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Gaining Firsthand Experience In The Third World

Gaining Firsthand Experience In The Third WorldWithscandal and speculation swirling around the U.N. in recent weeks,one Fletcher School professor says that the organization may beat a historic low point.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.13.05] United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has comeunder siege in recent weeks for his handling of humanitarian issuessuch as the crisis in Sudan. In addition, reports of corruptionin the oil-for-food program and accusations of sexual abuse byU.N. peacekeeping troops in the Congo have added to the U.N.’sheadaches. But blame for the organization’s woes, says Tufts’HurstHannum, goes beyond the institution itself.

“Itis a low point in the U.N.'s history,” Hannum, a professorof international law at the FletcherSchool, told National Public Radio. “And Ithink that it's partially of the U.N.'s own making but largelyof the making of the world superpower who for the last six yearshas essentially tried either to undermine the U.N. or to use itas a tool of its own foreign policy.”

The UnitedStates, Hannum said, has marginalized the U.N. to a level thatendangers its effectiveness as an international organization.

“Ifits largest member state continues to thwart it and to insistthat it simply follow the American lead, then frankly there'svery little the U.N. can do unless it wants to be seen purelyas a tool of the United States,” Hannum contended.

The conflictswith the U.S. are not beneficial to the organization dealing notonly with a host of major humanitarian issues like the Asian tsunamis,but also scandals such as reported corruption in the Iraq oil-for-foodprogram and accusations that U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo sexuallyabused women and children there.

“Oneof the things that it's important to remember is that there reallyare no United Nations troops,” Hannum said. “Theseare soldiers from Nigeria, from Bangladesh, from Fiji, from Francewho act as national contingents who remain accountable to theirown governments and who are temporarily under UN command but overwhom the UN really exercises no authority.”

Countriescontributing troops to U.N. peacekeeping contingents, Hannum says,should be outraged.

“Itshould be a scandal equivalent to Abu Ghraib in this country thatsoldiers from France or Bangladesh or Fiji are engaging in thesesorts of operations,” Hannum told NPR. “Pressureshould be brought on those countries to prosecute these individuals,get them out of the army.”

As for theoil-for-food scandal – where the U.N. is accused of lettingSaddam Hussein’s government siphon billions in money intendedfor aid in Iraq – Hannum suggests that openness is the bestpolicy moving forward.

“Itis essential that the U.N. act on the oil-for-food scandal andbe much more forthright in dealing with the problems that do existwithin its interior,” he asserted. “It is importantthat it do this transparently.” But the need to act doesnot lie solely at the feet of the U.N.

“Theother changes may need to come not just from the U.N. but alsofrom other countries,” Hannum explained to NPR.“The U.N. is a bit like a club that has the ability to passlots of laws and lots of regulations but without any ability toenforce them. And the U.N. ultimately can do what the member statesallow it to do.”

While restructuringmay play a part in helping the agency become more effective, Hannumsays that the bigger problem is gaining consensus on the U.N,’srole on critical global issues.

“It'sa problem of political will,” he told NPR, “oftrying to build a new international consensus at least aroundsome issues such as dealing with the current tragedy that arosefrom the tsunami and identifying perhaps with more clarity justwhat the U.N. can do and allowing it to do that better and perhapsidentifying areas where the U.N. should be not expected to actbecause it's simply too politically sensitive.”

 

 

 

 

 

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