation services."  

They can be directly emailed here: reportmisconduct@undp.org

Note: This blog post provides a summary of the unfolding corruption case that targeted the United Nations from 2010 and was revealed in 2015 by US authorities. It is offered as a resource for those interested in the role played by corruption in international development and international institutions, or who are interested in case law and the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If anything, the case stands as a brazen act of criminality and corruption, and, with South-South News still based out of the United Nations and still functioning as a news service, maybe proof the UN has a long way to go to walk the talk on fighting corruption.

In future blog posts we will explore what the ongoing trials have revealed about this case and the United Nations and what lessons can be learned. 

Key Terms and Definitions

Bribe: Ttry to make someone do something for you by giving them moneypresents, or something else that they want.  

Bribery: The crime of giving someone money or something else of value, often illegally, to persuade that person to do something you want.

Corruption: Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. 

Discovery: The process of finding information, a place, or an objectespecially for the first time, or the thing that is found. Part of a legal process in which the lawyers from one side in a case give documents relating to their case to the other side, before the trial begins.

Due Diligence: Action that is considered reasonable for people to be expected to take in order to keep themselves or others and their property safe. The detailed examination of a company and its financial records, done before becoming involved in a business arrangement with it.

FCPA: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. ("FCPA"), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.

Money Laundering: The crime of moving money that has been obtained illegally through banks and other businesses to make it seem as if the money has been obtained legally.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) seeks to provide leadership and catalyse action in promoting and coordinating implementation of internationally agreed development goals, including the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UN: The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

UNDP: United Nations Development Programme. On the ground in about 170 countries and territories, UNDP works to eradicate poverty while protecting the planet.

UN Global Compact: A call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.

UN General Assembly: The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote. All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.

UNOSSC: United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation). The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is a knowledge hub providing advisory and consulting services to all stakeholders on South-South and triangular cooperation. It enables developing countries to effectively face their development challenges and harness opportunities to address them.

Wednesday
Feb142018

Mongolia's Musical Entrepreneurs Led Way Out of Crisis | 2018


Publisher: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office/Press Institute of Mongolia

Managing Editor: David South

Editorial Advisors: Ts. Enkhbat, Mustafa Eric, David South

Author and Researcher: Peter Marsh, Indiana University

Copy Editor: N. Oyuntungalag

Production Editor: B. Bayarmaa

Published: 1999

ISBN 99929-5-018-8

It was the late 1990s. Mongolia was still recovering from "one of the biggest peacetime economic collapses ever" (Mongolia's Economic Reforms: Background, Content and Prospects, Richard Pomfret, University of Adelaide, 1994). But it was the country's young musicians who were showing the way out of the crisis, setting an example for entrepreneurship in the new, free-market economy that emerged in the country after 1990.

As UNDP Communications Officer N. Oyuntungalag wrote in the Blue Sky Bulletin newsletter, "A thriving pop and rock scene has emerged over the last four years. .. The energy of these musicians and singers has not gone unnoticed by the burgeoning advertising market. Pop bands are promoting many things, from face creams to beer. ... [but] there has been little serious writing on the business of popular music."  

As the book's author, American ethnomusicologist Peter Marsh, said in an interview with UNDP's Blue Sky Bulletin newsletter, "we thought our book would provide important ideas about the direction and nature of the nation's development.

"My impression about Mongolian pop-rock is that it is a lively, diverse and at times innovative Mongolian art form that closely reflects many of the hopes, fears and aspirations of its primary audience, Mongolian youth."

The book still stands as an unusual and innovative contribution to thinking around the role played by youth in development and business and in crisis recovery.   

© David South Consulting 2018