The U.N., Preying on the Weak
is the title of Peter Dennis’s article in today’s WaPo:
I arrived in Sierra Leone as a legal aid worker in the summer of 2003, one year after the release of a damaging report on sexual abuse in U.N. refugee camps in West Africa. Although the report’s description of widespread sexual abuse had prompted Secretary General Kofi Annan to issue a strongly worded “zero tolerance” policy, I found abuse of a sexual nature almost every day — zero compliance with zero tolerance, as one investigator was to write. U.N. leaders had simply not expended any effort beyond lip service to carry out this zero tolerance policy.
In fact, abuse at these camps went beyond sexual violations: Injustices of one sort or another were perpetrated by U.N. missions or their affiliated nongovernmental organizations every day in the camps I visited. Corruption was the norm, in particular the embezzlement of food and funds by NGO officials, which often left camp resources dangerously inadequate. Utterly arbitrary judicial systems in the camps subjected refugees to violent physical punishment or months in prison for trivial offenses — all at the whim of officials and in the absence of any sort of hearing.
The root of all evil at the UN lies on its lack of accountability. That is not going to change. It may change the Security Council, the Secretary General, but that won’t change. It’s time to come up with something better.