The UN’s SDG16 Disinformation Campaign

by Iain Davis | Jun 2, 2023

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to write with the outstanding journalist Whitney Webb at her highly recommended UnlimitedHangout website. We have recently been exploring United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Part of this article is based upon Whitney’s research which I have shamelessly plagiarised. Mainly because it’s very good but also due to the fact that I’m lazy.

Every SDG has a set of targets and each target has an indicator by which the UN claims it will measure progress toward the related SDG. For example, SDG 16.6 calls for developing “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.” Which seems reasonable. Unfortunately, things start to go astray with the indicators.

The “evidence” that the UN wants the public to swallow, in order to convince them that it has succeeded in creating these immaculate “institutions,” comes in the form of indicator 16.6.1, which measures:

Primary government expenditures as a proportion of original approved budget, by sector (or by budget codes or similar)

On the face of it, this seems fair. It’s our money after all. Government expenditure should be transparent. The UN relies upon the data supplied by the government to allegedly confirm that the same government is financially irreproachable.

Sceptics, and their more realistic cousins, pessimists, may have spotted the slight flaw in this methodology. We can use Whitney Webb’s research to illustrate the problem.

The US government’s Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) operates a handy little fiscal loophole called Standard 56. Using “national security”—a government umbrella term supposedly justifying unfettered despotism—as an excuse, the FASAB explains the beauty of Standard 56:

[Standard 56] permits certain modifications to prevent the disclosure of classified information. [. . .] The entity should modify unclassified financial statement presentations, disclosures, required supplementary information (RSI), and required supplementary stewardship information (RSSI) [. . .] In this context, modify means: Presenting amounts associated with one financial statement line item in another financial statement line item but not presenting narrative explaining the modification. [and] Omitting required disclosures, RSI, or RSSI that would otherwise reveal classified information.

That’s right: Standard 56 allows the US government to hide its black budgets by “modifying” its accounts. Shifting expenditure intended for very dark and unpleasant purposes to the accounts recording its spend on more benign endeavours. Not only can it do this whenever it wants, by virtue of Standard 56, it doesn’t have to tell anybody.

The UN’s SDG 16.6 indicators ignore this completely and simply assume that everything the US government tells it is true, despite the obvious and openly admitted fact that it isn’t. Effectively the UN is collaborating with the US government to spread dangerous disinformation.

The US regime can claim it is “developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions” while it secretly engages in all manner of nefarious skulduggery and hides the evidence. In turn, the UN can use the US government’s deception to prove how well its sustainable development agenda is trotting along.

This isn’t the end of the UN’s SDG disinformation. It appears that the UN has created a number of tenuous indicators that it can manipulate to suggest success without ever achieving any.

For example, SDG16 indicators are often reliant upon opinion polls. Which, as I’m sure you know, is a notoriously crap way to genuinely evidence anything. Or rather, a highly effective way of “proving” whatever you want to prove. Depending on how you look at it.

For example, indicator 16.4.1 uses polling to measure the “proportion of population that feel safe walking alone around the area they live after dark.” Somehow, this is meant to measure progress toward SDG16.4, which, by 2030, aims to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.”

Needless to say, this is like asking people if they like ice cream and then using your “polling results” to demonstrate that you have successfully eradicated cattle rustling. Clearly, there is a disconnect. Using this indicator, the UN could claim to have reduced “illicit financial and arms flows” by improving street lighting.

In the apparently wild and wacky mindset of UN sustainable development czars, absurdity has no limits. Nor does disinformation.

The UN has a history of producing deceptive polling results to promote its sustainable development agenda. Similarly, the mainstream media (MSM) has a history of emphatically reporting them, without any scrutiny, for the same reason.

The Peoples’ Climate Vote – Don’t Laugh!

In 2021, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) undertook a population poll, covering 50 nations, called the Peoples’ Climate Vote. From these results, MSM news outlets, such as the Guardian in the UK, announced that “the peoples’ voice is clear – they want action.”

The Guardian reported the comments of the UNDP’s strategic adviser on climate change, Cassie Flynn:

If 64% of the world’s people are believing in a climate emergency then it helps governments to respond to the climate crisis as an emergency. The Key message is that, as governments are making these high stakes decisions, the people are with them.

“If” indeed.

The UNDP’s “Climate Vote” did not evidence anything of the kind. The claim that the people are in agreement with government SDG policy decisions wasn’t remotely substantiated.

G20 nations represent 60% of the world’s population—approximately 4.8 billion people. Eighteen of the nineteen countries that form the G20 were included in the survey. The European Union itself was excluded, though some member states participated. China, with one of the largest national populations in the G20, was also excluded from the survey.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) described the method it used for its G20 arm of the survey:

The G20 Peoples’ Climate Vote polled over 689,000 people across 18 of the G20 countries from October 2020 until June 2021. This includes over 302,000 young people under the age of 18. [. . .] The survey was distributed to people via advertising on mobile gaming networks. [. . .] An expert team from the University of Oxford weighted (or rebalanced) the data to generate estimates to be as representative as possible of the joint distribution of age, gender and education in each country.

Approximately 44% of those surveyed were children or young adults—under 18—and all of them were gamers. The first question asked was “do you think climate change is a global emergency?” Of the 689,000 gamers, 64% thought it was—approximately 441,000 gamers.

The rest of the “polling” questions all assumed that the gamers agreed that there was a “global emergency.” The opinions of the 36% (248,000) who didn’t were thus ignored. The remaining questions were structured to maximise support for sustainable development policies, even among those who rejected the premise upon which SDGs are allegedly based.

The 36% of gamers who didn’t accept the basis for any SDGs could respond to policy suggestion with “none of the above.” The trick was to include policy suggestions that, even if you disagreed that climate change threatened a “global emergency,” you would still be hard-pressed to reject.

Question 7, for instance, asked what should be done to protect against the impacts of natural disasters. The assumption was that an increase in such events was both apparent and caused by climate change. In response, irrespective of whether they accepted this assumption or not, few gamers, if any, would disagree with the policy goal of conserving nature “to protect lives and livelihoods.”

The UNDP used the Delphi technique to steer the group of gamers towards consensus. Even if the survey participants didn’t think the alleged “global emergency” was a concern, the survey garnered support for the UN’s headline sustainable development policies.

The Oxford University team then applied a statistical model to “rebalance” the data. This rebalancing was based upon another assumption that the gamers’ opinions were representative of those held by everyone else. The number of people globally, who don’t play Candy Crush, who genuinely thing there is a “global climate emergency” was not evident.

If we take the G20 arm of “The Peoples’ Vote” survey, the UNDP demonstrated that a small number of gamers, disproportionately representing the opinions of children and teenagers, think there is a “global emergency.”

This enabled people like Cassie Flynn and MSM outlets, like the Guardian, to proclaim that “64% of the world’s population” are in agreement with sustainable development policies. In reality, for the G20 at least, 0.009% of the population—who play computer games—expressed their agreement. The UN’s “measured” level of claimed “agreement” with SDGs was thereby falsified.

Irrespective of the fact that the UNDP’s so-called “poll” didn’t come close to verifying the claim that “almost two thirds of people around the world now view climate change as a global emergency,” that is what the BBC reported to its audience anyway.

I think I will raise this with the BBC Verify team. I’m sure they will be eager to “fact check” it for me.

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