Peacekeeping: Cleaning Up Corruption

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March 2, 2006: The U.S. and Japan, two of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations, are threatening to withhold funds unless the UN cracks down on the corruption. A recent report revealed that at least $300 million has been lost, wasted or stolen during recent UN peacekeeping missions. This corruption has been an open secret for a long time, but details were not available until the United States forced the UN to conduct an inquiry.

Currently, the UN has 18 peacekeeping missions. These employ some 85,000 troops and other staff , from more than 100 countries. The annual budget for UN peacekeeping is currently some $5 billion. In addition to the corruption, there are also problems with other forms of misbehavior. So far, nearly 300 UN peacekeeping personnel have been investigated for sexual crimes. This has resulted in 170 peacekeepers being sent home. Of those, 17 were civilians and 16 police.

But as much as the United States and Japan complain about the corruption, letting the UN handle peacekeeping costs half as much as if the U.S. or Japan sent their own troops. And while there is theft and misbehavior among UN peacekeepers, it's not a lot more misbehavior than these troops engage in back home. Many of the peacekeeping troops come from developing countries, where the UN pay is more than they usually make. But the UN often gets what it pays for. That is, poorly trained, equipped and led troops. The U.S. has provided trainers and equipment to some peacekeepers, and that's how many of the first-hand reports of the peacekeeper corruption gets back of U.S. officials. While the UN bureaucrats don't like getting scolded by major contributors like the U.S. and Japan, they are even more upset by the increasing media coverage of the corruption problem. That appears to be encouraging some action on the corruption problem.

 


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