Monday, 12 January 2009

The United Nations - the world's worst institution

In this time of conflict in the Middle East it's timely to remind people of why the United Nations is my #1 institution that ruins the world. Originally posted in February 2007. How sad that the place is even worse now than then...

#1 - The United Nations

...And to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the United Nations in my number one institution that ruins the world. It's not even close, either, the UN wins by further than Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

The Preamble to the UN Charter states:

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.

Now, if good people, earnest and strong in their belief to make a difference to the world, were to get together today to create a new organisation that actually does some good then you'd have to think that it wouldn't have a much different set of goals than does the UN.

How has it come about that the UN is now such a hopelessly corrupt, racist and destructive institution? The short answer is that these traits are the end result of socialist ideology practised to their full extent. In that regard it is similar to the EU or USSR; power without accountability leads to totalitarian institutions.

In October 2006 the Heritage Foundation hosted a speech by Dr Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom, which provides some very succinct analysis of the decline of the UN.

Human Rights Failures

The United Nations has let down millions of the world's weakest and most vulnerable people in Africa and the Balkans. The U.N.'s failure to prevent the slaughter of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 and the mass kill­ing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 are shameful episodes that will haunt the United Nations for generations.

There are echoes today of Bosnia and Rwanda in the killing fields of Darfur in the Sudan, a trag­edy that the U.N. initially refused to categorize as genocide. Over 200,000 people have lost their lives, many of them at the hands of the Janjaweed militias, backed by the Sudanese government. Sudan, a country with an appalling human rights track record, was an active member of the now-defunct U.N. Commission on Human Rights from 2002 to 2005. It used its membership to help block censure from the United Nations. Zimba­bwe, another African country with a horrific record of abusing the rights of its citizens, sat on the council from 2003 to 2005.

The commission reached its low point in 2003 when Libya was elected chairman with the backing of 33 members, with just three countries voting against. It was eventually replaced amidst much fanfare in 2006 by the new United Nations Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, the 47-seat body is not a significant improvement over its hugely dis­credited predecessor. The council's lack of member­ship criteria renders it open to participation and manipulation by the world's worst human rights abusers. Tyrannical regimes such as Burma, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe all voted in favor of establishing the council in the face of strong U.S. opposition. The brutal North Korean dictatorship also gave the council its ringing endorsement. When council elections were held in May, leading human rights abusers Algeria, China, Cuba, Paki­stan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were all elected.

The United States was right in its decision not to seek a seat on a council tainted by the odor of despo­tism and tyranny. While making every effort to push for reform within the U.N., the United States must seek the creation of a complementary human rights body outside of the U.N. system that would be com­posed solely of democratic states that adhere to the basic principles of individual liberty and freedom.

Who among you in the general population was aware that the UN Human Rights Council, and formerly the Commission, was run by the actual despots whose activities that it was meant to oversee? Makes it pretty easy to understand why nothing gets done in Africa, doesn't it?

UNESCO and Hugo Chávez

The Human Rights Council is far from being the only U.N. body to serve as a platform for despots and dictators. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded its 2005 José Martí International Prize to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Cuban president Fidel Castro per­sonally handed the award to his leading imitator as an estimated 200,000 people in Revolution Plaza watched. The Martí prize is intended to recognize those who have contributed to the "struggle for lib­erty" in Latin America. Chávez is clearly not among this group, and the award was a major embarrass­ment to the United Nations, illustrating a long­standing lack of moral clarity within the world body on issues of individual freedom and liberty.

Founded after the Second World War, UNESCO was established "to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world."

What sort of organisation is it that recognises people like Chavez who drive their own people even further into poverty while strutting the world stage like a preening chicken? What sort of organisation is it that Chavez can turn up to a General Assembly and refer to the President of the United States as 'the Devil'? Regardless what you think of people the UN is either a place of respect or it isn't.

Peacekeeping Failures: The Congo Peacekeep­ing Scandal

The U.N.'s human rights failure has been compounded by a series of peacekeeping scan­dals, from Bosnia to Burundi to Sierra Leone. By far the worst instances of abuse have taken place in the Congo, the U.N.'s second largest peacekeeping mis­sion, with 16,000 peacekeepers.

In the Congo, acts of barbarism have been perpe­trated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most vulnerable women and children in the world. Personnel from the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) stand accused of at least 150 major human rights violations. This is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg: The scale of the problem is likely to be far greater.

The crimes involve rape and forced prostitution of women and young girls across the country, including inside a refugee camp in the town of Bunia in north­eastern Congo. The alleged perpetrators include U.N. military and civilian personnel from Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia, Uruguay, South Africa, Pakistan, and France. The victims are defenseless refugees— many of them children—who have already been brutalized and terrorized by years of war and who looked to the U.N. for safety and protection.

