Netherlands Block Funds For UNDCP

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  1. By Kurt van Es
    Source: Het Parool

    The Netherlands have withdrawn their financial support for the drug-fighting agency of the United Nations. Minister Evelyne Herfkens of Development Cooperation has come to this decision after persistent accusations came to light about mismanagement at the highest level of the UN-agency in Vienna, the UNDCP.
    A spokesperson for the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed, that the Dutch yearly contribution of US$ 4 million has for the time being been 'frozen'. This contribution had just been increased considerably in the last year. The Ministry itself qualifies the measure as drastic.

    The director general of the United Nations Drug Control Program, a well-known mafia expert from Italy, Pino Arlacchi, has already for some time been the object of severe criticism. Numerous top staff members of UNDCP's head-office in Vienna have resigned, among them the experienced UN administrator and respected director for operations and analysis, Michael von der Schulenburg. In his letter of resignation the latter talks about UNDCP as an organization that is falling to bits.

    The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs draws attention to the fact, that the internal inspection and audit branch of the UN in New York have started to investigate all accusations leveled at Arlacchi, including rumours of interlocking interests and even corruption. The Netherlands now wait for the outcome of these studies, as well as for the implementation of some measures of reorganization, that have already been announced.

    A spokesperson from the Agency in Vienna denies that the investigation is directed against Arlacchi himself, but confirms other countries as well have asked for clarifications to be given and measures to be taken. He expects a UN report on this affair to be available by the end of May.

    That the Netherlands are not alone in their criticism, also follows from a resolution adopted at the recent meeting of the governing body of UNDCP, the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs, in which improvements in the running of the Agency are urgently requested. Some countries have now imposed restrictions on the use of their financial contributions, but only the Netherlands have decided to cut off their funding altogether.

    Arlacchi was an italian senator and a friend of the wellknown italian mafia-fighter Giovanni Falcone, who was murdered in 1992. His critics pretend, that as a director general of UNDCP he behaves too much like a general in the fight against drug related crime, thus becoming involved in 'wars' where neither he nor the UN-organization belong. It is said f.i. that he is involved with the setting up of paramilitary units on the borders of Tadschikistan and Afghanistan.

    The core business of the UN agency for drug fighting has to do with controlling the application of the UN drug treaties, prevention, helping peasants to grow alternative crops instead of coca and poppies and assisting in the fight against drugs trade with technical aid and information. Operational activities against drug traders do not belong in this list.

    Arlacchi himself calls the accusations against him a price he has to pay for his robust approach to his job. But he can no longer ignore the growing criticism. Especially the resignation-letter of Von der Schulenburg has put him in an awkward predicament. In this detailed memorandum of december 4th 2000, which at times sounds like an indictment, Schulenburg among other things talks of 'destroying the credibility of UNDCP' and of 'a style of management that has demoralized, intimidated and paralyzed the staff of UNDCP'.

    It is in such an atmosphere, that Herfkens, the Netherlands development cooperation minister does not want to put the tax payer's money at risk. Funding of UNDCP is in the hands of her department in view of the multilateral character of the United Nations. UNDCP is financed by voluntary contributions from UN member countries. The Netherlands with a budget of US$ 4 million is the program's sixth largest contributor. Other critical countries are the UK, Germany and Sweden. They also exercize considerable pressure on UNDCP to come up with improvements.

    It is not the first time the Netherlands are at loggerheads with the UN drugs agency, but earlier on it was because of the country's 'tolerant' drug policies, which are supposed to be at odds with the UN drug treaties. UN criticism of dutch policies has recently been somewhat mitigated, as other European countries seem to move more and more in the direction of dutch practices in the field of drugs.

    In these circumstances it is now the turn of the Netherlands to formulate critical questions with regard to the supposed rigidity of the UN drug treaties. In the meeting of the Committee on Narcotic Drugs, which took place in Vienna from March 20th to March 29th 2001, the Netherlands delegate openly declared that the UN should study and try to bridge the tension between the ideology underlying the treaties and the reality and practices of today's drug consumption patterns.

    News Article Courtesy of MapInc.

    The Netherlands: Translation: Netherlands Block Funds For UNDCP

    Source: Het Parool (The Netherlands)
    Author: Kurt van Es
    Published: April 7, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Het Parool

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