Mismanagement in international organizations

After Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank, Jacques Diouf of the FAO and many others, Director General Brunson McKinley of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is under internal accusation of nepotism, intimidation and bad management. Is there anybody who cares about the apparent structural problems in the management of international institutions?
Tuesday evening, 29th May 2007, about 7.30 p.m. Brunson McKinley sends his 5500 colleagues a nearly laconic e-mail from Geneva. To all the missions world-wide (a worldwide network of 280 offices) Director General McKinley writes: ‘At the request of a number of Member States and after consultation with several interested ministers and delegations in Geneva, I have decided to take on a next term as Director General next year.’
Some days before, on Friday 25thMay, he already informed all Permanent Representatives of the 120 Member States and asked them to support his application. ‘The IOM is facing important events and would benefit from continuity’, writes McKinley. And he concludes lightly, saying: ‘I thought this was something I had to tell you.’
In many missions McKinley’s e-mail is received with amazement, disbelief and even slight panic. ‘If McKinley would continue for another term, this would be disastrous for the IOM,’ says a top official of the organization. ‘There is an atmosphere of fear.’ This also appears from internal documents that we were passed on and from extensive conversations with six senior officials all over the world. All discussion partners wanted to stay anonymous for fear of reprisal.

Money is not a problem

US citizen Brunson McKinley made a career for himself at the military intelligence services and the US State Department. There are many IOM officials who had hoped to get rid of the man in October 2008. And by the way, is it possible to do a third term at all? Yes, it is. On 24th November 1998 Member States decided to amend article 18 of  the ‘IOM constitution’, thus stipulating that the Director General would only be allowed to serve for a maximum of two terms of five years – on the condition of being re-elected by two thirds of the 120 Member States. But there are not yet enough Member States that have ratified the amendment and McKinley wants to use this loophole to serve for another five years.
That blind ambition is typical for McKinley, says an IOM senior official. ‘We compare him sometimes to Louis – L’etat c’est moi – XIV. McKinley rules with the attitude of ‘IOM c’est moi’ and that is something that should not happen in an international organization.’
After nearly ten years of rule by McKinley and his restricted circle of confidants, many IOM officials count the days until he will leave.
‘He mainly discourages a lot of staff members and experienced people by disregarding rules and people in case of appointments. He hires people from outside the IOM, thus blocking opportunities for people within the organization. A Director General may make such choices from time to time, but the scale on which this happens within the IOM cannot be accepted. He often appoints friends or makes appointments to please governments. In recent months McKinley is especially doing the latter: by giving jobs to people, he hopes to secure his third term. Even though it is very difficult to prove this in a watertight way.’
An NGO staff member, who has been working together with the IOM for years, deplores that the reputation of such a useful organization is being ruined. ‘The fact that the EU does not put forward a candidate is typical of the revolting lack of interest in the internal functioning of international institutions. This is really incomprehensible and in this case it also shows that governments do not attach much importance to migration.’
According to different people within the IOM, McKinley is now mainly lobbying in developing countries, the Islamic world and countries with rather undemocratic regimes like Sudan and Byelorussia, as he is not very popular with both the EU and the US. For this lobbying, he has a ‘discretionary income’ at his disposal: he is allowed to use 5 per cent of the overall IOM budget at his own discretion. ‘With that money he finances special programmes or projects, like building mosques in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. An external audit of the expenses out of the discretionary income – easily 15 million dollars per year – would not do any harm’, says a witness within the IOM.   
For unclear reasons McKinley attended the annual meeting of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) that took place in Islamabad in early May. According to IOM officials he firmly lobbied there to get the support of the Islamic world for his re-election. Meanwhile it has appeared from the minutes of the ICFM that Bangladesh is officially recommending hem as his own successor.

