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Some UN agencies are indispensable

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I may be unique as a former member of the United Nations ''family'' who shed no tears when the United States announced that it would pull out of UNESCO if the organization did not shape up in the next 12 months. UNESCO's dictatorial leadership is anti-American and anti-free press (it says journalists shall be ''licensed,'' i.e., censored). UNESCO is also bloated - half of its annual $200 million budget goes to administration.

But there are affiliates of the UN that are almost indispensable. The World Bank and the International Development Association, come to mind. By reneging on its pledged contribution to IDA, the US is sabotaging one of the few sources of constructive assistance available to the destitute nations of the world. The present administration gives lip service to the work of IDA but is somewhere else when the bills fall due. The same administration is afflicting what may be mortal wounds on a lesser-known but valuable UN affiliate, the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Unlike UNESCO with its overgrown bureaucracy, IFAD believes small is beautiful. Its headquarters staff numbers only 74 professionals. The agency avoids a ponderous administration by arranging with other organizations such as the World Bank to carry out the projects it has identified.

The US was an enthusiastic cofounder of IFAD, which was born out of the concern over global hunger raised at a world food conference in Rome a decade ago. One of the reasons for that enthusiasm was the unprecedented composition of the new agency: Nearly half the funding would come from the OPEC countries. No other international organization had been able to coax development money out of OPEC in this proportion.

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