T Nation

U.N. - What's it Good for Anyway?

So we’ve been treated to the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food scandal, appalled by its pedophilia/rape scandal, and bemused by its general inability to do anything in the face of African genocide. But even as the U.N. has been failing as some sort of supranational bureaucracy of governments (it is most definitely not an institution of the people), it was supposed to be able to handle humanitarian aid projects in addition to its louder job as a toothless debate society.

However, it seems the only thing the U.N. actually wants to do is step in and take credit for humanitarian aid – at least that’s the impression one gets from following the tsunami story [See below].

My question is: Should we tear the U.N. down and start from scratch, or is there something there worth saving?

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/un-death-watch.html

Saturday, January 01, 2005

UN Death Watch . . .

Well, we’re heading into Day 7 of the Asian quake/tsunami crisis. And the UN relief effort? Nowhere to be seen except at some meetings and on CNN and BBC as talking heads. In this corner of the Far Abroad, it’s Yanks and Aussies doing the hard, sweaty work of saving lives.

Check out this interview (on the UN’s official website) with SecGen Annan and Under SecGen Egeland shows,

http://http//www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=660

[Begin excerpt] Mr. Egeland: Our main problems now are in northern Sumatra and Aceh. <…> In Aceh, today 50 trucks of relief supplies are arriving. <…> Tomorrow, we will have eight full airplanes arriving. I discussed today with Washington whether we can draw on some assets on their side, after consultations with the Indonesian Government, to set up what we call an ?air-freight handling centre? in Aceh.

Tomorrow, we will have to set up a camp for relief workers ? 90 of them ? which is fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything, because they have nowhere to stay and we don’t want them to be an additional burden on the people there. [End excerpt]

I provided this to some USAID colleagues working in Indonesia and their heads nearly exploded. The first paragraph is quite simply a lie. The UN is taking credit for things that hard-working, street savvy USAID folks have done. It was USAID working with their amazing network of local contacts who scrounged up trucks, drivers, and fuel; organized the convoy and sent it off to deliver critical supplies. A UN ?air-freight handling centre? in Aceh? Bull! It’s the Aussies and the Yanks who are running the air ops into Aceh. We have people working and sleeping on the tarmac in Aceh, surrounded by bugs, mud, stench and death, who every day bring in the US and Aussie C-130s and the US choppers; unload, load, send them off. We have no fancy aid workers’ retreat – notice the priorities of the UN? People are dying and what’s the first thing the UN wants to do? Set up “a camp for relief workers” one that would be “fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything.”

The UN is a sham.


See these posts for more specific analysis:

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2005/01/swine-before-pearls-un-plan-to-provide.html

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2005/01/would-you-like-fries-with-that.html

Also, just go here

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/

and scroll down through the most recent back until December 30 or so – there are several good entries.

Two more good entries – if the U.N. can’t even do humanitarian aid, why is it around again?

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/just-too-good-for-mere-update.html

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Just TOO Good for a Mere Update!

The post below reports on the impending arrival of Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom “United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-affected countries.”

She has spoken! At a large meeting this afternoon, she and the local UN rep, Mr. Bo “Please Wear Blue” Asplund have announced the arrival of yet another “United Nations Joint Assessment Team.” But this one is very, very ultra- special. According to the UNocrats, it’s not “just another assessment team.” Oh, no, banish that thought! You see, “This assessment team will coordinate all the other assessment teams.” In addition, the UN will set up a “Civil-Military Coordination Office to coordinate [that word! that word!] all military assistance because the military do not have experience in disaster relief (!)”

Let the mockery begin . . . .

posted by Diplomad @ 6:32 PM Comments (14) | Trackback (0)

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/more-unreality-but-dutch-get-it.html

More UNreality . . . But the Dutch Get It

Well, dear friends, we’re now into the tenth day of the tsunami crisis and in this battered corner of Asia, the UN is nowhere to be seen – unless you count at meetings, in five-star hotels, and holding press conferences.

Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent aircraft with supplies.

The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just today the city’s Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative requesting a meeting for “Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries.” Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really, really special because she has the word “coordinator” twice in her title!

The letter, in typically modest UN style, goes on to explain that “Ms. Wahlstrom’s main task will be to provide leadership and support to the international relief effort. She will undertake high-level consultations with the concerned governments in order to facilitate the delivery of international assistance.” Oh, and she’ll be visiting from January 4-5.

Once, again, a hearty Diplomadic “WOW!” She’s going to do all that in two days! The Australians and we have been feeding and otherwise helping tens-of-thousands of people stay alive for the past ten days, and still have a long, long way to go, but she’s going to wrap the whole thing up in a couple of days of meetings. Thank goodness she’s here to provide the poor lost Aussies and Yanks with leadership. The Diplomad bows in awe to such power and wisdom. The letter is signed, by the way, by the same UN official who suggested a couple of days back that the Australian and US air traffic controllers in Aceh should don UN blue (see our post of January 2: http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/unsanity-update.html )

Ok, enough with the UN; you get the picture. Now to the EU. The EU could copy the Australian-American model of acting quickly and effectively to save lives, or they could copy the UN model of meeting at a leisurely pace to plan for the possibility of setting up a coordination center that will consider making a plan for the possibility of an operations center to consider beginning to request support for the tsunami’s victims. Ah, my wise friends, guess which model of “action” the EU chose? No need to emulate those “cowboys” from Australia and the USA with their airplanes and loading crews working round-the-clock; oh, no, much too tacky, sweaty and dirty. No need to feed into the system those goofy Aussiyankeebushowardian New World Anglo-Saxons already have created. No, they’ll follow the much more elegant Kofi Annan model. A couple of EU planners have shown up to begin making arrangements for an assessment team to arrive, etc., etc., you know the rest. Meanwhile, people die.

But all is not lost. The Dutch, who on occasion show the great common sense for which they were once justifiably famous, have signed up with the Aussiyankeebushowardian Core Group. Thanks to a European Diplomad (Yes, The Diplomadic insurgency has gone international!) we have in our possession a short situation report circulated by the Dutch at the most recent EU meeting here in this corner of the Far Abroad. This January 2 report is written by local Dutch diplomats who traveled to Aceh and saw the reality on the ground. We will cite the two principal paragraphs, and leave them unedited in their original rather charming Dutch-English,

[Begin Dutch excerpt] The US military has arrived and is clearly establishing its presence everywhere in Banda Aceh. They completely have taken over the military hospital, which was a mess until yesterday but is now completely up and running. They brought big stocks of medicines, materials for the operation room, teams of doctors, water and food. Most of the patients who were lying in the hospital untreated for a week have undergone medical treatment by the US teams by this afternoon. US military have unloaded lots of heavy vehicles and organize the logistics with Indonesian military near the airport. A big camp is being set up at a major square in the town. Huge generators are ready to provide electricity. US helicopters fly to places which haven’t been reached for the whole week and drop food. The impression it makes on the people is also highly positive; finally something happens in the city of Banda Aceh and finally it seems some people are in control and are doing something. No talking but action. European countries are until now invisible on the ground. IOM staff (note: this is a USAID-funded organization) is very busy briefing the incoming Americans and Australians about the situation.

The US, Australia, Singapore and the Indonesian military have started a 'Coalition Co-ordination Centre' in Medan to organize all the incoming and outgoing military flights with aid. A sub-centre is established in Banda Aceh." [End Dutch excerpt]

Isn’t that nice? Europeans with a sense of reality.

The only fault The Diplomad can find with the Dutch report is that it understates the role of the Australians in the relief effort – they deserve considerably more credit than this report gives them. It’s hard to praise the Aussies too much for what they have done in the wake of the tsunami. They are absolutely splendid – too bad they’ve got that thing about that weird game, uh, cricket, is it?

