A nice little update on the U.N. trying to cover the fact it basically did nothing in the tsunami tragedy:
Thursday, January 27, 2005
We warned you; some of you didn’t believe us. We told you that on or about January 26, UN Undersecretary General and Disaster Relief Coordinator Jan “Stingy” Egeland would hold a press event to boast of what the UN has done on tsunami relief over the past month since the December 26 disaster. He did.
You can find the two documents thus far put out by the UN here ( http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2005/egelandbrf050126.doc.htm ) and here ( http://ochaonline.un.org/DocView.asp?DocID=2828 ). The Diplomad wants to underline that these documents appear on the UN’s official web site; they are what the UN wants you to know; they comprise the official UN party line; they are not interpretations by journalists or bloggers.
Let’s go to the second document first. This is what the UN is handing out in New York and elsewhere as their UN assistance fact sheet,
[quote] OCHA Fact sheet on UN response in First Month after Indian Ocean Tsunami
This was largest earthquake in the world in 40 years. 12 countries separated by thousands of miles of ocean were affected.
More than 20 foreign militaries have lent their aircraft, naval vessels, search and rescue teams, logistical support, air traffic and ground handling crews, etc to the effort.
Donors have been extremely generous of the $977 million we seek, $775 million has been pledged --- Some $200 million is already in the bank. There has been unprecedented level of contributions from private sector and world public. Private contributions total $188 million.
A massive logistical operation has been established through the good work of the UN Joint Logistics Center-- It includes an airbridge that brings in supplies from around the world. In Indonesia alone, the UN and IOM have a fleet of 300 trucks. The UN also has 11 helicopters and 3 huge cargo ships operational in Sumatra.
In the first 31 days, every major community has received some sort of aid. The humanitarian situation has stabilized everywhere except pockets in Indonesia and Somalia.
No major outbreaks of communicable diseases have occurred.
Across the region: The World Food Programme is already reaching more than 1.2 million people with food out of a target population of 2 million.
More than 500,000 people are being provided with clean water. Students are going back to school; 60,000 started back to classes in Sumatra today. Hundreds of thousands more will return in February.
Sri Lanka: A WHO strategy targeting one million people is underway. More than 700,000 people are being fed (100% of target population). School supplies for 200,000 students have been delivered.
Indonesia: Shelter has been provided for more than 250,000 people. Malaria control program for 200,000 people. Five UN coordination offices have been established Aceh. 100 UN staff on the ground. Food aid now reaching 330,000, will soon reach 500,000.
Somalia: UNICEF is reaching 15,000 people with basic supplies. More than 20,000 people receiving food. Clean water has been brought to 1250 households. [/quote]
We will focus on Indonesia, The country most affected by the quake and tsunami and the one where we were working, saw the UN up close and personal, and know best. The press release is deceptive and misleading. Its author has a future in advertising, or working for the next John Kerry campaign.
So, “20 foreign militaries lent” their assets, eh? Lent? To whom? Not to the UN, that’s for sure. For at least three of the past four weeks, the UN had nothing to do with the operations of the “20 foreign militaries.” The UN certainly was not directing the Aussies, who were the first ones in; they blazed the path for the rest and thousands of people owe them their lives. They weren’t running the assets of the Kiwis or the Singaporeans, either, and they sure weren’t running ours. Up until just a few days ago, those “20” foreign militaries were Aussies, Singaporeans, Kiwis (who’ve gotten little credit for the fine work they’ve done), and Yanks with a modest but appreciated assist as of about 10-12 days ago of the Spanish and the Pakistani militaries. The coordinating was being done by the Australians, the USA and the Indonesian military. Up until just about four or five days ago, except for the disaster tourists such as Annan and Bellamy, the UN WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN – except quite overwhelmingly in Jakarta’s luxury hotels, a few UNocrats in Medan, and a tiny handful at the airport in Aceh writing up press releases claiming all the credit for the UN and bad-mouthing the hard-working Aussies and Americans.
The puffery about the UN Joint Logistics Centre is just that puffery. The UNJLC, as of today, is still not completely functional in Indonesia. To be fair, they seem to have brought in some good people (some not so good) who should do a credible job coordinating the much-reduced relief activity anticipated in the days ahead as US, Australian, and New Zealand forces depart. It is not clear, however, that the Indonesian military couldn’t do it alone, but, international donor politics demand a UN stamp.
And the 300 trucks? Notice how the UN press release rolls together IOM and UN. It would be akin to stating, “Between them the United States and Mexico have 12 aircraft carrier battlegroups.” Technically true, but . . . The overwhelming majority of those trucks are IOM’s – arranged and paid for by USAID. The Indonesian Minister of Defense noted ( http://jakarta.usembassy.gov/press_rel/Wolfowitz-Jakarta-Jan05.html ), January 16, “The U.S. Military [in Aceh] has been the backbone of the logistical operations providing assistance to all afflicted after the disaster. We’d like to pay tribute to the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen of the U.S. Forces deployed in Aceh throughout the relief effort.” He didn’t say the UN.