The sexual abuse scandal in the Congo makes a mockery of the U.N.'s professed commitment to upholding basic human rights. U.N. peacekeepers and the civilian personnel who work with them should be symbols of the international community's commitment to protecting the weak and innocent in times of war. The exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in the world—refugees in a war-ravaged country—is a shameful episode and a massive betrayal of trust.

"...acts of barbarism have been perpe­trated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most vulnerable women and children in the world." Kofi Annan's reponse? "Deep concern." What is it with this guy and his varying levels of concern? No action but lots of concern, that's for sure.

Corruption: The-Oil-for-Food Scandal

The scandal surrounding the U.N.-administered Oil-for-Food Program has also done immense damage to the world organization's already shaky credibility. The Oil-for-Food scandal is undoubtedly the biggest scan­dal in the history of the United Nations and probably the largest financial fraud in modern times. It has shattered the illusion that the U.N. is the arbiter of moral authority in the international sphere.

Oil for Food became the hottest investigative issue on Capitol Hill in a generation. Investigators exam­ined huge amounts of evidence relating to corrup­tion, fraud, and bribery on an epic scale; French and Russian treachery; and the attempts of a brutal total­itarian regime to manipulate members of the U.N. Security Council.

Set up in the mid-1990s as a means of providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, the U.N.-run Oil-for-Food Program was subverted and manipu­lated by Saddam Hussein's regime, allegedly with the complicity of U.N. officials, to help prop up the Iraqi dictator. Saddam's dictatorship was able to siphon off billions of dollars from the program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil, and through kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq—all under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats.

The 18-month, $34 million U.N.-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) documented a huge amount of evidence regarding manipulation of the $60 billion program by the Saddam Hussein regime with the complicity of more than 2,200 companies in 66 countries as well as a number of prominent international politicians. The three-member committee was chaired by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The other two committee members were South African Justice Richard Goldstone and Swiss profes­sor of criminal law Mark Pieth.

According to the IIC's report, "Oil surcharges were paid in connection with the contracts of 139 compa­nies and humanitarian kickbacks were paid in con­nection with the contracts of 2,253 companies." Companies accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime include major global corporations such as DaimlerChrysler, Siemens, and Volvo. The Saddam Hussein regime received illicit income of $1.8 billion under the Oil-for-Food Program. $228.8 million was derived from the payment of surcharges in connec­tion with oil contracts. $1.55 billion came through kickbacks on humanitarian goods.

The 500-page report painted an ugly tableau of bribery, kickbacks, corruption, and fraud on a glo­bal scale. It amply demonstrates how the Iraqi dic­tator generously rewarded those who supported the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq and who paid lip-service to his barbaric regime. Oil-for-Food became a shameless political charade through which Sadd­am Hussein attempted to manipulate decision-mak­ing at the U.N. Security Council by buying the support of influential figures in countries such as Russia and France.

The evidence presented was comprehensive, damning, and a wake-up call to those who naively believed that the Saddam Hussein regime could be trusted to comply with U.N. sanctions. Saddam's multibillion-dollar fraud, carried out with the com­plicity of prominent political figures across Europe as well as thousands of international companies, was halted only by the liberation of Iraq by the Unit­ed States and Great Britain, in the face of deter­mined opposition by France and Russia. It is not difficult to see why powerful political interests in Paris and Moscow were so fundamentally opposed to a war that would open the archives of Baghdad to close scrutiny and subsequently cause huge politi­cal embarrassment.

The report should prompt widespread soul-searching within the United Nations, whose admin­istrators turned a blind eye to massive wrongdoing in a humanitarian program designed to help the weakest and most vulnerable in Iraq. The fact that the Baathist regime was able to get away with such a vast scandal under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats, and in some cases with their complicity, represents both spectacular incompetence and extremely poor leadership at the top of the world body.

The overall IIC investigation should not, though, be viewed as the final say on the Oil-for-Food scan­dal. It should be seen as an important but at times flawed and incomplete inquiry that left many ques­tions unanswered in relation to the role of senior U.N. officials, including Kofi Annan and his chief aide, Iqbal Riza.

