John Bolton: â€˜Corruption didn’t arise out of thin airâ€™
I missed these Bolton comments on UN corruption from 06/11/2005 until I saw the link in Claudia’s post. I thought it was so pointed and true that it was worth highlighting:
Senior United Nations officials are ignoring the scathing reports into their handling of the corruption-ridden Iraqi oil-for-food programme, according to John Bolton, the outspoken American ambassador to the UN.
He accused them of living in a “bubble” as they disregard the damning findings of the Volcker commission established by Kofi Annan, the secretary general. The inquiry criticised the UN and Mr Annan for their failings in running a scheme from which Saddam Hussein skimmed off an estimated $2 billion (Â£1.2 billion).
At a private dinner attended by the Sunday Telegraph in New York last week, Mr Bolton gave guests a hard-hitting critique of life at the UN.
“In the bubble on First Avenue, Volcker is just ignored. I talk about it, but it’s a solitary conversation. Nobody else will be fired unless people are indicted by outside authorities.
“Corruption didn’t arise out of thin air, it arose out of the culture of the place. Bribes, mismanagement etc – it would be unacceptable for executives in any normal organisation.”
As an example, he cited the fact that UN staff could accept gifts worth up to $10,000 in a year without any requirement to disclose them.
…During a frank and wide-ranging discussion last week, Mr Bolton said of his three months in the job: “Have I enjoyed it? It’s exactly what I expected.” Asked what he enjoyed most at the UN, he replied: “It’s a target-rich environment.”
He said the prevailing anti-American sentiment among many delegates helped to explain why the UN failed to seize the opportunities offered by the end of the Cold War.
“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the UN has become the focus for a lot of people who have an agenda against the United States. We are having the same debates we thought we were having 20 years ago.
“The UN is seen by many as a chance to counter-balance us.”
…But despite his criticisms, Mr Bolton told his audience that he believed parts of the UN – such as the World Health Organisation and the children’s agency Unicef – often played a valuable role.
He also argued that sometimes the UN “can be an effective instrument of US foreign policy. There are times when it can serve US interests”. He cited events in summer 1990 when the UN voted for war against Saddam to force him out of Kuwait before Congress passed such a resolution.
During a discussion about the values that Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt had foreseen for the UN, Mr Bolton said: “It’s hard to see the idealism of the founders in the actions of the UN today.”