53 Rue de l’Amiral Mouchez
MM. President and Government Chief of Countries
Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretaries General, Managing Director, & Presidents of Organizations
Paris, June 23rd, 2000
Dear MM. Presidents and Government Chiefs,
Dear Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretaries General, Managing Director, & Presidents,
Referring to my different letters of June and November last year and April this year, I would like to forward you the comments concerning the new work proposal of March 27th 2000 and to make few remarks on the different subjects I discussed.
First, you will find attached the kind answer from Mr. D’Alema’s office and the remark of Mr. Kincannon that I would like to comment briefly. Mr. Kincannon is the Chief Statistician of OECD since the creation of the position in 92, I believe. According to an advertisement on the OECD Website, he would be leaving his post. If this is true, it may explain partly his answer, although some of you may think that it would have been more ‘appropriate’ to write ‘I am leaving my post, please contact my successor or Mr. Nezu’.
His lack of interest may explain why he never commented in writing the proposal and why Mr. Johnston asked Mr. Nezu to answer us and to study the project. The OECD uses a lot of statistics in various domains, so the Statistics Directorate plays an important role in the coordination of the statistical work of International Organizations, a negative answer or a strong lack of interest for the proposal from its director is a serious problem.
To realize the project and enjoy its many benefits it is necessary to have a fairly clear understanding of the problem, the proposed solution, its impact and its implications. The experts’ comments are therefore critical because it is only in reading their remarks that we can evaluate their level of understanding of the proposal. Given that the expected benefits fit the global objectives of International Organizations, it seems also ‘logical’ to expect ‘some’ interest in the proposal from the ‘main actors’ and users.
Recent comments or ‘silences’ may suggest that the understanding and interest are not everywhere the same. So it may be appropriate to look again at some of the initial answers I received (or did not receive), as briefly as possible. But before please let me remind that the idea described in the proposal is not just to use the Internet to collect the data from countries. You will find attached a response from Mr. Nanda of Who Copenhagen, that describes WHO/EURO ‘similar’ on going work for health and ‘health related’ indicators in its region.
Mr. Nanda did not understand the proposal. Since WHO had shown some interest for the proposal, it did not seem critical to mention it at the time. If several International Organizations are doing ‘similar’ works on their own, it will not be the same at all. For example if WHO/EURO inventories the health and ‘health related’ data and codifies it for the ‘EURO’ countries without talking to WHO/AFRO, OECD, …, there are a great chance that they will come up with a different codification for indicators that are exactly the same.
The ‘integration’ work to compare indicators from different regions will then be very complicated because the users will need to verify all the labels and calculation methodologies to make sure that they are looking at the same information. And the ‘integration’ work to study data in various domains will also be more difficult. ‘Health related’ data is a wide definition, the total government expenditure for health is an ‘health related’ data, it is also an economic indicator and may be used at Eurostat, at the OECD and even at the IMF.
The codification of information is an important part of the information system, any new computer system will depend on it. Since data collection system for some may mean data distribution system for others and since countries also want to transfer and integrate more efficiently their statistical data with the Internet network, it is reasonable to work together to develop a work methodology and a system (ergonomic, protocols, etc.) that will be useful for everyone.
Apart from this ‘misunderstanding’, some organizations never even commented the proposal. The secretariat of the United Nations sent me, through Mr. A. Haemmerli, its first letter in March this year (see attachment), more than two and a half-year after I presented the project to the statistics division (UNSD), and it does not give any technical comment. The UNSD never responded to the proposal and never gave any kind of evaluation although they are particularly concerned by it.
Has Mr. Annan asked his statistics Director, Mr. Habermann, to give him his point of view on the idea and proposal since my letter of June 23rd 1999? I don’t know, if he did, he certainly never forwarded it to me. What would be the real value of his point of view, if it does not stand the comments of the one who proposed the idea in the first place? A technical evaluation (comments on the benefits, technical feasibility, impacts on ongoing project or strategy and possible additional costs) should not require two years for an expert.
Has Mr. Habermann no interest in the proposal like Mr. Kincannon? Or is it simply a problem of understanding like for Mr. Nanda? The new technologies are sometimes not well understood and some managers may not want to make the necessary effort to learn about them or to understand the benefits they can bring. Some others may feel ‘embarrassed’ by the fact that someone from the outside or someone younger proposes a strategy they should be submitting themselves.
The top management should understand these possibilities and make the necessary correction like Mr. Johnston did in some way. The mid- and long-term strategy of an organization is one of the top management’s responsibilities. As you have understood, the idea and the proposal is a mid- and long-term strategy to transfer and integrate statistical data more efficiently, so the proposal should not simply have gotten the interest of statistics or information system Directors, but also the interest of the upper level management.
It should have also gotten a much greater attention of some organizations. The project concerned all the organizations, even those who are simply statistics users should be interested, the recent response from Mr. Konda of the World Food Program confirms that. But depending on their responsibilities and missions some should have showed a greater need of such a project and could have even tried to take the lead. We can try to identify them now.
