“We will be asking: is bribery business as usual at the UN?”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015
“If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015
“Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.”, Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018
“It is important to send a message, to the people at the UN itself and to other institutions in this country, that perverting the decision-making or attempting to pervert the decision-making through bribes will not be tolerated.”, US District Judge Vernon Broderick, May 2018
It first came to light in 2015. Arrests by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in New York – steps away from the headquarters of the United Nations – began a journey of discovery that led to a remarkable story of global order and power upended. Since World War II one country alone reigned supreme over the global economy and the rules and norms that underpinned it: the United States.
It is a story that has it all: the gambling sin-bin of Macau, human and sex trafficking, bribery, corruption, money laundering, spies, and, if they are to be believed, naive UN officials hiding behind their laissez-passer passports who knew nothing about all of this but were happy to take the money for a five-star conference and a trip to China (and a free iPad). How the UN ended up in this quagmire leaves many puzzled and perplexed. Then there is a so-called “21st century” media service that really is a “conduit” for bribery and money laundering (and possibly fake news), and who to this day is still reporting from the United Nations.
May 2018 saw the ending of one chapter in the ongoing corruption saga surrounding the executives of South-South News and their alleged bribery and money laundering conduit targeting the United Nations (UN). On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being the ring leader of an elaborate, multi-year, multinational scheme to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, Preet Bharara, released a flowchart showing how the alleged bribery scheme targeting the United Nations worked. A series of court trials followed for the various co-conspirators, including senior executives and board members for South-South News, culminating in the 27 July 2017 conviction of the alleged ring leader of the scheme, Macau casino billionaire Ng Lap Seng, on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service South-South News as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by various co-conspirators in court and under oath.
Work began in 2010 to develop what became the United Nations magazine Southern Innovator. A highly talented global team of international development and design professionals based in New York and London collaborated with an Icelandic studio to create an innovation media brand showcasing global South innovators inspired by the mobile and information technology revolutions. It was launched in 2011 at the UN General Assembly in New York.
“Dr. Cosmas Gitta is a senior UN consultant and the former Assistant Director for Policy and UN Affairs at the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, where he oversaw the convening of various intergovernmental and interagency forums as well as the preparation of related reports and studies, including the biennial reports of the Secretary-General on the state of South-South cooperation. He was Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Southern Innovator and an e-newsletter, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, both of which are media to share information on development related innovations with partners around the world. He was for many years Managing Editor of Cooperation South, a print and electronic development journal promoting collaboration among developing countries. Mr. Gitta holds a PhD in international and comparative education from Columbia University and he has lectured on human rights education at his alma mater, and on a range of other subjects at various campuses of the City University of New York.” (From Integral Leadership Review)
Editor and Writer
David South is the founder and senior partner for David South International and David South Consulting. He has worked around the world for the United Nations and has led a number of groundbreaking projects for major institutions. Clients have included the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH)/Institute of Child Health (ICH)/National Health Service (NHS), Harvard Institute for International Development, UNICEF, World Bank, USAID, and the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, among others.
He has worked for, or side-by-side, with many high-level senior professionals and executives. These experienced professionals had roles under close public scrutiny and needed to show the impact of their work to a tight deadline.
He has been the editor for the United Nations magazine Southern Innovator since 2010. He also researched and wrote the influential United Nations e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions (2007-2014). He has over two decades’ experience in media and journalism (developing strong relationships with many top journalists and media professionals), health and human development, and the role innovation plays in transforming major organisations while getting the most from people tackling complex problems in challenging environments.
Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is about the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Ethiopia and Djibouti are the latest global South countries to make a significant commitment to developing geothermal energy – a green energy source that draws on the heat below the earth’s surface (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy) – to meet future development goals.
Ambitiously, Ethiopia also hopes to build Africa’s largest geothermal power plant.
It joins Kenya, which in 2012, announced projects to expand its geothermal capacity further. Currently, Kenya is Africa’s largest geothermal producer and has geothermal resources concentrated near a giant volcanic crater in the Great Rift Valley with 14 fields reaching from Lake Magadi to Lake Turkana. There are also low temperature fields in Homa Hills and Massa Mukwe (http://www.gdc.co.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=191&Itemid=163). Around 1,400 steam holes are being drilled.
Cooperating with Reykjavik Geothermal (rg.is), a US-Icelandic private developer, Ethiopia will spend US $4 billion to build a 1,000 megawatt geothermal plant at Corbetti (http://www.volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=221290). It is expected to be ready in eight to 10 years. The country wants to be carbon neutral by 2025.
Drilling will need to go down as deep as 3 kilometers to tap the source. This is expensive and a technological challenge, thus the need for international expertise. The country hopes to develop this source of energy and then export electricity to neighboring African countries.
Another plant, Aluto Langano 7, is being built 201 kilometers south of Addis Ababa, the capital, by a partnership between the Japanese government, Ethiopia and the World Bank.
