Daily Dispatches
UN peacekeepers in the Congo
Associated Press/Photo by Marc Hofer
UN peacekeepers in the Congo

Culture of unaccountability


United Nations forces deployed around the world on peacekeeping missions seem to have a problem handling conflict within their own ranks. A report the Government Accountability Project released Friday morning claims recent reforms in the UN's internal justice system may have improved the due rights process for employees but ultimately made it more difficult to discipline those accused of misconduct.

Over a two-year period, allegations of wrongdoing were dismissed 13 times out of 19—a rate of exoneration more than twice as high as before the reforms went into effect in 2009.

Current and former UN employees say that within the culture of the UN peacekeeping forces, there is hesitancy to report abuse or illegal activity—especially when it involves a staff member or police officer blowing the whistle on a superior.

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“If staff members see misconduct in the field, most won’t report it,” a UN staff association representative told the Government Accountability Project. “You’ll get a very brave one who will do it, but most will just close their eyes to it, because they’re afraid of the consequences. They're unprotected.”

One employee deployed on a peacekeeping mission said, “When there is clear misconduct, the perpetrator often gets promoted or moved. People say that it is the easiest way to get a promotion at the UN.”

Currently, more than 116,000 UN troops, police officers, staff, and volunteers are operating 16 different peacekeeping missions. Recent cases of misconduct in employee ranks include the theft of UN computers, forgery of UN airplane vouchers, verbal sexual harassment, and the storing of pornography on staff computers, according to a July report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. When UN tribunal judges find cases of serious criminal activity, they send the perpetrators to national court systems for prosecution. Out of seven such recent cases, Ban wasn't aware of any that had been prosecuted.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is managing editor of WORLD Magazine and lives in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.


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