United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlined his strategic objectives for 2011 during his first press conference of the new year on January 14th. While refusing to disclose whether he intends to run for a second term as Secretary General, he vowed to “build on progress…that places a premium on the global legitimacy and pulling power of the United Nations.” He committed to continue his efforts to strengthen the United Nations from within with increased transparency and efficiency, and defended his own administration against what he called “unfounded allegations” from a former colleague that he had not shown any real interest in fighting corruption at the UN.
The Secretary General laid out as his objectives for 2011 essentially a continuation of feel-good but expensive and ineffective UN programs from past years. These include climate change and advancing the transfer of wealth from rich nations to the poorer countries of the world under the mantle of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
However, when it came to addressing the UN’s handling of more immediate dangers to peace and security, he could not paper over the glaring holes in his vaunted “global legitimacy and pulling power of the United Nations.”
For example, UN peacekeeping forces have been unable to protect civilians in the Côte d’Ivoire, or even their own personnel, from attacks incited by the incumbent president Laurent Koudou Gbagbo who refuses to step down after losing the recent presidential election to the legitimately elected president — Alassane Ouattara. In fact, the UN troops have been removing themselves from blockades set up by Gbagbo’s forces while Ouattara remains trapped in a hotel that Gbagbo’s forces have been blockading.
Ban Ki-moon announced that the Security Council is discussing his request for additional peacekeeping troops but was unable to explain how that would make any difference on the ground. As was the case in Rwanda and Bosnia, the UN appears to be helpless in carrying out its mission to stop violence against unarmed civilians. When asked for his reaction to Ouattara’s call for the removal of Mr. Gbagbo by force, the Secretary General punted the question of whether to use military force for this purpose to the African Union. “Now it’s up to them,” he said.
Wouldn’t an invasion of a sovereign nation without specific UN Security Council authorization constitute the same kind of “illegal act” that Ban Ki-moon’s predecessor Kofi Annan accused the United States and its coalition of committing when they forcibly removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq? How does allowing the African Union to replace the UN Security Council in determining when force should be used to remove Gbagbo enhance “the global legitimacy and pulling power of the United Nations?”
In the Sudan, where a referendum in South Sudan to approve secession from the north appears to have proceeded without any major disruptions, violence is still erupting along the border and in Darfur. Again the United Nations mission there has been unable to do anything to stop the violence or even protect its own humanitarian staff from kidnappings.
Moreover, the United Nations undercut the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court when, as reported by Inner City Press and confirmed by the Secretary General’s spokesperson, the UN Mission in Sudan transported a man who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The purpose was to supposedly assist in negotiations to help end the violence in Abyei along the north-south border. This individual, Ahmed Harun, had been indicted for assisting nomadic tribes which are accused of the killings in Abyei. Yet the United Nations thinks he can now help end the killings that he has been involved with in the first place. The UN decided to provide this very same person with both transportation and the legitimacy that supposedly comes with being associated with a United Nations’ peacekeeping mission.
Regarding Lebanon, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked at his press conference about the impact of the collapse of the government led by Saad Hariri, caused by the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the governing coalition, on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This UN-backed Tribunal has been investigating the circumstances of the assassination of Hariri’s father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, and 22 others.
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