According to the second interim report released by the Volcker Committee, Iqbal Riza, Kofi Annan's chief of staff, authorized the shredding of thousands of U.N. documents between April and December 2004. Among these documents were the entire U.N. Chef de Cabinet chronological files for 1997, 1998, and 1999—many of which related to the Oil-for-Food Program. Riza approved this destruction just 10 days after he had personally written to the heads of nine U.N.-related agencies that administered the Oil-for-Food Program in Northern Iraq, requesting that they "take all necessary steps to collect, preserve and secure all files, records and documents…relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme." The destruction con­tinued for more than seven months after the Secre­tary-General's June 1, 2004, order to U.N. staff members "not to destroy or remove any documents related to the Oil-for-Food programme that are in their possession or under their control, and to not instruct or allow anyone else to destroy or remove such documents."

Significantly, Kofi Annan announced the retire­ment of Mr. Riza on January 15, 2005—the same day that Riza notified the Volcker Committee that he had destroyed the documents. Riza was immedi­ately replaced by Mark Malloch Brown, Administra­tor of the U.N. Development Programme. Riza was chief of staff from 1997 to 2004, almost the entire period of the Oil-for-Food Program's operation, and undoubtedly possessed intricate knowledge of the U.N.'s management of it. He was a long-time col­league of Kofi Annan and served as Annan's deputy in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations from 1993 to 1996.

The destruction of highly sensitive documents by Iqbal Riza was an obstruction of justice that demands congressional investigation. It gave the impression of a major cover-up at the very heart of the United Nations and cast a dark cloud over the Secretary-General's credibility. It projected an image of impunity, arrogance, and unaccountability on the part of the leadership of the United Nations.

The Volcker investigation may have ended, but several other major inquiries will continue to gain momentum and reveal new findings relating to the Oil-for-Food scandal. These include the leading investigations on Capitol Hill, led by the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in addition to the Department of Justice inquiry. It will be many months, even years, before the full extent of the corruption and mismanagement within the United Nations is completely exposed.

An unelected, undemocratic organisation with a questionable history of openness and integrity (do some research on former Secretary Boutros Boutros Ghali; you'll be shocked at what he got up to) is managing a multi-billion dollar program and people are surprised that it's completely corrupt? The French and Russians were the most vocal opponents of taking real action against Iraq and it transpires that they were the countries with their snouts most firmly in the trough? The French really are the pits; they have long been the worst country in the world in terms of inflicting damage through unprincipled self interest.

Questions About the U.N. Tsunami Relief Effort

The Oil-for-Food Program is one of several U.N. operations to raise major concerns over trans­parency and accountability. The U.N.'s much-vaunted tsunami relief operation has also sparked doubts regarding the U.N.'s ability to manage a huge humanitarian project.

The tsunami disaster which struck large sec­tions of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Afri­ca on December 26, 2004, claimed some 231,000 lives and displaced 2 million people. It prompted an outpouring of humanitarian help from around the world, with an estimated total of $13.6 billion in aid pledged, including $6.16 billion in govern­ment assistance, $2.3 billion from international financial institutions, and $5.1 billion from indi­viduals and companies.

The huge international relief effort was co-coor­dinated by the United Nations and involved an astonishing 39 U.N. agencies, from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

When the U.N. took over the tsunami relief oper­ation in early 2005, the world body pledged full transparency, in light of its disastrous handling of the Iraq Oil-for-Food Program. The U.N.'s Under-Secre­tary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, boasted in an opinion editorial that "only the UN has the universal legitimacy, capacity, and credibility to lead in a truly global humanitarian emergency."Egeland had earlier criticized the U.S. contribution to the tsunami relief effort as "stingy."

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, raised serious questions regarding the U.N.'s han­dling of the tsunami relief effort, in particular the way in which it spent the first $590 million of its $1.1 billion disaster "flash appeal." The appeal included nearly $50 million from the United States. The two-month FT inquiry revealed that "as much as a third of the money raised by the UN for its tsu­nami response was being swallowed up by salaries and administrative overheads." In contrast, Oxfam, a British-based private charity, spent just 10 percent of the tsunami aid money it raised on administrative costs.

Unable to obtain figures from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the FT approached several U.N. agencies directly to establish exact numbers for tsunami relief expendi­ture. Many "declined or ignored" requests for infor­mation, while others offered incomplete data. The newspaper found that of the $49 million spent by the World Health Organization as part of the tsuna­mi appeal, 32 percent had been spent on "personnel costs, administrative overheads, or associated ‘mis­cellaneous' costs." At the World Food Program, 18 percent of the $215 million spent by the agency went toward "staff salaries, administrative over­heads and vehicles and equipment. The Financial Times concluded that:

A year after the tsunami, pledges of trans­parency and accountability for the UN's ap­peal appear a long way from being realized. This is primarily blamed on dueling UN bu­reaucracies and accounting methods plus what in many cases appears to be institu­tional paranoia about disclosure.

