This is far from the worst type of malfeasance that the United Nations routinely tolerates. It loudly claims to have zero tolerance for sexual abuse and exploitation by its peacekeepers. But, just to take one example, when 111 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti in 2007 were accused of such abuse, they were merely sent back en masse to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Ethics Office on the 30th floor, if it's incapable of even basic levels of oversight, should also be closed or at least downsized. Better for the United Nations to be involved in fewer things but doing them well than to appear to be doing everything but in ways that have no substance.
Additional space and money can also be freed by rethinking some far-flung U.N. offices that are primarily a sop to donor states. In Japan, there is a Center for Regional Development in Nagoya that, like the U.N. Information Center in Tokyo, is plagued by financial irregularities. It remains a mystery to me what this center accomplishes. The same can be said of the Seoul-based U.N. Project Office on Governance.
If these are the parts of the United Nations that, in a more rational world, would get shuttered, there are also a couple of offices that should exist, but don't. A year and a half after the Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti were returned to their home country, I asked both lead Haiti envoy Hdi Annabi and Ban's spokesperson for any indication that disciplinary action was taken by Colombo. None has been forthcoming. An Office of Discipline -- as opposed to the toothless Ethics Office -- would ensure that for serious crimes such as rape, perpetrators wouldn't escape just because they wear blue berets or helmets.
It would also be helpful to have an office for keeping track of casualties in ongoing conflicts. During the current surge of conflict in northern Sri Lanka, Ban's spokesperson told Inner City Press that the United Nations is not in the business of doing body counts, but only of helping people. But what's wrong with body counts? If the United Nations stands for civilians, it needs a more objective standard to determine the degree of concern member states should have over a given crisis. Number of human beings killed seems as good a method as any, and obtaining this information is exactly the sort of business the United Nations should be in.
It is also exactly the
sort of thing that is likely to be ignored unless the United Nations
can free up much-needed resources. However, under the organization's
current Capital Master Plan, the size of U.N. headquarters is not to be
reduced. So the edifice will continue to loom over First Avenue taking
up space, while the organization it houses grows increasingly