At present, 70 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa, some 600 million, are without a domestic electricity supply (USAID). Electricity and other sources of energy are required if living standards are to be raised for millions of the world’s poor. The danger of this, however, is to the planet if the energy comes from polluting sources.
In March 2013 the World Bank announced a significant push to increase development of geothermal resources around the world, and in particular in energy-hungry, fast-developing countries.
“Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally produced power,” the bank says. “And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless.”
The bank joined forces with Iceland to make a pledge to secure US $500 million in financing to get geothermal projects up and running. The announcement was made at the Iceland Geothermal Conference (http://geothermalconference.is/) in Reykjavík, the Icelandic capital.
Few countries have such easy access to geothermal energy as Iceland, with its plentiful volcanoes, geysers and hot springs bursting through the surface. But it is there, under the ground, and through the Global Geothermal Development Plan (GGDP), it is hoped this plentiful energy source will become the norm for countries around the world.
The World Bank believes at least 40 countries can get into geothermal on a significant scale with the correct investment. Many developing world regions are rich in geothermal resources, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Andean region.
Just 11 gigawatts of geothermal capacity is currently being tapped in the world. Nuclear power, for example, generates 370 gigawatts a year (2012) (EIA). What has held back many countries has been the high upfront costs involved in getting projects going. A site must be found, drilled and tested to see if it is viable.
The GGDP plan is to raise US $500 million from donors and others to fund geothermal exploration and development. The GGDP will identify promising sites and then acquire funding to pay for drilling to identify commercially viable projects.
The World Bank has increased financing for geothermal development from US $73 million in 2007 to US $336 million in 2012. It comprises 10 per cent of the Bank’s renewable energy lending.
The Icelandic International Development Agency (iceida.is) signed a partnership in September 2013 with the government of Ethiopia to undergo geothermal surface exploration and to build Ethiopia’s capacity to develop this energy source. The World Bank estimates that Ethiopia has the potential to generate 5,000 megawatts (MW) of energy from geothermal sources.
The Geological Survey of Ethiopia (GSE) and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) will undertake exploration at sites in Tendaho Alalobeda and Aluto Langano.
It fits in with a wider push by Ethiopia to develop its renewable energy resources. The country is also increasing investment in hydro-electric power.
The Ethiopia project is part of the wider World Bank-Iceland compact to develop global geothermal energy capacity. It is the second such arrangement, with the first already underway in Rwanda.
Djibouti is also moving into geothermal, with a new agreement with the World Bank to develop a site at Lake Assal. The World Bank will provide US $6 million to evaluate its commercial potential. Djibouti tried to develop its geothermal resources privately but was not successful.
Overall, geothermal power has the potential to help reduce Djibouti’s electricity production costs by 70 per cent, boost access to electricity for the population and alleviate the country’s energy dependency. The country hopes to have 100 per cent green energy by 2020.
Joining forces on helping boost geothermal in Africa is USAID’s Power Africa fund, which is providing US $7 billion in financial support and loan guarantees for energy projects.
Apart from generating electricity, what else can this powerful resource do? Countries such as Iceland now use hot geothermal water to heat homes and provide domestic hot water. Iceland also has an extensive network of swimming pools and spas in each town. The Blue Lagoon (bluelagoon.com) is a good example of how geothermal power generation can have lots of side benefits. The giant, steamy blue-colored lagoon is the consequence of an accident in 1976 at the nearby geothermal power plant; it’s now a spa and one of the country’s main tourist attractions.
The geothermal-heated pools and spas play a key role in keeping the cold north Atlantic country healthy – Iceland ranked number one on the UNDP human development index in 2007 – and provide a recreational source even in the depths of winter.
1) Iceland Review: A great way to learn about life on an island powered by geothermal energy. Website: icelandreview.com
2) Nordic Development Fund: The Nordic Development Fund (NDF) is the joint development finance institution of the five Nordic countries. The objective of NDF’s operations is to facilitate climate change investments in low-income countries. Website: ndf.fi
3) Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA): The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) is an autonomous agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is responsible for the implementation of official Icelandic bilateral development cooperation. It follows the Icelandic government’s Act on Development Cooperation No 121/2008, which is in keeping with the UN Millennium Development Goals and other international commitments, such as the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development and the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Website: iceida.is
4) Geothermal Exploration Project, NDF: The main objective of the Geothermal Exploration Project is to assist countries in East Africa to enhance geothermal knowledge and capacity in order to enable further actions on geothermal energy development in the respective countries. The project could extend to 13 countries in the East Africa Rift Valley: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Website: http://www.iceida.is/iceida-projects/nr/1488
5) Power Africa: Power Africa – an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa will achieve this goal by unlocking the substantial wind, solar, hydropower, natural gas, and geothermal resources in the region to enhance energy security, decrease poverty, and advance economic growth. Website: http://www.usaid.gov/powerafrica
6) Geological Survey of Ethiopia: The GSE has been generating , collecting and managing geoinformation of the country for the last 4 decades. Website: http://www.gse.gov.et/index.php