September 13, 2005

September 13, 2005 | Commentary on International Organizations

Scandal-plagued U.N. needs new leadership

As world leaders gather in New York to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, there is little to celebrate. Founded in 1945 with lofty ambitions to advance peace, prosperity and security in the world, the United Nations can point to few significant achievements. Yet its failures, from its inability to stop genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia to widespread abuses by U.N. peacekeepers across Africa, are legion. Inaction, incompetence and even abject inhumanity have all too often been the hallmarks of U.N. operations, which have frequently demonstrated a callous indifference to human suffering.

To cap it off, the United Nations has gained a well-earned reputation as an institution rife with corruption and dominated by a sleazy political culture of "see no evil, hear no evil." The several ongoing investigations into the massive oil-for-food scandal have opened up an unpleasant can of worms. Benon Sevan, former director of the $100 billion oil-for-food program, stands accused of taking nearly $150,000 in bribes. Vladimir Kuznetsov, chief of the United Nations' budget oversight committee, was recently arrested on charges of large-scale money laundering.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan himself was heavily criticized by the U.N.-appointed Volcker Commission of Inquiry for major failures of management. In addition, congressional investigators are continuing to scrutinize Annan's involvement in the awarding of a U.N. contract to a Swiss company that employed his son, Kojo.

Clearly, the United Nations is an institution in fundamental need of wholesale reform and new leadership. If Annan is truly serious about reform, he should do the honorable thing and resign. He will go down in history as a sad symbol of the United Nations' culture of impunity, mismanagement and weakness.

He should be joined by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette, who has been sharply criticized for her management failures in administering the oil-for-food program. The arrogant gilded elite that has dominated the United Nations' leadership for far too long must be held to account and replaced by a new generation untarnished by the stench of scandal.

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is a fellow in Anglo-American security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

First appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution