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The Rosett Report

Monthly Archives: July 2007

While top appointees of the U.S. government must face the rigor of confirmation hearings, in which there is an opportunity for lawmakers and voters to learn plenty about who they are and what they’ve done, at the UN there is no such requirement. Most top-level appointments are presented to the public simply as a fait accompli, with a brief bio, disclosing little and in some cases obfuscating a great deal. Why doesn’t the public deserve to hear a lot more about the criteria, qualifications, and selection process?

Take, for example, the appointment by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, announced Friday, of a Russian, Dmitry Titov, to the newly created post in the peacekeeping department of Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions. That sounds like an important job, given the cloud of sex scandals, smuggling scandals, procurement bribery scandals, financial scams and other abuses emanating from UN peacekeeping operations — especially in Africa.

And who is Titov? From the brief, six paragraph bio provided by the UN, we learn that since 1998 — a period encompassing the roster of abuses above — he has been the director of the UN peacekeeping department’s Africa Division. We are also told that prior to to joining the UN in 1991, Dmitry Titov served “in his country’s diplomatic service, working primarily on Security Council matters” — which of course means that he was a diplomat not of Russia, but of the former Soviet Union, though the UN bio writers somehow fail to spell that out. We learn that Titov, born in 1950, was schooled at the Soviet Union’s elite Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO). We are not told what year he graduated, but can infer it was during the era in which MGIMO excelled in training its students to propagate the Soviet Union’s ruthless, opportunistic and destructive foreign policy — not in how to cultivate democratic institutions.

It is of course possible that Titov has overcome this unfortunate background, and that somewhere along the way he has tutored himself in democratic standards and methods of law and security policy, despite a career in which he went straight from the Soviet foreign service into the unaccountable, outside-the-law bureaucracy of the UN. It is even possible that there is some explanation for why anyone who held high-level responsibility for the performance of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa over the past nine years would be considered eligible for a UN post above the level of coat-check clerk. But what is that explanation? What exactly has Titov been doing during his long career of Soviet and UN service? What exactly in his record accounts for Ban’s decision that he is the best man for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the UN’s multi-billion dollar ever-expanding department of peacekeeping?

Right now, 25% of the UN peacekeeping budget is funded by the U.S. (with Congress on its way to increasing that to 27%), while only 1.3% is funded by Russia. One might reasonably argue that Ban should choose his top appointees strictly on merit, regardless of how much or how little their countries contribute. But in all this endless UN “reform,” when do we start getting much more than vague and potted after-the-fact bios to explain the records and merits of the UN’s high-level appointees? They are entrusted with spending billions of U.S. tax dollars to shape policies of global importance. Titov’s appointment is just one case out of many. Who are these guys?

Just back from a trip to England, site of floods that will no doubt be chalked up to global warming. I did not witness the flooding. My travels were to northern England, including a stroll by Hadrian’s Wall, built by order of the Roman Emperor of that name in the Second Century A.D. In sheep pastures along the wall you can still see the remains of old terraces, which I am told were used in Roman times to grow grapes for wine. But not anymore. According to a native of the region, there’s not much grape-growing these days because the climate’s gotten– you guessed it — too cold.

I’m sure the UN experts can find a way to attribute even Northumbrian cooling to global warming. But then, we’re all entitled to our elaborate theories about the weather. Me, I’m wondering if the Emperor Hadrian brought on the current chill with a secret Roman carbon offsets program.

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Meanwhile, in New York, UN officials have been fielding questions about the latest in the apparently never-ending series of UN-peacekeeping sex scandals, this one in Cote d’Ivoire. At Wednesday’s noon briefing, UN Assistant-Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute clarified the meaning of the UN’s policy of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse. (Kofi Annan’s announcement of this policy, about two years ago, provided a sort of punctuation mark between the preceding allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the later allegations of sexual abuse in places such as Liberia, Burundi, Haiti, Southern Sudan and East Timor).

According to Lute, “Zero tolerance means zero complacency.” And what does that mean? Apparently it means what almost everything always means at the UN: The bureaucracy, to show its non-complacency, will now proliferate, creating a new office called the “Conduct and Discipline Unit,” which according to Lute needs a lot more work to get organized. Meantime, the UN General Assembly is now considering a proposal by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to set up a victim’s assistance program.

Bottom line: While the peacekeeper sex saga may not end anytime soon, the UN is preparing to take ownership of the entire life cycle of exploitation, from sending in the exploiters, to helping their victims. Courtesy, of course, of your recently increased contribution of tax dollars for UN peacekeeping.

It would be more tempting to celebrate North Korea’s shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor if Kim Jong Il hadn’t done it before, in the mid-1990s — after a previous round of threats, presumed bomb production, and extortion of concessions, aid and fuel from the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Europe.

The Yongbyon reactor is just a part of North Korea’s nuclear program. The scale, scope and location of the rest is not fully known, and there is no sign that Pyongyang is about to fully come clean. This shutdown came months after it was promised, and only after North Korea had treated the world to the spectacle of the U.S. State Department, Treasury, and Federal Reserve laboring at the behest of Kim Jong Il to move some $25 million in allegedly crime-tainted funds (the allegations came after extensive investigations by our own Treasury) into the coffers of Kim’s regime.

The greatest damage in all this was the example our own government and our allies have allowed North Korea to set for rogue regimes the world over — that nuclear extortion works, that illicit nuclear bomb tests carry no serious penalty, and that our own glorious rhetoric about supporting freedom gets swept aside when our diplomats sit down at the bargaining table with representatives of the world’s worst thugs.

The headline we need to see is not that Kim Jong Il has shut down Yongbyon, but that North Korea has shut down Kim Jong Il.

