FIFA and other unaccountable international fiefdoms

Posted by $ jlc 6 years, 11 months ago to Government
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Matt Ridley's most recent article on international organizations...(I have copied the first half below. If you go to the article itself, be sure to follow the ebola delay link.) Jan

FIFA and other unaccountable international fiefdoms
Published on Saturday, June 06, 2015, updated Saturday, June 06, 2015
There's very little to check the chairmen of International bodies

My Times column on unaccountable chairmen of international agencies:

The Fifa fiasco is not just about football. It is also emblematic of a chronic problem with international bureaucracies of all kinds. The tendency of supranational quangos to become the personal fiefdoms of their presidents or directors-general, and to sink into lethargy or corruption, followed by brazen defiance when challenged, is not unique to Fifa or sport. It is an all too common pattern.

Fifa is an extreme example mainly because of the enormous opportunity for bribery involved in granting the right to host a vastly lucrative tournament every four years. A similar corruption scandal befell the International Olympic Committee in 1998 over its practices when awarding the Winter Games to Salt Lake City, while under the 21-year presidency of Juan Antonio Samaranch. Reform followed.

Outside sport, consider what happened to Unesco, the UN cultural body, in the 1980s. No organisation had ever begun with higher ideals. Its first delegates were mostly distinguished writers and intellectuals.

Under the presidency of Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, from 1974 to 1987, it became (in the words of The New York Times at the time) “bogged down into a totally politicised, demoralised bureaucracy whose chief concern is to provide cushy jobs for politicians unwanted at home and a forum for attacking the very concepts Unesco was supposed to serve — human rights for all, press freedom, unrestricted access to culture.”

At its meetings, Mr M’Bow was wont to win landslide votes for resolutions praising himself and his regime, not unlike Sepp Blatter or Augustus Caesar. Only when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher took the provocative step of withdrawing their countries entirely from Unesco did reform come. Mr M’Bow, unwelcome in his native Senegal, retired to Morocco where he still lives.

Hiroshi Nakajima’s two terms as director-general of the World Health Organisation (1988-98) saw an enormous expansion of its budget and bureaucracy and rows over the response to Aids. As Mr Nakajima fought off a challenger, the Japanese government lavished research contracts on 23 of the 31 members of the executive board — a coincidence that “presented a problem of ethics”, a later audit delicately decided. Mr Nakajima eventually bowed out only after saying that Africans had difficulty writing reports, which is why they were under-represented in the organisation. That is how far you have to go before you lose the support of delegates in such bodies.

Or take the case of 74-year-old Rajendra Pachauri, until recently the chairman of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. He dismissed as “voodoo science” an official report by India’s leading glaciologist challenging the IPCC’s mistaken claim that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), which Pachauri founded, had hired the man who made the claim about the short life of the glaciers, and snared a share in a €3 million grant from the European Union to pursue it. The IPCC had to withdraw the claim.

That and other errors led to what Mr Pachauri hoped would be a friendly inquiry into the IPCC by the world’s top science academies, but which in fact found “significant shortcomings” in the IPCC’s assessment process on conflicts of interest, transparency, the presentation of uncertainty and other matters. It said the chairman should serve only one term. Asked if that meant Mr Pachauri should step down immediately, the chairman of the panel said that was “one logical conclusion”, but Mr Pachauri sailed on for another five years as if nothing had happened, flying around the world telling people they should not fly.

It was only this year, after a 29-year-old female employee of Teri went to police alleging sexual assault, stalking and harassment that Mr Pachauri resigned as IPCC chairman (he is at present on bail). This month, an internal Teri panel found him guilty of work-....


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  • Posted by SaltyDog 6 years, 11 months ago
    The FIFA mess is deplorable, certainly, but is small potatoes when compared with the elephant in the room, the United Nations. I wouldn't know where to begin, short of kicking them all out and using the headquarters as a homeless shelter.
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    • Posted by $ 6 years, 11 months ago
      The rest of the article touches on WHO, UN, UNESCO...I only pasted the first part (to whet your curiosity).

      What was most interesting to me is that he defined a 'class' of well-intentioned international organization and then used case after case to indicate 'did not work so well'.

      The months worth of delay re Ebola, to not destabilize the political situation or interfere with pilgrimages to Mecca made me go "GRRRRRR".

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  • Posted by $ jdg 6 years, 11 months ago
    FIFA is not the only such "private" body that abuses the taxpayers. So do the Olympics and the NFL. But the best solution is simply to take away the power of government, at any level, to spend tax money on sports stadia or teams. This probably requires a constitutional amendment but it should be done.
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  • Posted by Lucky 6 years, 11 months ago
    Matt Ridley's article ends by saying,
    ' Most of the people who serve on such bodies are too principled to let this go to their heads. But not all.'

    I wonder if this is far more widespread being the 'other people's money' syndrome in action.

    In my town the mayor is not directly elected by the voters but the Councillors elect a mayor from among themselves. There is a movement for direct election. I argue against since having the mayor answerable to everybody means in fact answerable to nobody, Having a clique of Councillors is not ideal but better.

    The presidents, directors-general, and chairmen that Ridley writes about are typical of government, quasi-government and international organizations where they is no effective oversight.
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    • Posted by $ jdg 6 years, 11 months ago
      Having the Council choose the mayor is better if you believe city government should "get things done." But if you believe, as I do, that most actions of city governments are bad, then gridlock is preferable, and direct election of the mayor is more likely to produce it.

      This probably goes for the President, too.
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