Friday, July 23, 2010

An Expert Panel needs to first investigate effectiveness of UN


shenali waduge

Sixty years ago, the United Nations was founded to maintain international peace and security, promote basic human rights, and protect fundamental freedoms. Sixty years on, its acronym UN projects negatives and a dismal track record of UNhelpful, UNethical, Unproductive, Unfair UN policies by its bureaucracy….should world Governments continue to assume this world body is realistically suited to secure world peace? A panel must first investigate how far UN & its associated organizations have been able to deliver on their goals against the billions that have been & is currently spent and deduce whether the UN needs to now close shop and be replaced with a restructured entity & new personnel.

There may not have been another world war but the UN has not been successful in stopping many mini wars. Today there are almost 250 armed conflicts taking place globally. As a body that is meant to project all the good things that should be happening in the world, the UN has to be devoid of any & all violations it alleges against countries, leaders or Governments. This is a natural phenomenon & we are well aware of the adage – practice what you preach. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that this peace body is not delivering what it is meant to fundamentally deliver leave aside all of the other non-core related issues it has steadily included under its wings which invariably has left its concentration away from more important fundamental areas & instead on complex & complicated areas which has no coherent conclusions. Top on the list of UN failures include preventing killings in Liberia in 1997 where 7 years of civil war killed 200,000 people and Rwanda in 1994 which resulted in 800,000 deaths. UN has also failed to condemn slavery in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Angola, Kashmir, Colombia, Iraq, North Korea & Afghanistan.

Rwanda was a case of the systematic murder of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority. This horrific loss of life occurred in 1994 but took 5 years for an international expert panel to fault the UN & other member countries including the US for not preventing nor ending the genocide. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda where Gen. Romeo Dallair testified revealed the UN was actually warned three months before the genocide that arms were being stocked yet the UN refused his request to raid the arms caches which were used to massacre 800,000 Tutsi’s. It also questions why the UN bureaucracy decided to reduce its peace keeping force from 2500 before the genocide to a few hundreds & then doubled it to 5500 within weeks following the massacre?

When the apex peace body declares in the 2nd preamble of the UN Charter “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men & women and of nations large and small” – these words are supposed to have meaning. Just one example shatters this very preamble that is the oil-for-food scandal. The 1991 Gulf War led to trade sanctions against Iraq & started in 1996 a UN humanitarian operation called Oil-For-Food which was to enable 60% of Iraqi people to be fed from the sale of Iraqi oil (which invariably was controlled by Saddam Hussein). The Oil for Food scandal will go down in history as one of the UN’s bleakest of records with 2200 companies from 40 countries colluding with Saddam Hussein’s regime to defraud $1.8billion humanitarian operation including the present US Secretary of State whose name became linked to the formation of the oil-for-food program. Similarly France has also been implicated with French politicians & businessmen involved in a web of kickbacks connected to the oil-for-food.

Iraq through law firm Maney & Purrington has lodged a $10billion lawsuit over the oil-for-food scam & is suing dozens of companies for defrauding Iraqi citizens out of food & medical provisions. 70 such corporations including Chevron (oil), Glaxosmithkline (drugs), BNP Paribas (French bank), Chrysler (car) are being accused for paying bribes to Saddam Hussein to secure business contracts under the program.

Former US Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker investigating the scandal based his report on 12million documents, unearthed how UN had authorized Saddam to sell oil to over 70 companies in the UAE that had direct ties to terror groups, how UN procurement official Alexander Yakovlev received bribes in excess of $950,000 from companies that made $79m in UN contracts, the UN budget oversight committee head Vladimir Kuznetsov was also indicted in the US for money laundering. The findings became more alarming when not only UN officials but Benon Sevan the head of the oil for food program was also party to these malpractices as was Kofi Annan’s son Kojo Annan & the report specifically cites how Secretary General Annan (former) “was not diligent & effective in pursuing an investigation”. This is not the approach to “ACCOUNTABILITY” that Secretary Generals of the UN preach to sovereign nations?

As is the case with all committees appointed the Volcker committee spent more than $30million on its investigation that concluded “serious instances of illicit, unethical and corrupt behaviour”.

Yet, only in 2006 did the UN appoint a special anti-corruption unit (the Procurement Task Force) which has been since replaced in 2009 with the Office of Internal Oversight Services Permanent Investigation division & not surprisingly the number of internal corruption review cases opened, pursued, or completed has dropped drastically (previous investigation division had an average of 150 cases per year) & should anyone be surprised that the former task force investigators have been terminated too? The Permanent Investigation division decided not to even pursue about 95 cases left over by the previous team, a further 80 cases were also abandoned & the new team even stopped probes into contractors & cut qualified staff. Instead there is an all out attempt to promote a human security agenda to be financed through a “global human security tax” & the UN handing over itself the right to make use of those revenues….all this leads to a UN that is becoming a world body belonging to crooks who are planning to create a governance that will merit its sustenance & have nothing at all to do with the ultimate goal of peace.

