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The U.N.’s Action

In 2005, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said that the United Nations suffered from a “culture of inaction.” This was after he had made public his findings about the organization’s oil-for-food scandal. Mr. Volcker’s analysis of the body’s lackadaiscal approach to policing the behavior of its own employees and programs was apt. But it does not accurately describe what the UN is now doing to an internal panel tasked with investigating corruption in its procurement office.

For UN bureaucrats have been busy, busy bees in seeing that the unit tasked with investigating corruption in the awarding of contracts be eliminated. Thus far, these private investigators have uncovered over $600 million in “tainted United Nations contracts and [are] currently investigating an additional $1 billion in suspect agreements.” Much of this corruption has occurred within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Kofi Annan’s old stomping grounds, which operates mostly in war-torn and developing countries. Many of those nations and the UN employees who staff the DPKO have been sucking at the international teat far too long and successfully to give the game up now. Today, the General Assembly will vote on a measure to shut the investigation down.

The United Nations has long been incapable of enforcing its own resolutions. This has never been a secret. What we discover now is that it is utterly incapable–even unwilling–to enforce its own workplace procedures, adopted in the aftermath of a massive financial scandal. The United Nations can’t police its own employees, let alone the world. Its defenders become irate when the United States insists on the organization fulfilling these rather basic expectations in return for the billions of dollars it receives every year. But what can they possibly say in response to this?


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