Thursday, November 25, 2004

The United Nations

UN peacekeeping personnel have recently been accused of using their positions to coerce sex, often from minors, in impoverished African countries. The perpetrators have included relief workers according to the BBC:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has sent a team of investigators into refugee camps in west Africa following the revelation that large numbers of children have been sexually exploited by aid workers there. The scale of the problem - revealed in an overview of a report by the UNHCR in conjunction with the British-based charity Save the Children - has surprised relief personnel. ... Over 40 aid agencies - including the UNHCR itself - were implicated, and 67 individuals - mostly local staff - named by the children. Some under-age girls said United Nations peacekeepers in the West African region were involved.

But it said that poverty was the principle cause, with parents feeling compelled to offer their children to aid workers for sex in order to survive. "They want us to love to them (sic) so they can give us money," one refugee told the BBC.

The unstated implication was that the problem was limited to 'local staff' in Africa and therefore understandable (wink-wink) though this last conclusion had to remain unsaid. But then it transpired that the problem was not limited to Africa, but present in many places where the UN had a peacekeeping mission. The Scotsman described the widening extent of the sexual predation problem:

Linked in the past to sex crimes in East Timor, and prostitution in Cambodia and Kosovo, UN peacekeepers have now been accused of sexually abusing the very population they were deployed to protect in Congo. And while the 150 allegations of rape, pedophelia and solicitation in Congo may be the UN’ worst sex scandal in years, chronic problems almost guarantee that few of the suspects will face serious punishment. ...

In the case of Congo, the accusations seem as bad as anything the UN has ever seen. Women and children have reportedly been raped, and there is said to be video and photographic evidence of crimes. Similar allegations have been directed at UN peacekeepers and officials in East Timor. And, in Cambodia and Kosovo, local officials and human rights group charge that the presence of UN forces has been linked to an increase in trafficking of women and a sharp rise in prostitution.

Archival research suggests the problem has neither been confined to Africa nor to 'local' staff. It has involved personnel from First World countries perhaps contracting security companies. Global Policy carried this article in the summer of 2001.

A former United Nations police officer is suing a British security firm over claims that it covered up the involvement of her fellow officers in sex crimes and prostitution rackets in the Balkans. Kathryn Bolkovac, an American policewoman, was hired by DynCorp Aerospace in Aldershot for a UN post aimed at cracking down on sexual abuse and forced prostitution in Bosnia.

She claims she was 'appalled' to find that many of her fellow officers were involved. She was fired by the British company after amassing evidence that UN police were taking part in the trafficking of young women from eastern Europe as sex slaves. She said: 'When I started collecting evidence from the victims of sex trafficking it was clear that a number of UN officers were involved from several countries, including quite a few from Britain. I was shocked, appalled and disgusted. They were supposed to be over there to help, but they were committing crimes themselves. When I told the supervisors they didn't want to know.'

DynCorp sacked her, claiming she had falsified time sheets, a charge she denies. Last month she filed her case at Southampton employment tribunal alleging wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination against DynCorp, the British subsidiary of the US company DynCorp Inc. DynCorp has the contract to provide police officers for the 2,100-member UN international police task force in Bosnia which was created to help restore law and order after the civil war.

The extent and duration of the problem suggests that far from being isolated instances, the United Nations has longstanding and fairly widespread institutional defects which allowed these crimes to take place. How high these defects went was illustrated by a sex scandal in Geneva involving a former Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers. The BBC again:

A senior UN official was cleared of sexual harassment earlier this year because the secretary general rejected the verdict of an internal watchdog. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, 65, a former Dutch prime minister, escaped censure in July when Kofi Annan dismissed a complaint. But a revised report issued by UN watchdogs on Thursday revealed that investigators supported the allegation.

Mr Annan refused to take action, saying the allegations were "not sustainable". Mr Lubbers was cleared of improper conduct after a 51-year-old woman on his staff claimed he had groped her. The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services investigated the complaint and backed the woman's complaint, it has now been revealed.

 The plaintiff will likely wait years before her accusations are reinstated. According to Reuters:

A senior U.N staffer has appealed against Kofi Annan's decision to dismiss her sexual harassment accusations against refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers, but the case could take years to conclude, her lawyer said on Monday. The woman, a 51-year-old American, accused Lubbers earlier this year of groping her as she left a meeting at the agency's Geneva headquarters in late 2003. ...

