Ban Ki-moon, the outgoing Secretary General of the UN wants to become South Korea’s next president. His legacy at the UN tells us why that’s UNdesirable.
The position of the United Nations Secretary-General is a difficult and sometimes impossible one. The United Nations is a political organization with the most senior management body, the five permanent members of the Security Council, philosophically divided.
Each of the five permanent members carries the right of veto, forcing either unanimity or inaction. This anachronism often prevents the United Nations from addressing humanitarian issues at their most desperate.
The disfunction goes deeper. The Secretary-General is frequently prevented from dismissing incompetent senior staff by member states.
These challenges make it essential that the Secretary-General is a distinguished diplomat, an extraordinary manager, and an accomplished leader with authority and undoubted integrity. The legacy of Ban Ki-moon, the recently retired Secretary-General, shows that he was ill-suited to the post.
The UN is bloated, seemingly unaccountable, dogged by bureaucracy and tangled in institutional rivalries. Its main aims—to make peace, to save the poor through economic development and to promote human rights—should reinforce each other, but are often opposed. Too many subsidiary agencies and programmes overlap and should be closed down. America and other rich countries pay more than they should. Countries that were once poor or supplicant, such as China and India, pay too little. Too many jobs, at the top and bottom, are handed out by regional bargaining rather than merit. Too few people are fired. Sexual abuse by peacekeepers and corruption in procurement have been dealt with too lightly. The secretary-general is, among other things, the “chief administrative officer”. The organisation needs a good kicking.
The organization Ban set out to reform 10 years ago, meanwhile, is in many ways in worse shape than when he started, handicapped by great power divisions that have thwarted peace efforts from Syria to Ukraine and raised the specter of a new Cold War between Russia and the West.
Ban’s U.N. has also been beset by self-inflicted wounds: a glacial personnel system that has confounded the efforts of United Nations peacemakers and staff missions. A broken patchwork of watchdog programs that could not dependably root out corruption, expose sexual misconduct by U.N. blue helmets, or protect whistleblowers
Rather than rooting out the evil, Ban was intent on covering it up.
While the crimes that took place in Bosnia preceded Ban’s tenure, the release of The Whistleblower, a film covering the events was not.
The Whistleblower spares you little. It is a film about that most depraved of crimes: trafficking women for enslaved sex, rape and even murder..
Prior to the film’s release, Ban stage a special screening at the UN and promised action. UN officials belittled the film and nothing was done to resolve the issues it exposed.
The film portrays the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a former Nebraskan policewoman, while contracted to work on a UN mission in Bosnia. She discovers a nest of imprisoned young prostitutes who are so frightened that they refuse to talk to her. She reports it to her boss, who is dismissive. Further investigation reveals that her superiors already know, because they are involved. Her investigation exposes
a lucrative, far-reaching operation involving the police and United Nations peacekeepers, many of them protected by diplomatic immunity. The more noise she makes to United Nations higher-ups, the more apparent it becomes that she is viewed as a troublemaking nuisance, and her job is terminated.
Even in the face of Bolkovac’s meticulous evidence, nothing has been done. It is not an isolated case.
James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, was sacked and then detained by UN police, who ransacked his flat, searched his car and put his picture on a wanted poster after he raised suspicions in 2007 about corruption in the senior ranks of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In 2006, while working for UNMIK, Wasserstrom uncovered evidence indicating that senior UN officials might have received bribes for awarding a contract to build a coal-fired power plant and mine. He passed on his suspicions to the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the anti-corruption watchdog in New York.
Wasserstrom was fired.
Shortly afterwards the Kosovo government hired Wasserstrom as a consultant to advise on running the telecommunications ministry and Pristina airport.
In May 2007, on the grounds that the new job represented a conflict of interest, Wasserstrom, was detained by UN police on the Kosovo border on his way to his house in Greece, driven in custody to Pristina, where UN policemen searched his apartment and car without a warrant.
Wasserstrom brought his case to the UN dispute tribunal which ruled that the organisation’s ethics office failed to protect Wasserstrom against such reprisals from his bosses, and that the UN’s mechanisms for dealing with whistleblowers were “fundamentally flawed”, to the extent the organisation had failed to protect the basic rights of its own employees.
The dispute tribunal, was created in 2009 in an effort to improve the UN’s system of internal justice. It has challenged the power of the secretariat on several occasions, and forcing it to hand over evidence in Wasserstrom’s case. A higher court rejected the UN’s attempt to appeal.
Instead of fixing the problems, Ban sought to curb the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
The donor countries are pouring billions of dollars into a bottomless pit of incompetence.
In Afghanistan, the UN was tasked with building the voters’ register. The voter register compiled in 2004/2005 was found to fail all four primary requirements for a voters’ register. In conjunction with the International Community, the Afghanistan government determined to create a new voters’ register based on a biometric national ID. A 2007 UNDP report set out the urgency of the project. Failure to take heed made it impossible to register the entire electorate in preparation for the 2009 Afghanistan Presidential election. The UN decided to perform an update to an already useless voter register, wasting hundreds of millions of US$. The administration of the registration cards was poorly handled, resulting in 19 million valid cards for an electorate of just 14 million. The election was a shambles.
