Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

UN is only as good as its worst member: Uruguay troops misbehave in Haiti

September 5, 2011

As if Haiti hadn’t enough problems.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004 and was given a new mandate to help maintain order and security following last year’s devastating earthquake. Earlier this year the UN mission was heavily criticised in the handling of the cholera outbreak which killed some 6,000 people. To make it worse it seems that the cholera was introduced into Haiti by peacekeeping troops from Nepal (where cholera is endemic).

Related: Whole-Genome Study Nails Haiti-Nepal Cholera Link

Now the UN and the Haitians have been let down badly by part of the contingent from Uruguay.


MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay announced it has sacked a navy commander with the UN mission in Haiti after a video was circulated of an alleged sexual assault on a young Haitian man by members of a Uruguayan peacekeeping unit.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that in addition to the dismissal of the official — who was not immediately named — a military justice board had been convened and paperwork for the return home of the five allegedly involved had been started.

“The navy wants to go beyond the simple fact of the video (to determine) if there are other violations of conduct,” spokesman Sergio Bique told local media. The suspects will be tried and sentenced appropriately, he stressed.

In Haiti, Magistrate Paul Tarte said Friday that officials were examining testimony from the alleged suspect and images of the incident taken by a cell telephone camera at the base in southern Haiti, which have also been circulated on the Internet. Medical evidence of the attack also was obtained.

UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said the United Nations acted immediately after hearing about the incident late last week.

The UN is an easy target for criticism and is often castigated from all sides of the political divide (and I am just as guilty in indulging in some of the criticism). But of course the UN is only as good as its worst member and it is the Lowest Common Factor which applies.

UN in Haiti (MINUSTAH): Current strength (31 July 2011)

  • 12,252 total uniformed personnel
    • 8,728 troops
    • 3,524 police
  • 564 international civilian personnel
  • 1,338 local civilian staff
  • 221 United Nations Volunteers

Country contributors

Military personnel – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay.

Police personnel – Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Grenada, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen.

7 billion people from October 31st by UN decree – but it is an opportunity not a problem

August 30, 2011

Sometime soon the world’s population will exceed 7 billion. No one knows exactly when. According to the UN Population Reference Bureau, this will happen on 31st October in India or in China. The world’s 6 billionth living person was “suppposedly” born just 11 years ago in Bosnia, and world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.


The billion mark was reached only after 1800. As many as a billion have been added in the eleven years of the 21st century alone, and predictions on future population growth are now treated with the same caution and scepticism as long-range weather forecasts. David Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health says that the multitude of unpredictable factors means that taking a global view is problematic. ‘Among them are infectious diseases, war, scientific progress, political change and our capacity for global cooperation,’ he says.

The general expectation is, however, that population growth will tail off, with UN predictions for 2050 ranging from 8.0 to 10.5 billion.

Interactive UN map is here

source: UN (via Time)

The annual rate of increase seems to have peaked around 1988 and is decreasing slowly. The UN medium scenario seems to be close to the actual development.

Annual increase of world population: Source United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 2005.

But I am no Malthusian and have a strong belief that the catastrophe theories are fundamentally misguided. Peak gas will never happen. Peak oil is a long way away and will be mitigated by new ways of creating oil substitutes as oil price increases. All the dismal forecasts of food production not being able to cope with population have not transpired. In my own lifetime I have only seen human ingenuity increase. Every doomsday scenario has had to give way before human ingenuity responding to human needs. I also believe that our children and our grandchildren will be considerably “smarter” than we are and will have (or will develop) technologies and tools that we cannot even dream of. I am not very convinced or impressed by those who would ban things today “for the sake of our children and our grandchildren”.

Even by the wildest stretch of his imagination my grandfather – who died around 1918 – would not have been able to imagine the technologies available today. Even my father – an engineer – who died in 1988 would not have been able to forecast the technologies we have at our command today.

With the definition below I would have no problem to be labelled a cornucopian.

cornucopian is a futurist who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology, and the abundance of matter and energy in space would appear to give humanity almost unlimited room for growth.

What population problem? More brains and hands could well cater for the extra mouths to feed


Is 3% the going rate for defence contract bribes?

