Thursday, December 02, 2010

The United Nations shakedown

A certain developed nation has lost its final appeal
to the U.N. Tribunal for Climate Justice.

How much longer must the U.S. continue to feed the hand that bites it? Wait, hands don't bite … back to the metaphor factory … feed the hand that smites it? Blights it?

A U.N. agency lumbered with the acronym MINUSTAH — acronyms are getting as long as real words — wants to spend another $864 million on "peacekeeping forces" in Haiti, of which the U.S. share is supposed to be $235 million. 

Heaven knows Haiti is in a dreadful state, not entirely of its own doing. Since $235 million is a mere speck of dust on the U.S. national debt, to withhold such an amount for humanitarian aid would seem egregiously cold-hearted. But what is this "peacekeeping"? Is Haiti lobbing artillery shells into the Dominican Republic? Launching missiles pointed at Jamaica? Or is there a standard, off-the-shelf Third World insurrection, barbed wire and tanks around what is left of the Presidential Palace?

As usual, the devil is hiding behind the details. Fox News notes:
… The bill for “general temporary assistance” in the Haiti peacekeeping budget is suddenly spiking from about $4.7 million in 2009-2010 to more than $31.6 million in the latest estimate, a hike of $26.9 million.

The budget also notes, however, that the cost of regular, non-temporary U.N. civilian staff has dipped as a result of the “temporary” surge, by about $17.6 million, to $83.8 million. But in almost every case noted in the 110-page budget document, wherever regular staff have been replaced by “temporary” U.N. civilian officials, the newcomers are higher ranked, and consequently earn weightier salaries.

The overall result is a considerably more top-heavy civilian and military component among the peacekeepers, which the budgeters argue is needed to face an array of formidable challenges, including “maintaining stability,” building “capacity to maintain the operations of state institutions,” and — remarkably for an emergency force — coordinating aid “to ensure that it does not exacerbate the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities that have long fueled instability in the country.”
The U.N. mission, then, is not primarily to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. It is wealth (assuming any can be found in Haiti) redistribution. An international Job Corps for bureaucrats, playing Nation Building on its Xbox.
None of the additional U.N. peacekeeping help comes cheap. The salary ranges of the new, often “temporary” U.N. workers being layered into the “large and complex” mission that MINUTAH has become are not laid out in the budget document. But salaries for lower level U.N. professionals (Grade P-2) range from $61,919 annually to $81,568, depending on years of experience, while much higher ranked Directors (Grade D-2) make between $149,903 and $166,475. 
Those numbers, however, greatly understate the benefits and pay of U.N. professionals. For starters, all their salaries are tax-free. They are additionally augmented with cost of living allowances (around 45 percent in the case of Haiti), hazard pay (around $17,000 for Grade D-2 in Haiti), transfer and housing allowances and other perks that add greatly to the “temporary” bill.

You might expect that even a certain trickle-down effect would benefit suffering Haitians. Uh, hang on, though. Quite a few of these nation builders won't actually be in Haiti, because it's a dangerous place.
Among other things, the peacekeepers have located the vast bulk of their air supply efforts at Santo Domingo’s international airport, rather than Haiti’s international airfield in the capital of Port au Prince — where about 200 U.N. personnel are also located in a Santo Domingo Liaison and Support Center.
However safe they may be as a result, the U.N. peacekeepers are thereby undoubtedly providing a considerable economic boom to the Dominican Republic rather than Haiti — even though the U.N. budgeters argue that along with safety concerns, the civilian presence is also cheaper as a result, as the Santo Domingo staff do not qualify for the hefty U.N. hazard pay allowances that go with the Haiti assignment.
Meanwhile, one U.N. delegate (from Bolivia) wants to establish an "International Tribunal for Climate Justice," with the power to condemn nations for crimes against biodiversity, or to coin an expression — and coin is what the Bolivian Robespierre has in mind — "ecocide." 
Bolivia's UN Ambassador Pablo Salon asserted it was unacceptable for some developed countries to refuse a new commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. "Developed countries were looking for solutions that would put the onus on developing countries to reduce emissions," Salon said. Making "ecocide" the equivalent of a war crime (or a crime against peace) would apply exclusively to the actions of developed countries.
In the old muffler replacement commercial the mechanic said, with the trace of a smile on his lips, "You can pay us now … or you can pay us later." Too bad for him he wasn't a U.N. official, in which case he could say, "You can pay us now, and you'll pay us later."

I used to think only head cases wanted to get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S. Well, my ducks, I've either changed my mind or become a head case.

The U.N. should be given a month's notice to vacate the premises in Manhattan. To make it clear what I think of the U.N., it would overjoy me to see the buildings detonated, the space occupied by a new parking garage. And I hate the looks of parking garages.


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