U.N. Reform Means Replacing Annan
Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants to reform the
United Nations, but the more immediate issue is who will reform
Credit former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker
and his "Independent Inquiry Committee" with delivering
skull-cracking report on the United Nations' Oil For Food
(OFF) scandal, albeit one administered with a soft hammer. Investigators
argue there is no evidence that Annan knew about an OFF contract
bid involving his son, Kojo Annan, and Kojo's employer, Cotecna.
Annan may not be a thief, but we do know he's a floundering bureaucrat
responsible for mismanaging a sick organization mired in a multibillion
That's why Volcker's report is the beginning of
a genuine reform process, not a conclusion, and a slew of corrupt
officials and businesses must face prosecution, not mere investigation.
Corruption at the United Nations has worked hand-in-glove with
incompetence to produce institutional paralysis and political
OFF operated behind all of the righteous code
words of international good intentions. Implemented while economic
sanctions shackled Saddam Hussein, the program supposedly used
revenue from controlled oil sales to provide the Iraqi people
with food, medicine and relief supplies. However, it had no oversight
-- at least, no credible oversight. Annan's OFF chief, Benon Sevan,
was in Saddam Hussein's pocket. Saddam "flipped" the
program using those old-time tools of political judo: graft and
The scandal has deeply damaged the United Nations
as an institution. For many critics, this doesn't matter. They
already argue the United Nations is a facade masking coalitions
of the corrupt -- a forum where cynical international elites romp
in a champagne sewer greased by the planet's Saddams, mafia thugs
and rogue corporations. They point to the United Nations' dismal
record in Bosnia, the Congo and Sudan's Darfur.
Why should such an organization continue to suck
dollars and dither?
Such an organization shouldn't -- that's why it
needs massive reform.
Reform is in America's interest. Winning the War
on Terror means not only military victory, but economic and political
stability in the hard, chaotic corners where terrorists hide.
A credible United Nations would play an extremely useful role
in this process.
Pieces of the United Nations meet immediate, on-the-ground
humanitarian needs -- and I've seen them work in Africa. If U.N.
refugee aid programs didn't exist, the sub-Saharan conflicts of
the last three decades would have killed many hundreds of thousands
more than they have.
Successful aid operations require more than financing
and coordination capabilities, however. They require moral credibility.
I am certain that the United Nations' corruption will affect legitimate
non-governmental organization aid and development programs crucial
to many Third World countries, in the same way honest businesses
suffered negative political and media consequences after Enron
and Global Crossing's corporate crimes were exposed.
reform study offers several excellent ideas for organizational
change. The study recognizes the current U.N. structure is a relic
of World War II.
But the real reform means oversight and accountability.
At the moment, it is only the United States -- in its often anarchic
manifestations of free press, congressional committees and bouts
of taxpayer outrage -- that acts as a check on the United Nations.
Though the Bush administration probably favors
keeping a weakened Annan --floundering, continuing to make fool
mistakes until his term is up next year -- the first reform is
to force Annan to resign, now. His refusal to resign is ego-crat
at its worst. The second reform is to prosecute the thieves. The
third is to end the ridiculous requirement that jobs be distributed
by nationality, a feature that feeds "connected elites"
into U.N. staff positions instead of experts hired on merit.
As for real reform: (1) strip France of permanent
U.N. Security Council (UNSC) status; (2) keep Russia as a permanent
member, but with no veto (all it has are nukes); (3) add India
and Japan as permanent UNSC members (though with no veto). Now
Britain wields the European veto, China the Asian and America
the real veto.
To impose these reforms requires a secretary-general
who is a committed democratic leader, someone neither bureaucrat,
kleptocrat nor ego-crat. In a
Wall Street Journal On-Line article last December, Glenn Reynolds
suggested former Czech president and Cold War dissident Vaclav
Havel as Annan's replacement.
I can think of no one better.
2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
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