CNN: “The takeover of Somalia’s capital by Islamic militias could lead to a regional conflict unless the international community resolves Somalia’s 15-year-old civil war, the top U.N. envoy to the country warned Monday…. U.N. officials are concerned that the increased fighting could create a new humanitarian crisis, and the United States fears the country could become a new haven for the al Qaeda terror network.”
In the midst of a long-winded diatribe against Secretary General Kofi Annan, Claudia Rosett manages to assert that no reforms have followed in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal. “Last year, the general hope, and Annan’s promise, was that the exposure of Oil-for-Food corruption, and a host of other U.N. scandals … would lead to genuine U.N. reform,” writes Rosett in the National Review Online. “The scandals are still with us. But there has been no major reform.” No reform? Please. In April 2004 Annan appointed a super group of internationally revered financial and criminal law experts, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to investigate alleged corruption in the Oil for Food program. Since then, Annan has overseen a number of internal and institutional reforms to ensure that the Secretariat will be up to the task should member states once again ask the Secretariat to administer a program as complicated as Oil for Food.
For one, Annan created a new ethics office to oversee conflict-of-interest issues and to implement new financial disclosure requirements. Like new whistle-blower protections implemented by Annan, these disclosure requirements are far more exhaustive than those required of United States government officials. Also at Annan’s urging, the 2005 Summit Outcome document included a provision to significantly strengthen the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). In December, the General Assembly voted to add 39 new positions to the OIOS’s audit and investigatory capacity.
Oversight and accountability are basic facts of life at the United Nations. Employees who have been accused of corruption now skate on thinner ice than prior to the Volcker Report. Indeed, Annan has stripped UN employees accused of corruption (like the Oil for Food programz’s former administrator, Benon Sevon) of their diplomatic immunity in anticipation of criminal trials.
To a large degree, the United Nations has behaved as a responsible bureaucracy should when accused of a scandal. Other bureaucracies accused of mismanaging funds could stand to learn from the Secretary General.
Damage to the once pristine habitats of the deep oceans by pollution, litter and overfishing is running out of control, the United Nations warned yesterday. In a report that indicates that time is running out to save them, the UN said humankind’s exploitation of the the deep seas and oceans was “rapidly passing the point of no return”.Last year some 85 million tonnes of wild fish were pulled from the global oceans, 100 million sharks and related species were butchered for their fins, some 250,000 turtles became tangled in fishing gear, and 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, were killed by illegal longline fishing. [More]
Alertnet: “The United Nations launched a drive on Thursday to “disaster-proof” schools to prevent children being crushed in earthquakes and swept away in floods.Tragedies like last year’s Pakistan quake, when collapsing classrooms killed 16,000 children, underlined the urgent need for action, U.N. disaster reduction chief Salvano Briceno said.
The two-pronged campaign will also push governments to make risk reduction part of the curriculum.
“More than 200 million people are affected by disasters every year, a third of them are often children … Educating about disasters can make the difference between life and death,” Briceno told a launch ceremony in Paris.”
A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary
CJR Daily discusses the “Elephant in the Newsroom” known as Guantanamo: “A quick Lexis-Nexis search for “Guantanamo” proves just how inadequate newspapers have been to the task of telling this story. Nearly every article that appears is a breaking news story about a new hunger strike, a court battle over forced feeding, or an organization like the UN voicing concern about the detainees.”
Joshua Landis writes: “The new UN investigation into Rafiq Al Hariri’s murder is expected to indict Syrian leaders.”
Paper Chase says that “UN rights experts call on Egypt to preserve independent judiciary.”
Given the scale of killings, rape, looting and destruction of villages in Darfur, Sudan the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations-backed criminal court said today he anticipates the prosecution of a sequence of cases, rather than a single case, of possible war crimes in the conflict between the Khartoum Government, allied militia and rebels.
“Identifying those persons with the greatest responsibility for the most serious crimes in Darfur is a key challenge for the investigation,” Luis Moreno Ocampo, of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said as he presented his latest report (pdf) to the Security Council this afternoon. “The complexity of the conflict in Darfur exacerbates this challenge, given that it involves multiple parties, varying over time throughout the different states and localities.” [More]
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.