First, in making a comment on the United Nations and Haiti, let’s note that among the scores of thousands, or possibly hundreds of thousands of people killed in Haiti by the earthquake on Tuesday were dozens of UN staff, with some 150 still unaccounted for as of Thursday. The scene is one of devastating loss of life.
All the more reason for competent handling of help for Haiti, and of the enormous ruin there. For this kind of thing, the UN record is, unfortunately, abysmal. Recall the UN response to the 2004 tsunami in Asia, in which the UN humanitarian coordinator at the time, Jan Egeland, accused countries such as the U.S. of being “stingy,” and promised UN transparency in the handling of the funds that poured in by the billions. About a year later, a series of in-depth investigative reports by the Financial Times found minimal UN transparency, lots of UN stonewalling, and as far as the funds could be tracked at all, it appeared that the UN, having received a flood of relief money, was slow on the scene, and had been spending about one-third of every dollar raised on overhead. The real champions of relief were the U.S. military, and private aid groups. (UN “reform” since then has consisted of a lot of talk about reform, a lot more bureaucracy, a lot more money for the UN, and, if possible, even less transparency.)
In Haiti, the UN has been reporting that it has some personnel working on the ground, and is preparing to mobilize more. But the basic picture so far is that once again the American military is shouldering the chief burden of immediate relief. The UN’s clearest activity to date has been to call for money to start pouring into the UN — with a “flash appeal” today for $562 million.
Ban Ki-moon is now planning to visit Haiti on Sunday to show “solidarity” with the Haitian people. That might be more useful were Ban not quite so clueless. One of the latest inanities to roll from Ban’s lips is that the colossal toll in Haiti shows the need to close the “technology gap” for developing nations.
Actually, Mr. Secretary-General, the real problem is not a “technology gap,” but a governance gap. The horrors that bedevil Haiti, and account for the lack of decent earthquake-proof construction, are not a simple matter of lack of technology (or lack of yet more billions for the UN to collect, cream off a hefty overhead, and pour into horribly misgoverned countries in the name of more “development aid”), but of years and years of horrendous misrule, which does not allow for the kind of political and economic climate in which people can help themselves, and put technology to good use.
But at the UN, it is bad etiquette to mention gross misrule as a cause of poverty and death. This is the same UN that blames starvation in Kim Jong Il’s North Korea on weather and floods. This is the same UN that despite a series of record-breaking budgets involving big money and plans to cope with emergencies like this is now fumbling to catch up. This is the same Ban Ki-moon who has opined that “climate change” has been the chief cause of genocide in Sudan. This is the same Secretary-General who has spent the past three years whipping up global alarm over global warming “climate change,” clamoring for more of your tax dollars to bankroll UN plans for massive wealth transfers in the name of (corrupted) science, and encouraging the kind of mindset that has just produced Danny Glover’s fruitcake statement blaming the Haitian earthquake on “climate change.” Imagine if the resources poured into the UN’s Bali-Rio-Geneva-NY confabs that culminated with that climate cult carnival in Copenhagen last month had instead gone into UN preparations to deal with genuine emergencies, like this in Haiti.
As it is, the record suggests that instead of flying to Haiti to try to insert the UN logo smack into the center of relief efforts in which the U.S. is doing the real heavy lifting, Ban could probably contribute more by strapping sacks of rice into those comfortable seats on his special UN plane, and sending those instead.