A few weeks ago, we asked you about your thoughts on the UN.
This week, we’ll be bringing forth the type of problems that can be found within it.
Some of you may consider this to be a waste. Why should Muslims even pay attention to the UN? The organization exists and affects Muslims all of the world. This reality, in and of itself, should be reason enough. Add to this the kind of allegations that you’ll read below, and you may also start wondering what should be changed within what started as a post-WWII effort to eliminate crimes of humanity from the world.
The latest allegations are related to the World Health Organization in Syria, but they are far from being the first signs of wrongdoing by the UN.
The Latest Allegations of Corruption
AP News has released another investigation regarding allegations of corruption within another UN agency—the World Health Organization.
While the investigation carried out by the Associated Press regarding the ordeal focuses more on the connection between the WHO’s actions in Syria and how it harmed COVID relief there, I’d like to pay closer attention to how this type of corruption affects the most vulnerable, including Muslims. After all, this kind of corruption is most certainly not limited to the WHO.
The WHO’s Syria representative, Akjemal Magtymova, is accused by staffers of misusing thousands of dollars of UN funds, bribing Syrian officials, and showing a blatant disregard to the climate in which she works (i.e., war-torn Syria) and the people that she serves. She claims that these allegations are “defamatory.”
There’s no need to walk you through the full list—an $11,000 party, living in a suite at the Four Seasons Damascus—this is the kind of lifestyle being maintained by this WHO staff member.
“Financial documents show Magtymova once threw a party costing more than $10,000 — a gathering held mostly to honor her own achievements at WHO’s expense, staffers say”
“…officials told agency investigators that Magtymova ‘provided favors’ to senior politicians in the Syrian regime and met surreptitiously with the Russian military, potential breaches of WHO’s neutrality as a U.N. organization. The staffers asked not to be named for fear of retribution; three have left WHO.”
Wherever you go in the world, be it in the East or the West, you will surely find some form of corruption. Unfortunately, anyone who has spent even a marginal amount of time in many Muslim-majority countries is aware of how ubiquitous bribery (which is of course haram) is and the fact that one actually has to struggle in order to avoid being pressured into it.
But this is the UN. It’s not a single, poor person trying to get by in his/her country. And the bribery doesn’t stop in Syria.
Reuters reported in 2016:
“The United Nations’ internal investigations office has uncovered serious lapses and due-diligence failures in the world body’s interaction with organizations tied to an alleged bribery scheme involving a former U.N. General Assembly president.
U.S. prosecutors say [General Assembly President, 2013-2014, John] Ashe received $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen including Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire real estate developer who heads Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group and was seeking to build a U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.”
Ashe died before the trial for his charges began.
What is alleged of the WHO in Syria is of significant concern, not necessarily because of COVID (this is a whole other topic) but because of the alleged utter disregard toward those who should have been the focus—Syrians.
This a country that has been absolutely decimated, pummelled by war—and continues to be. They’re suffering from cholera, poor sanitation, lack of heat, and a lack of the basic essentials.
But Magtymova apparently had the time and funds to hire professionals to make a video of her staff dancing for some “global flash mob dance” ‘thing’ (sorry, but I honestly find this to not be worth understanding beyond that). Is the job so cushy that even being based in a war-torn country, it doesn’t allow reality to settle in?
A Syrian opposition politician responded to the flash mob video released by the WHO in Syria (at the direction of Maftymova) with the following:
“The organization should have (instead) filmed the catastrophic condition of our people and demanded justice.”
While Magtymova’s response is at once blood-boiling and laughable, one thing it most certainly isn’t, is surprising:
“‘My message here is to ask you not to be discouraged,’ she told staff. ‘We have an important job at hand to perform and a huge responsibility for people, we have done something really out of (the) box: we dared to shine.’”
She’d make an excellent politician. If all else fails for her at the UN, Biden/Harris can hire her as a new speech writer.
I think it’s worth pondering:
To what extent is the UN like the Soviet Union at its downfall, an overly-bureaucratized body in which no one is quite sure where the allocated funds are going and how work is being managed?
Consider this point from the AP (2017):
“The situation in Congo, meanwhile, is so complex the country is hosting a U.N. peacekeeping mission to manage its own violent conflict while also sending personnel on peacekeeping missions to other countries.”
If the UN needs to stay, then perhaps it should primarily be used as a forum for governments to meet and for global statistics to be gathered. Its agencies could be slimmed down, with as much encouragement as possible to try and solve local problems locally.
The monetization of ‘human rights’ should be avoided as much as possible, as I would argue that human rights has become an industry that does not give as much as it takes.
Allegations of Child Rape
Back in 2017, it was discovered (also through an Associated Press report) that UN Peacekeepers, also known as ‘blue helmets,’ ran a child sex ring in Haiti, exploiting the impoverished conditions of the people there and exchanging sex for food:
“Here in Haiti, at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers exploited nine children in a sex ring from 2004 to 2007, according to an internal UN report obtained by the AP. In the wake of the report, 114 peacekeepers were sent home. None was ever imprisoned.”
As the article explains, what made this situation even more difficult is that the blue helmets, while part of UN Peacekeeping, are not actually under the jurisdiction of the UN. They are under the jurisdiction of their own countries. The exact details of what happened are gruesome and repulsive, and they go beyond 2007 and also beyond Sri Lankan Peacekeepers. I cannot bear to type anymore than that.
A Haitian lawyer has actually worked to get compensation for the women left pregnant by Peacekeepers. That lawyer had the following to say:
“‘Imagine if the UN was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera,’…‘Human rights aren’t just for rich white people.’”
The UN said they would run an investigation:
“In March [of 2018], UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced new measures to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers and other personnel. But the proclamation had a depressingly familiar ring: More than a decade ago, the United Nations commissioned a report that promised to do much the same thing, yet most of the reforms never materialized.
For a full two years after those promises were made, the children in Haiti were passed around from soldier to soldier. And in the years since, peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse the world over.”
The AP noted in 2017:
“An AP investigation last month found that in the last 12 years up to March, an estimated 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation have been leveled at U.N. peacekeepers and personnel.”
These incidences have occurred in multiple locations, from Haiti to Congo, to the Central African Republic.
Becoming Its Own Worst Enemy
The UN was established after WWII, in what was portrayed as an effort to never again allow crimes against humanity to be perpetrated. If the allegations of rape, bribery, misuse of funds, etc., are true, then how are they faring with their mission?
More than that, how are the people they’re supposed to be helping faring?
My thinking has been that some UN agencies like the World Food Program can be helpful in acute, dire situations. Nonetheless it’s increasingly hard to trust any agency in an organization so plagued by major problems. Add to that the careerist element, that is, those who are keen to climb the UN ladder (yes, there certainly is one) and perhaps forget why they entered the job in the first place, and I’m left questioning what’s left of the original purpose of the UN.
That being said, it is also because of some UN employees that we even know of the allegations regarding what’s being going on in Syria.