With another year coming to a close, it is time for us to look back on some of the most ridiculous examples of IGOs wasting taxpayer money while making decisions to the detriment of millions of taxpayers and consumers. Below are the IGOs’ Biggest Blunders of 2019:


1. The UN’s Culture of Abuse and Mismanagement

It is a well-known fact that the United Nations (UN) has no uniform standard when criminal allegations of sexual abuse are lodged against its personnel. For this reason, it was not surprising to learn that one-third of UN staff and contractors claimed to have experienced sexual harassment in the past two years. In fact, throughout 2019 even more cases of harassment emerged, illustrating the deeply-rooted predatory culture and lack of accountability within the organization. Here are just some of the examples we found:

  •  A UN worker was arrested in New York for sexually abusing a teenager, after allegedly entering the boy’s hotel room under the guise of needing to charge his phone.
  •  A report showing an increase in allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by staff working in UN agencies and their partner organizations.
  • A UN whistleblower who accused a high-ranking official of sexually assaulting her was fired over alleged financial and sexual misconduct.
  • The head of the UNAIDS agency created to eradicate the AIDS crisis resigned, five months after his leadership was impugned in a damning report about workplace sexual harassment and bullying.
  • A UN staffer was charged and convicted of severe child abuse in the Darfur region.
  • Members of an “inner circle” in the top management of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are accused to have engaged in “abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Sadly, the culture of harassment, abuse, and corruption within the UN is still going strong, despite the constant insistence of high ranking officials that the UN has no tolerance for corruption.

With constant scandals, reports of bad management, harassment, unrealistic policy goals, and a complete lack of transparency and accountability, is it really a surprise that an increasing number of member-states do not want to pay pre-determined contributions to finance the UN’s controversial peacekeeping missions and subsidize an increasingly bureaucratized staff? Waste and mismanagement at the UN have meant that the giant bureaucracy is slowly but surely running out of funding

Reality hit the UN hard in October as the organization experienced its worst cash crisis in nearly a decade. The shortage of money forced UN employees to cancel meetings, limit travel, reduce heating, and even close down the fountain in front of the UN headquarters. Unfortunately, instead of identifying and dealing with the waste and cost overruns gripping the overly bureaucratic system, the UN chief put the ultimate responsibility for the organization’s lousy finances on Member-States.


2. The EU’s Digital Nightmare

At IGO Watch, we were more than happy to hear that the European Union (EU) member states scrapped their controversial plan to introduce an EU-wide digital tax in March. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the EU will give up on the efforts for greater digital taxation and regulation as EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager described digital tax reforms as “absolutely necessary.” And now, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has picked up the mantle of working on a global “reform” of digital taxation.

We saw the first glimpse of the disastrous scope of these reforms when the OECD unveiled a new proposal which would give individual countries the power to enforce taxes on digital companies based on their sales, rather than their physical presence. Under this proposal, part of a company’s tax would be divided among countries with the goal of giving more tax revenue to the countries where a company’s users or consumers are located. A Tax Justice Network analysis of the proposed OECD measures found that the slated reforms could end up worsening global inequality. Eighty percent of the taxes clawed back are likely to be redistributed to high-income countries, casting considerable doubt on the credibility of the OECD as the appropriate body to pursue work on this issue.

Seeking to address the “tax challenges of digitalization” (code for governments simply wanting more money), the OECD blatantly disregarded the disastrous impact a global onerous tax regime would entail. Targeting users’ favorite online services would stifle innovation and take money out of the pockets of those trying to access the World Wide Web. High-profile companies and business associations came forward to voice their concerns about the implications of the proposed OECD unified tax proposals.

Make no mistake: this is nothing more than an attempt to extract more money from the productive sector of the economy, which would wind up hurting businesses, workers, consumers, and shareholders. Hopefully, 2020 will bring us more positive news.


Photo by Fredography

3. The EU’s Climate Change Obsession

The whole world was taken aback in February when then-president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker announced the ludicrous spending of taxpayer funds on battling climate change.. Unfortunately, the idea of blowing even more EU money met little resistance in leadership circles across the continent, as eight EU countries called for at least a quarter of the EU budget to be dedicated to projects aimed at fighting “climate change”.

As the EU officially confirmed that the next president of the European Commission would be Ursula von der Leyen, the president-elect quickly announced massive spending of taxpayer funds on “climate change action.” The European Parliament also decided to up their money-squandering charades, approving an increase in the 2020 budget lines dealing with climate protection by €504 million. This budgetary boondoggle ensures that next year, more than 21 percent of EU expenditures will be climate-related. To justify that decision, the Parliament also decided to declare a “climate and environmental emergency” around the world.

Despite the fact that op EU officials spent more than half of 2019 making promises to ramp up the fight against climate change, their carbon footprint is growing by leaps and bounds with the planned increase of more than €3.5 million for private jet flights.


The United Nations Human Rights Council. Credit: U.S. Mission Geneva Photo: Eric Bridiers

4. No Human Rights in Sight

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was up to their usual shenanigans this year. The organization set the bar ever-higher for despicable conduct, praising countries such as Brunei, North Korea, and Qatar which regularly engage in torture, public execution, violence against children and women, criminalization of homosexuality, and maintain forced labor camps. Just to outdo itself, the UNHRC shamefully adopted a resolution praising Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, which was sponsored by Iran and written by Maduro’s regime. And who can forget the absurdity of electing Venezuela to the council just a month after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed ongoing cases of torture, sexual abuse, and extrajudicial killing under the Maduro regime.


5. The WHO’s Mismanagement Continues to Cost Lives

After months of hesitation due to political pressure and fear of offending African dictators, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally declared the Ebola outbreak in Africa an international emergency in July. It took them 50 weeks from the initial declaration of cases by the DRC Ministry of Health (on August 1, 2018) to deem the outbreak to be a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Even now, the WHO continues to stockpile the Ebola vaccine, refusing to distribute it or share it with doctors on the ground and bodies like Medicines Sans Frontiers. This destructive behavior has prompted the highly-respected doctors group to say the WHO is actively “hampering efforts” to fight Ebola in Africa.

Between February and June, the WHO said it requested $98 million from developed countries for the Ebola response and received less than half of that sum, forcing the organization to “dip into funds from some of its other budgets.” Except, the WHO continued to spend around $200 million annually on luxury travel alone and their expensive conferences and events cost global taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. And, there seems to be plenty of money to spend on its anti-science campaign against reduced-risk alternatives for tobacco smokers. So, the question must be asked: why hasn’t the WHO already allocated sufficient funds for public health emergency purposes – their core mission?

The Ebola crisis of 2019  is not the first time that the WHO refused to declare a public health emergency and potentially endangered thousands of lives in order to hide their incompetence. Time and time again, the WHO has shown its current model to be an abject failure and in need of radical, drastic reform. 


We hope that 2020 ushers in a new direction for IGOs, including increased accountability, transparency, and a return to their core mission – but don’t hold your breath.