Anyhow, soon I will return to my habitual corner of the Far Abroad and leave my colleagues here to deal with the UN, the EU and their Coordination Efforts.

posted by Diplomad @ 1:15 PM Comments (108) | Trackback (1)

Today’s U.N. is eerily similar to the League of Nations in the 1930’s.

In that day and age it was unable or unwilling to confront Mussolini and later Hitler.

The current U.N. had a slew of strongly worded resolutions against Hussein and was unwilling to enforce them.

Any chance of resurrection depends, in my humble opinion, on reshuffling the Security Counsel (France off) to represent today’s major powers.

There needs to be a transparent (no more U.N. stalling) investigation into the Food for Oil program.

Finally, Annan needs to go. Some of us feel his regime worked openly to defeat GWB in the past election. That is unacceptable. This coupled with the Oil for Food Scandal/Pedophilia tragedy, makes his continuance at the U.N. offensive to many of us.

GWB and other member nations bypassed the U.N. altogether in forming their response to the recent tsunami tragedy.
This is a clear indication of how irrelevant the U.N. has become.

If the U.N. is unable/unwilling to take reasonable steps to reform, then it should be disbanded.

JeffR

Now the UN is taking over the aid effort

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/f94c32b6-5f00-11d9-8cca-00000e2511c8.html

lovely

What I hate about the UN is it is a means of perpetuating illegitimate leaders under the guise that they are helping humanity. Nuts to them. Its the same thing as the Saudi government claiming to be deeply religious. Its just a means to perpetuate their illegitimate power.

[quote]JeffR wrote:
GWB and other member nations bypassed the U.N. altogether in forming their response to the recent tsunami tragedy.
This is a clear indication of how irrelevant the U.N. has become.

JeffR[/quote]

mmmmmmm … have you read the news today? Sad. If Bush would quit caving to them (or just freakin’ admit that he’s beholden to them), maybe they actually WOULD achieve their well-deserved and long overdue irrelevance.

Soco –

I agree. Buttressing your point, see this article by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online:

http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg200501050715.asp

Excerpt:

“This is why I find it so infuriating when people talk about how the “nations of the world” voted on this or that in some U.N. resolution. No they didn’t. Some nations voted through their representatives, other nations had one criminal cabal or another vote in their name. And if you believe ? as so many opponents of the Iraq war did ? that barbaric dictators are legitimate rulers because international law says so, then international law upholds the logic of the Fuehrer.”

Soco/Bandgeek,

I have no idea why W. chose to turn the effort over.

I’m interested to hear his point of view.

It seemed like a perfect time to push real U.N. reform. If they wouldn’t reform (france/annan gone), then ignore them into oblivion would have been the order of the day.

JeffR

More good stuff from the Diplomadic Blog:

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/turd-world-and-high-priest-vulture.html

The “Turd” World And The High Priest Vulture Elite
Warning to Potential Readers of this Posting:

The Chief Diplomad is just back from the office. It’s 4 am. Mosquitoes are everywhere. The internet is painfully slow. Your “friendly” Chief Diplomad’s plan to move on to another set of duties, for now, has fallen by the roadside. He must remain in the current job for now. The local Guardian correspondent has called the Embassy; he is doing a negative story on the US relief effort based on “information” provided by the UN at a press conference. The Diplomad is in a dark, dark mood. So, of course, just as anyone else would do in such circumstances, The Diplomad writes about the UN.

End of Warning.

Many years ago, as we prepared our return to a tough posting in the Far Abroad after leave in the States, our son asked, “Do we have to go back to the ‘turd’ world?” That phrase, “redolent” with the wisdom possessed only by children, has stayed with me over these passing years. My son was right about the ‘turd’ world. What tips you off that you have arrived in a poor country, a truly, genuinely dirt-poor corner of the Far Abroad, is the smell. As you leave the airport, you notice a special “exotic” odor of rotting vegetation, garbage, and feces combined with a slight whiff of smoke. Once you’re there a bit, you no longer notice. When you leave and come back, it slams you all over again. The kid was right: we had been and still do live in the “Turd World.”

