Does the UN ever learn? To advertise a 2007 media fellowship, the UN Development Program has produced an eight-page pamphlet with a cover (pasted alongside this post) depicting smiling children, singing and playing musical instruments. And what are the singing children wearing? Why, the red scarves of the Young Pioneers, youngest tier of the ruling, repressive, murderous, totalitarian Workers’ Party of Kim Jong Il’s North Korea.
The UNDP provides no identifying caption. But if this photo wasn’t lifted straight from the propaganda bins of Pyongyang, it might just as well have been. For visitors to North Korea, one of the standard stops on the chaperoned propaganda tour is a visit to the Palace of Pioneers, where privileged, performing schoolchildren, wearing these same red scarves and singing odes to the Dear Leader, are trotted out to praise Kim’s regime.
What’s doubly rich about this UNDP pamphlet, linked here, (and downloaded here, in case it now somehow vanishes from the UNDP site), is that the theme for this UNDP “media advocacy” fellowship is supposed to be “Corruption.” For that, you might suppose the UNDP would be trying to encourage the development of an independent press. But no. From the description, this fellowship seems to be mainly about co-opting the media to advertise the UNDP. Media professionals from “developing countries” in the Asia-Pacific region — including North Korea, home of the utterly unfree press — are invited to apply, as long as they can provide evidence of “assured placement of final product in mainstream media” and “the final media product will become the property of UNDP and UNDP will be recognized in the output.” And whose money will help pay for this? Why yours, of course — at least if you are a taxpayer in the U.S., which slathers money all over the UN system, including the UNDP.
So, in the name of fighting corruption, we have a North Korean propaganda photo of singing young pioneers bedecking the cover of a UNDP pamphlet advertising a “media advocacy” fellowship offering financial support plus travel costs for work that will promote the UNDP. There are echoes here of the project launched in 2004 by former UNDP chief Mark Malloch Brown, in which the UNDP — which is supposed to use its funds for development — paid more than $500,000 for a historian to write and publish a paean to the UNDP.
This latest UNDP media pitch comes in a season in which the UNDP is under investigation for allegedly funneling hard cash to Kim Jong Il’s regime, while allegedly concealing for more than a decade counterfeit cash dispensed by a state bank in Pyongyang.
Maybe it’s time to rename the UNDP, which too often seems to function less like a development program than an agency for UN Dictators & Propaganda.