Tuesday, January 04, 2005

UN does nothing, US saves lives; guess who takes the flak?

A quote from the Diplomad:

Well, dear friends, we're now into the tenth day of the tsunami crisis and in this battered corner of Asia, the UN is nowhere to be seen -- unless you count at meetings, in five-star hotels, and holding press conferences.

Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent aircraft with supplies.

The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just today the city's Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative requesting a meeting for "Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries." Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really, really special because she has the word "coordinator" twice in her title!

The letter, in typically modest UN style, goes on to explain that "Ms. Wahlstrom's main task will be to provide leadership and support to the international relief effort. She will undertake high-level consultations with the concerned governments in order to facilitate the delivery of international assistance." Oh, and she'll be visiting from January 4-5.

Once, again, a hearty Diplomadic "WOW!" She's going to do all that in two days! The Australians and we have been feeding and otherwise helping tens-of-thousands of people stay alive for the past ten days, and still have a long, long way to go, but she's going to wrap the whole thing up in a couple of days of meetings. Thank goodness she's here to provide the poor lost Aussies and Yanks with leadership. The Diplomad bows in awe to such power and wisdom.

So, just to make sure you get it: The UN has done nothing but send "assessment teams" to Asia while the USA, Australia, et al have been feeding people and saving lives. But wait, there's more! British International Development Secretary Clare Short says:

I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up.

Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.

That's right, by trying to save people's lives, rather than sit back and watch them starve (like the UN is doing), we are somehow undermining the UN's "moral authority." As if it still had much after Rwanda and Oil-for-Fraud... I would have hoped that politics would have taken a back seat to saving the lives of tsunami victims. Apparently I was wrong. Some people are more concerned with preserving the UN's appearance of power.

(Do you want to help tsunami victims? Look here for ways you can help.)

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