By Arlen Cerda (confidencial.com.ni)
HAVANA TIMES — The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) “strongly and categorically” condemned the accusations leveled at “the UNDP and its personnel” by the government of Daniel Ortega via a communiqué issued by the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry and addressed to embassies, international organizations and cooperation agencies accredited in Nicaragua, where the UN organization is said to be developing acts of “political interventionism” to “finance political groups” and to “distort” the country’s development data.
In an official communiqué sent to Confidencial from its New York headquarters, the UNDP declared that it “has not engaged in domestic politics nor funded political parties in Nicaragua or any other country. We serve the countries where we work— and their people – with no political affiliation or inclination.”
The note issued by the Nicaraguan government, signed by the Vice-Minister for Foreign Cooperation, Arlette Marenco, employs a brazenly authoritarian language and even accuses the UNDP of using “its headquarters to meddle in our internal affairs, finance political groups and distort our country’s development data.”
In this connection, the UNDP replied that the program “uses official figures for its development-related publications.”
“UNDP deeply regrets the non-substantiated assertions made against UNDP staff by the authorities of Nicaragua, which lacked evidence that would enable us to take any necessary action, in line with our rigorous internal processes,” the organization added, underscoring its fifty years of experience “working with governments in over 165 countries and territories.”
“UNDP is a trusted partner for sustainable development. Our work is in line with both national development priorities and UNDP’s global strategic plan and is conducted with technical excellence, political neutrality and transparency. We respect national sovereignty and are guided by the Charter of the United Nations, while our staff members also abide by the UN Code of Conduct, bound by an Oath of Office that requires impartiality and independence,” the organization argued in its communiqué.
Control over Cooperation Funds
Nicaragua’s former Foreign Minister Norman Caldera agreed that the “UNDP is respectful of governments” and that its program “is well aware they are sustained by the government, and only intervenes against it in the event of serious human rights violations.”
“They (the UNDP) must have seen something here to distance it from the government. What they (the government) haven’t considered is that the UNDP is only going to deliver the funds directly allocated to Nicaragua, and that the supplementary funds provided by different governments to the Indicative Planning Figure aren’t going to come. The Nicaraguan government extends its control but the country loses cooperation money,” noted Caldera.
A Latin American diplomatic source approached by Confidencial called the Nicaraguan government’s letter, accusing the UNDP of “political engagement” without any proof, an example of anti-diplomacy” and an “unprecedented attack.”
“Ortega’s government has overstepped all limits,” the source said, adding that, owing to the gravity of the accusations, “this is a case that goes beyond the UNDP, and it will likely by addressed by the UN Secretary General.”
The source regretted that “those who stand to lose the most from this conflict are the people of Nicaragua, as the country is losing access to the million-dollar projects portfolio facilitated by the UNDP, and now, it is undermining its relations with the UN gratuitously.”
In its communiqué, the UNDP recalled that the program “has mobilized significant funding with and for Nicaragua, helping the country access some US $270 million to support over 115 projects in the last 12 years.”
“The UNDP has been a partner of Nicaragua since 1978, working closely with different governments across the political spectrum to jointly improve the lives of Nicaraguan women and men,” the statement underscores, adding that the organization takes pride “in being ranked as the top performing development agency in the independently assessed Aid Transparency Index.”
The communiqué confirms that “In view of the Government of Nicaragua’s decision, in September 2015, to assume a more direct role in implementing international cooperation projects—followed by written requests to close UNDP-supported projects—our operations in the country have immediately been reduced. In full respect of the national decision, projects are currently in their final stages of closure, with unspent funds being returned to their corresponding donors.”
The US Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura F. Dogu confirmed that she had read the communiqué that the government had shared with the diplomatic corps in Nicaragua but that she did not have “much information” in this connection.
“It’s important for foreign governments and the governments of other countries, in this case Nicaragua, to be able to work together to share in development and support efforts of any magnitude around the world.”
The US diplomat stated that the government’s actions against the UNDP “are going to have an impact,” though it is still unclear what this impact will be.
During the television program Esta Noche, economist and representative of the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) Enrique Saenz stated that the government’s accusations against the UNDP are an “arrogant” and “ignorant” act that should not be overlooked by Nicaraguan society. “It seems irresponsible, because those affected are neither the government nor the officials who act with such arrogance and haughtiness, but those who benefit from these programs, the poor. They are the ones affected,” Saenz said.
Saenz believes those who benefited from the projects that have been suspended or won’t be executed following the closure of the UNDP office will be the most affected. He also stated that diplomatic relations with Nicaragua would suffer: “Once such bonds of trust are broken, mending them is extremely difficult.”