Pin a tail on it and call it weasel words

United Nations Development Programme

One of the things that struck me as a reporter in my previous life was that defensive explanations are often  inversely credible to the number of words that they contain.

The best I ever read were years ago in Newsweek’s letter to the editor column. Someone would complain about a story’s slant or conclusion and Newsweek, in bold, would print: Newsweek stands by its story (on those occasion in which they did). I always admired them for it.

Take the other extreme. The UN Development Programme is supposed to alleviate world poverty. Our former Prime Minister, Helen Clark leads it. It has been rebuked by a damning internal investigation by its own board, which found that many of its actions had “only remote connections with poverty, if at all”.  Pretty strong stuff.

Taking Newsweek’s cue, the agency’s response could have been: “We stand by our actions”.

But, instead, in a little under 8 thousand words (8 thousand!), the agency trots out enough weasel words to make Don Watson maintain an erection for a long weekend.

Here is point 5 of the grovel rebuttal:

Towards the goal of transformational change in the context of poverty reduction, the UNDP theory of change represents a holistic, pragmatic and consistent approach that impacts the lives of people, particularly the most vulnerable. The theory of change presents an end-result of an empowered, resilient and equitable society…

For those not comatose, wishing that they were, here’s point 6:

UNDP comparative advantage in poverty reduction is grounded in its holistic, multidimensional and cross-practice approach, its track record in advocacy, policy, programmatic and knowledge management work and its wider country-presence and credible broad-based partnership with multiple stakeholders. As a global development organization, the UNDP differentiated advantage and critical added value is its ability to bridge the gap between global agenda-setting and country realities. UNDP country-level work benefits from its global perspective and experience as well as its interregional dissemination of knowledge and lessons learned. Evidence gathered on the ground in turn facilitates consensus building on the global development agenda, which it influences bottom-up.

Anyone obfuscating that much is guilty of whatever it was their accusers said. End of argument.