How Corrupt Is the United Nations?
Recent years have brought a cascade of scandals at the United Nations, of which the wholesale corruption of the Oil-for-Food relief program in Iraq has been only the most visible. We still do not know the full extent of these debacles—the more sensational ones include the disappearance of UN funds earmarked for tsunami relief in Indonesia and the exposure of a transnational network of pedophiliac rape by UN peacekeepers in Africa—and we may never know. What we do know is that an assortment of noble-sounding efforts has devolved into enterprises marked chiefly by abuse, self-dealing, and worse.
Seen by many, including many Americans, as the chief arbiter of legitimacy in global politics, the UN is understood by others to be the only institution standing between us and global anarchy. If that is so, the portents are not promising. The free world is grappling with threats from the spread of radical Islam to North Korea’s nuclear blackmail and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear bombs. The UN, despite its trophy case of Nobel prizes, has failed so far to curb any of these, just as it failed abysmally to run an honest or effective sanctions program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Currently it is gridlocked over matters as seemingly straightforward as cleaning up its own management department.
About the Author
Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is at work on a book about the United Nations in the age of terror. Her article, “The Oil-for-Food Scam: What Did Kofi Annan Know, and When Did He Know It?,” appeared in the May 2004 COMMENTARY. In 2005 she won both the Mightier Pen award and the Eric Breindel award for excellence in opinion journalism.