Dear Middle America,
Recently Mark Malloch Brown, the eloquent speaking number two at the United Nations, said that “Middle America” did not know how the US is constructively engaged with the UN because of UN detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. And he complains that the US is not supporting even non-controversial issues such as renovating the dilapidated UN Headquarters in New York due to too much unchecked UN-bashing and stereotyping over too many years.
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Friends in Middle America, the UN deserves to be bashed and bashed hard. Please allow us to give you a glimpse into how the United Nations is run:
Hirings and promotions routinely violate UN rules and revolve almost entirely around patronage and whom one knows rather than professional qualifications. Poorly performing managers are simply moved into different management slots while others are placed in senior positions only because of his nationality.
Salaries for UN employees are free of federal, state and local taxes and come with six weeks vacation, 11 holidays, 10 sick days that are used as vacation, plus 4 weeks of home leave, rental and housing grants to supplement an already generous salary (we all make an average of $7000-$8000 a month, tax free), a pension at 8% of salary times years of service that can be cashed out tax free, and educational subsidies for the children of UN employees. Many also participate in an “alternative work schedule” in which they get every other Friday off. But don’t even try to apply. Your application will not be acknowledged nor will you ever get invited for a job interview. You must know someone to work at the UN.
Several of us have advanced degrees in administration, budgeting, finance, personnel, and other relevant areas of management, and we have been trained to manage large public organizations, and yet we are blocked from advancing by men in the 50s with no management training, education, or experience – only sitting in their chairs because they are friends with someone a higher position. We threaten nearly every person we meet because they know they are there based only on their connections.
And there is a profound lack of accountability within the UN regarding resource allocation. Simple procurement that would normally take five minutes using modern technology systems takes 2-3 months in the UN. And many United Nations Development Program country offices pay “local experts” outrageously high sums of money for products of dubious quality. Such contracts would never be made by other international aid agencies such as USAID that have much stronger internal controls and oversight.
We have witnessed several outrageous examples of graft and corruption within the UN system and yet time and again the scandal is covered up because internal UN financial audits are simply comedy. In fact, a recent article on internal management in the Financial Times cited a UN-commissioned report released in 1994 that was remarkably damning. Yet nothing changed, leading to this crisis in credibility of the UN.
Despite its dysfunctionality, if the UN were actually making a difference, many would mutter to themselves but the UN deserves its strongest bashing because of its profound inability to respond to genocide, war, famine, natural disaster emergencies, and other tragedies.
Kofi Annan, current head of the United Nations who ironically lives in a mansion in New York on the shore of the East River that is worth about $10 million, was head of peacekeeping operations in 1994 in Rwanda when 800,000 people died. He said in 2004 that “I believed at that time that I was doing my best” despite that he held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict and from providing more logistic and material support to stop the slaughter.
Kofi Annan was unable to stop mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program that allowed Saddam Hussein’s regime embezzle $4.4 billion through pricing irregularities and an additional $5.7 billion through illegal oil smuggling. Kofi’s son Kojo received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna which won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil for Food program.
Kofi Annan protected Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, against a report that found him guilty of sexual harassment by declaring him innocent. This created a global protest against Annan, resulting in Lubbers being forced to resign.
Kofi Annan remains in power while genocide continues in Darfur, while Zimbabwe tailspin into despotism, while up to a third of the population of some African countries will die from AIDS, and while corruption keeps the poorest countries in the starkest poverty.
And Kofi Annan and Mark Malloch Brown arrogantly ignore the fact that the quality of life of several of us has come close to being destroyed by the many bitter experiences we have experienced over the past decades. Most who work for the UN are so used to its dysfunctionality that they have NO idea how sick the organization is or they are unable to come forward because most who work for the UN come from countries where the labor laws and protections are abysmal and where speaking out will land yourself in jail or worse.
And to add insult to injury, the newly created IOIS (the new “independent” internal oversight panel established to “reform” the UN) has been strong-armed by Malloch Brown and is not independent because its budget comes directly from the UN, thus dissuading anyone from within the UN from coming forward.
And don’t think for a minute that Malloch Brown is an independent UN operative. Justin Leites, a colleague of many of ours at UNDP, was placed on administrative leave to campaign for U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry – at MMB’s approval.
Unfortunately, as the walls literally crumble down around them, those who work for the UN and citizens who believe in the founding principles of the UN have no understanding how bad it really is.
Unfortunately, we encourage young people who are seeking a career in international affairs or development to avoid the United Nations at all costs. We wish there would come a day when we would no longer make this recommendation.
Of course the senior leadership of the UN try to hide the profound problems of the UN but shame on them for saying that Americans don’t know or understand how the US is engaged with the UN.
If you and everyone in Middle America truly understood what ails the UN, the US, who funds nearly 25% of the entire UN budget, would shut off the money spigot. In sum, the UN should be shuttered, allowing a brand new organization to emerge because the current UN is broken beyond repair.
For more information, please contact Edward Patrick Flaherty who represents UN employees including our views here. [email protected]
A concerned group of current and former UN employees