The appeal will be heard by the Geneva office of the U.N.'s Joint Appeals Board, a five-member tribunal made up of two representatives of U.N. employees, two from management and a chairman appointed by Annan. But the board's backlog of work is such that it could be two to three years before any conclusion is reached and its findings can in their turn be referred to a higher U.N. tribunal. "The internal U.N. system is in the Dark Ages. This could take four or five years," Flaherty said.

The possible existence of an institutional problem was practically articulated by disgruntled UN employees. CBS News reported:

Angered at Secretary-General Kofi Annan's dismissal of allegations against the U.N.'s top investigator, union leaders representating over 5,000 U.N. employees met for a second day on Friday to decide what action to take. A statement from the United Nations Staff Union said a draft resolution proposed by one group of employees that was discussed Thursday expresses a "lack of confidence" in the U.N.'s senior management.

American diplomat-bloggers with knowledge of UN operations have concluded that corruption is a way of life in the 'world organization'. (Via Instapundit)

On its official website, the UN modestly states, "United Nations. It's Your World." We at The Diplomad are here to ask you to forget all that misty-eyed blather. Our Diplomads have served at the UN, in New York, Vienna and Geneva, and worked with the UN in a variety of other posts, and can tell you from experience that the UN is a massive, expensive hoax that needs to be ended once and for all. ... The "oil-for-food" scam, huge as it is, flows logically from the ruling ethos at the UN. The UN system is built on corruption, on the principle of the shake-down; whatever lofty objectives might have existed at its creation, for the UN corruption now provides the means and reason to exist.

The institutional nature of the problem means even a zealous and reforming Secretary General, such as Vaclav Havel, would be hard pressed to clean it out. The root of the problem may be that the UN bureaucracy reports only to itself.

The UN as an institution is the purest of pure bureaucracy: it is the thirty-year single malt of bureaucracies. ... It exists to exist. To do that it has going one of the best scams imaginable. While most media and ordinary folks focus on the occasionally contentious UNSC resolutions and debates on Iraq or Iran, in fact, 99% of UN "work" has nothing to do with such high-visibility issues. No, it deals with scores, hundreds, in fact, of resolutions passed every year in the UN General Assembly, its main Committees, and in bodies such as the Human Rights Commission. It lives off those resolutions.

Slightly simplified, this is how it often works. A UN bureaucrat gets hold of a delegate from a sympathetic country and gets that country's delegation to propose some often innocuous sounding resolution ... Normally such a resolution gets adopted by consensus by the appropriate committee, and then goes to the UNGA where its hammered through ASAP. Under the Reagan Administration, the US delegation made a specialty of finding these little gems and trying to kill them or at least make clear that they would not pass by consensus. That is tough and frustrating work; it takes up incredible amounts of time and effort and burns up lots of political capital. Such efforts offend the MSM, powerful US NGOs and other lobby groups. The UN bureaucracy knows that at most only the US will fight these resolutions; the UN uses its allies in the MSM and the NGO "community" to savage the US and make the US look uncaring about deforestation and poverty, etc. As a result, often the US will back off as the politicial costs are seen as too great to be alone and on the "wrong" side of such an issue.

The air of UN sanctity has in the past been so high that whatever its bureaucracy wanted was ipso facto desirable, a clarion signal for Oxfam to go out and solicit  and for 'concerned' individuals swarm out onto the streets and rally for it. But even if the UN is swept off its pedestal it hard to imagine what mechanisms of accountability could be brought to bear on it. The problem was illustrated by the Oil For Food scandal investigations. The Washington Post carried a fascinating riposte from Edward Mortimer, Kofi Annan's Director for Communications, chiding columnist Robert Novak for criticizing the Oil For Food Programme because nothing has been proved and nothing could be proved because no one could be subpoenaed -- even by the UN's own investigators. It was an instance of a bureaucrat unwittingly proving a point he wished to refute.

Robert D. Novak was mistaken when he said that I "sneered" at the letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan from Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). I said that I found it "awkward and troubling" that two distinguished legislators thought the United Nations was trying to cover up corruption or obstruct justice.

Mr. Annan responded to allegations about the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq by asking Paul A. Volcker to head an independent inquiry. That inquiry does not have subpoena power, because the United Nations does not have that power to pass on to Mr. Volcker, but all U.N. staff members have been ordered to cooperate with the inquiry on pain of dismissal. If the inquiry finds evidence of criminal acts by U.N. officials or others, national courts with the right to subpoena will pursue these people. Also, Mr. Annan has said that any U.N. official found guilty of wrongdoing will not be allowed to claim immunity from prosecution.

Mortimer's entire argument may be fairly summarized in four words: 'come and get us'.