Embroiled in a United Nations Scandal
Is the 'International Man of Mystery'
York Sun http://www.nysun.com
April 29, 2005 Friday - FRONT PAGE; Pg. 1
PRANAY GUPTE, Special to the Sun
The Canadian tycoon and self-styled socialist who's currently embroiled in a scandal relating to the United Nations, Maurice Strong, has created a worldwide network of influential people whom he's enlisted in the cause of environmentalism and "sustainable development" - a phrase he says he coined to denote ecological security, economic progress, and social justice. The 75-year old Mr. Strong, a son of poor parents, has benefited through such networking, accumulating wealth and gaining status for himself and his friends.
A phrase frequently used in connection with Mr. Strong is "international man of mystery," and he has long occupied that zone where personal business interests are made to mesh with public policy issues.
His leftist ideology, his political associations, and his platform for nearly four decades at the United Nations have enabled Mr. Strong to collaborate with companies and politicians he drew into the U.N. ambit. Some of those who have tracked Mr. Strong's activities have called him "Chairman Mo," or "Max" - as in "maximum leader."
One member of that network is Prime Minister Martin, a liberal currently involved in a financial scandal in
Mr. Martin has taken to using a favorite Strong term, "global equalization," a call for imposing global taxes on wealthy nations and distributing more money to poor countries under the auspices of the United Nations. A few days ago, the political analyst Paul Foster, writing in
Well before Mr. Martin became prime minister, he invested in a Strong company, Cordex Petroleums, the same enterprise that attracted $1 million from the
Mr. Strong also invited in as a director William Hopper, who had served as head of Petro-Canada, the state oil company Mr. Strong founded in 1975, according to records. Mr. Strong was also the first chief executive of Petro-Canada, which has annual revenues of $3.7 billion and is listed on the
Another international figure Mr. Strong has assisted is James Wolfensohn, outgoing president of the World Bank. After Mr. Wolfensohn arrived in
One of Mr. Wolfensohn's first actions upon becoming World Bank head was to appoint Mr. Strong as a special adviser charged with, among other things, recommending high-level appointments. His friends said Mr. Strong then suggested several friends for lucrative jobs at the World Bank, including Mark Malloch Brown as Mr. Wolfensohn's spokesman.
Mr. Malloch Brown is now at the United Nations, as chef de cabinet to Mr. Annan, to whom Mr. Strong had recommended the Briton. It was the second U.N. job Mr. Strong helped secure for Mr. Malloch Brown, the first being head of the U.N. Development Programme, which dispenses $1 billion in technical aid and grants to poor countries each year. Several Strong associates, including Nay Htun of Myanmar and Alicia Barcena of
A former radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Anita Gordon, who is reported to be close to Mr. Strong, got a position as a communications officer at the World Bank, where she focuses on the environment. She's promoting the Kyoto Protocol, the climate treaty that Mr. Strong helped engineer as part of his advocacy of global treaties administered by the U.N. bureaucracy.
Still another Strong associate to become an official of an international group is Jim MacNeill, who became head of the environment department of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Its director general, Donald Johnston, is another Canadian and another Strong ally. Mr. MacNeill went on to serve as secretary general of the so-called Brundtland Commission, named after its chairman, Gro Harlem Brundtland, then
In the 1990s, Mr. Strong himself entertained the idea of seeking the top U.N. job and consulted informally with diplomats of many countries, but a quadruple-bypass heart operation at the Mayo Clinic prevented him from pursuing that quest more vigorously.
Mr. Strong, too, was a member of the Brundtland Commission, which recommended that the United Nations convene the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development, more widely known as the Earth Summit. Dr. Brundtland, an avowed socialist like Messrs. Strong and MacNeill, lobbied one of Mr. Annan's predecessors, Javier Perez de Cuellar, to name Mr. Strong as the Earth Summit's secretary general, which is what happened.
The summit, held in
With much fanfare, the leaders signed a document known as Agenda 21, a blueprint for a radical restructuring of the world order to promote sustainable development and alleviate poverty. Like most U.N. documents, it has mostly languished. (This reporter served as a press adviser to the Earth
Summit between late 1991 and mid-1992. Mr. Strong supported the creation of a newspaper edited by this reporter, the Earth Times.)
Another prominent figure closely allied with Mr. Strong is a former
Among the beneficiaries of the U.N. Foundation's largesse have been a number of nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, associated with Mr. Strong. One of Mr. Strong's most trusted U.N. aides during the Earth Summit process, Jean-Claude Faby of
Yet another Strong aide, Nitin Desai of
Mr. Desai's wife, Aditi, has not only worked for the U.N. Population Fund but has also represented Mr. Strong's Earth Council in
Mrs. Strong runs a New Age commune on their 63,000-acre ranch in the
"He feels it's unfortunate that this is happening, although understandable in light of the fact that
Born in 1929 at Oak Lane, Manitoba, Maurice Strong has been involved with the United Nations since the late 1940s, when he worked there briefly as a security guard.
He returned to
Mr. Strong returned to the United Nations in the late 1960s, to organize what would be the first of a three-decade-long series of global gabfests of the world body. That first event was the 1972 U.N. Conference on the Human Environment, in
After the Earth Summit, Mr. Strong returned again to
Even while he was paring down the company, however, Mr. Strong went ahead with Ontario Hydro's $12 million acquisition of nearly 31,000 acres of forestland in
"He is supporting Indians and conservation around the world and here he's doing the complete opposite," the president of the Kekoldi Indian Association, Demetrio Myorga, told Canadian reporters at the time.
Mr. Strong told critics the purchase was made on the basis that saving a large section of forest would help offset the emission of greenhouse gases by oil or coal-burning generating stations.
Around the same time, Mr. Strong was himself building a $35 million 12-suite beach resort at Villas del Carib on the eastern coast of
hotel was built within the Gandoca-Manzanillo
Wildlife Refuge, where development is restricted, and the Kekoldi
Indian Reserve, where the Indian Association must approve construction. Mr.
Strong's company was called Desarrollos Ecologicos, ecological development in Spanish.
Now Mr. Strong is promoting the adoption of an Earth Charter. It's shaping up as a global constitution for the United Nations' 191 members. The ecologically driven project is financed by several foundations and left-leaning European governments. Maurice Strong's worldwide network always comes through for him.