July 14, 2011

The latest case of bribery and corruption in defence contracts where the numbers have been revealed suggests that the going rate for commissions is around 3% of the contract value for simple component contracts.

In this case as reported by Bloomberg:

Armor Holdings Inc., the military- truck maker now a subsidiary of BAE Systems Plc, agreed to pay $16 million to resolve U.S. claims it bribed a United Nations official to win contracts connected to peacekeeping missions.

The company will pay $10.3 million to resolve criminal allegations and $5.7 million to settle related civil claims, the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission said in separate statements today. The violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which began as early as 2001, took place before BAE bought the company in 2007, prosecutors said. …..

The criminal probe by the Justice Department was settled with a non-prosecution agreement that cited the company’s cooperation and internal investigation in the case. In settling the SEC claims, Armor didn’t admit or deny the allegations.

The Justice Department said Richard Bistrong, who worked in Armor’s international sales unit, and another unidentified executive arranged for the UN agent to receive more than $200,000 in commissions for the 2001 and 2003 contracts. Bistrong pleaded guilty last year to bribing UN and Dutch officials to win body armor and pepper-spray contracts.

It seems this particular contract for the UN was for $6 million, with a declared profit of about $1 million and with the value of the bribe (commission) at about $200,000. Of course the commissions would have been put down as a cost so the real margin would have been well over 20%. A $16 million penalty might appear to be reasonably and sufficiently painful, but I am quite sure that it is small relative to the profits on all the other contracts which could not be penetrated. The amount is probably considered good value by Armor and their new owners considering the immunity they have gained from further sanctions which would also presumably prevent all other prior contracts from being scrutinised very closely .

British Aerospace Systems, the new owners of Armor, are well versed in the payment of commissions for the winning of contracts. They could probably teach their new subsidiary a thing or two about how to hide commission / bribe payments as legitimate expenses.


BAE Settles Corruption Charges

Armor Holdings Resolves Enforcement Action / BAE Avoids Successor Liability

Gaddafi bombs Misrata while France tries to hurry into military action

March 18, 2011

From Swedish television:

France could  launch a military action against Libya within hours after the UN had authorized operation said French government spokesman Francois Baroin today, Friday. “The attack will come quickly,” he told radio station RTL.

Meanwhile Reuters reports that Gaddafi’s forces are bombing Misrata.

Norway will participate in any international military action against Muammar Kadaffi in Libya, said Defense Minister Grete Faremo to VG online. “We will contribute to the operation. But it is too early to say exactly in what way”. One possibility is that Norway will send F-16 fighters. “But we will also be launching a major humanitarian operation with transport aircraft”.

China said on Friday that it was concerned about the UN resolution to impose a flight ban over Libya, although the country chose not to use its veto to block it. “We oppose the use of military force in international relationships, and have serious reservations about elements of the resolution, “said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

Ten countries late on Thursday voted for the resolution while Russia, China, Germany, Brazil and India abstained. The resolution calls for  “all necessary measures” to protect civilians against Gadaffi, but no foreign soldiers will be sent to Libya.

Opinion is divided on how soon the United States military mobilization can begin. French diplomats said that along with Britain they could have a military response force ready on Friday, writes Reuters. But representatives of the military in Washington are hesitant. The senior general in the United States, Norton Schwartz, said on Thursday that it may take up to one week until the operation is in progress.


Proof that at the UN diplomats often do not think

February 13, 2011
Indian Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krish...

Image via Wikipedia

When making his speech at the UN Security Council, the Indian External Affairs minister S. M. Krishna started by reading the speech of the Portuguese Foreign Minister instead of his own. It took three whole minutes before another member of the Indian delegation stopped him and asked him to start again!!

One wonders how long the Minister would have continued before realising it was not his own speech. One wonders also if his colleagues were sleeping if it took them 3 minutes to realise what was happening. Of course UN speeches are so full of platitudes and phrases “signifying nothing” that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one speech from another.

Another confirmation of my belief that the UN is not a place given to thought but serves only for reading out prepared positions by rote (prepared by others of course). Neither politicians / ministers, diplomats or their speech writers come out with much credit.

India Today has the story:

While delivering his speech at the UNSC, Krishna read out portions of the Portuguese foreign minister’s speech instead.

