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January 23, 2005
First We're Stingy, And Now We Cause Corruption Through Generosity

I wish the United Nations would make up its mind. In the aftermath of the tsunami and its resultant devastation, UN undersecretary for disaster relief Jan Egeland called Western nations "stingy" in their assistance to poorer nations. Today, however, the UN released a report which blames the corruption endemic in their assistance programs on the money given them by the same group of wealthy nations:

The ravages of modern warfare are too often compounded by ill-conceived and expensive post-war reconstruction projects that fuel a "feeding frenzy" of corruption and profiteering, according to a U.N.-funded report.

The report, citing graft from Liberia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to Lebanon and Afghanistan, said the overwhelming international response after wars was simply to pump large amounts of money into rebuilding programs without proper control.

"What is difficult enough to try to manage in times of peace becomes even more problematic in post-war situations where the sheer scale of works...and the weakness of public oversight create opportunities for the corrupt of historic proportions," it said.

Managing a flood of money can create its own difficulties, which we saw in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The charities involved sent money into other programs or into unrelated management expenses, and in some cases, nowhere near the victims or their families. It took oversight and the publication of the misuse of these funds to correct the corruption and misappropriation. (While I'm not a big fan of Bill O'Reilly, he really forced the issue to the front pages and deserves a lot of credit for getting the problems resolved.)

What we see in this UN report is an attempt to shift blame for corruption from the UN to the donors. It would be analogous to declaring the 9/11 funds corruption the fault of everyone who opened their wallets to the victims instead of the organizations grabbing the money. After all, money is essentially amoral; it's a tool to use for whatever use its owner sees fit. The UN refuses to accept responsibility for managing these vast sums from "stingy" nations, which explains one reason why we get stingy when the UN sticks its hand out, despite the legitimacy of the cause.

Instead of blaming the donors, the UN should have looked into the reasons it can't run aid programs without everyone in creation wetting their beak in the trough. The lack of accountability within the organization, from the Secretary-General on down, has been made crystal clear in the Oil-For-Food scam run out of Turtle Bay by Kofi Annan's crony Benon Sevan and assisted by Annan's son Kojo. Where accountability is absent, corruption inevitably follows, regardless of the sums of money involved.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The UN answers to no one and controls billions of dollars in various aid programs. To blame the resultant corruption on the money clearly demonstrates what an ethically bankrupt organization the UN has become, and why we should endeavor to make it a financially bankrupt one as a result.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 23, 2005 11:37 AM

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