Eurostat (or European Commission), CIS or OECD use a large number of statistics in various domains, and they have gained a great experience in collecting statistics (electronically) from countries, but they have a fairly limited number of members country. And although they will benefit from the project, they may not be the best coordinators because they do not have this ‘legal responsibility’ and ‘close relation’ with the other countries of the world.
The specialized agencies like ILO, WHO, UNESCO, FAO, IMF, UNIDO, WTO,…, have a much greater number of members country, but they are very ‘focus’ in their work. And although some may use a large number of statistics and have a good experience in collecting the data like the IMF, they may not be the best coordinators either. Overall they showed a real interest in the proposal and even took intermediate steps to facilitate it.
It appears then that two organizations could have played or could play a leading role in this project. First, the United Nations because it regroups almost all the countries of the world, it has a wide mission, in the economic, social and justice area for example, and it has an important coordination role through the ACC committee and the statistical commission. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is even the Chairman of the ACC committee, I believe.
And second the World Bank because it uses a lot of statistics in very different domains like economy, health, education, etc. We can even say that its ‘business’ depends greatly on these statistics. The World Bank group lends about 40 billions dollars a year for various types of development projects, I believe. To assess the risk and evaluate the benefits properly on these projects, it needs a lot of data, just like its traders need a lot of data on the financial markets and products to invest efficiently.
Its geographical location (across the street from the IMF who took the useful GDDS and SDDS initiatives and in USA who has, in some way, offered us the Internet, and who enjoys, of course, a great expertise in this area) should have also encouraged the World Bank to play an important role if not the leading one. So, the UN secretariat and the World Bank should have supported the idea, presented it and discussed it with country leaders, administrations and other International Organizations.
The ‘silence’ of the UN and the negative comments of the infoDev experts did not keep several national experts or personality to find the idea valuable and proposal useful. You will find attached again some of the comments made. The project is important for the six billions people living on earth, and several experts of International Organizations, directors of National Institute of Statistics and even important personalities like Mr. D’Alema expressed their interest in writing, ‘we’ cannot just forget about it, ‘we’ have an intellectual responsibility.
Of course, International Organizations have no ‘legal obligations’ to answer the proposal or to comment it, but the international community, mainly some rich countries, will invest billions of dollars to fight poverty. The World Bank and the IMF designed a new strategy and posted a paper entitled “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: Operational Issues,” on their websites for public comment, to ‘underline the importance of participation by civil society in the development of effective poverty-reduction programs’.
If ‘you’ ask the civil society to participate and comment ‘your’ strategy, then ‘you’ must comment the (serious) suggestions ‘it’ is giving ‘you’. ‘You’ cannot just take the millions of dollars of Mr. Turner or other individuals. In November I mentioned both Mr. Annan and Mr. Wolfensohn words not just because the organizations they managed were the most concerned by the project, but also because they are the most concerned by the personal difficulties I described you.
The project, the difficulties I encounter (in the trial, …), and some of France’s problems are linked. Why would France, supposedly the ‘country of human right’, create problems to someone who proposes an idea and a project judged to be valuable by many experts around the world, in particular European experts? As an unemployed man, it was my duty to work on a project. So this project proposal is the only way I can prove to the judges and my future employers that I have done my work properly.
It demonstrates my technical and professional ability, and a certain interest and expertise for a specific problem. I could have also presented the 300 or more negative answers to job applications I received. Given that the answer ratio to job application is in France between ¼ and 1/8, they means that I sent between 1200 and 2400 job applications during my unemployment time. Since each application represents a lot of time spent on research, they prove that I worked hard to find a job and that the threat I received was real, but nothing else.
Today my situation has worsened. The Administrative Court of Appeal cancelled my first judgement in a new judgement full of lies (see attachment). They simply sentenced me to go in the street in the next few weeks. Once you are in the street you cannot complain anymore, you have no more address. By describing my difficulties and France’s problems I was trying to help France too. If Mr. Annan and Mr. Wolfensohn could not hire me for the project, they may understand what I will explain next and accept to help France.
In my letter of April, I looked at the problem of poverty from an arithmetic point of view and made two remarks (most probably obvious for you). First, that it was important to show that we have strong conscience and to understand that ‘time’ is a key element in the fight against poverty. And second, that Mr. Turner’s initiative and G7 debt reduction initiative had intellectual implications, for example that G8 leaders should not keep the highest positions and salaries long after they have reached the retirement age.
It is, as you understand, a difficult remark to make, in particular in France where there has been some exaggerations in this area, because everyone want to show a great respect for older persons. Anyone in his 40’s or 50’s will always want to show respect for persons in their 60’s and 70’s, because ‘he or she’ wants the people do the same when (and if) ‘he or she’ will be this age. The reverse is not true, of course, someone in 60’s and 70’s will never be 40 or 50 again, and it explains why some forget to respect the new generations!