The occasion was significant as it was the Indian foreign minister’s first speech at the UNSC after New Delhi entered the coveted body on January 1 as a non-permanent member after nearly two decades.

Krishna was scheduled to speak after his Portuguese counterpart Luis Amado at a session on Friday on ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Interdependence between Security and Development’. Portugal has also been elected to the UNSC for a two- year period.

As soon as the minister started speaking, almost everyone present realised that he was reading from Amado’s speech, as a few lines were out of place. Krishna apparently did not realise his mistake and went on.

“On a more personal note, allow me to express my profound satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese Speaking Countries, Brazil and Portugal, together here today,” the minister said as a horrified Indian contingent watched. “The European Union is also responding in this manner in coordination with the United Nations.”

It was after three minutes that India’s permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Puri, intervened and asked him to start afresh.

Clearly embarrassed, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) on Saturday tried to play down the minister’s gaffe.

It insisted that the “mistake” was not so crucial because the initial paragraph of all formal addresses contains ” certain salutations and courteous references and he had used such expressions from the address of the previous speaker”. Sources in the MEA said it was a “genuine” mistake. Amado had delivered an extempore speech and its written summary was distributed to all other 14 ministers of the UNSC members and five invitee ministers.

Krishna spoke immediately after Amado and he mixed the text of his own speech with the summary of what the Portugese minister had said. The copy of Amado’s speech in a folder did not bear either his name or the name of his country. Hence, the ” honest and inadvertent mistake”, a source said.

A former foreign minister, who did not wish to be named, put the blame on the Indian diplomats and ministerial staff present. “They should have alerted the minister within a few seconds. It was their responsibility to ensure that he had the correct speech before he began,” he said. Apart from Puri, other Indian diplomats present included MEA additional secretary (international organisations) Dilip Sinha and adviser to the minister Raghavendra Shastry. All of them were sitting right behind Krishna.

UN to “investigate” its introduction of cholera to Haiti

December 17, 2010

More than a month after the outbreak , the United Nations secretary-general plans to call for an independent commission to study whether U.N. peacekeepers caused a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,400 people in Haiti, an official said on Wednesday.

U.N. officials initially dismissed speculation about the involvement of peacekeepers. The announcement indicates that concern about the epidemic’s origin has now reached the highest levels of the global organization.

“We are urging and we are calling for what we could call an international panel,” U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York. “We are in discussions with (the U.N. World Health Organization) to find the best experts to be in a panel to be completely independent.”

Le Roy said details about the commission would be announced Friday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He said cholera experts and other scientists will have full access to U.N. data and the suspected military base.

“They will make their report to make sure the truth will be known,” Le Roy said.

Soon after the cholera outbreak became evident in October, Haitians began questioning whether it started at a U.N. base in Meille, outside the central plateau town of Mirebalais and upriver from where hundreds were falling ill. Speculation pointed to recently arrived peacekeepers from Nepal, a South Asia nation where cholera is endemic.

U.N. officials rejected any idea the base was involved, saying its sanitation was air-tight.

WHO and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said at the time that it was unlikely the origin would ever be known, and that pinning it down was not a priority.

Then the Associated Press found not only sanitation problems at the base, but that the U.N. mission was quietly taking samples from behind the post to test for cholera.

When the CDC determined the strain in Haiti matched one in South Asia, cholera and global health experts said there was now enough circumstantial evidence implicating the likely unwitting Nepalese soldiers to warrant an aggressive investigation.

The experts have also said there are important scientific reasons to trace the origin of the outbreak, including learning how the disease spreads, how it can best be combated and what danger countries around Haiti could face in the coming months and years.

Many think the U.N. mission’s reticence to seriously address the allegations in public helped fuel anti-peacekeeper riots that broke out across the country last month.

This outbreak, which experts estimate could affect more than 600,000 people in impoverished Haiti, involves the first confirmed cases of cholera in Haiti since WHO records began in the mid-20th century. Suspected outbreaks of a different strain of cholera might have occurred in Haiti more than a century ago.

The current outbreak has spread to the neighbouring Dominican Republic and isolated cases have been found in the United States.

