- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

Storm in Geneva

The Republican members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week requested a GAO audit of the U.N. weather agency, saying corruption and inadequate internal controls had likely resulted in the misuse of U.S. funds.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida asked the Government Accountability Office to examine whether $110 million in U.S. contributions to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had been misappropriated or misused.

The letter to Comptroller General David Walker, co-signed by eight others, asked the GAO to evaluate the Geneva-based agency’s management oversight and whether the WMO had disciplined all perpetrators in a six-year scam that likely siphoned more than $3 million.

A 2005 WMO audit found that former official Muhammad Hassan and up to a dozen others misappropriated about $3 million from WMO coffers, using the money to buy votes from delegations and even to pay their arrears to keep up their voting rights. According to reports, much of that money was expended to elect Michel Jarraud of France as WMO secretary-general in 2003.

The lead investigator on the audit, Maria Veiga, says she was dismissed last year after superiors blocked her from performing a full investigation and pressured her to cover up irregularities by WMO staff.

Mr. Hassan, of Sudan, left the agency and disappeared before Swiss authorities could question him. The WMO has denied interference in the investigation and said Mr. Jarraud had no involvement in the scheme.

Wind in the Council

The Security Council soon will take up the effects of global warming on international peace and security, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry announced last week.

Britain presides over the council during April, and Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is expected to chair the session, which will be a debate only and carry no presidential statement or resolution regarding the findings.

Mr. Jones Parry said rising seas will cover small islands and coastlines, displacing populations and increasing the competition for resources such as food and land. The potential for destabilization, he said, is something the council should begin to address.

The United States, which refuses to join the Kyoto Protocol, agreed to the session as long as there would be no statement or exhortation issued. Many diplomats in the General Assembly, which has become ever more marginalized as the Security Council takes up social issues such as HIV/AIDS and child protection, viewed this as more erosion of their powers.

Calm for Africa

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has resurfaced for the second time since leaving office in December. Mr. Annan will chair the awards committee of the newly created $5 million Mo Ibrahim Prize. Mr. Annan’s panel will select the retired president or prime minister who has done the most for his sub-Saharan country’s development, democracy and stability, based on World Bank and other indexes. The money will be issued over 10 years.

“The idea behind the award is to encourage African leaders to work with their people on the issue of good governance,” Mr. Annan told Voice of America radio in Nairobi, Kenya.

Mr. Ibrahim, a Sudanese cell-phone billionaire, said the prize will not be awarded if no one is qualified to receive it. Instead, the money will go to scholarship programs or the like.

Joining Mr. Annan on the prize committee are U.N. alumni including Mary Robinson, a former high commissioner for human rights, and all-around troubleshooter and U.N. Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari. Salim Salim, former head of the Organization of African Unity, and two former ministers from African states round out the panel.

• Betsy Pisik can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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