Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Untouchables

Kofi Annan has been in the news today. He's taking a lot of criticism due to the failures of the oil-for-food programme. A while back I mentioned that there was a quirk in the way much of the media covers this story. It certainly seems to get significantly more attention than, for example, the $9 billion dollars the CPA can't account for. I suspect there aren't many UN bashing blogs who are also calling for a proper independent investigation into this other apparent scandal. And let's remember, that $9 billion went missing in less than a year.

I think it's fair to say that the UN is the favourite whipping boy of a large section of the media. That same section seems far less inclined to report any criticism of the Whitehouse.

Two wrongs do not make a right. It isn't acceptable to do it just because "they" are doing it. In the interest of avoiding bias in the opposite direction to the one described above, here are some thoughts on Mr Annan's current predicament.

First of all, I should admit that I don't have an in depth knowledge of the oil-for-food programme. Even so, I can think of lots of extenuating circumstances to partly alleviate the blame being directed at Mr Annan. Dealing with Saddam was always going to be very difficult. The individual UN Member States constantly interfere in management issues. The UN structure isn't actually the Secretary General's responsibility. The UN is desperately in need of major reforms which are again the responsibility of the Member States. This situation would not have arisen without the sanctions on Iraq (imposed mainly by the US and UK governments), and so on.

None of that really matters. He's the man at the top. He is ultimately responsible for failures within the organisation he leads. I have to conclude that he ought to resign. He must take responsibility. Apart from anything else, he has become a liability to the UN. His ability to manage has been independently condemned and his personal integrity will always be open to question in some, possibly many quarters.

Kofi Annan should resign.

That does open up the question of who would replace him. As I remember, the nomination procedure is not what you'd call transparent. I seem to recall that the US government was instrumental in appointing Kofi to the job in the first place. There is a good chance that we'll get someone much less desirable this time.

Nevertheless, I believe Kofi must go. This is about accountability and responsibility. In the UK, our government laughs at such principles. It does not follow that we should abandon them ourselves.

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