Migration is booming 

When talking about migration, the IOM is as important as it is unknown. The organization was established in the wake of the Second World War. It was founded in Brussels on 5th December 1951 with the aim to control and steer migration flows. Eleven million Europeans were uprooted and the IOM ‘took care’ of transport and support for a million refugees. And that is what the IOM is still doing today, though at world level. The organization develops programmes to help migrants integrate in their new home countries or to assist them to return to their countries of origin.
An NGO staff member tells us the IOM has a huge amount of knowledge and know how, and is carrying out 1600 projects all over the world. Since the end of the Cold War and the wars in the Balkans, the IOM has grown tremendously. At present 120 countries are a member of the IOM. There are ninety more members (other countries, organizations and NGOs) with observer status and the annual budget has grown to nearly 733 million dollars in 2006. According to a top official – who stresses that he is openly disagreeing with his boss – this growth may be attributed to McKinley. ‘He has made the IOM more visible, for in the past the IOM was only regarded as the little brother of the UNHCR. But at the same time he also managed to completely demoralize large parts of the organization, among other things by refusing to consult experienced IOM staff. Although officially there is talk of decentralization, he is precisely arranging everything in an extremely centralized way.’
Divide and rule 
An IOM official: ‘The Director General uses the Human Resources policy to divide and rule. People are transferred in an arbitrary way and replace by people who are more favourably disposed towards the Director General. This is very discouraging for the collaborators.’ Some even talk about nepotism. The official: ‘Well, if he offers his daughter a traineeship in Mexico, it depends whether she is paid for it or not and if she is, how much she gets. That is indeed a borderline case, I would say. The son of Wolfowitz as an operation officer of the World Bank in Indonesia? Indeed, it’s not because he is Wolfowitz’ son that he would not be able to do this. His personal adviser’s daughter Buschmann-Petit assigned for the IOM in Hungary? Everything depends on the way somebody gets appointed and how often such things happen.’
The 120 Member States cannot shut their eyes to this. A delegation of the staff has been raising this matter openly for years through the Staff Association Committee (SAC). An official: ‘The SAC has only little means, people and power, but since 2004 it has been giving clear and brave statements during meetings of the Council, the General Assembly of all Member States.’
The internal report of June 2006 states for example: ‘The Human Resources policy of the IOM is deviating more and more from the UN system, to the point that working for the IOM is much less attractive than working for any other international organization. Contracts are made for shorter terms, officials are transferred arbitrarily and promotions get less transparent. Due to this IOM staff rather get demotivated instead of being encouraged to do their best.’  
The SAC also points out that ‘strategic and personnel decisions’ are taken by a very small circle of people at the head office. And there is not enough communication and ties between the top management in Geneva and the IOM offices in the field: ‘Due to this, people who do the everyday practical work, are just brushed aside’. According to the SAC, the policy has now reached a point where the future of the IOM is being threatened. Nobody has ever reacted to these and other warning cries about the situation, let alone that somebody would have proposed a solution.  
In an official reaction the IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy now says that there actually is ‘systematic collaboration with the SAC to meet the concerns of staff members’. Moreover he points out that an IOM official was assigned to look into the matter in 2006 and that an external consultant was appointed in 2007 to ‘assess and improve’ the working conditions of IOM staff. At the end of 2006, McKinley declared: ‘I feel concerned about the questions they (SAC) raise, but there will always be a gap between the things the management can do and the expectations of the staff’. He referred among other things to the increasing workload and an insufficient proportional increase of the available budget.   
Thus the problems have been brought up within the organization for years, but only in December of last year a European representative dared – though very carefully – to raise the matter. The Finnish ambassador Vesa Himanen pointed out to McKinley that ‘the staff constitutes the most important capital of the IOM’ and that it is necessary to have ‘a regular and open dialogue with the IOM and the higher management (…) and particularly to do something about the concerns as expressed by the Staff Association’. 
A top official of the IOM: ‘The EU has made mistakes in this question, among other things because migration is still considered as a national issue. Due to this it is of course more difficult to develop a joint European position. Moreover individual Member States also have a different view of the IOM: some merely consider it as a body that has to help them to implement their policies, others see it as a multilateral institution.’ Europe is the largest donor of the IOM, but since its foundation every Director General but one has been an American. The reason is not clear. The official: ‘There are no clear arrangements about that, though it strikes that many key positions are held by Americans: the senior officer at the office in Geneva, as well as the Director Human Resources and the Director of the Strategy Department. It is really a matter of overrepresentation.’
The official also blames the Member States. ‘It is the Council that should define the IOM strategy. But discussions of a higher level will only be possible if countries attach more importance to the meeting. Whereas everybody sees that migration is an extremely important political issue and will remain so for quite a long time, nobody really takes the IOM seriously.’

