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UN’s ESCWA officials adopt pro-Assad agenda as violations mount: expert

Special Reports | 2019-01-02 12:33:00
UN’s ESCWA officials adopt pro-Assad agenda as violations mount: expert
(Zaman Al Wasl)- The Syrian regime is preparing to embezzle not dozens, but hundreds of the "promised" billions of dollars, the United States, for the first time, declares through its President that Saudi Arabia provided the "funds for the reconstruction of Syria" ...  revealed a close-up expert of the types of “violations” and “lawlessness”, in which has sunken into, not only one of the most important United Nations programs on Syria, but the one supposed to formulate its future.

The expert who revealed exclusively to Zaman al-Wasl this information, started with the most recent "violation" of the dismissal of about 20 members (researchers and experts) of "The National Agenda for the Future of Syria Program" of The UN ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia).

The expert confirmed that most of those who were dismissed (Firing them diplomatically by refusing to renew their contracts) are Syrian experts, who are under the direction of the Lebanese program Director Roua Nasreddin, whom he described to obviously hold “A sectarian and political agenda”. He pointed her association with Wiam Wahhab, the controversial Lebanese politician, which she is trying to keep it discrete, in vain.

The expert believed that the isolation of Syrian experts, means in one way or another, emptying the "National Agenda for the Future of Syria" (NAFS) of the voices that prevented the adoption of the view of the Assad regime, concerning the reconstruction file, that is amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars. The regime has sought - and still is seeking - to pass the file, through containing and controlling the NAFS, as will be illustrated later on.

The expert revealed that several "disagreements" has accumulated and has divided the NAFS program between “Nasreddin” and “Bassel Kaghdou” the leader of the Syrian team. The most prominent of these disagreements was highlighting the "government policy" by National Agenda program. Which did not please the senior officials of the program, including “Nasreddin”, who wants to maintain a good relationship between the Assad regime and the ESCWA’s program. However, the Syrian experts believe that it is their professional duty to expose whatever could affect Syria's future. Therefore, the disputes were fierce and continuous, among those who could be called "the Assad’s lobby", foremost among them: the former director “Khawla Matar” (to be discussed), behind her "Munir Thabet" and, “Roua Nasreddin” his sect member and, his countrywoman. 

According to the expert, the dismissal of the Syrian experts, paved the way for the Syrian lobbyist. It is obvious that this lobby was determined to spare themselves the “headache” that is caused by Syrian experts. This has been clear, through the announcement to recruit "replacements" to those who have been isolated, to recruit only two replacements for about 20 experts have been isolated.

Although, he accused "Nasreddin" to follow a discriminatory divisive policy, in favor of the Assad regime, the expert said that "Nasreddin" does not have the authority nor the courage to take a decision to isolate to isolate the 20 experts. Such instructions usually come from "above”. Nevertheless, he added that "Nasreddin" and "Thabet" are involved in the proposal and the decision making. Those familiar with the UN-ESCWA's updates, know that “Thabet” recently visited Damascus and met a number of the system’s officials, to discuss with them several issues.

The expert described "Nasreddin" and "Thabet" as mere tools in this project used to support Assad and his regime, and if they were not soft tools, they would be excluded, like what happened to who "rebelled" against the United Nations and "ESCWA" policies in respect of the Syrian file.

* A gap of 70 billion dollars
The expert stressed to "Zaman al-Wasl" that emptying the project of the Syrian experts and the taking over of the Assad's lobby, is a serious transgression, but the most dangerous is the concrete consequences of their control over the project, which involves the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars into Assad’s pockets custody, under the pretext of "reconstruction" with the blessing of the United nations.

The expert explained these consequences, noting that it reached the level of a public cooperation between Assad and, the UN commission who is entrusted with a huge file of the magnitude of "reconstruction" and of the sensitivity of "the future of Syria".

In the beginning of 2017, the “deviations” in which ESCWA was involved started to emerge, since the appointment of Khawla Matar as Deputy Executive Secretary of UN-ESCWA, directly responsible for the" National Agenda for the Future of Syria ", replacing Abdullah Al-Dardari, who moved to the World Bank.

The most serious of these abuses, that were committed in the name of the "National Agenda Program", was the issuance of the reconstruction estimating program, and the dissemination of news about Syria's need for about $ 400 billion to carry out the burden of reconstruction, which is, paradoxically, the same figure estimated by Bashar al-Assad, in mid-April 2018, before the confirmation and the appreciation of the UN-ESCWA and the NAFS, under the immediate direction of Khawla Matar, who has an exposed relationship with Bashar al-Assad and his Foreign Affairs Minister Walid al-Moallem and his Deputy Faisal Mekdad. This relationship was bounded during her tenure as representative of the UN Special Envoy for Syria De Mistura, and the official spokesperson in his name.

