Tuesday, April 1, 2008

WSJ: U.N. Reformer (Really)

April 1, 2008

More than one American has tried to make the United Nations live up to its original ideals -- Pat Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, John Bolton. We'd add to that distinguished list the name of Mark Wallace, an ambassador to the U.S. mission at Turtle Bay who resigned yesterday having tried for two years to make the U.N. a more transparent place.

Mr. Wallace's biggest contribution was exposing the fraud and corruption in U.N. Development Program operations in North Korea. In the wake of his investigation, the then-new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, was shocked enough to order an external audit of all U.N. programs. It didn't take long for Mr. Ban to backtrack on the extent of his original order, but his subsequent probe of the UNDP in North Korea confirmed Mr. Wallace's findings, as did a Congressional investigation.

Along the way, Mr. Wallace faced hostility from bureaucrats who don't think the country that provides nearly a quarter of the U.N. budget should demand more accountability. The UNDP's shoddy oversight of its North Korea operations is rightly seen as a wake-up call for better governance throughout the U.N. system. Mr. Wallace has lobbied for making internal audits, now secret, available to all member states. He also wants the U.N. to make more information, especially on budgets, available to the general public. And he has pushed for a more effective Ethics Office and protection of whistleblowers.

His record is also a lesson to those American officials who think their obligation is merely to get along at these international institutions. Mr. Wallace was unpopular with certain high State Department officials, who didn't want to risk their engagement with Pyongyang over corruption. He's the one who had it right.

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