Where Corruption Rules – The U.N. Is Thoroughly Tainted

By National Review Online | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD Director
Tuesday, December 14th, 2004 @ 7:40PM

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Had the U.S not gone ahead with its plan to liberate Iraq, we would have never discovered the extent of the corruption in the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program. But while Oil-for-Food is the biggest, scope-wise, of any known corruption in an international organization, it is merely the culmination of years of corrupt U.N. practices.

It would be interesting to find out how many more billions of dollars were stolen or misappropriated by U.N. agencies over the years. Anyone who has tried to decipher a U.N. budget for any given project knows, however, that simple, straight-forward calculation is not something the U.N. is familiar with.

The idea behind the creation of the U.N. was noble. Yet because it is not accountable to anyone, the U.N.’s organizational structure and legal framework are entirely flawed. The U.N. has its own system of global governance with no real constituency; it represents no one who can make genuine demands on it to account for its spending. The U.S., which contributes approximately 30 percent of the U.N. budget, should have some say in how U.N. funds are spent; but it does not.

The U.N.’s corruption is not limited to money. Sexual exploitation and trafficking in minors have been the routine in U.N. refugee-relief programs throughout Africa, the Balkans, and southeast Asia. In 2002, U.N. aid workers distributed food or loans and scholarships throughout refugee camps in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea – in return for sexual favors. The following year, the U.N. investigated a report that a ship chartered for peacekeepers in East Timor was being used to bring in child prostitutes from Thailand. And in the Balkans, U.N. peacekeepers patronized nightclubs where girls as young as 15 were forced to have sex with them. Confronted with one of the scandals, a senior U.N. official responded – in the words of the BBC – that “ending the sexual exploitation of underage refugees would be an uphill task because gender discrimination was deeply rooted in many cultures…all over the world.” So you see, it’s not really the U.N.’s fault.

What makes this all even more appalling is the fact that the U.N. claims to be at the forefront of the global war against AIDS. Yet U.N. officials’ behavior helps spread the disease.

Since its inception and for the next 45 years, the U.N. functioned under a Cold War philosophy that divided the organization mostly along ideological lines. Transgressions and corruption were not only overlooked but often encouraged in order to gain political clout.

Indeed, many U.N. officials come from societies in which the level of corruption on all fronts is so high that it is an accepted social norm. Many are recruited from the higher classes of semi-feudal societies and bring a culture of corruption with them to the U.N. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the U.N. itself to prevent them from carrying on as before. Quite the contrary: As we are now witnessing with the Oil-for-Food program, corruption and willful blindness are also practiced by developed countries such as France, Germany, and Russia.

Even the current investigation by Paul Volcker is unlikely to reveal the extent of the corruption. After all, Volcker answers to Kofi Annan, his client. What’s more, the $30 million for Volcker’s investigation was taken from the very same Oil-for-Food program Volcker is in charge of investigating. This is $30 million that belongs to the Iraqi people, not to Kofi Annan. Yet the U.N. secretary general, whose personal involvement in the scandal becomes more apparent every day, is still in charge of the U.N.

As Charles Duelfer’s report on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction documented in September 2004, it was the U.N. that facilitated Saddam Hussein’s transfer of $72 million to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine through the Oil-for-Food program. In addition, through its Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. keeps Palestinian refugees from settling in the Middle East, by keeping them in camps. A third of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees budget for 2004 – about $400 million – is dedicated to just 4 million Palestinians, while only $770 million remains for the world’s remaining 16 million refugees.

In September 2002, at the very same time that the Oil-for-Food program was inflicting misery upon the Iraqi people, Kofi Annan boasted that the U.N. was at the forefront of fighting poverty in the world. He also complimented himself and his organization for achieving many of the internal reforms that the U.N. allegedly began in 1997. This was at the time when thousands of Christians were being massacred in Sudan every day, and when Palestinian terrorists were blowing up themselves up in buses and restaurants throughout Israel. All the while, the U.N. kept mum about Sudan and adopted resolutions condemning Israel for defending itself against terrorists.

Senator Norm Coleman, the chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said recently that: “As long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks, and under-the-table payments that took place under the UN’s collective nose.” And Coleman was talking only about the Oil-for-Food program. Yet, the White House defended the secretary general. One wonders why it would bother.

In the end, the culture Kofi Annan so cherishes is one that embraces the failed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as someone who “expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

For the U.N. to be reformed in the way recommended by the panel appointed when the Oil-for-Food scandal broke, a new leadership untainted by four decades of corruption is urgently called for. Alternatively, we should rid ourselves of this corrupt, anti-American, anti-Israeli, pro Terrorist organization, and establish a new organization in which the participants share Judeo-Christian, pro-American, pro-West values, and are united to fight Islamic radicalism.

Rachel Ehrenfeld is the author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed–and How to Stop It, director of the Manhattan-based American Center for Democracy, and member of the Committee on the Present Danger.


Categories: Anti-Corruption, U.S. Policy