Recently named head of the United Nations Development Program, Kemal Dervis is the first of what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hopes will be a series of prominent outsiders brought in to head U.N. agencies under new rules that open senior jobs to international competition. Dervis, a former World Bank executive, was credited with saving the Turkish economy from disaster after a currency crash in May 2001. His steady management turned a crisis into an opportunity: aided by a massive IMF bailout, the inflation-plagued Turkish state finally imposed fiscal discipline, and a cronyish banking sector was heavily pruned. U.N. critics hope that Dervis will bring new dynamism to the UNDP. NEWSWEEK's Owen Matthews spoke to Dervis in Istanbul. Excerpts:
DERVIS: I think the United Nations has an asset which is invaluable in the modern world
In any large organization there are sometimes failures. But we don't want to condemn all corporations because of Enron. There may have been problems with transparency, and this is being dealt with by an independent commission with the full support of the secretary-general.
Having been personally responsible as a decision maker at [a] very difficult time, it's an experience I don't necessarily recommend to others, but it does allow you to learn some very critical lessons in terms of the interactions between policy and institutional change and how it needs to be explained to public opinion. Also, I have experience dealing with international institutions from the side of the developing countries.
I think the fact that it is increasingly considered by developing countries to be their organization has positioned the UNDP very strongly in the development debate. Development is not just [an] increase in per capita income
Many corporations have begun emphasizing more environmental and human-development concerns in their activities
For many decades development aid was given to allies just because they were allies. Luckily, the cold war is over and it should be possible for wealthy nations to channel aid focusing on development, not just political alliances. Some of lessons of the past have been learned
The United Nations is not a world government. It cannot be made responsible for the failures of individual governments. But we should be able to intervene more quickly. The latest proposals of the secretary-general are aimed at allowing a faster and more effective response. These proposals are also trying to change the United Nations [to reflect the] world's new needs and new opportunities. Important changes are needed.