Tuesday, March 22, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (1)

Kofi Annan's publicist can't be happy

On Monday, Kofi Annan "urged world leaders Monday to implement the boldest changes to the United Nations in its 60-year history" according to the Associated Press. You can see for yourself by clicking on β€œIn Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all.” On the plus side, it seems that Annan recognizes that the U.N. Human Rights Commission is a joke and wants to genuinely reform it.

On the other hand, Annan also says in one section of the report (paragraph #151) that, "The United Nations does more than any other single organization to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world, but this fact is little known." To which I must reply, "BWA HA HA HA HA!!! " [Which single organization does more, smart guy?--ed. Well, there's NATO and the European Union for starters -- and before I got even close to the combined set of UN agencies, I'd throw in Mercosur, the Organization of American States, and even the World Trade Organization. To be charitable, I'll give the UN agencies a slight edge over ASEAN, but that's about it.]

However, regardless of the intrinsic merits of Annan's proposal, I'm thinking that this Financial Times story by Claudio Gatti might throw a monkey wrench into generating any policy momentum:

Kojo Annan, son of Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, received at least $300,000 from Cotecna, a Swiss inspection company awarded a contract ultimately worth about $60m under the Iraqi oil-for-food contract.

The amount was almost double the sum previously disclosed, but payments were arranged in ways that obscured where the money came from or whom it went to.

The discovery, in a joint investigation by Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily, and the Financial Times, comes as the independent UN inquiry led by Paul Volcker into possible abuses within the oil-for-food programme prepares to publish a new report on this matter.

Glenn Reynolds has more links that will cause headaches for Annan's publicist.

posted by Dan on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM


The most important omission in Annan's proposal was stringent (and I mean really stringent) economic transparency. Without that, there can be no real reform at the UN. It's all blablabla.

posted by: Roger L . Simon on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Nice post. Unfortunately, you are correct. The UN is a joke.

posted by: Troy Worman on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

The whole world knows the West is best, when we do things ourselves! If anyone can transform the world through sheer force of will, it is the United States of America. And the world knows this. Most humans yern to be free, but there are dark forces in our way!

posted by: Bill Smyth on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

I don't think Kojo Annan's activities will or ought to affect UN reform proposals unless there is evidence of any wrongdoing by Kofi Annan personally.

As for UN transparency what is the evidence that the UN is any less transparent than other international institutions or for that matter major governments including the US government?

When it comes to the recent scandals in Iraq it certainly appears to be more transparent. There have been several investigations including one conducted by the UN itself and headed by Volcker which has issued an interim report critical of the UN's head for Oil for Food: Brendon Sevan. So there does exist a reasonable degree of self-scrutiny.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about US economic management in Iraq including its management of Iraqi oil. Transparency International has said that there is a danger that Iraqi reconstruction will become the biggest scandal in history.
And I don't know if there are any detailed investigations similar to Volker's. Perhaps they should send him to look into what's going on in Iraq after he is done with oil-for-food.

posted by: Strategist on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Did he leave the U.S. off his list of democracy-promoting organizations since it doesn't qualify as an 'organization'? Even so, since the EU got a nod you'd think the US would get some props. werd.

posted by: Bob on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Well, if anyone should know about scandals in the family that should lead to resignation, its the Bush family. [ Neil Bush and S&L anyone ?]. Not to mention Cheney at Haliburton

Now, having got that ad hominem attack out of the way, I agree that the UN should be reformed. A lot of the UN bodies are just debating chabmbers or an excuse for diplomats to waste their home country's finances. I agree that UN Human Rights council is a joke. Why is UNMOVIC still around 2 years after the Iraq war ended ?

On the other hand, there are good UN bodies like UNICEF. Similarly, there is some advantage to having a lot of diplomats in one place to get a critical mass. The fact that is in New York pumps some money into the local economy as well, even if diplomats don't pay parking tickets.

