Shabby UN outfit seeks to silence its critics

The United Nations is in so many respects a den of corruption, riddled with careerists and cronies. The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN is, disgracefully enough, now using antiquated Italian libel laws to try and silence its critics

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN in Rome
Tim Hedges
On 11 June 2018 08:15

Many people are depressed at the unseemly row between Italy and the Netherlands over who should have the European Medicines Agency after Britain leaves the EU. It is currently subject to appeal. Hosting such an agency means you get quite a few boffins, but the main advantage is that you get lots of public sector, NGO and similar types on expenses visiting your country.

The humanitarian tourism industry pays.

Italy, though, is big on food. It hosts the European Food Safety Agency, which Berlusconi insisted on, saying his competitors, the Finns, didn’t even know what Parma ham was. And it has the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (the FAO), based in Rome.

The FAO has lived since the war in a Fascist era building close to the Circus Maximus. Its purpose is to alleviate world hunger, advising principally underdeveloped countries on best use of their resources.

Over the years the FAO has come under considerable international criticism. The view of many countries, including that of the USA, is that it is a cosy, well paid home to a number of third rate managers. Most of its income goes towards paying them rather than alleviating hunger.

Amongst the critics of the FAO is John Phillips, who is the editor of English language newspaper Italian Insider ( - give it a look). In 2014 Italian Insider published details of an American enquiry into goings on at the organisation. America has since withheld some $64 million of funding and refuses to pay more until there is some reform.

Outrageously, for an international organisation which is a guest in Italy, the FAO is using its enormous resources (that is to say our money) to sue Phillips for defamation. Their intention is to silence an independent investigative journalist. Under Italy’s antiquated defamation laws Phillips could be imprisoned or served with such a fine that his excellent newspaper would have to close..

You can read International Insider’s charges against the FAO on its pages. It involves allegations of corruption and nepotism, of the preferment of a well connected man at the expense of two better qualified women with fewer connections.

The investigations also cover misuse of the FAO’s resources, and the employment of the wife of the ex-President of Peru, Nadine Heredia, who with her new diplomatic passport will avoid charges in her home country that she laundered $150 million to help her husband’s campaign.

Nothing in this tale will come as much of a surprise to anyone who has looked at other UN organisations such as UNESCO, an institution which seems to have been organised around providing a pampered lifestyle for some fairly dodgy individuals. The US will be leaving UNESCO at the end of this year. Will it also leave the FAO?

In the meantime John Phillips needs your help. Please look at the International Insider’s website where there is a short film explaining the issue. Donate if you can, but if you can’t, spread the word. A good journalist is like a terrier: once he has something between his teeth he shakes it until the truth comes out.

Phillips is guilty of no more than that.

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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