There was widespread electoral fraud. It was discovered that the results had been changed after having been entered into the database.Who Controls the Vote? The hacking had been internally perpetrated. The UNDP officials providing guidance at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) refuted the allegations of fraud, saying that a system of “blind double entry” made differences between the results published at the voting center and those published by the IEC virtually impossible.
The waste of taxpayer dollars continued with another update to the voters’ register in 2010.
Six years later, Afghanistan still does not have a usable voters’ register.
Syria is another of Ban’s failures. In his final news conference on December 16, 2016 he admitted:
“We have collectively failed the people of Syria. Aleppo is now a synonym for hell.”
The war crimes in Syria, instead of being prevented by the UN, are being perpetrated by a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia.
Ban, whose job is was to uphold the Geneva Convention, said nothing.
The World Health Organization, at the center of the failures that exacerbated the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, is a specialized agency of the UN. Thousands died. As the outbreak started, WHO experts in the field failed to send reports to WHO headquarters in Geneva.. Faced with a potential pandemic of a disease, at the time known to kill 75% of people who contracted it, WHO dithered.
It took WHO five months and 1,000 deaths before the agency declared Ebola an international health emergency in August.
Disaster was averted as Barack Obama, America’s President stepped in, sending personnel, equipment and money.
Afterwards, the World Health Organization produced a report detailing it’s mistakes. The Secretariat’s response admitted that improvements were required, outside of their own failings.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has been far more pro-active, begging the question: who needs WHO?
On December 1, 2016, The Gambia, the smallest country in continental Africa and home to the world’s largest protected chimpanzee colony, was surprised by the election result.
Yahya Jammeh, the country’s longtime dictator had been defeated. On December 2, Jammeh conceded defeat. A week later he recanted.
The Independent Electoral Commission chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, who stands by the election results has gone into hiding. ECOWAS, the West African regional body, and the United States are pressing Jammeh to stand down fearing a repetition of the civil conflict that engulfed Cote d’ivoire in 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo, that country’s defeated president, refused to accept his dismissal at the hands of the voters.
The silence from the UN is deafening.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
DRC is a study in the UN’s failures, and the way the organisation is hamstrung by politics.
In April 2012 a group of defectors, most of them Tutsi, formed an armed group, M23. This seized Goma, a city of 1m on the Rwandan border that is home to most of the UN’s operations in Congo. Without firing a shot, Congolese soldiers fled to nearby towns, where they raped and pillaged. UN soldiers stood by, and when, days afterwards, M23 agreed to leave, the UN’s headquarters were stoned and many of its vehicles torched.
The conflict has been termed Africa’s world war, with as many a six million people having died.
Peacekeeping is lucrative for poor countries, provided the troops don’t suffer casualties.
DRC is rich in mineral wealth, and President Kabila, who succeeded his father in 2001, has been clinging onto power after his mandate expired on December 19, 2016. His refusal to stand down sparked demonstrations, which security forces quelled, killing 40 of the demonstrators in the process. On December 31, an agreement between the political parties was announced, setting the terms for new elections in which Kabila will not participate. Kabila’s views on the agreement are unknown, and there are fears that he will continue to hold on.
There is evidence that some of the UN’s peacekeepers are more interested in self-enrichment than fulfilling their mandate. Worse yet, they have been supplying the warring factions with arms. The BBC ran a series of articles exposing the corruption. The UN did nothing.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In January 2010 a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti with an epicenter about 25 km (15 mi) west of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Estimates are that over 300,000 people were killed and some 1.5 million left homeless.
On October 22, 2010, the first cholera case in a century was confirmed in Haiti. Now, at epidemic proportions, the disease brought in by Nepalese UN peacekeepers has killed in excess of 9,000 Haitians.
After more than five years of high level denial and faced with litigation, Ban recently acknowledged the UN’s responsibility in the initial outbreak..
Not surprisingly, the WHO’s Haiti country profile makes no mention of the cholera outbreak.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war. Independence did not bring the conflict in South Sudan to an end. The 2013-2015 civil war displaced 2.2 million people and threatened the success of one of the world’s newest countries. South Sudan faces the specter of genocide.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are collected in overcrowded UN camps, where the UN peacekeepers are failing to protect them.
The shadow of United Nations failures in Rwanda in 1994 and in Srebrenica in 1995, during the Bosnian war, still looms large.
Ban’s response has been to request an arms embargo. The security council members argue that the country is awash with weapons. An embargo will not end the conflict. They have a point.
The UN has an $8.3 billion peacekeeping budget, and the peacekeepers have a mandate to use their weapons.
They should stop hiding under their blue helmets, and do their jobs.
More than 300,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict in Darfur, Sudan. Together with Syria, they are ranked as the world’s most serious humanitarian crises.