But it is, as you understand also, an important remark to make because there are a limited number of jobs, and everyone has a limited number of years to work and to collect money for his old age. In fact, according to ILO ‘some 90% of the world’s working age population is not covered by pension schemes capable of providing adequate retirement income’. Even though ILO recommends to increase the actual age of retirement, the persons who continue to work after they have reached the retirement age are simply taking the place of others who may never have the chance to save enough money to retire. If these persons continue to work in a case of extreme necessity, we can understand, otherwise it is not fair.
I gave the example of France where the President, the President of the Senate, and the Chief of Justice have all passed the retirement age for several years (68, 72, 78), and also described some side effects of this behavior. None of them needs his salary to continue to live, in fact they will most certainly have a good retirement pension and they had the chance to collect enough money during their professional life. They are simply afraid to retire and show little respect for the new generations who have difficulties finding jobs for more than 15 years.
Mr. Wolfensohn, I believe you have passed 65, the retirement age in many industrial countries. The International Community has shown you a great respect in appointing you for another term. Several countries have rewarded you with the highest honor. There is no doubt that you deserved everything that you received. As President of the World Bank, you earn probably one of the highest ‘public’ salary in the world, and there is also no doubt that this salary is justified because you have a great intellectual and ‘professional’ responsibility.
Today, if there are individuals like Mr. Turner who make so much effort to fight poverty and to help the 36 millions people with AIDS worldwide, or all the others victims of other diseases, discrimination, wars, corruption, …, don’t you think that our leaders too should show that they have a strong conscience and pay careful attention to the time factor? Your former colleague, Mr. Camdessus, thought he had to resign as closely as possible from his 65th birthday, probably to respect the new generations who also bring new ‘knowledge’ sometimes.
Mr. Wolfensohn, you could help France where some politicians forget some of their important duties. By resigning from your position you would remind them that they have to pay careful attention to the time factor and to respect the new generations. To retire is difficult for anyone, and perhaps even more difficult for someone who feels he has done (and still can do) so much for his country and the world. But since ‘we’ want a greater participation of the civil society, ‘retired’ ‘Presidents’ can continue to help the world to solve its problems.
Mr. Annan, you could also help France where some politicians lack courage and conscience. You have said that the United Nations can seek to be the conscious of the world. If an individual, Mr. Turner, puts so much trust in the UN’s work, and billions of people put so much hope in its realizations in so many domains, then you are right, the UN should be the conscious of the world. Now, if the United Nations is the conscious of the world, nobody, apart from you, can really ‘judge’ it (or you) or sentence it (or you).
A report you ordered admitted the responsibility of the UN Secretariat, in particular its Peace-Keeping Operations Department you headed, in the death of population in Rwanda and Bosnia. Some people said that this initiative was courageous. It was honest. In some countries, a medical doctor who makes a professional mistake and kills one of its patient, may face criminal charges in front of a court of justice, and may even have to go to jail. More than 800 000 of your ‘patients’ died in Rwanda and many others died in Bosnia.
Even if nobody doubts from the difficulty of your mission, ‘simple excuses’ may not be the appropriate sentence for these deadly faults. By resigning from your post and assuming the responsibility for the death of population in Rwanda and Bosnia, you would show that you (and the UN you represent) have courage and a strong conscience, and remind French politicians of the importance of these virtues, in particular the Senator who was sentenced to 18 months of jail and his ‘supporters’.
Instead of presenting a technical proposal, I talked about some management issues, but the realization of the project requires a good understanding and will (desire) to understand from both top management and ‘technicians’. To obtain a better understanding of the problem, ‘International Organizations’ should respond to what can be qualified as a serious proposal. And ‘they’ should not forget their objectives or missions, leaving out a ‘victim’ who presents ‘valuable’ ideas and letters of ‘support’, would not simplify the problem at all.
The ‘poors’ in Africa or South East Asia are not ‘good poors’, and the ones in France ‘bad poors’. And sending the ‘Casques Bleus’ is not the solution to all the problems of the world. It certainly would not help France to solve its unemployment and justice problems. The above suggestions and to hire someone who brings ‘documented’ critics and letters of ‘support’ are ways to tell France that it can do and should do better, and that it should not send anyone in the street. I remain
Mr. Bill Clinton, President of the United States
Mr. Vladimir Poutine, President of the Russian Federation
Mr. Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan
Mr. Gerhard Schröder, German Chancelor
Mr. Giuliano Amato, Prime Minister of Italy
Mr. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of England
Mr. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada
Mr. Donald J. Johnston, Secretary-General of OECD
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundland, Director-General, WHO
Mr. Horst Köhler, Managing Director, IMF
Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General, UNESCO
Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission
Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Mr. Youri F. Yarov, Executive-Secretary of CIS
Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General, FAO
Mr. Carlos Magarinos, Director-General, UNIDO
Mr. Mike Moore, Director-General, WTO
Mr. Juan Somavia, Director-General, ILO
Mr. James D. Wolfensohn, President, World Bank
Attachments: Judgment results report and report on comments received.