This Embassy has been running 24/7 since the December 26 earthquake and tsunami. Along with my colleagues, I’ve spent the past several days dealing non-stop with various aspects of the relief effort in this tsunami-affected country. That work, unfortunately, has brought ever-increasing contact with the growing UN presence in this capital; in fact, we’ve found that to avoid running into the UN, we must go out to where the quake and tsunami actually hit. As we come up on two weeks since the disaster struck, the UN is still not to be seen where it counts – except when holding well-staged press events. Ah, yes, but the luxury hotels are full of UN assessment teams and visiting big shots from New York, Geneva, and Vienna. The city sees a steady procession of UN Mercedes sedans and top-of-the-line SUV’s – a fully decked out Toyota Landcruiser is the UN vehicle of choice; it doesn’t seem that concerns about “global warming” and preserving your tax dollars run too deep among the UNocrats.

Sitting VERY late for two consecutive nights in interminable meetings with UN reps, hearing them go on about “taking the lead coordination role,” pledges, and the impending arrival of this or that UN big shot or assessment/coordination team, for the millionth time I realized that if not for Australia and America almost nobody in the tsunami-affected areas would have survived more than a few days. If we had waited for the UNocrats to get their act coordinated, the already massive death toll would have become astronomical. But, fortunately, thanks to "retrograde racist war-mongers " such as John Howard and George W. Bush, as we sat in air conditioned meeting rooms with these UNocrats, young Australians and Americans were at that moment “coordinating” without the UN and saving the lives of tens-of-thousands of people.

Seeing these UNocrats perched at the table, whispering to each other, back-slapping, shaking hands, they seemed like a periodic reunion of old cynical Mafia chieftains or mercenaries who run into each other in different hot spots, as they move from one slaughter to another, “How are you? Haven’t seen you since Bosnia . . …” As the hours wore on, however, and I nervously doodled in my note pad, shifted in my chair, looked at my watch, and thought about all the real work I had to do that evening, I decided that, no, labeling them mafiosos or mercenaries was much too kind. They seemed more to be the progeny resultinf from a mating between a mad oracle and a giant carrion-eater. They were akin to some sort of ancient mythical Greco-Roman-Aztec-Wes Craven-Egyptian-bird-god that demands constant sacrifice and feeding, and speaks in riddles which only it can solve. Yes, I decided, the UNocrats are great hideous vultures, roused from their caves in the European Alps and in the cement canyons and peaks of Manhattan by the stench of death in the Turd World. They leisurely take flight toward the smell of death; circle, and then swoop down, screeching UNintelligble nonsense. They arrive and immediately force others, e.g., the American tax payer, to build them new exclusive nests in the midst of poverty, and make themselves fat on the flesh of the dead. My friends, allow The Diplomad to present to you The High Priest Vulture Elite (HPVE).

These genuinely repulsive, arrogant creatures survive only because the world’s rich countries, the non-Turd World, allow them, too. We in the First World find it politically impossible to reveal their pronouncements as the cant they are. For many in Europe and among the New York Times crowd, helping maintain these mad vultures substitutes for genuine action, “The UN is on the job!” In addition, for many senior bureaucrats and minor politicians, there is always the hope that if they play the game right, they, too, can join the High Priest Vulture Elite: We see the ranks of the HPVE full of Scandinavians and leftist Americans, and the occasional pompous Euro-Brazilian, all of whom parlayed mediocre domestic careers of lip-biting humanitarian symbolism into well-paying tax-free sinecures in the HPVE.

Who are the victims? Well, of course, the tax payers of the First World come immediately to mind. But really, after all, for us it’s just money. Money comes and goes. The big victims of the HPVE are the world’s poor countries who pay with the lives of their children; who get diverted by HPVE mumbo jumbo and its promises of aid and technical assistance from taking actions to develop their own countries and fend off the HPVE.