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the president, has ruled with an iron fist for more than 25 years. Bashir faces two international arrest warrants – issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague – on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In a stinging critique, Eric Reeves, a specialist on Sudan, lists Ban’s failures in Sudan and Darfur in particular. His well documented polemic details how Ban has built a facade that has successfully diverted the world’s attention away from the growing tragedy.
That Ban was elected for a second term is an indictment of the International Community.
North Korea is a nuclear power with a lunatic at the helm. The country has conducted a series of successful nuclear tests, and has made clear that it’s intention is to produce a means of intercontinental delivery, whether by submarine or ICBM.
The technical challenge is to create a missile capable of navigating the distance, and creating a device small enough to fit the size limitations of an ICBM or an SLBM. North Korea is actively pursuing both options, and has continued to defy the UN’s admonitions.
Seoul, South Korea’s capital is less than 200km from the border with North Korea. The two countries are still at war, no peace agreement having been signed after the conflict in the 1950s.
Adding to the instability, South Korean President Park Geun-hye is being impeached. Ban Ki-moon has plans to replace her. In the face of the the threat from the north, the last thing that the world needs is Ban as South Korea’s president.
The world is looking as it did in 1914.
The Afghanistan Compact
Mid‐Term Evaluation of the Project – Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow
Evaluation Report – Civil And Voter Registration Pilot Project Ministry Of Interior And The Independent Elections Commission Of Afghanistan
Who Controls the Vote?
American in Bosnia Discovers the Horrors of Human Trafficking
Has the UN learned lessons of Bosnian sex slavery revealed in Rachel Weisz film?
What the UN Doesn’t Want You to Know
Democratic Republic of Congo
Congo ruling party, opposition sign deal for Kabila to step down
Congo spotlight on India and Pakistan
DR Congo country profile
Joseph Kabila: DR Congo’s president in profile
Kabila to step down after elections in new deal
A phone call from Barack Obama to Joseph Kabila saying, “It’s over; you lost; time to step down,” could probably stop a bloodbath in the heart of Africa.
UN: Hold Peacekeepers Accountable for Congo Smuggling
Bill Gates’ Biggest Fear: Epidemic Far Worse Than Ebola
Documents shed new light on WHO’s slow Ebola response
Ebola crisis: WHO accused of ‘failure’ in early response
Experts Criticize World Health Organization’s ‘Slow’ Ebola Outbreak Response
Report of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel
UN: We botched response to the Ebola outbreak
WHO Secretariat response to the Report of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel
World Health Organisation admits botching response to Ebola outbreak
World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Draws Criticism
Fears of civil war in Cote d’Ivoire
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh rejects election defeat
Gambia’s election chief flees the country after threats
Central America snd Caribbean – Haiti
Cholera Deaths in Haiti Could Far Exceed Official Count
Haiti cholera epidemic ‘most likely’ started at UN camp – top scientist
Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak Tied To Nepalese U.N. Peacekeepers
Haiti country profile
Haiti: Country profile
Haiti devastated by massive earthquake
Lawmakers Urge John Kerry to Press U.N. for Haiti Cholera Response
Mortality Rates during Cholera Epidemic, Haiti, 2010–2011
U.N. Admits Role in Cholera Epidemic in Haiti
Human Rights Advisory Panel Report 2015/16
UN tribunal finds ethics office failed to protect whistleblower
United Nations Assailed in Report by Kosovo Rights Panel
Guessing who is the most unpredictable is not a good idea
North Korea Developing Ballistic-Missile Submarine, Seoul Says
North Korea’s nuclear programme: How advanced is it?
Pentagon Warns North Korea Over Its Latest Threat to Test a Long-Range Missile
South Korea’s Park Geun-hye Refuses to Testify in Impeachment Trial
Action needed now to prevent South Sudan genocide, says UN chief
Can the African Union Save South Sudan from Genocide?
MSF Internal Review of the February 2016 Attack on the Malakal Protection of Civilians Site and the Post-Event Situation
South Sudan country profile
What Can the United Nations Do When Its Troops Can’t, or Won’t, Protect Civilians?
Ban Ki-moon in Sudan: Vacuous Diplomacy and Specious Declarations
Darfur and Ban Ki-moon’s Bid for a Second Term
Darfur in the Shadows
Darfur: The Statistics
Departing U.N. official calls Ban’s leadership ‘deplorable’ in 50-page memo
Sudan: As South Split Looms, Abuses Grow in Darfur
Sudan country profile
Sudan’s invasion of Abyei: Is it ethnic cleansing or isn’t it?
World’s worst humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur, Sudan – UN official
Syria airstrikes claim over 20 in Aleppo; planes from Russia target Islamic State
War crimes prosecutions are rare in cases of hospital bombings
Congo ruling party, opposition sign deal for Kabila to step down
Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords and a World of Endless Conflict
Get the best
Master, mistress or mouse?
Release of the Supplemental Report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program
The Rhyme of History
The Unfinished Global Revolution
The Volcker Interim Report on Kofi Annan: Issues of Concern for Congress
Who fights, and who pays
With an eye on South Korea’s presidency, Ban Ki-moon seeks to burnish UN legacy