Monday, September 05, 2005

Oil for Food report due on Wednesday

Various sources inform us that the upcoming report on UNSCAM will make sure that no direct misconduct is attributable to the Secretary General Kofi Annan. However,

Although the report, to be published on Wednesday, clears the UN chief of improper behaviour over Cotecna, the broad criticism over the handling of the world's biggest humanitarian scheme will raise fresh questions over his future.

The inquiry, set up by Annan and headed by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, will allege a culture of mismanagement, lack of oversight and incompetence throughout the body.

This is scary because it echoes, almost word by word, the criticism contained in the Ahtisaari report following the August 19 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad at Canal Hotel:

In his report, Ahtisaari, a no-nonsense administrator indebted to no one, not only qualified the UN security system as "dysfunctional" but also referred to major shortcomings regarding "qualified professionals ... internal coordination ... threat assessment .. discipline ... and accountability". It was a damning indictment, not only of the way that security threats were addressed in Baghdad, but even more so on how Secretary General Kofi Annan runs his shop.

The two main departments of the UN secretariat are Peace Keeping (DPKO) and Political Affairs (DPA). On paper, the UN office in Baghdad reported to DPA, and to the secretary general on political matters, while the administrative support was provided by DPKO. In practice, lines of control and communications were never formally established and ultimately no one knew exactly who, at the upper echelons of the bureaucracy, was responsible for what.


The Ahtisaari report criticized the United Nations for shunning protection from U.S.-led coalition forces -- the only source of security in Iraq -- and for ignoring "credible information on imminent bomb attacks in the area." It also accused the United Nations of violating its own security rules.
"The current security management system is dysfunctional," the report concluded.

From the original report itself:

Although UN Security Council and General Assembly instructions have repeatedly urged the Secretary-General to take all measures necessary to ensure the security of his staff, there are no specifications outlining the type of measures or protection to be implemented.

I confess that, after reading the report, I went to bed with the certainty of learning of mr Annan resignation in the morning. The next day, not a peep appeared on the MSM, and only after a few days some timid information started to trickle out.

One of the reasons, perhaps the main one, the UN does not function is the total absence of accountability, at all levels. In this case though, an exception was made: a few scapegoats were promptly found and fired or demoted.

Mr Annan continues to behave as if incidents that happen during his watch are not his responsibility (he must have learnt it early and well: he started his career as a Professional Grade 1). Read what mr Eckhard (Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General) said to mr Littlejohns of World Chronicle in an interview:

LITTLEJOHNS: Now, there's an initial report by a panel headed by Marti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and a former high official of the UN, which spoke about mismanagement in the handling of security for the UN.

ECKHARD: Whether heads will roll or not, I think, depends on what this accountability panel comes up with. But I'm sure the Secretary-General wouldn't hesitate to relieve people...

See? Nothing to do with him; just “relieve people”.

I am afraid that, by using the same technique of “who, me?”, the SG might escape again, not unscathed – too late for that – but without having to account for his actions.

I am hopeful that this time though, Roger L. Simon and Claudia Rosett won’t let him get away so easily.

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