The Blog

Law of the Jungle

The unpunished abuses of UN peackeepers.

12:00 AM, Apr 30, 2008 • By NILE GARDINER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The United States has a huge financial stake in the Congo and other UN missions and should demand full accountability. No U.S. military personnel serve with MONUC, but American taxpayers provided a staggering $1.45 billion in funding for the UN operation between 2000 and 2007. The American contribution to the Sudan mission has also been significant, with almost $1 billion of funding provided between 2005 and 2007. In total, the U.S. contributes 27 percent of the UN's $6.8 billion worldwide peacekeeping budget, which funds over 100,000 uniformed and civilian personnel.

As the Oil-for-Food scandal demonstrated, the United Nations cannot be entrusted to run large-scale operations without significant external oversight. Nor can its under resourced and understaffed Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) adequately handle scandals on a massive scale. It took several major Congressional investigations, scores of federal prosecutors, and a $30 million independent inquiry headed by Paul Volcker to unearth the full scale of the multi-billion dollar Oil-for-Food debacle and Saddam's plundering of the humanitarian program with the willing cooperation of several leading UN figures. Although the Oil-for-Food investigations did not prompt a full-scale reform of the United Nations, it exposed massive UN corruption and mismanagement, forced a clamp down on some of the organization's worst excesses, and sent several UN officials to jail.

The scale of the abuses in United Nations peacekeeping is so vast, encompassing so many different UN missions, that a major independent inquiry backed by the Security Council should be implemented to help stop the rot. Unlike the Volcker commission however, in the interests of complete objectivity, such an investigation should be headed by an individual without close ties to the Secretary General, and who isn't a direc tor of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), or other UN affiliates. Such an inquiry should be conducted in parallel with a series of Senate and House investigations and hearings to ensure complete accountability.

UN peacekeepers must be held to account, and their crimes aggressively punished by their home governments. The widespread abuse of their missions by large numbers of UN military (and some civilian) personnel is a damning indictment of the United Nations as a world body. The rape and exploitation by UN soldiers of defenseless refugees, some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the earth, must be brought to an end. As the world's largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations, the United States must put its foot down and demand change. If the UN is unwilling to listen, America should put its resources elsewhere.

Nile Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.