Peacekeeping: Ignorance Is Bliss, And Fatal

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October 24, 2008:  Last year, Islamic terrorists bombed a UN headquarters in Algeria, killing 17 UN personnel. A UN study of the incident revealed (to the UNs credit) many problems with how the organization protects, or doesn't, its employees in dangerous places. The main problem is politics, UN and international politics. There are also problems with the highly politicized hiring practices of the UN, which usually is just an embarrassment, not a matter of life and death. While the UN can overcome this defect for medical and aid programs, this was not done when it comes to security. Moreover, the competent security personnel that are out there, tend to get ignored when they urge the application of more strenuous security measures.

The main problem is that nations do not like to be labeled, by UN security experts, as a high risk areas. Diplomats, for example, ignore the complaints of local authorities when embassy security is increased, or foreign civilians are warned to stay away. But the UN is run by its members, and there is atmosphere of avoiding something that would embarrass any member. So the UN security personnel are under this pressure to pretend a situation is safer than it actually is. Combine this will the political appointee security officials who are not very good at security in the first place, and you have poor security, and an easy target for Islamic terrorists. This is made worse by growing hatred of the UN among Islamic terrorists. To them, the UN is a "tool of the West" (despite energetic UN efforts to be anything but.) As such, the UN has become a target, and a very vulnerable one at that.

Public release of this report is meant to push the UN towards going against its basic nature. This can be done. While there is a lot of UN politics in health, refugee assistance, and aid programs in general, a sense of responsibility prevails. But getting the security operations to become more sensible faces fears among UN members that internal unrest will get more publicity. The local authorities would rather tolerate UN personnel getting killed, than allow the UN to tag the nation as a dangerous place. But UN officials don't want to get killed, so, in typical UN fashion, there will be quiet, unpublicized reforms and the hiring of more professionals.

 

 


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