French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux argues that “no other hypothesis” from the Nepalese being the origin could explain his findings that cases of the diarrheal disease first appeared near the U.N. base in Haiti’s rural centre, far from shipping ports and the area affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Haiti cholera death toll revised up to 2,000, elections this weekend

November 25, 2010

The UN has has released revised information about the cholera outbreak in Haiti. What they are reporting now is what others were reporting already last week:

A baby and other patients suffering from acute diarrhoea lie on the floor of St. Nicholas Hospital in Haiti: photo UN

The number of reported cases of cholera in Haiti is now approaching 50,000, but health experts have cautioned that the figure could be higher because data on the epidemic has not been received from some rural communities, a United Nations relief official said today. Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, said that epidemiologists in the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) – the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) – estimate that the number of cases could be as high as 70,000.

The experts have said that the disease might have claimed as many as 2,000 people, with some fatalities in remote areas going unreported. Speaking via a video link from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mr. Fisher told a news conference in New York that PAHO epidemiologists have also revised their projections of the spread of the disease and now anticipate that cases could rise to 200,000 over the next three months. The experts had earlier estimated that the number of cases could rise to that figure in six months.

“This epidemic is moving faster,” Mr. Fisher said.

Meanwhile, general elections will proceed on Sunday as planned, despite the cholera outbreak and the recent streets protests in the country, Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told the same press briefing.

Operational Biosurveillance had reported similar figures last week and now says:

  • In some areas of Haiti, we have confirmation that in-patient statistics are under-reported by as much as 400%. In many areas of Haiti, we are documenting outbreaks that are not being accounted for in the official statistics.  We therefore estimate the upper bound of estimated total (subclinical and clinically apparent) case counts to be nearly 375,000.
  • It is likely the elections will facilitate the spread of the epidemic due to population mixing.

“Be Afraid”:15,000 gather for Cancun jamboree, down from Copenhagen’s 45,000

November 24, 2010
The cub scout salute

"Be Afraid" :Image by anyjazz65 via Flickr

After the cold shower at Copenhagen, the UN Climate groupies are gathering in 5 days at Cancun in Mexico for their next jamboree. Unlike Baden-Powell’s scouts whose motto was to “Be Prepared” the motto in Cancun is “Be Afraid” and their symbol is the Hockey Stick. But the number of attendees at 15,000 is expected to be just a third of the 45,000 at Copenhagen.

In the run-up to Cancun, the public relations exercises have started. The scare stories are proliferating. The objective is to strike fear into the hearts of the non-believers. They are couched in scientific terms but they all have one simple message:

“Be Afraid”

It is perhaps worth noting that in the history of mankind not one of the soothsayers’ prophecies of doom have yet come to pass. In the scientific age and since Malthus, prophecies of impending catastrophe have always been coated with the semblance of rationality and scientific rigour. Whether prognosticating catastrophe due to population growth or due to depletion of resources ( food, oil, coal, metals, animals, plants,……..), they have all been wrong. But in almost every case a few people have gained economic advantage by spreading fear. That climate change happens and will continue to happen is both inevitable and obvious. The idea that man can have more than a very minor part to play in climate – whether intentionally or unintentionally – is a more recent phenomenon of the last 100 years. Before that catastrophes were caused by angry or avenging Gods. Change was then effected by assuaging the angry Gods or by mobilising some other more beneficial God. Of course there were certain individuals – priests, shamans, witch-doctors and their favoured Kings, chieftains and merchants – who always claimed special understanding of the problems and exclusive access to the required God and took benefit from that. These days the angry Gods have been replaced by Divine Computer Models and the scientists and politicians who see a benefit in the forecasts (sometimes pre-determined) of the models.

But Cancun is not really about science. It is about money – for those expecting to make a windfall from carbon trading or for nations looking for funding or for “idealists” looking to redistribute wealth or politicians looking to win their next election.

As I write this I have a foot of snow outside my window which came last night. This is going to be a long and cold winter just as we had last year. But it is just weather not climate. I have no doubt the weather in Cancun will be much warmer and much more salubrious next week. But it is just weather not climate.