UNEP’s Man in Havana

July 13th, 2007 - 11:39 pm

Another UN moment. There is truly no end to it. Someone ought to set up one of those giant digital counters that tick off things like the growing population of the planet, only in this case, it could have the caption:

“Every 45 seconds, somewhere on earth, a UN official heaps praise on a tyrant.”

Not that I’m sure it’s every 45 seconds. It may be more frequent.
Here’s a recent sample, dateline Havana, July 5, in which we find Cuba’s Granma news agency, reporting that the head of the UN Environment Program, Achim Steiner, was in town and slathering praise all over the Castro government for its economic and energy policies. (People? What people? Political prisoners? What prisoners?).

Not that Steiner had an easy time finding things to praise. Here’s the Miami Herald account of his visit, in which we learn that to laud Castro’s policies, Steiner had to somehow dismiss Cuba’s wasteful gas flare reactors and heavy polluting diesel generators. (The article didn’t mention this, but Steiner also had to ignore 38 years of Castro’s repressive, murderous, self-serving, communist rule — of which the horrendous energy shortages have been just one of many atrocious symptoms).

Achim Steiner, for those who don’t keep track of UN backroom connections, is the German environmentalist whom then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan tapped to head UNEP just three months after Steiner had served on a prize jury that picked Kofi Annan as the 2006 winner of the $500,000 Zayed environmental prize, handed out by the government of Dubai. Annan, after accepting the prize money, was finally embarrassed by press disclosures into saying he would give it up — but never acknowledged the conflict of interest. And Steiner is still on the job.

When government buddies up with big business, it’s time to start worrying. All the more so when it’s the unaccountable UN wooing corporate executives (and corporate cash).

From the same Kofi Annan brain shop that ran Oil-for-Food, comes the UN “Global Compact,” a UN corporate-networking “initiative” inherited by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This a UN operation that aspires to set the standards for corporate governance around the globe, but doesn’t mind taking cash contributions from the companies it is supposed to be guiding. And kickbacks allegedly paid to UN officials, or Saddam Hussein, or whomever, are apparently no bar to membership. Here’s what turned up when I took a look at the UN Global Compact.

It’s the UN Human Rights Council, as captured in the latest video from the watchdog group, UN Watch, and starring some of the worst abusers: Sudan, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea… In the lavish setting of the UN’s Geneva headquarters, paid for chiefly by the democracies of the world, their delegates come and tell mind-bending lies, which then shape policy at the UN’s leading body for “human rights.” Five minutes, important to see, because, as the UN tells us on its web site, “Its Your World.”

Recall that last year, while still serving as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton saw this coming, and declined to dignify this crew with U.S. membership on the new Council. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the other hand, published an Op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, headlined “Wise Council,” and hailed its creation as “historic,” in a press statement assuring us that it would “help improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.” So…who was right?

Where Do They Find These People?

July 6th, 2007 - 11:17 am

UN development guru Jeffrey Sachs is arguing that the cause of poverty in Africa is … the governments don’t have enough money. His solution? Pour in more.

Before we do that, how about a look at the Louis Vuitton bills of the ruling families of Africa’s poorest nations? — more on that in my column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Just What the World Really Needs

July 5th, 2007 - 9:53 pm

Please try to contain your excitement, but yes, it’s true….

In Geneva today, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presiding, the UN launched yet another “high-level” development thingamabob. This time it’s not a UN Fund, or a Program, or an Initiative, or a Group, or an Alliance, but a “Forum” — the “Development Cooperation Forum,” which will hold its first biennial grand pow-wow in NY in 2008.

Well, I guess Ban had to do it, otherwise the UN system might have been stuck trying to squeak by with only the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Development Program, the regional Development Banks, the UN Development Group, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission for Social Development, the Millennium Development Project (now folded into the UNDP), the five Regional Economic Commissions, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNIFEM, UN-Habitat, the UNFPA, the UNCDF, OCHA, or pick your own… my favorite, on the basis of verbiage alone, is (hang on for the ride): the High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence in Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Environment.

But now, we can relax. Following in the footsteps of such mentors as Kofi Annan and Maurice Strong, Ban has launched the all-new Development Cooperation Forum, the DCF, which his office says will be “vital to advancing development.”

Aha! So this is what’s been missing, lo these many years!

And what will the DCF do? Will it exert real oversight? Clean up graft? Insist on transparency? Scrap redundant, opaque, wasteful, damaging and fraudulent programs? Nope. The UN says the DCF (ok, have you got your wading boots on?) “is expected to exert a positive influence on the international development cooperation system by bringing together all the relevant actors to engage in a dialogue on key policy issues affecting the quality and impact of development cooperation,” etc. etc.

What does that mean? Here it is in plain English:

The UN wants money, more money, lots and lots of money, and with that money the UN will form more forums to ask for more money, much more money. Money, money, money. YOUR money. They call this sustainable development.

A happy Independence Day, and if you want to see something wonderful, once again making the rounds on the web, here it is, from 1976, Rick Monday of the Chicago Cubs, and his save of the American flag.

Who Really Killed Icky Mouse?

July 2nd, 2007 - 10:08 pm

You’ve been reading about Farfur, the Hamas knock-off of Mickey Mouse, who was just martyred at the hands of Israelis on the Palestinian Authority’s Al Aqsa TV – with a kiddie-terrorist postscript to hammer home the message to even the most obtuse among a new generation of suicide bombers. We all know that the U.S. State Department won’t do anything about this, and Europe is probably paying for it. But, after a friend raised the issue, I keep wondering why Disney hasn’t at least sued over the infringement of copyright.

Well, until some higher power intervenes, Barry Rubin, director of the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, is doing what he can to take the Mickey out of the Hamas mouse. Here he sends Sami Spade, private detective, on a job to find out what really happened on that hot night in Gaza…