This is not complete, but the hour is late (please forgive spelling/grammatical errors.) Let me post this now. The Diplomad will get some sleep, then – as time allows --continue examining the HPVE in subsequent postings, in particular, how the Turd World appears gradually to be waking up to the fact that the HPVE exists only to exist.

posted by Diplomad @ 5:30 AM Comments (194) | Trackbacks (10)

Great post, Boston…didn’t realize I duplicated it by starting another thread. This is an issue I want to pay close attention to, because the one job I thought the UN could be universally useful in doing was food and medicine distribution - humanitarian aid - in times of crisis.

After all, humanitarian aid is not particularly controversial. It’s not as though UNSC Permanent Veto wielders are going to be jockeying for geopolitical positioning in a crisis like this.

And, have you seen what the Muslim world has contributed to aid their fellow Muslims in tsunami-stricken areas? After a year of flooding their coffers with petro-dollars from inflated oil prices, their contribution is embarassing - and revealing. As of January 4:

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/01/02/world.relief.contribution.reut/

Thunderbolt –

Not only that – but the internal audits that were released this weekend indicate that the UN wasted, and was aware that it wasted, more money in a year 5 billion, just in overpayments and such centered around the rebuilding of Kuwait after 1991, than has been collected from this unprecedented world charity effort for the tsunami victims, which is just over 4 billion thus far.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,143855,00.html

Raw data:

http://www.iic-offp.org/index.html

Here’s another interesting article on how a certain oil-rich, Muslim country chooses to spend its money - it also makes a good, if understated, point on who the most important players were in dealing with this humanitarian crisis:

The Year of Living Diplomatically

By GREG SHERIDAN
January 10, 2005; Page A12

The giant tsunami which rolled its wave of destruction across the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Sri Lanka and India and even Africa, not only obliterated life, it transformed life, and it could redefine the geopolitics of Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia. It is no disrespect to the dead to analyze how best to serve the living. The place to start that analysis is by reading what the tsunami has already revealed.

The defining moment came early in the crisis, when a weeping man in Aceh, Indonesia’s isolated and most militantly Muslim province on the northern tip of Sumatra, sobbed to a CNN interviewer: “Where is America?” Ordinary people often understand underlying patterns of power better than most intellectuals. This grief-stricken Acehnese was not accusing America but offering an object lesson in how the world, especially Asia, really works. For he did not ask “Where is the U.N.?” Still less would it have occurred to him to cry: “Where is Saudi Arabia and the principle of international Islamic solidarity?”

Instead the man understood that when there is real trouble, you look to America, and its allies and friends, especially such fellow democracies as Japan and Australia. The U.S. immediately convened a core group of nations to coordinate the early relief effort. The identity of the core group tells us much – India, Japan and Australia, three democracies, two of them formal military allies of the U.S. It would surely have been inconceivable to even the most imaginative Pentagon scenario writer to think that U.S. and Australian soldiers would be conducting large-scale joint operations in Aceh, the site of an ongoing, fierce Islamic separatist rebellion in Indonesia. Yet it was U.S. military helicopters which first brought relief to survivors there.


So lesson No. 1 is that it is the U.S. and its alliance system which counts for most in Asia. China’s absence from the core group was notable. There has been much angst in Western foreign policy circles in recent years arising from the view that China is the most powerful force in Asia. The tsunami shows this analysis to be wildly premature at best. China has played a kind of brilliant confidence trick by getting the world to evaluate it today at its own estimation of its potential position in two or three decades. China is an important nation and it has responded to the tsunami constructively, with a modest aid package. But the tsunami shows the limits of China’s influence. It doesn’t have the money, the allies, the adaptable and deployable military, the confidence of neighbors, the culture of compassion, or the diplomatic clout to lead a relief effort in the way the U.S. has done.