“Be Afraid”

The Cancun hype begins – but it is all about money not climate

November 22, 2010

With one week left before the Cancun circus begins (UN/ IPCC Climate Conference from 29th November to 10th December), the mainstream media hype has begun.

Global CO2 expected to rise to record levels screams the Daily Telegraph. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to reach record levels this year, according to a new study, despite the recession and global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases – but what that has to do with climate is uncertain. No doubt it has a great deal to do with pricing of the Carbon Trading market. As The Telegraph points out (inadvertently perhaps) this is just hype timed to come just before the UN jamboree.

The results of the study by the Global Carbon Project will be used to put pressure on environment ministers meeting in Cancun, Mexico this month for the latest UN meeting to come to a global agreement on cutting emissions.

The Cancun meeting itself is all about money and Carbon Trading. The collapse of the Chicago exchange and the growing realisation in Europe that Carbon Trading is just a scam is leading all those with a vested interest in carbon pricing to raise the spectres of carbon dioxide again.  Hopefully these efforts will be as useless as at Copenhagen but some “trading” being introduced through the back door is always a possibility.

The two main “money flows” that Cancun is concerned with is the carbon trading fraud and the diversion of funds to “developing” countries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide. Just as with the Nagoya biodiversity conference a key objective is the redistribution of wealth. In fact biodiversity and climate are merely convenient scare stories which can act as vehicles for arranging for the flow of funds. A UN IPCC official admitted as much when talking about climate policy:

OTTMAR EDENHOFER, UN IPCC OFFICIAL: “That will change immediately if global emission rights are distributed. If this happens, on a per capita basis, then Africa will be the big winner, and huge amounts of money will flow there. This will have enormous implications for development policy. And it will raise the question if these countries can deal responsibly with so much money at all”.

Time to postpone Haitian elections?: UN cholera “unusual, swift and severe”

November 21, 2010


Upplopp i Port-au-Prince under fredagen.

Protests in Port-au-Prince on Friday 19th November: image Svenska Dagbladet

The cholera in Haiti has spread to the prison in Port-au-Prince. Of the 2000 prisoners over 30 have shown signs of infection and 13 have died. The official death toll in Haiti is now over 1200 and the official number of those infected is over 20,000. The actual number infected is probably approaching 100,000.

AFP reports that:

Haiti is facing an “unusual” cholera epidemic that could be more severe than figures suggest, according to a French cholera expert who is advising Haitian health authorities. And determining who is to blame for bringing the disease here won’t help solve the crisis, he added.

The outbreak, which threatens to overwhelm Haiti as it struggles to recover from January’s cataclysmic earthquake, has left nearly 1,200 dead and prompted riots in several cities including the capital as citizens accuse the United Nations of importing the cholera.

But Doctor Gerard Chevallier, who is advising Haiti’s Health Ministry, warned that the country needs to focus on trying to halt the spread of the disease detected in Haiti one month ago.

“The mechanics of the epidemic are unusual, swift and severe,” Chevallier told AFP in an interview. “The whole country is not affected, but the epidemic will spread.” Chevallier noted that in such epidemics, especially in impoverished nations like Haiti, the toll is “under-assessed” and almost always higher than the official figure. “Reports are imperfect. There are areas where people die and nobody knows,” Chevallier said. “Two thirds of the territory is accessible only on foot.”

Chevallier is working with a French team seeking to provide Haitian authorities with tools that allow for a more complete and reliable picture of the epidemic.

To merely ignore or deny the cause of the outbreak because containing it is now the highest priority does not address the emotions in the local population which are running very high. In the local population fear is exacerbated by anger that the UN which is virtually running the country is not owning upto its responsibilities.  After a hundred years without cholera Haiti is now condemned to many decades of having the disease and the UN cannot continue in denial.

It is not the fault of the Nepalese troops who were the carriers of the disease but it is a terrible indictment of sloppy UN processes which allowed them into the country without testing and without adequate precautions.

It is time for the elections due to be held on 28th November to be postponed. Trying to pack people into polling booths while the epidemic is raging seems to be the height of stupidity. AFP also reports that four Haitian presidential candidates have called for postponing elections set for Nov 28 as the country struggles with a cholera epidemic that has claimed nearly 1,200 lives amid protests targeting UN peacekeepers.


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