Friday, March 18, 2005

The UN awakens...

UN action over DR Congo abuse

The UN has fired one employee and suspended six others without pay over allegations of sexual misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
UN spokesman Fred Eckhardt said one other member of the peacekeeping mission in DR Congo had resigned instead of facing disciplinary action.

URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4360231.stm

Also read this very insightful related article on Congo Watch, and also the article in the post before this one
I am a staunch defender of the UN as an institution, because I have had the rare privilege of seeing it in action with my own eyes. I have seen the sleepless nights, the high blood pressure, the family pain, and the numerous heart-attacks that UN workers go through, in a courageous attempt to make this world a better place.

For that reason, I am even more outraged than the anti-UN loonies, about what is happening in the Congo. It is a disgrace to the organization, but I believe the blame is misplaced. If the UN had a well trained - militarily and psychologically, well conditioned, well equipped, and motivared standing peace keeping/enforcing force, nuch of these problems would not be. The problem is that some countries - the US is te first among them - believe that their constitution is such a work of divine perfection, that it can NEVER be subordinated to anything... even an organization that they RUN, like the UN. Thus the US Congress passed a law that states that the US will only remain part of the UN as long as it does not try to have a "standing army". As a result of that, the Blue Helmets have to be recruited when there is the need, from a number of countries, with varying degrees of military training, human rights training, income, and corruption. With such a set-up, we should not be surprised that there is such wide room for abuses.

So let's get it very straight. There are numerous bad eggs in the UN, like in every large institution. And growing up, I have seen my share of corrupt UN people; incidentally they were generally found and sacked. But part of the problem, is an institutional set-up that is organized tend to the crisis of the powerless, but satisfy the goals of the powerful. When the the other UN members tried to wiggle out of that dynamic, and actually work on the principles of the UN charter, as opposed to serving the foreign policy goals of the US et al., the powerful cried 'foul', and we generated the mess we have today. A body of 191 states, and thousands of nations, cannot be turned into a puppet of ONE country's policies. It's simply impossible. The US might think they know best, and that their foreign policy is the way, the truth and the light to salvation and prosperity for all people... but it still has to convince people! It cannot simply seek to impose its will, using the UN as a rubber-stamp. That power-dynamic of misperceptions and disdain - as well as the Cold War, and the dictatorships it created - are the cause of the mess today, IMHO.

So what to do? Let the US put its money where its mouth is. Let the UN reforms that Annan is proposing go through, and create a more balanced United Nations, with Africans holding veto-wielding pernanent seats in the Security Council. Let the UN enforce culturally sensitive peace and democracy, in a multilateral way. And give the UN secretariat the resources and the power - as well as the broad-based (meaning not only the almighty US congress, but all nations) oversight - it needs to do its job on the field. Then, if that doesn't work, you can come and tell me that the UN is hopeless. Until then, let's work on trying to bing these criminals in Congo to Justice.

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