Saudi Arabia’s pitiful contribution of $30 million to the relief effort is even more telling. With oil prices at an historic high, Saudi coffers are bloated, as are those of other Gulf nations. The Saudis have spent hundreds of millions of dollars spreading an intolerant Wahhabi version of Islam around the world, not least in Indonesia, and historically many millions of dollars supporting various terrorist organizations. But saving dying Indonesians, much less Sri Lankans who are not even Muslims, is apparently a much lower priority. This will not be quickly forgotten by Indonesians.

And that is the other lesson Washington must take from this tsunami, the permanent importance of Indonesia. This sprawling archipelagic nation is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with perhaps 200 million Muslims out of a population of 230 million. Islam in Indonesia is radically different from Islam in the Middle East. It is far more moderate. Can anyone imagine the Saudi or Iranian Governments being sufficiently concerned for the welfare of their people to open their countries to the presence of large numbers of U.S. and other Western troops to help cope with disaster? The very lack of an Osama bin Laden-style reaction – How dare the infidels tread on our sacred land! – in Indonesia is indicative of how different, and how much better, the political culture is there compared with the Middle East.

But powerful forces in the Middle East are trying to radicalize, even Arabize, Indonesian Islam. The battle for the soul of Islam in Indonesia is of immense importance to the United States. Washington and Jakarta have cooperated well in the war on terror. The tsunami gives the U.S. the opportunity to re-engage Indonesia, and Southeast Asia more generally, on a far wider front than just the war on terror, to re-engage in fact in the most traditional of American fashions – in the export of hope. The magnificent generosity of Americans has touched Indonesians’ hearts. Who now can possibly argue that the U.S. is engaged in some crusade against Islam?

But Washington needs to be very careful and very smart about the way it spends this large dollop of aid. It should operate bilaterally with the Indonesian government (as Australia is doing), with nil or minimal U.N. involvement. This is in part to minimize the risk of corruption and in part to maximize the effectiveness of the aid. It is also because it would be truly madness for the U.S. to have to do the tough things like war unilaterally, where it gets all the blame, but the generous things like aid multilaterally, so that it gets none of the credit.

Washington should have three key priorities in its aid to Indonesia. The first is immediate emergency relief; the second the reconstruction of vital infrastructure (while this should concentrate on the areas hit by the tsunami all areas of Indonesia should be eligible to apply for this assistance); and the third should be scholarships for bright Indonesians to study in the U.S. (Debt forgiveness is a very bad idea. The “moral hazard” consequences in a country struggling with corruption and nonperforming loans, and just coming to grips with norms of corporate governance, would be wicked.)

In the mid-1960s it was a U.S.-educated group of Indonesian economists – the so-called Berkeley Mafia – who pulled their nation out of an even worse crisis than it is in today. Their efforts brought Indonesia back from the brink of famine and disaster and gave it three decades of growth, as well as laying the foundation for long-term U.S.-Indonesian strategic cooperation, which was vital in the Cold War.

Indonesia, and Southeast Asia generally, do not have a bad record in responding to disaster, whether manmade or natural. The typical reaction is not one of African-style fatalism, but rather to galvanize governments into bursts of reform and capacity building. That is the story behind the region’s rebound from the 1997 economic crisis. Here Indonesia’s new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a technocrat, a moderate, a friend of the West, has an historic opportunity to use this setback to generate a new burst of economic reform in Indonesia, and a new degree of intimacy with the U.S., and its closest Asian allies, Australia and Japan (not to mention India, with whom Indonesia shares more than just its national epic, the Ramayana, but also similar traditions of moderate Islam).

Managing the response to this tragedy so that it advances the real interests of Indonesians, which are congruent with the real interests of Americans, is a high order policy challenge for the U.S. government.

Mr. Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and author of “Cities of the Hot Zone” (Allen & Unwin, 2003).

A nice little update on the U.N. trying to cover the fact it basically did nothing in the tsunami tragedy:

http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/2005/01/more-unhonesty.html

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More UNhonesty

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 ).

Pathetic.