Peacekeeping: UN Suffers Iraq Blowback

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January 17, 2008: Over the last few years, NGOs and the media have made a lot of noise about corruption and misbehavior by UN peacekeepers and administrators. As a result, the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (which investigates such matters) has found itself buried in a growing number of cases. Currently, there are 250 investigations going on. Two thirds involve corruption, the rest are about peacekeepers and UN staff having sex with the people they are supposed to be helping.

The sex was always there, but over the years, some of the soldiers got more creative, and greedy. They either demanded it for free, or in exchange for access to relief supplies and services. Some soldiers went into business, and set up brothels. Some may have been influenced by UN staff, who were notoriously corrupt (at least in some countries). So far, the UN investigators have found stealing going on in about 12 percent of the money handled by peacekeeping officials.

This corruption has been an open secret for decades, but has gotten worse of late. Perhaps it was the extent of the payoffs and stealing in the Iraqi "Oil for Food" program that got the heat turned on. The corruption in the Iraqi program was also an open secret. But after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, many records, and Iraqis willing to testify, became available. It was hard to ignore the rumors after that, and suddenly UN corruption in peacekeeping operations became newsworthy.

 


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