UN Agencies Stockpile Billions While Women and Children Die

Opinion   |   Marie Smith   |   Jul 22, 2011   |   6:18PM   |   Washington, DC

A Fox News exclusive reveals that four of the largest United Nations agencies dedicated to development and aid, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), had stockpiled funds of over $12.2 billion by the end of 2009.

An advance copy of the report prepared for the government of Norway by private consulting firm IDC, and viewed by Fox News, analyzes the manner in which funds are collected and spent within the UN system leading to increased concern over financial planning and budgeting strategies that have resulted in a perceived poor use of donor funds for development programs. Five aid agencies were reviewed and four were discovered to have excessive cash reserves at the end of the 2009:

  • The U.N. Development Program (UNDP)-$5 billion in unspent funds
  • World Food Program (WFP)-excess of $4 billion in unspent funds
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-$2.7 billion in unspent funds
  • U.N. Population Program (UNFPA), (a smaller agency than the others)-$500 million in unspent funds

The fifth agency, the U.N. Refugee Agency, was not criticized to the same degree as the others in the report according to Fox News. The two-volume study entitled Activity Based Financial Flows in U.N. system: a Study of Select U.N. Organizations states, “UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP and WFP are building up considerable reserves and/or [are] unable to spend a growing share of resources.” It continues that “the buildup of reserves implies that substantial donor funding is not being used for development purposes,” and warns that “it may also result in a situation where donors may not fund the U.N. system as much as before, until these reserves are utilized and brought down to an appropriate level.”

George Russell reports on Fox News that Norway contributed $909 million to the agencies in question for the time period analyzed in the report while the USA gave $2.5 billion. This past March, the British Parliament investigated various UN organizations as concern about the inability of UN agencies to manage soaring budgets grows and is exasperated by a lack of accountability. The British study found fault with UNFPA and WHO ranking them as merely adequate, just above poor, in terms of value for money for UK aid funding. It also noted UNFPA’s lack of transparency and reporting about its programs in countries around the world, something about which pro-life NGOs at the UN have long complained. The British study recommended that UNFPA improve its financial management and address all outstanding audit issues.

It is well known by pro-life advocates that UNFPA partners with the notorious pro-abortion International Planned Parenthood Federation in countries around the world, with IPPF promoting the legalization of abortion and access to abortion services for young girls. A simple internet search of UNFPA’s website for the phrase “IPPF” results in over a thousand links, providing insight into the close working relationship between the two entities. Moreover, UNFPA has been denied US funds in the past on account of its complicity in China’s coercive one child birth policy. Transparency and accountability should be welcome by UNFPA as a means to address future criticism.

Once the Norwegian study is published, response from UN agencies is expected. Damage control is already beginning with an unnamed UN official claiming that there are no excess funds in these agencies’ coffers, and insisting that all remaining monies are committed to future projects.

PNCI believes it is deeply troubling that UNDP, UNICEF, and UNFPA can “save” over $8 billion in their budgets while women and children continue to die in unacceptably high numbers. In 2010, 7.7 million children under age 5 tragically died from mostly preventable and treatable causes. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest numbers of maternal and child deaths in the world, pregnant women often cannot afford the fees to safely deliver their babies in a health facility. Instead they are left to give birth unassisted at home-a leading cause of death for both mothers and babies. These women could put a tiny fraction of “excess funds” to immediate use to pay for delivery in a safe, sterile setting to ensure that they and their children have a greater chance for a “safe passage”, with both surviving childbirth and the immediate days that follow.

Revelation of the failure by these UN agencies to use all available financial resources leads to serious questions not only about the use of donor funds but about UN resolve to not just address, but to solve the problems that lead to the deaths of millions each and every year.

Great progress has been made in lowering maternal deaths, reduced to 343,000 worldwide in 2008 yet progress must continue. We know what works and with focused attention on life-affirming solutions to save the lives of mothers, maternal mortality can be nearly eliminated in the world; rendering the argument that abortion needs to be legalized to reduce maternal deaths a moot point.

LifeNews.com Note:  Marie Smith is the director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.