What do corrupt politicians, war entrepreneurs and United Nations expats have in common in Afghanistan? They all cruise in the latest luxury cars while the country ranks as one of the most impoverished. I doubt such conspicuousness is exclusive to Afghanistan or the only commonality shared by these breeders and leechers of conflict.
If we look closer into the abyss, we will find the UN metamorphosing into an aristocratic bureaucratic byzantine. Indeed as UN lavishly celebrates its 70th birthday and plans for many more, the people whom the agency supposedly serves must question its historical legacy and contemporary relevancy? People from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, DRC, Rwanda and Bosnia must strongly ask where the Never Again spirit has gone.
As a child of war torn nation of Afghanistan growing up I certainly could not echo Mr. Ban Ki-moon`s personified sentiments that “the blue flag of the United Nations was a banner of hope growing up in wartime Korea”. As a citizen of a country enduring four decades of protracted war where UN has been an involved stakeholder, I can hardly regard it as “a beacon for all humanity”. The Afghan flag had been tarnished by changing six times in the last four decades while the UN blue flag has become varnished by association. Hardly can the Afghans who have suffered decades of conflict can claim the blue flag belongs to them.
There is no question that UN has fed and sheltered millions of people since its inception. But at what cost? What the agency has achieved is a bare minimum and has only served to sustain the status quo. It was and is a creation by the power for the powerful. No mistake about this agonizing fact as the powerful secretly coronate its secretariat and abuse their veto privilege.
As the world is being illuminated in blue, we must ponder what the world would have been without the UN. The penurious of the earth would have definitely questioned their execrable being and challenged the status quo if not busy collecting bare sustenance from this Agency. UN mission hailed as saviour of humanity masqueraded in heavenly blue brand has only aided and abetted the powerful to make the earth a living hell.
70 years later our hope lies on an institution that is infested in corruption and cover up operating with a monstrous bureaucracy built upon layers of inefficient structures under the guise of an insecurity council that is still locked to 1945. It has spent more than half a trillion dollar since inception with an annual budget that is growing exponentially and yet supposedly on the brink of bankruptcy without any operational clarity.
This is while its unaccountable overpaid bureaucrats are nicely prospering on six-figure salaries and most grotesque per diems in the world. Its seventeen fragmented agencies under one umbrella have had numbing communication, allocating most of their operation competing over funding and are deliberately marred by mission creep.
The UN is continuously setting itself grandiose goals without heeding to results. To understand the self-absorbing industry that it has become, as its 85,000 bureaucrats champion $40bn annual spending without slightest of transparency, the words of its executive director of the reform report Adnan Amin is poignantly relevant:
“There are 1,200 country officer of the UN around the world. There are 100 countries with more than 10 UN country offices in each country. You have country offices with a budget of eight or nine million dollars and a staff of five people. Half the money goes for the operational expenses of the office, leaving what is actually a minuscule amount of money for programming or key activities”.
Thus, the luxury cars are part of a lucrative expat package given to individuals who occupy the secretariat and high managerial positions. And seldom are these individuals given such posts by merits. The lobbying that industrialized countries employ to have “their guys” in such high posts is shamefully apparent.
It’s clear that on its 70th birthday, UN system must be jolted from its high pedestal and brought to earth. This colossal agency has to answer for the misery currently swamping the world. As protracted conflicts and suffering continue to proliferate, we must have a real conversation about what the UN is there for? What has it achieved for us?
Its Security Council is causing havoc in the world, its Health system is failing in the face of epidemics such as Ebola, its Refugee agency is evidently struggling to contain the refugee crisis and its Financial Institutions of WB, IMF and WTO are presiding over the economic crisis in the Global South. The League of Nations is lauded as utter failure for the outbreak of Second World War and yet there is no crisis of UN authority as it stands by to increasing structural violence, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war.
Operating in the name of peace in Afghanistan, UN has been deeply entrenched in the last four decades of the conflict and it has a lot more to answer for than its excess vehicles roaming on the streets of this impoverished nations. A good start would be an independent investigation into the late President Dr. Najibullahs gruesome murder from its sanctuary.