UN reform and the problem from hell

Samantha Powers in Le Monde Diplomatique (english edition), looks at the UN:

“Blaming the UN for the Rwandan genocide or for Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, as Richard Holbrooke, former US ambassador to the UN, says, ‘is like blaming Madison Square Garden when the New York Knicks play badly’. The UN is a building. It is the behaviour and priorities of the states within it that need to be reformed. Take two notorious examples of the UN in crisis: peacekeeping and mismanagement. The most serious accusations against the UN have been that the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995 happened in the presence of UN peacekeepers.

Annan, who then ran the department of peacekeeping operations in New York, was warned by Romeo Dallaire, his field general in Rwanda, of the imminent events. Annan, unforgivably, failed to pass the warning to the Security Council.

But who must bear the greatest responsibility for allowing the genocide? Annan, who predicted that the warning would cause member states either to do nothing or to flee Rwanda (a prediction borne out during the genocide, when western powers withdrew UN peacekeepers)? Or Bill Clinton who, fearing that US troops might get drawn in, demanded that the blue helmets be evacuated when the massacres were already happening? Or François Mitterrand, who had helped arm and train the murderers, and whose French soldiers parachuted in to rescue leading perpetrators during the last days of the killings?

Has anything changed? Western nations have heeded the lessons of the 1990s, but not by ensuring that peacekeeping is done well. Instead, they have avoided peacekeeping altogether.”