The Security Council does need to be reformed. India and Brazil should definitely be permanent members.

posted by: Marsh on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

I would add USMC to the list of organizations that do more then the U.N. to promote and protect demodracy.......

posted by: Jason on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Ah, the Carefully Crafted Compromise (TM) no part of which can be altered or dispensed with if the whole is not to collapse like a house of cards. Good luck to Mr. Annan in selling this idea.

On one specific point: what is the sense in making an African country a permanent (or semi-permanent, whatever that is supposed to mean) member of the Security Council? Of the three largest African countries not now in complete chaos two (Egypt and South Africa) address regional security issues only with great diffidence and one (Nigeria) has persistent internal political turmoil. The fact that a disproportionate number of the places where barbarism and and the threat of massacre dominate life are in Africa is no recommendation for a permanent African seat on the Security Council.

posted by: Zathras on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Well that's obvious, the UN operates by its own mechanisms of affirmative action.

Africa gets a permanent seat for the same reason that the US was kicked off the human rights counsel and replaced by the Sudan.

Diversity is more important than actual substance.

posted by: Cutler on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

India & Brazil? PULL-eaze! Try UK & France give up their two seats to one for the EU and then add on Japan to keep the number of permanent members at cinco. Any questions?

posted by: Chris on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

India & Brazil? PULL-eaze! Try UK & France give up their two seats to one for the EU and then add on Japan to keep the number of permanent members at cinco. Any questions?

Yes, lots. In the first place, there is absolutely no justification for denying India a permanent Sec Council seat. India has a population of 1 B people, its a democracy, its a nuclear power, and its economy is expanding rapidly. India's population is twice that of the EU and 4 times that of the US.

Brazil is a less obvious choice, but its the economic powerhouse of South America, it has a population 2/3rds of the US, its a democracy and could probably build nukes if it wanted too.

Well that's obvious, the UN operates by its own mechanisms of affirmative action.
Diversity is more important than actual substance.

So you're saying that Africa deserves no representation at all in the Security Council ? This is not affirmative action -- its pure democracy, you know the system that the neocons claim to want to push ?

Nigeria is not a bad choice. Its a democracy, its very populous. Although it suffers from mismanagement, it is oil rich and could be an economic powerhouse as well. And Nigerian troops have taken part in peacekeeping in Africa. The other possibility is South Africa --- much smaller population wise, but with a larger economy. I'm leary about Egypt for several reasons.

The idaa for the Permanent Members would be members that are some combination of reasonably powerful, reasonably democractic, populous, reasonably prosperous/look like fast developers.

The obvious choices: USA, India, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, China, Russia, possibly Nigeria. If politics dictates letting one Muslim country in, Indonesia is probably the best bet.

UK and France may be declining military powers and Germany and Japan declining economic powers, but for now their influence is substantial. China is the one country that is not even remotely democratic in the above list, but it would be hard to have any sort of reasonable council without China.

posted by: erg on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

As I understand it Japan,India,Brazil and Germany are working together to join the UNSC so it's likely that all four will be part of any expansion.

If these four are made permanent the obvious gaps are Africa and the Muslim world but I am not sure that any country is really suitable. Nigeria is too poor, South Africa too small and Indonesia isn't that representative of the Muslim world. Perhaps those parts of the world can be given an increased share of the non-permanent quota at the expense of Latin America and particularly Europe. Also there is the possibility of offering them increased development assistance instead. This is where Annan's "grand bargain" approach makes sense; with more moving parts you can make everyone happy with something.

The big issue is the veto. I doubt the big four aspirants will accept a permanent second-class status in the UNSC; at the same time the current five don't want 9 veto-bearing powers. Perhaps a compromise can be managed with a temporary non-veto status for the four with the possibility left open for a veto at a later point.

posted by: Strategist on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

In fairness, the UN promotes democracy much more than the Arab League. What about the African Union?

posted by: John Thacker on 03.22.05 at 09:35 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?