Respect comes from visible examples of attempts to restore peace. It is in this context that the UN has always been expected to take a middle path – nothing in extremes to enable compromise. Yet, year after year the UN has embarrassed itself by the manner it has handled its mandate. Its practice & clear trend is to instantly open up investigations, appoint panels, add clauses with no follow up against all the written laws & regulations currently in place. We wonder how many of the 7000 mandates the Secretary General himself is knowledgeable of, how many of these contradict each other, how many UN staffers are even aware of these clauses?

This necessarily leads to the all important question Can the corrupt accuse others of corruption? When UN staff are involved in rape, murder, kickbacks, fraud, embezzlement, human trafficking, smuggling, terror links & when the UN has not come to an agreed definition of terrorism or agreed on non-proliferation & disarmament what good is a UN staffed with 63,000 personnel whose salaries are paid by member countries.?

When an organization such as the UN preaches “rights” to member nations, creates protocols, conventions & makes media mileage of its proposals does one expect to hear scandals involving its very officers who are being accused of raping children? Over 150 accusations were documented against UN peacekeepers sent to Congo in 2004 for rape, child abuse, sex for money, sex for food while a French NGO worker was charged for pornography on his laptop. Yet, not one UN soldier was charged though most cases had substantiated evidence. UN was quick to ask member countries to take action on home turf. There have been plenty of UN workers involved in immigration scams, visa frauds as well.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that the UN today has been turned into a puppet by the larger & more powerful countries of the UN. The US financial commitment to the UN was $582m & it is through these contributions that the US insists on having its way. The US will not mind corruption in the UN so long as UN agrees to US pressures which is why US chose to ignore examples of corruption in the UN cited by the US budget analyst Linda Shenwich whose honesty was rewarded with termination of her UN role by the Clinton Administration, to add to injury the UN changed her safe combination, cut her telephone lines & had her leave the UN complex under armed escort with a veiled threat of becoming financially ruined should she expose corruption in the UN including the knowledge that the Clinton administration knew that UN peacekeepers sent to Africa & Asia were spreading AIDS and we can but wonder if US was responsible for introducing AIDS to Cambodia and also questions what other types of “introductions” have been taking place rest of the world!.

So we’ve had oil scandals, sex, fraud, money laundering and we can now add to this list of UN helping to advance North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, or how former Secretary General Kofi Annan accepted $500,000 personal prize from the ruler of Dubai (where the jury were UN personnel) this story (by Claudia Rosett) that hit the headlines in 2006 ultimately forced the UNSG to relinquish the cash. There is also the Kim-for-Cash scandal in North Korea with the UNDP handing over currency to Kim Jong !! in 2007 without informing the US of Kim sponsoring counterfeiting US bank notes & laundering money into world markets.

Whatever crimes exist in the world it is apparent it has taken place in the UN & not surprisingly UN peacekeepers have been accused of trading guns for ivory, having links with rebel fighters ….a clear trend that gives clear examples in Sri Lanka. A country that once had the world’s most lethal terrorist outfit reign for over 25 years in an area that was exclusively LTTE in all but name, only UN humanitarian agencies & other NGOs were permitted to be stationed in these areas. Government troops & officials had no excess to these areas. These UN offices were responsible for building infrastructure, bettering the lives of the people etc…When the LTTE was militarily defeated & forces entered territory that was clearly a no-entry zone…it was remarkable to see the number of underground bunkers that were built, 7 runways…& the question that naturally comes to mind was how were these built? Who facilitated such sophisticated offices to be built almost adjoining UN offices….does simple ethics not necessitate the report of such activity of these UN & NGOs …when its own records notes LTTE as a terrorist entity…what “rights” do they have unless they legitimize themselves by entering democratic means of governance…no one stopped or denied the LTTE to enter democratic process, no one stopped it from running for election.

But UN liaisons with terrorist entities it appears is not confined to Sri Lanka’s predicament. However, when these allegations do surface we should not be too surprised if the press release declares “These investigations found cases of misconduct by a handful of individuals but no evidence of systematic wrongdoing.” & everything is all fine & business continues as normal. Similarly, when the Congo sex scandal broke out a senior UN official was suspended from his job with pay pending an investigation into allegations of “inappropriate conduct”. So again we question when report after report, allegation after allegation reveals that there is a clear pattern what has the UN’s top done about it? How can the UN function as the chief arbiter of legitimacy in global politics when it suffers from the very ailments it accuses other countries of violating – UN may boast of Nobel prizes but it cannot boast of helping to create a peaceful world the prerequisite that gave birth to forming the UN.

