I have an idea, America. You should take your Covid relief checks from the UN honeypot in the US budget, so that the American people and American businesses can survive. There are certain honeypots in the US budget such as the UN and UNICEF that go into black holes on the basis of institutional inertia. It is time to revisit these funding channels that have been taken for granted. The United States contributes roughly $10billion to the UN annually. That is a lot of money that could be used by Americans instead, especially now, allowing over 16 million people to get a $600 check each. Every year, Congress also passes the UNICEF appropriations. For the past years, they have amounted to $132million annually.
Americans should claim their money back. This is your money. You can take your Covid relief checks from the UN and UNICEF honeypots if your money goes to fund crimes against UN whistleblowers, Trump critics and human rights defenders. The UN and UNICEF do not need your funds if they anyways get their funding from questionable corporate sources Republican-style, and from Arab dictators’ royal families and circles.
Trump had a problem with pork in the stimulus package, and particularly the clauses that would fund the Smithsonian and the National Gallery. But they need the money to survive. Americans can’t allow these institutions to slip away. The difference with the UN is that the Smithsonian and the National Gallery are as much of a Washington symbol as the Washington Monument. They signify and commemorate the American spirit and progress. The UN and UNICEF don’t.
UNICEF’s chief and Trump political appointee Henrietta Fore’s leadership style at the UN aligns with the corporate funding Republican style. Roughly, one third of UNICEF’s budget comes from private or corporate donations – more than any other UN agency. I know that because I was one of the analysts in the UNICEF corporate screening team who very quickly saw what the corporate analysis really looks like behind closed doors, and what is really behind the happy faces of multi-race children as UNICEF’s fake public front.
UNICEF performs a very intellectually dishonest analysis in corporate screening, trying to find sophisticated excuses to justify why corporations and individuals with despicable records can engage with UNICEF. Analysts who do not wish to bend the analysis through that prism, are told they have issues with “the quality of the research”. When I first introduced myself at UNICEF and mentioned my human rights background, I got surprised and shocked looks written on the faces of the corporate team colleagues. Now both you and I know why.
On the occasion of clearing for UNICEF engagement a company involved in a scandal with chemical weapons in Syria, one of the supervisors in the UNICEF corporate screening team, Lisa Kleinhenz, said that we should develop “a thick skin”. “Aren’t we all war criminals and terrorists, in some way?” Kleinhenz laughed ugly and haughtily in her usual hubris and sarcasm, typical for the self-empowered and self-important, yet intellectually and morally inferior UN office inhabitants. The episode underscored the UNICEF thinking that there should always be a way to trivialize violations if only we thought hard enough about “the nuances”, so that the organization can get the money.
If I would get dirty money corporate requests for clearance, I would keep these kinds of cases hanging in the system without giving them a pass. UNICEF staff that did not wish to clear that kind of engagements was branded “poor performance” -- the staff member simply did not understand “the nuances” in the analysis. As you can imagine, “the nuances” in the UNICEF official corporate policy – to put it in Biden language – were malarkey. Could we perhaps find “degrees of separation”, so that UNICEF does not engage with the company specifically on chemical weapons in Syria but on another “project” in a neighboring country? That would make it fine. Or if it’s not “client facing”, so that people do not see the link. Also, chocolate and sandwiches companies were a no-go because children might get fat. But human rights violations were not a deal-breaker, as long as people wouldn’t know. If the violations happened several years ago, the UNICEF corporate analysis would not cover that because we were not interested in screening out bad actors – UNICEF would only care if it would be “visible” and current, and thus, create a problem, not otherwise, just for the sake of drawing a moral line.
Another malarkey “nuanced” thinking included adding lowest common denominator criteria by considering “the violation level common for similar-size players in the industry”. In other words, are others also doing it? This is what I was told by Deborah Joa, another hubris-and-arrogance-driven manager in the UNICEF corporate screening team. She would tell me that “she knew that it looked like we were justifying all these corporate violations, but that was not the case”, adding often that the big cases were “still too complex” for someone like me who could not handle such intellectual intricacy. Back then, I was one of the pioneers of the integration of human rights analysis in finance and investment. Deborah Joa, on the other hand, was a former pharmaceutical sales-rep that used to knock on doctors’ doors to push products for a living. She then naturally became the corporate screening manager at a UN agency. This is who was in charge of screening companies for UNICEF. For the moral and intellectual level of door-to-door pharmaceutical sales-reps, I recommend John Oliver’s take in the Marketing to Doctors episode of his show. Under different circumstances, this would be funny.
On another occasion, I discussed a financial company operating in Somalia which, in apparent effective control by Al Shabaab, was told by Al Shabaab when to open and close its local office, and to whom to wire funds for the Africa-based, Al-Qaeda offspring. The UNICEF corporate screening manager, Carlotta Barcaro, told me dismissively -- in the typical for her arrogant, yet intellectually hollow manner – that this was “not a big deal for us” because UNICEF there was in touch with Al Shabaab “all the time”. Okay, no brainer. Um, what? I never cleared that company and kept it hanging in the system, even though Barcaro pressed me. I then got a deadline warning with threats for a poor performance evaluation. This was the most glorious deadline I missed in my entire career. As one person you can’t change the whole system and the flawed thinking, but you can use your own limited power to resist. And this is what I would do. Quietly and diplomatically. Not moving an inch, without an explanation. You don’t owe an explanation to war crimes and terrorism apologists.
These are the kind of people that American taxpayers are paying salaries to at the UN and UNICEF. They don’t deserve your money, especially at a time when you need your own money the most.
And if corporate funding was not enough, there was also the Arab money. Heaps of it. Arab royal families and Arab dictators’ circles implicated in publicly known human rights violations. They were all welcome at UNICEF.
Most notably in 2020, Saudi Arabia which destroyed Yemen, donated $105 million, together with the Emirates, to UNICEF to nobly help Yemeni children. The Unites States is also complicit in Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen, as most major media such as The Guardian, Al Jazeera and the New York Times have claimed extensively.
Trump appointee, or more correctly dissapointee, UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore followed the US line. She praised Saudi humanitarian leadership in Yemen, on another occasion in October 2020 – an accolade in the form of a formal letter for the humble price of $46million, several months after the first $105million Saudi installment. Drawing a wide-spread criticism by human rights organization such as Human Rights Watch, UN Secretary General Guterres had removed the Saudis from a UN blacklist several months earlier in June 2020 and now they could be called humanitarian leaders. Anything, as long as those thick checks keep rolling.
If UNICEF is getting its funding from such sources, then it really does not need the hard-earned American tax payer dollars. In times when professional reporters are crying on air because so many Americans will lose their homes and have to fight for basic survival, Americans should worry about themselves. Not the corruption and crime infested UN and UNICEF.
If people like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin won’t do that analysis, then LA-California representing Congresswoman Maxine Walters, Chairperson of the House Financial Services Committee, should look at this.
This is your money, America. You can take it back if you ask your Representative not to fund the UN and UNICEF this year.
Iveta Cherneva is an Amazon best-selling author, political commentator and human rights activist. Her latest book is “Trump, European security and Turkey”. Cherneva’s career includes Congress and the UN; she was a top finalist for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech in 2020. Iveta’s opinions appear in Euronews, New York Times, Salon, The Guardian, Jurist, Washington Examiner, Modern Diplomacy, Emerging Europe, EurActiv, The Fletcher Forum, LSE, Daily Express. She comments on TV and radio for Euronews, DW, Voice of America and others.