UNITED NATIONS — A whistleblower who alerted authorities to the alleged rape of children by U.N. peacekeepers resigned after top U.N. officials investigated him instead of investigating the accusations he called attention to.
When U.N. officials failed to act on a confidential report which accuses French troops of sexually abusing refugee children in the Central African Republic, Anders Kompass, field operations director at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, leaked the report to the French government in 2014.
According to a June 7 report from IRIN, a news site focused on global humanitarian emergencies, “The alleged abuse involved hungry children – as young as eight – in the M’Poko camp for displaced people, coerced into sex in return for food or a little money.”
Now Kompass is calling it quits. He told Obi Anyadike, IRIN’s editor-at-large, that the situation has made it “impossible for me to continue working there.”
“The complete impunity for those who have been found to have, in various degrees, abused their authority, together with the unwillingness of the hierarchy to express any regrets for the way they acted towards me sadly confirms that lack of accountability is entrenched in the United Nations,” Kompass said.
Anyadike reported Kompass felt mistreated in the wake of his whistleblowing:
“Instead of investigating those allegedly responsible for what proved to be an even wider crime – including the involvement of its peacekeepers – the UN’s Office for Internal Oversight Services launched an internal investigation into Kompass’ conduct. Accusing the former Swedish diplomat of leaking, it condemned his ‘misconduct,’ suspended him from his job, humiliatingly marched him out of his office, and demanded his resignation.”
Kompass was later vindicated in his actions, Anyadike noted. “An independent panel later found senior UN managers to have ‘abused their authority’ in the handling of the scandal.”
An initial investigation by an independent review board in December condemned the U.N. for ignoring the scandal. A follow-up analysis published in March found 108 separate incidents of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, mostly against children.
According to Al-Jazeera, “UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric … called the allegations ‘shocking to the core’ and promised ‘exemplary disciplinary action’ if they’re proven true.”
Al-Jazeera’s James Bays criticized the U.N.’s apparent reluctance to act on the allegations, adding, “People who were sent to protect the civilians are in fact becoming the perpetrators.”
The U.N. has faced serious allegations of corruption for years. In 2005, another independent commission found that the U.N.’s “oil-for-food” program, which exchanged fossil fuels for humanitarian aid in the wake of the Iraq War, was rife with problems from bribery to kickbacks exchanged for oil contracts. Peacekeepers were also accused of negligence and corruption in 2013 in the wake of a devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti.
Earlier this month in a Guardian op-ed, an anonymous former employee attacked the U.N. for being more interested in maintaining the “status quo” than contributing to world peace. The employee wrote that entrenched workers become too complacent, and too afraid of risking both their jobs and the social status that comes with them to take substantial action against corruption:
“Where would you be then? Without privileges, that’s where. Without business access to airport lounges, diplomatic passports, tax-free shopping. No more supercilious look in your eyes as you are wafted through waiting lines by protocol, no more affecting an apologetic air as a prime minister lets his people wait while he hushes you into his office, pumping your hand. What would be left of the you that you’ve grown to love?”
And in March, Anthony Banbury, a U.N. assistant secretary general for field support, resigned, penning an editorial for The New York Times in which he lamented that “I love the U.N., but it is failing,” in part due to its oppressive organization and culture:
“Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”
He accused the organization of functioning with “minimal accountability” and making decisions that are “driven by political expediency instead of by the values of the United Nations or the facts on the ground.”
“Peacekeeping forces often lumber along for years without clear goals or exit plans, crowding out governments, diverting attention from deeper socioeconomic problems and costing billions of dollars,” he wrote.
He concluded by praising the U.N’s top leadership, while criticizing the ethics of many of the personnel they oversee:
“Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a man of great integrity, and the United Nations is filled with smart, brave and selfless people. Unfortunately, far too many others lack the moral aptitude and professional abilities to serve. We need a United Nations led by people for whom ‘doing the right thing’ is normal and expected. “
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