China to Head UN’s Worst Failed Agency

Although China‘s state-controlled media is boasting of Vice Finance Minister Li Yong’s election yesterday as Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, UNIDO arguably ranks as the worst of the world body’s failed agencies.

Last month, UNIDO selected Iran to head its Program and Budget Committee.

Among other achievements, UNIDO appears to hold the world record of canceled memberships:

  • Australia withdrew from UNIDO in 1988, rejoined in 1992, and then withdrew again in 1997.
  • Canada pulled out in 1993.
  • The US left in 1996.
  • The UK and Lithuania left in 2012.
  • New Zealand gave notice in 2012 and will be gone by the end of this year.

In 2011, the British government conducted a review of UN and other multilateral agencies receiving money from UK taxpayers. Nine ranked as Very Good, 16 as Good, 9 as merely Adequate, and 9 as Poor.

Seven UN agencies ranked as Poor:

  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
  • UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
  • International Labour Organisation (ILO)
  • UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
  • UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
  • UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
  • UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – now merged into UN Women

London placed two of these under “special measures,” demanding they improve their performance as a matter of absolute urgency: UNESCO and FAO.

Three others were so bad that the UK withdrew core funding altogether: UN-HABITAT, ILO, and UNISDR.

And, finally, for one agency, the UK not only canceled its funding, but its membership as well:  UNIDO.

The UK’s 2011 review, as Brett Schaefer noted last year,

could not find any evidence of UNIDO having a significant impact on global poverty. It is small, lacks a strong country level presence and has a narrowly focused role. There are more effective development actors with a greater impact on the ground. Key elements of UNIDO’s work are covered by other UN organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme. UNIDO also has a wide range of organisational weaknesses including limited transparency, weak results reporting and weak financial management.

With China at the lead, and Iran as deputy, it’s unlikely the Australians will be rejoining UNIDO any time soon.

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