The press raised questions about whether this was a potential conflict of interest. Annan, months after accepting the $500,000 prize, and weeks after the flap over his appointment of Steiner to UNEP, finally said he would turn over his fat cash prize to UN relief efforts. But Achim Steiner did not give up his UNEP job. The UN claimed there was no conflict of interest. Steiner has since been running UNEP, which fields a $225 million annual budget. Based in Nairobi, UNEP is way off the radar of most media scrutiny, and under Steiner’s management it is evidently on board with the agenda to shove the Pachauri-IPCC agenda down your throat, however questionable the “science.”
This tale of Kofi’s cash prize does not figure in Steiner’s official UN biography. But something that does, if you scroll down to the end, is Steiner’s position on the advisory board of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, or CCICED, which describes itself on its web site as “a high level non-governmental advisory body” set up in 1992 by the Chinese government.
Perhaps by the UN’s flabby standards this does not count as a conflict of interest. But the UN, last I checked, is a public institution, bankrolled in substantial part by U.S. tax dollars, and set up to serve its member states. Is it appropriate that Achim Steiner, while serving as senior public servant, head of a major UN agency, UNEP, should also be on the advisory board of a Chinese NGO set up the Chinese government?
Some of the other folks connected with this same CCICED have names you might also start to recognize. A 2002 meeting of this body was keynoted by Maurice Strong ,a former UN senior official now living in China. And among the 23 “International Members” currently listed on the CCICED’s web site are not only Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, but also the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri. (And, in case you are interested in the trajectory of former UN officials and affiliates, two of the other members are former UNEP director Klaus Toepfer, who preceded Steiner at the UN agency; and former rector of the UN University for Peace, who succeed Steiner at the IUCN, Julia Marton-Lefevre — see italics above).
Bottom line: Does anyone trying to follow this spaghetti start to wonder if the UN should have a much clearer policy to prohibit and penalize conflicts of interest? Especially among high-ranking officials prone to issuing apocalyptic calls to re-engineer the economy of the planet – under their direction, and at vast cost to the rest of us?