The expert pointed out the danger of this collusion, and what signifies. The first indication is, to give credibility and legitimacy to Bashar’s estimation, through adopting it as an official one by an international program, that is supposed to be independent and professional and entrusted of the future of Syria. As for the second indication, is that the regime has been granted an additional looting of an estimated $ 70 billion in reconstruction funds, a huge sum by all standards.

The expert explained the source of this huge gap estimated at 70 billion. The meeting of about 50 experts and economic consultants, mostly Syrians (before their recent isolation), held by the UN-ESCWA agenda program to discuss the cost of reconstruction in Syria revealed it. However, UNSCO, under guidance of Matar (later resigned) and the program's director, Roua Nasreddin, adopted a completely different figure and raised the estimation to more than $ 388 billion, depending on the estimation of unknown experts, without explaining this discrepancy between their estimations and the figure adopted by UN-ESCWA and circulated to the media as an official figure of the United Nations.

This dangerous transgression on the "external" level was preceded by an internal transgression of the NAFS program, which resulted in the exclusion and restriction of a number of Syrian experts, working in the program, who constitute its pillars and nuclei, in favor of appointing Lebanese replacements. The program became a structure of Lebanese pulp and Syrian crust, according to the expert description (as the program was emptied of the Syrian experts through the application of a plan to isolate them collectively).

The expert noted that the signs of distortion of the NAFS emerged to be the most apparent with positions and statements of the ESCWA Executive Director, Khawla Matar. This is what she revealed to the senior experts and executives of the NAFS, as well as her directives, which considered the satisfaction of al-Assad regime, avoiding provoking him by any studies or figures that may question his opinion or his estimates. This a blatant bias from her part, according to the expert, as well it would undermine the transparency and competence of UN-ESCWA and its affiliated programs, particularly those dedicated to the Syrian file. 

The expert expressed his deep fear that the reconstruction figures will be passed as Bashar Assad wishes, and that this tyrant will float on a river of funds, which will enable him to reproduce and "improve" the tools of repression. If this happens, the United Nations and ESCWA would be the key partners in this crime. As then, Assad would address, the rest of the countries that wishes to participate in the injection of funds, saying: “These are the figures of the United Nations, that all of you do trust”.

The expert concluded, that what is jeopardizing the NAFS is the confiscation of the program, which is supposed to be a spokesman for the Syrians and their interests and, turning it into a hollow structure. Also, the claim that all the plans and figures issued by the program, were by Syrian consensus, contrary to the current reality, where there is no voice for the Syrians in the program, except the voice of Assad and his deputies.



 "ESCWA" responds


According to Journalism Ethics, we are obliged to voice the counter party’s opinion on the matter, "Zaman al-Wasl" conveyed the content of these accusations to UN-ESCWA, summarized in three questions dealing with the main axes (The isolation of Syrian experts, favoring the regime and suppressing any opposition voice, The adoption of figures for reconstruction corresponds to those put forward by Bashar al-Assad).

 The UNSCO Information Office responded to our questions, and we will respond here to its answers without any comment or intervention:

Question 1: There is talk about NAFS's abstention from renewing the contracts of some 20 experts, mostly Syrians, which means that they will be dismissed from the program?

Answer.1: All experts have worked on a consultative basis since the launch of the program in 2012 and the advisory status is subject to United Nations laws where contracts cannot be renewed after a certain period. The program is currently undergoing a restructuring that will allow for the provision of jobs that will result in the efficient use of the program.

Question 2: There are accusations of the administration of "NAFS" favoring the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which restricts each voice in the program that tries to express a view that does not correspond to this regime.

Answer 2: Incorrect. All the meetings held in ESCWA were conducted in absolute freedom, as illustrated by the substantive outputs of the program, which considered the views of all sectors of the Syrian society. The NAFS program seeks to secure the widest possible representation of the Syrian parties and their views in all the meetings sponsored by ESCWA are in a space that allows free and transparent exchange of views.

Q3: There are clear and explicit accusations that NAFS has adopted a figure for the reconstruction of Syria, that goes in line with the figure of the regime, despite the reservations of a number of experts on the program and their refusal to adopt it.

A3: In fact, the estimates of losses in gross domestic product (GDP) and physical capital are prepared by the NAFS team at ESCWA and endorsed by a wide range of Syrian stakeholders from all walks of life. These are figures and estimates based on calculations made by ESCWA because no official figures are available

Zaman Al Wasl- Ethar Abdul Haq
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