Australia was second only to the United States in terms of its relief effort and had the highest per-capita contribution of all countries. People would be thrilled to bits to find that this bureaucratically bloated catastrophe of an organisation was spending one-third of all donations on itself.

Peacekeeping

The United States should call for a Security Coun­cil–backed, fully independent investigation into the MONUC abuse scandal, to cover all areas of the MONUC operation. In addition, there should be independent investigations launched into allegations of abuse by U.N. personnel in other U.N. peacekeep­ing operations, including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Burundi. Fully independent commis­sions of inquiry should handle all future investiga­tions into human rights abuses by U.N. personnel.

The United States government should pressure U.N. member states to prosecute their nationals accused of human rights violations while serving as U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. should lift diplomatic immunity for its own staff accused of criminal acts in the Congo, opening the way for prosecution. The Security Council should exclude countries whose peacekeepers have a history of human rights viola­tions from future operations. The U.N. should pub­licly name and shame those countries whose peacekeepers have carried out abuses in the Congo.

The U.N. should make publicly available all internal reports relating to the Congo scandal and outline the exact steps it plans to take to prevent the sexual exploitation of refugees in both existing and future U.N. peacekeeping operations. Serious con­sideration should be given to the establishment of an elite training academy for U.N. peacekeeping commanders. This effort should be backed by the U.N. Security Council.

Hold on. Isn't living in a more peaceful world one of the UN's Charter statements? It would be nice to see them actually DO something that ensure peace.

Human Rights

In an ideal world, membership in the United Nations should be restricted to free democracies. According to Freedom House, just 89 of the U.N.'s 192 member states are "fully free" (i.e., 46 percent). There can be little doubt, though, that any attempt to limit membership in the U.N. would be strongly opposed by the G-77 countries. U.S. interests are best served at present by building an alliance of democracies within the U.N. as well as developing human rights structures outside of the United Nations.

As human rights scholar Joseph Loconte has argued, Congress should appoint an independent Human Rights Ambassador to head a new U.S. Commission on Human Rights. It could be mod­eled on the U.S. Commission on International Reli­gious Freedom, a quasi-governmental group that monitors religious liberty abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

The United States should mobilize a "Democracy Caucus" to protect human rights and expand dem­ocratic freedoms. The new U.S. Human Rights Ambassador would lobby other governments in the fledgling Community of Democracies, founded in 2000 in Warsaw, to establish their own human rights commissioners and advisory bodies. They must be a morally serious coalition of the willing— operating both within and outside the official U.N. system—that offers a bright alternative to the exist­ing Human Rights Council.

Given the undeniable fact that democratic countries with free markets, free speech, freedom of the press enjoy better health, have longer life expectancies, a high standard of living and lower environmental impact than dictatorships and other totalitarian regimes, it makes complete sense that in order to achieve the goals of the UN's own Charter its members should pursue a democratic path. How is it that representatives from undemocratic countries have an equal voting weight to democracies? How does that advance the world?

For being the most corrupt and ineffective international organisation, one that goes nowhere near to living up to its ideals, whose only priorities seem to be destroying Israel and damaging the United States, whose approach to African genocides is to be 'deeply concerned' and that gives an international stage to lunatics like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Mugabe and Castro, the United Nations takes the #1 position on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

#2 - The European Union
#3 - Expansionist Islam
#4 - The Environmental Movement
#5 - The Mainstream Media
#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute


(Nothing Follows)

4 comments:

Dave Bath said...

Chris Patten in his newish "What Next? Surviving the 21st Century" points out many flaws with the UN, but also that it should be improved rather than dismantled, because "it is only as good as member states allow it to be". I agree, but qualify..."as security-council veto-wielding member states allow it to be".

Jack Lacton said...

Dave,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Chris Patten misses the problem with the UN - it's structurally and culturally unsound.

If you built a stilt house in an earthquake zone the should you reinforce it or knock it down and start again?

The UN needs to go and be replaced by an organisation that represents, and gives advantage to, free societies.

Gramfan said...

I couldn't agree more with this.
The UN has lost all credibility.


They have gone wrong many times but Kofi Annan's handling of Ruanda must surely go down in history as one of the worst.

There are days I am convinced that the only thing they do is pass sanctions against Israel.

gary said...

I think we should drop the security council idea althogether. Why should certain arbitrary nations be deemed more important? It makes no sense. To the contrary the UN should be built around the principle of democracy. Like this:

www.UnitedDemocraticNations.org

Thoughts?

gary