Monday, April 13, 2009

Do we really need the U.N.?

The first thought that comes to my mind whenever the genocide in Rwanda is mentioned is that of the UN doing nothing. A peacekeeping force not keeping the peace is something I can understand, but not accept, in these times of bureaucracy and corruption, but to think of a human being looking the other way when his brothers and sisters are hacked with machetes is beyond words. Soldiers with their hearts and souls so corrupted and serving in a mediation role are just not something I can swallow.

That wasn’t the only time the U.N. did nothing when it was needed. There are conflicts that could have been avoided, but weren’t because the UN Security Council’s mandate didn’t allow a specific task to be done, although any man in the field could see and decide what needed to be done. But then again, one has to be there to do that; the U.N. had withdrawn after 10 peacekeepers were killed in the case of Rwanda. Hightailing it out at the first signs of casualty is not a very good policy, especially when soldiers, though they may be peacekeepers, in war-zones are involved. There’s something wrong with the picture of a soldiers stopping work because of casualty.

Failures in peacekeeping also happened in Bosnia and Somalia. In Bosnia, while the Serbs killed and raped Muslims and Croats the U.N. was assigned to report on ‘artillery fired’ and counting the dead. Some of the troops even hung out in sex establishments where the women were captured Muslims or Croats. As if that was not enough there were cases where the UN troops actually helped the Serbs.
Almost all missions have been rife with scandals. The most heard about are the sex scandals. Cases were where the troops were accused of raping minors, asking for sexual favors in return for food and other basic necessities to direct raping of women. Cases were from Haiti, to Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia to name just a few.

The other scandal is the rampant corruption that goes on in every corner of the U.N. The staffs are paid six figure salaries while the people they are hired to help are left out cold and heat of some desolate refugee camp. The U.N. personnel zip around in the latest model four-wheel drive only to end up chasing women in the nightclubs that are very much in the center of the capital while a mother holds a dying child in camp so remote if can’t be accessed for lack of transportation. As if that were not enough the personnel traded openly in arms and ammunition, gold and ivory while serving in D.R. Congo.

The U.N. defines peacekeeping as” a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace.” As opposed to Peace building:” a term used with the international development community to describe the processes and activities involved in resolving violent conflict and establishing a sustainable peace.” and Peacemaking: “a form of conflict resolution which focuses on establishing equal power relationships that will be robust enough to forestall future conflict, and establishing some means of agreeing on ethical decisions within a community that has previously had conflict.”

When the Ethiopian Government asked for troops to help stabilize Somalia, the UN answered with a “no” stating that there was no “peace to keep” in Somalia. Maybe so, but what are the other phrases “Peace Building” and “Peace Making” used for? Should the question have been rephrased? Does it mean that in the future too there will be no help from the U.N. if the troops can’t party all night long? Will the Orwellian rules not be changed with the changing times and type of conflict? Or does one have to be well versed in the U.N. wordplay?

Do we really need the U.N.?


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