Geneva, Washington, Rome, Vienna,…

How poignant it may be, the example of bad leadership at the IOM is not unique. Again and again there seems to be a lack of transparency, democratic control and accountability at the top of international institutions – exactly those things that are required loudly from governments in developing countries.
The most recent and best-known example of this failing global government certainly is the saga of the former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. He came under attack because in 2005 he granted his then girl friend Shaha Riza a wage increase of 60.000 dollars, contrary to the rules and unknown to the Management Board. Moreover he tried to keep the thing quiet. His behaviour makes the World Bank’s plea for good governance and against corruption very incredible.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization FAO in Rome is going through a profound management crisis too. In the summer of 2006 the letter of resignation of FAO Vice-Director Louise Fresco to Director General Jacques Diouf leaked: ‘There is a leadership of silence, rumours and fear. The FAO is going through a deep crisis, bureaucratic paralysis and lack of transparency. With the current reforms and savings the FAO is not able to cope with the challenges.’ Diouf leads the organization in an extremely authoritarian way, as is confirmed by an external research report that was published at the FAO website at the end of August. The FAO – mainly important in the (unsuccessful) struggle against hunger – ‘is undergoing a serious crisis, which was built up in the past two decades and is now threatening the future of the organization’, according to the report, which concludes that ‘the management is weak and fails in its duties towards the own organization and the people in the world it should help’.      
In 200 the bombshell also dropped in Vienna at the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP, the umbrella organization of the UN anti-drug campaign). Several senior officials of the organization testified, anonymously or not, that the organization was not functioning at all under the rule of former Mafia opponent Pino Arlacchi due to bad management, thus wasting a lot of money and capacities. A scathing UN report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services confirmed the ’major concern’ about Arlachhi’s ‘highly centralized and arbitrary’ management style. The report also stated that a UN organization like the ODCCP ‘cannot function without internal discussion and without involving experts in the decision making process’.
Mark Malloch Brown, former top man of the UN development programme UNDP and vice- secretary general of the UN under Kofi Annan, is currently writing a book about global leadership. In his view, the true reason for Wolfowitz’ dismissal is not only that he is considered to be the architect of the Iraq war, but rather that the rest of the world no longer takes it that the White House is selecting the President of the World Bank, even though the US “only” have 16 per cent of the votes in the Board of Management. The same goes for the Europeans and “their” president of the IMF. And yet broad support and a solid base for this kind of international organizations are particularly important, says Malloch Brown.    
Within the United Nations too a cultural change would be needed when it comes to appointing top officials. Kofi Annan wanted his replacement to follow a transparent, global procedure in order to put the most suitable man or woman at the right place. Malloch Brown sees signals that Annan’s successor Ban Ki-moon would abandon this aspiration. ‘This should not happen, for it undermines the international institutions as such. Never before in history the global community was so closely interwoven and yet so little governed’, says Malloch Brown.    
Experts like Malloch Brown think that there is still a lot to be learned. Yet the consensus is growing that there democratic control is needed to oblige the top cats of the global administration to implement essential democratic principles. First of all senior officials have to be elected in a transparent way. But next to that it might be wise to include some psychological tests in the selection procedure and to check the emotional intelligence of the applicant Alpha man. As for McKinley, this might be something to work at.

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