The press release is vague about who provided shelter and malaria control. For good reason: the UN has done VERY little of that. USAID and the USN have done the majority of it. Same with the claim about reaching hundreds-of-thousands of people with food aid. The UN didn’t do that; the Aussies and we did that. It was US, Australian, and New Zealand C-130s, and US boats (both USN and leased by USAID) that moved the food to Aceh and Medan. It was USN and USMC helos and LCACs that moved it out to the affected areas. The UN-leased helos – paid for largely by the Japanese – have only just begun to operate.
Let’s take a quick look at the other UN document: the UN’s rendition of Egeland’s January 26 NY press conference. Excerpts follow,
[quote] PRESS BRIEFING ON TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORT
<...> Jan Egeland said today at Headquarters that the humanitarian response had been remarkably, perhaps singularly, effective, swift and muscular. <...>Mr. Egeland said that the emergency-life-saving phase to save the survivors and avoid a second wave of death, destruction and disease had succeeded in just one month. Normally, such a phase took three or more months, but in this case, and despite monumental obstacles - no roads, few airstrips, no ports and torrential rains - the second death wave had been avoided <...>
Credit was due, first and foremost, to the local communities and national governments, whose responses had been uniquely effective, he said. Secondly, there had been an enormously effective international relief effort by the United Nations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Thirdly, a bigger and more effective partnership than ever with military forces had emerged, involving 20 foreign militaries and the national militaries of all of the affected nations, bolstering the effort with aircraft, helicopters, naval vessels, search-and-rescue teams, logistical support, air-traffic and handling crews, and so forth. <...>
Donors' response had been unprecedented and generous, he said, drawing attention to the $775 million in firm pledges to the flash appeal for $977 million. Some $200 million had been received, and another $250 million was "in the mail". Another major achievement had been in the area of logistics. Huge bottlenecks had been foreseen, but most had been solved early on through the identification of alternate routes, airports and transport means. The joint logistical services of the United Nations and its coordination mechanisms had largely worked to his satisfaction. <...>
The number of people already receiving food was 1.2 million, and that was likely to increase to perhaps 2 million at the peak, he said. More than 500,000 people had already been provided with clean water. Students were increasingly returning to school; today, 60,000 started school in Aceh and Sumatra <...>
He appreciated Oxfam for calling on countries that had pledged money to "pay up". Some, like Japan, had been outstanding -- it had pledged, committed and disbursed and transferred $229 million within days. <...> Altogether, $450 million had either been received or was on its way, and that was very impressive, he added. <...> He now had a total pledge from the United States of $39 million, all of which had been received; the World Food Programme had received $28 million from that country. Japan was in a class of its own, but other large donors included Norway, Sweden, the European Commission and Germany. <...> [H]e said that, if things had gone slower, if it had been "business as usual", there would have been a higher casualty figure. Against all odds and expectations, some assistance had reached even the most remote places. [/quote]
Again, the dishonesty is breathtaking.
When it’s convenient, Egeland rolls in work done by non-UN actors and makes it seem like the UN has done it, e.g., USAID “cash-for-work” programs have cleared the rubble away and made school re-openings possible – the UN didn’t do that!
Yet when talking about pledges, he mentions only money pledged or given the UN! He attempts to minimize the role of the USA – by far the biggest contributor to the relief effort. He praises Japan for being in a class by itself. Why? The Japanese have given the UN $229 million. The US is giving only a relatively small portion of its tsunami relief moneys to the UN, so it doesn’t count – quite aside from the fact that even prior to the tsunami the USA was providing about 40% of the WFP and UNHCR budgets. Notice how he can not bring himself to mention AIRCRAFT carriers; they presumably get covered under “and so forth.” To mention aircraft carriers would be to acknowledge that the USA is in a class by itself. Once again, we see the nonsense about the logistics operation and the overcoming of bottlenecks; the UN didn’t do that. He makes absolutely NO mention of the superb work done by the Australians or the Kiwis. Why? Because they did it on their own or in coordination with the US. The countries praised are precisely those who have done the least in the real world to alleviate the tsunami caused suffering. Why? Because they believe in “business as usual” and give their money to the UN.
The Diplomad finds absolutely stunning the language about the response being “remarkably, perhaps singularly, effective, swift and muscular” and that it “had succeeded in just one month. Normally, such a phase took three or more months . . .” Why was it so quick and effective? Thanks to President Bush who quickly threw together a “core group” of nations that responded right away, without waiting for the UN. Precisely the group that Clare Short and her ilk so criticized for undermining the UN ( http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2004/12/flash-clare-short-is-idiot.html ).