Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Business as usual

Claudia Rosett dissects another absurd United Nations' initiative: "The Alliance of Civilizations":

The program has been widely touted by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a bridge across cultural and religious divides, but it involves a daisy-chain of dubious associations that casts serious doubt both on the project itself and on the U.N.’s ability to cut loose from the scandals of the past decade.

According to a statement issued by Annan in July, the Alliance is supposed to “overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions, and polarization” and assemble by late next year an action plan meant “to promote effective responses to emerging threats to world peace.”

Beyond its hazy mandate and vague chain of command — both similar to some of the flaws in U.N. methods criticized by Paul Volcker’s investigation of the Oil-for-Food scandal — the most striking things about the Alliance are the close aides Annan has used to organize and supervise the venture.

Two names in particular stand out: Iqbal Riza, Annan’s former chief of staff from 1997 to 2004, and Giandomenico Picco, a longtime U.N. senior staffer who returned to the organization as a part-time personal envoy of the secretary-general and then as a special adviser, under a contract that does not expire until January 1. Riza was badly tarred in the Oil-for-Food scandal and its subsequent investigation; Picco has been involved in an equally high-profile conflict of interest arising from the multimillion-dollar scandal in the U.N. procurement department that is still under investigation.

Business as usual. Thank goodness for Bolton, then:

John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned Tuesday that the United States might bypass the United Nations to solve some of the world's pressing problems if the organization is unable to make management changes that will make it more effective and prevent a recurrence of corruption.

Bolton's remarks come as the Bush administration is encountering stiff resistance from poor countries to United States-backed initiatives aimed at streamlining the United Nations' management practices. The influential Group of 77 developing nations recently issued a letter sharply criticizing plans by Secretary General Kofi Annan to establish an ethics office and to review General Assembly-created programs that are more than five years old to determine whether they should be shut down (ht: Captain's Quarters).

Developing countries just love business as usual.

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