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Bolton: How the UN Does Things Wrong

Amb John BoltonGeneva, February 28, 2013 - Thank you. Thank you very much. We meet here today as five permanent members of the security council and Germany have just finished two days of negotiations with the representatives of the regime in Tehran over the regime’s nuclear weapons program and we are in the middle of I am afraid a potentially catastrophic mistake in a proposal that was offered to the regime that would give it relief from the economic sanctions that was imposed on the regime and legitimize its nuclear weapons program. I hope this is not going to happen because it would represent both the strengthening of the regime and the likelihood of bringing nuclear weapons into its hands.

I want today to focus on the situation of the refuges in camp Liberty. Many people around the world wonder why the United Nations is so unpopular in the United States I am going to explain why using camp Liberty and the treatment of the Iranian refuges in Iraq as a case study and a scientific study on how UN does things wrong. What we are seeing now in respect to the treatment of the people in camp Liberty is the systemic failure of the United Nations and its entire system the UN assistance mission in Iraq acts as a paid agent of the Al Maliki government in Baghdad. UN High Commissioner for refugees and the under secretary general for coordinating humanitarian assistance in New York are failing to uphold their mandates and the UN system as a whole is once again being discredited. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon someone whom I have known personally for 20 years I think is not fully informed about what is happening but in any event is making a huge mistake on his own behalf and on behalf of the UN if he does not correct matters instantly.

 

But foremost and foremost the High Commissioner here in Geneva has to stand up for his own mandate and the UN member states and the Non Governmental organizations to do humanitarian work around the world have to wake up to what is happening and fast. Let me run through some important points here that seem to get lost in the debate. First the Secretary General Special representative for UNAMI is not the tsar of the UN system in Iraq he is merely one agent of a large operation and in fact the security council of the Un has repeatedly recognized that the role of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Iraq is not subordinate to Martin Kobler or UNAMI the most recent pre authorization of UNAMI in the resolution 2061 of July of last year in paragraph 12 the Security Council says specifically that it endorse the important role of the High Commissioner for refugees in coordination with UNAMI not under UNAMI’s direction in coordination with UNAMI. Kobler is suffering what in the US State Department we call client titers he thinks he works not for the United Nations and its member governments but for the Government of Iraq and I think his situation at this point is simply hopeless. That is why within the UN system we need the High Commissioner and we need the under secretary General for coordinating humanitarian assistance to assert themselves. Now let’s look at the role of the High Commissioner there are essentially two mandates that it has had since the office was created protection and assistance and these two mandates are demonstrated by UNHCR’s own seal the seal and the flag that flies in correspondence all around the world the familiar signal of two hands providing walls around and a roof over a refugee these are symbols of protection and assistance and how cruel the tragedy in camp Ashraf in February was that shows the UN’s High Commissioners own seal is not being upheld is not providing protection is not providing assistance. These mandates and responsibilities go back to the creation of the High Commissioner and to its non political work the statute of the office of the High Commissioner says specifically that the work of the High Commissioner shall be of entirely non political character it should be humanitarian and social and what Martin Kobler has done and what the High Commissioners office has permitted to happen is that its role has been politicized it is following the will of the Al Maliki’s government which is following the will of the mullahs in Tehran. If there were ever a group of people who could demonstrate in the original word of the High Commissioner statute a well founded fear of persecution it is obviously the resident of camp Liberty and the government of Iraq has contributed to this in many respects. The resolution of the General Assembly that created the office of the High Commissioner called on all UN member governments whether they adhere to any of the refugee conventions or not to do things like providing refugees with travel documents such as would normally be provided to other aliens by national authorities specially documents that would facilitate their resettlement and it also says that governments should permit refugees to transfer their assets and specially those  necessary for resettlement I could go on because it is a long list it is like Al Maliki regime read the the resolution in 1950 creating UNHCR  and decided to see how many of its provisions it could ignore and contravene. This is what the High Commissioner is supposed to stand against. There is a lot of talk about the Memorandum of Understanding that Martin Kobler negotiated with the Government of Iraq let’s be clear no UN beaurocrate can compromise the mandate of the High Commissioner. The High Commissioners mandate flows from the member governments. Martin Kobler works for the member governments not the other way around that is a point that many UN officials have to hear over and over again but the High Commissioner’s mandate which he should assert comes directly from the member governments now the current High Commissioner Antonio Guterres I am afraid is on the verge of bringing the High Commissioners office to its lowest repute since 1989 when the then High Commissioner Jean Pierre Houka was forced to resign because of financial improprieties I was in charge of the UN affairs of the Bush administration in 1989 and we and other major donors led the way in demanding that Houka resigns because had he stayed in office he would have provoked a crisis in confidence in the integrity of the mission of the High Commissioner. I think Guterres here is acting in a worst fashion not just financial impropriety he is not defending his own mandate and yet the High Commissioners own report referring to camp Liberty says UNHCR will need to significantly augment the human and financial resources allocated to the task in 2013 why ? they are not doing anything what do they need the money for? But this is exactly the point that has to be brought to bear in the High Commissioners office that major donors that fund UNHCR expect that they comply with their mandate this is exactly the kind of situation that was contemplated when UNHCR was provided refugees from a government that would persecute them if they return and taking first asylum in a country that does not want anything to do with them. That is what the role of UNHCR is intended to be but the UN has other agencies as well Under Secretary General in the office for coordination of humanitarian assistance in New York and again I was in the Bush administration in 1991 when the United States led the way to create this office and I must say if we thought this is what we were going to get we would not had created it to begin with where is Valery Anus why isn’t she standing up for the refugees in Liberty. This whole thing is compounded by the other ingratitude of the government of Iraq I remember after the first Persian Gulf war when we had massive refugees of Kurds Saddam Hussein regime some of them crossed the border into Turkey but many did not and madam Sagato Hogata that came after Jean Pierre Houka as the High Commissioner of refugees at that point said that we don’t have a mandate to do persons who are internally displaced I remember saying to her very well I can assure you that the government of United States will support UNHCR if it pursue a vigorous program of protecting and assisting the Kurdish refugees and on that basis she went ahead and got UNHCR involved in Northern Iraq then followed up by historic Security Council resolution 688 declaring refugee flows for the first time a threat to international peace and security. Madam Ogada demonstrated how a High Commissioner with courage performs in a crisis situation where is Antonio Gutierres’s courage? Now one might ask who should care about this? Other than the refugees at camp Liberty. The fact is all UN member states and specially the large contributing countries have to worry when the High Commissioner for refugees does not fulfill his mandate. Again I ask you if you wonder why the UN is so unpopular in the United States this is the kind of reasons why and so too the nongovernmental organizations so many of which are present here in Geneva which carry out important work all around the world you think this failure by the High Commissioner does not affect you just because your work does not involve political matters you don’t work in Middle East you don’t deal specifically with refugee issues let me tell you when the UN humanitarian agencies fail it affects every nongovernmental organization dealing in international issues and both for the member states and nongovernmental organizations. Therefore never send for whom the bells toll it tolls for thee. This story of the failure of the High Commissioner at Liberty is a story that affects everyone around the world. So what is to be done in Vladimir Lenin’s words? To get the attention of some people in Geneva what is to be done? The forst thing is that the UNHCR has to get up off of his posterior and challenge Martin Kobler he needs to challenge him within the UN system he needs to challenge him……… The End


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Iraqi forces attack Camp Ashraf