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02 April 2017

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The Virginian

I've been just west of Mogadishu, supporting humanitarian operations, alongside multiple UN agencies. Many of my expat UN colleagues had spent time in Mogadishu, though perhaps not NYC. Some of their friends died in Mogadishu. In a small Somali village, I was sheltered by a local family as a Western-funded UN / WFP food convoy came through. The guards of the convoy were militia, all high on whatever was the drug (qat I assume) of the day, blinged up like a Hollywood B-roll bad guy, armed to the teeth - and ready to kidnap or kill any foreigner found. This was the deal the WFP made I guess. While the UN as an organization deserves much criticism, as does the unrealistic drivel that often comes from its bureaucrats, it is a reflection of the wishes of its member nations, led by the P5. That said, many of those UN workers that are in the field, to include many in combat zones, are brave folks. When led and resourced well, they can do good work. When not, they struggle and often fail. Unfortunately the UN was never designed to be efficient.

I'd love to see an Obama, Clinton or Trump have the guts to go into a hotspot, unarmed, to do the work of my former colleagues and friends.

Jim MacMillan

There is a major UN office in Nairobi. It is the primary UN office for African issues. It could easily be built up to take on much more responsibility from NY. Or with modern communications the NY office could be distributed to several locations, one on each continent perhaps, and in under-developed countries? But the Group of 77 has no influence to make that happen.

While you may be right about the fatcats on the UN dole in lower Manhattan, I have to agree with Virginian regarding the many UN workers in the field. Sergio de Mello and his 20 staff members blown to bits by a bomb in Iraq. Hedi Annabi, Luis da Costa, Firas Al-Hayali and his son buried alive in earthquakes in Haiti and northern Pakistan. Four members of the UN office on Drugs killed in a suspicious plane crash in Bolivia while monitoring Coca production. A five man UN technical team murdered by Boko Haram. And many more. Just in mid-March two UN officials were kidnapped in the Congo.

The Porkchop Express

I had quite the good laugh. And your point is well taken. Though the Virginian is right: a lot of UN personnel do work in hazardous areas. It's the mucky-mucks that end up fucking things up more often than not.

There is a great book that touches on some of the more paternalistic attitudes of the "NGO mafia" and the need for leadership that understands local culture that was quite good if any are interested: "The Tyranny of Experts" by William Easterly.

English Outsider


Fred - Respectfully disagree. I don't think the "creatures" ought to be relocated. Just got rid of. Also those who batten on the Charity industry.

Unlike "The Virginian" I haven't been out there. The nearest I've got to the badlands is Brixton. Though I've done a bit of Sweden so I suppose that counts these days. But those I know who have been or are out there - doing good work too and most working for some UN body or other - are very realistic about all the problems they face and one of those problems is of course the UN organisation itself.

It's an opaque institution or set of institutions to most of us and far removed from any sort of accountability or decent auditing. I believe it would be better if relief/development work were to be undertaken solely by individual countries. Then at least there'd be some sort of oversight.

As for sending Mr Trump to some hotspot, I thought he was in one already.


The Beaver

FWIW:The real UN workers in the field, as those described by The Virginian are those who live in tents/huts, take a bath in some dirty infested water ( not 4* star hotels in Baghdad or Port au Prince or Lahore), don't fly Business class but little planes where securing the doors with some cords are not a novel ideas. The P-Level guys from P-5 to ASG or USG (or Envoys like that loser for Yemen) are just political animals - not like those 2 field workers who got their heads chopped off in Congo and are not talked about in the media nor Turtle Bay.

Unfortunately these workers (starting as volunteers first before they can be hired on contract ) don't have vitamin C (in the UN lingo- connections within the different agencies or dept) are often mismanaged by those politicians on a hiatus from their own country (because they happened to run for the wrong government, like the former Kiwi PM who headed the UNDP or some Indian/Dutch ministers) who became tyrants in their positions.

BTW: One of the UN offices in Kenya is run by the SIL of the former UNSG Ban-Ki-Moon - another failure who happened to climb up inside the UN because of who he is and NOT on his merits.

confusedponderer

Re: international folk at organisations like UN - during my studency I had a quarter year practicement at the UNFCCC in Bonn.

They were working from a safe place in Bonn - they were housed in former ministry offices. For some work you need quietness. It was before the conference in Montreal. I was invited but sadly I couldn't afford to join and travel with the team.

I'd have liked to. I learned a lot there, work was in english, and they were friendly folks who and worked well and hard.

At some point, I had questions to the interpretation of one passage in the Kyoto protocol that I didn't get, and my boss, a UN veteran and former minister from India (knowledgeable, tough but friendly) just told me he didn't know and that I should just ask the organisation's lawyer who had negotiated the text, and then tell him what I learned.

So I asked the lawyer, got an appointment, and there I got an excellent deep knowledge answer to my question.

Practiclly, it was learning on international law on a lawn with view on the Rhine ... I had a good time there.

Fred

Jim,

It seems your feelings are hurt. The complicity of the Borg and the MSM in creating the conditions for the invasion of Iraq are well documented here, as is the acknowledgement of the courage of men and women like Mr. de Mello and his staff. Earthquakes, which you mention, are rather out of man's control. Unlike digging latrines. A skill the UN troops brought to Haiti lacked. The Haitian's are still rather livid about the close to 1,000 deaths caused by a strain of cholera unknown to the Western Hemisphere until brought there by the UN. Apparently after close to a decades and hundreds of millions in aid either direct or indict through NGOs – to include the Clinton Global Initiative - the UN still has troops there. One would think the UN would be able to hire and train enough Haitians that they could do basic guard and police duties in their own country. That wouldn’t do much for job security for the politically connected swamp dwellers though.

Fred

English,

One of the women who works for me goes to Haiti annually with her churchf or chairtable work. I personally think their time and money would be better spent and have a greater impact if they spent two weeks doing charitable work in Detroit or Ypsilanti, but that wouldn't have the same cachet about it.

Jim MacMillan

Fred -

I certainly did not intend to hurt your feelings. I plead a thousand pardons if I did so inadvertently.

Priam's Crazy Daughter

I agree with you about "tending our own garden," so to speak. But then those church people would most certainly be considered racist for trying to help.

On the other hand, I also admire those brave people who do go into horrible situations with the firm desire to help, as long as they really know in advance what they are getting into. (Not like that kindhearted young woman a while back who, on her own, decided to go to help in Syria and ended up a prized bride of IS.)

It's always the case that the "central office" doesn't know at all what is really happening, and that it just keeps getting father and more bloated trying to figure things out.

Fred

Jim,

I have a thick skin.

Jim MacMillan

Fred -

A good attribute. We should all be so blessed.

charly

The UN doesn't trust the Haitian. The expect that they will not put down the rebellion against the democratically elected government*.


*) very democratic. The president got the vote of 10% of the people which is obviously a lot if only 5% of the people vote

Fred

Pacifica,

Thank you comrade. If only the black Muslim slavers of Boko Haram were as enlightened as Ralph was in 1841 "our girls" wouldn't still be held in bondage. When I get done crawling back from Canossa I'll let you know.

Donald

Close to 10,000 cholera deaths, actually. I am guessing your 1000 figure was a typo. I just read about this somewhere, so the figure was fresh in my mind, though I can't remember my source.

This is a link to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Scroll down and it says 9200 deaths.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_cholera_outbreak

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