Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, January 03, 2005

Your UN Contribution at Work V
Written by: Beck

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The shear number of things to go shockingly wrong at the UN in the past year or so might give some cause to wonder what on earth has changed to cause so much to go wrong. After all, I certainly can't think of a two year period in UN history to be so filled with scandals, controversies, and outright debacles.

The answer is not that something has changed recently. Kofi Annan's mismanagement, while certainly a contributing factor, is not the cause of the rottenness at the core of the United Nations. The reason for the historical absence of such disastrously obvious and deplorable UN behavior is that in the past, they quite simply got away with it.

After all, the systemic problems at the heart of UN corruption--the fact that it's majority controlled by undemocratic regimes--has been a fact of its existence for essentially its entire history. The only difference between UN performance in, say, the 1970s, versus today is that they didn't screw things up as badly, and what screw ups there were didn't get the same kind of publicity.

Here, I'll provide you with an excellent example of normal UN operations--operations which qualify as getting away with gross corruption, mismanagement, ineptitude, and crass disregard for purported UN goals. Have a look at Winds of Change's excellent link-filled post on the "Toyota Taliban." From UNinsider we get:
In a letter from Kabul, British satirical biweekly Private Eye reported on the private life of international community members in the Afghan capital. It claims that only 16% of the $4.5 billion pledged at the Tokyo conference goes to the government; the rest in the hands of NGO; a term used to refer to "the well heeled" international staff of the U.N. and aid organizations who reportedly spend time shopping for wide screen tvs and laptops at a new Sony Centre. "Most other shopkeepers only ever glimpse them as they are driven past in one of the $75,000 Toyota Landcruisers most of them owned by the U.N. -- known here as the Toyota Taliban," the letter says, adding that the cruisers ferried them from office to restaurant to guest house. It continues: "There's a swimming pool at a central U.N. compound and regular parties and barbecues. Memories of a party held by the DHL courier group last November, when an opium pipe was passed around by U.N. staff, are still fresh. If boredom strikes, aid workers might also sign up for Tai Chi and Argentinean tango lessons."
If you think United Nations staff's behavior in Afghanistan is some sort of extraordinary case or exception to the rule for UN missions, I have some excellent real estate to sell you in Florida. Then take this comment on Roger Simon's site from over a year ago (emphasis mine).
An enormous and highly profitable international aid apparatus has assembled in Kabul and has largely ignored the input of the Afghan people or their largely American liberators; the latter stand by in disbelief as taxpayers contributions to Afghanistan disappear into outfitting the extravagant needs of European aid community. The UN pays $400 a day (more than a year’s pay for an average Afghan) plus a generous per diem. This enormous aid infestation has fostered rightful resentment. The UN and associated NGOs ran through years of aid funding in a matter of months. Now when money cannot be found for reconstruction, the UN issues reports criticizing the parsimonious Americans. Meanwhile, the UN and NGOs live like pashas. Hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for Afghans have been transformed into fleets of top-of the-line Toyota Landcruisers, villas and estates to house their workers complete with swimming pools, an endless supply of underpaid servants, luxurious furnishings (accented with looted antiquities,) the latest laptops, video equipment, cases of Johnny Walker Blue and the bling bling ...perks that might even seem excessive to Ken Lay are justifiable expenses charged off to the US. No accountability, no oversight. They don’t bother cooking the books, they don’t even keep the books!
This basically describes the normal United Nations operating procedure. First, shame the developed world into donating billions of dollars for aid and development--the location and/or project isn't really that important, though politically fashionable projects tend to be emphasized. Then head down to said location and live like kings until the funding runs out. At that point, blame the lack of progress on the greed of free nations and/or corporations and repeat the process.

This cycle has been going on for decades. The American tax payer is the biggest sucker in world history. Why? Because he pays for it all, and then gets insulted for not paying more. That's your UN contribution at work.

(Hat tip: Ace)

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John Beck

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