If UN refuses to take action over peace keepers that are violating the rules of UN & the UN insists member countries take charge of actions on home turf the natural question follows does sovereign nations require to ask permission or get consensus from any other country or countries to defend itself? The ambiguousness of this remains why would the US need to invade Afghanistan & why the UN did nothing about it not even other powerful countries, why didn’t the UN stop what happened to Iraq. The reason for UN not wanting US to first attack Iraq was because UN officials, businesses & even politicians were making billions in kickbacks including Kofi Annan’s son who was employed at one of these companies. Was this not a conflict of interest & did this not violate UN policy? What is distinct about all of the cases brought against the UN & its officials is that there is a pattern of looking the other way. The UN staffer watching porn on his laptop was merely given early retirement, UN officials accused of sexual abuse were asked to resign following media build up, staff accused of wrong are not punished or years are taken for action to happen while they are recipients of handsome salaries & perks, most of the hiring takes place on who you know not what you know. In such a politicized environment can the world expect justice?

There is a steady pattern that shows either a need for conflicts to take place or groups tasked to ensure the groundwork for such conflicts is built up & when each time UN balloons its upkeep we can but ask whose money is being siphoned off. The UN’s Haiti Peace Keeping budget is $732million & two thirds of this goes towards the salary, perks & upkeep of UN personnel who are not even residing in Haiti….similar scenarios prevails in other conflict stricken areas where the bulk of budgets actually goes towards overheads & not towards the devastated people.

$590million (part of a $1.1billion disaster flash appeal) was allocated as tsunami funds. One third of this has not been spent on the devastated but on UN staff overheads (Financial Times investigation). Aid Groups are also under attack for spending much of the money collected through charities which had instead been spent on social & political gains & projects.

Now the UN is asking $60billion ($2.1billion a year for the next 5 years) to work on undiscovered climate information from the world’s land, air and seas…Similarly in the last two decades the world has spent more than $196billion trying to save people from death & disease in poor countries. But billions spent on research has actually not given anything sustainable …people still die of the same diseases 33.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus…asthma was rare in 1900, now it is considered epidemic. It kills 180,000 worldwide annually according to the World Health Organization. 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population, 2.6 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate sanitation, this is almost two fifths of the world’s population, 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation, Over the past 10 years, aid to health and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased by nearly 500%, while aid to water and sanitation has increased by only 79%.….Colossal amounts of money is designated for causes that are long term & do not necessarily reap results but ensure livelihoods of staffers. Similarly UN has requested $1.1billion additional fund request from top donors to boost UN expenses by 25% as well as requesting a further $1.9billion for renovating the UN head office in New York which is estimated to take 5 years to complete & would mean the relocation of 4500 UN staff & hundreds of journalists from media agencies to rented facilities in New York for which $1.8billion will cost….the organization is slowly but surely sucking up the earths resources but also siphoning off countries while accusing them of crimes against humanity & human rights violations when the UN are committing these very crimes.

Food, Clothing & Shelter remain the 3 main fundamental requirements of man. Yet, the UN tasked with taking care of these key areas have little to prove for its 60 years of “effort”.

  • 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.
  • 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted
  • 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005 (when less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen
  • There are 121 million children without education – Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names
  • about 0.13% of the world’s population controlled 25% of the world’s financial assets
  • A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World

These are just a few of the statistics that clearly signals & questions what has been done with the billions that have been pumped into the UN offices over the years when the statistics show alarming results…even the 3 basic areas of food, clothing & shelter have not been taken care of. It is also opportune to remind the present UN that certain cultures, certain practices of people with distinct history & origins cannot be changed by using terminology like “freedom” “democracy”, “fundamental rights”…therefore the UN cannot expect every single member country to be thinking & acting like the West. This is where the UN should have had a middle approach where its role was always limited to a facilitator & not turning into another aggressor as has been the case with smaller & less powerful nations in the UN. It is now opportune, for these smaller nations to rise turn themselves into a single voice & declare that the present UN should be dismantled & replaced with a new entity that would not expand their mandate before it has significantly addressed core areas it pledged to do. Why should a UN not first take care of the world’s fundamental needs before branching out & expanding itself beyond what it can handle?

The only thing that the UN can actually boast of is its ability to attract political leaders onto a common platform & showcase a flurry of activity taking place which the media covers to perfection & the people of the world is given a message that the UN and these political leaders are doing something to better their lives. In reality the UN & most of these political leaders are the very reasons for the strife that exists, it is because of their actions & inactions that the world is plagued with never ending catastrophes that even despite repair leave scars that will never heal. This is the legacy that the UN & political leaders will always leave behind.

Shenali Waduge

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