UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Transparency International said in a report Wednesday that the United Nations has failed to make tackling corruption in U.N. peacekeeping operations a priority, leading to cases of bribery, fraud, theft and exploitation of natural resources and resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars.
The anti-corruption watchdog urged the U.N. and its 193 member states to adopt new policies, rules and regulations that enable peacekeeping missions to help reduce corruption in countries in conflict and emerging from it — and to prevent and eliminate malfeasance by peacekeepers.
The report cites examples dating back to 2000 when peacekeepers in Sierra Leone were alleged to be smuggling diamonds, many previously reported.
"It's as if there are two quite different beasts," said Mark Pyman, program director for Transparency International UK's Defense and Security Program.
There is external corruption in the host nation which is "likely to be endemic" and where greater efforts are needed to keep it from becoming embedded, he said, and there is corruption within the peacekeeping force which needs stronger oversight than the U.N. has today.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Management Yukio Takasu said before the report's release that the U.N. monitors abuse of power, illegalities and corruption, and it has very tight financial controls and inspectors in peacekeeping operations.
U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said later that the report has just come out "and we're studying it and we'll have some reaction once we've completed that study."
Pyman told a news conference launching the report that the current study was triggered by the fact that it was only after nine years of international military involvement in Afghanistan, by U.S.-led NATO forces, that "even modest international action" was taken against widespread corruption in the country.
He also cited corruption in Congo, Kosovo and Liberia and U.N. peacekeeping operations in those countries.
The report identifies 28 peacekeeping "corruption risks" — from failing to include corruption in the mandate of a peacekeeping mission and conducting operations in a corrupt environment to skimming salaries of peacekeepers, sexual exploitation and procurement abuses.
In the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, which has almost 21,000 uniformed personnel, for example, Pyman said tackling corruption should be included in the mandate authorized by the U.N. Security Council, a senior U.N. official should be put in charge of ensuring the "integrity" of the mission, and several investigators should be part of the mission to probe allegations of corruption.
"Because there are a lot of resources involved, because there is a lot of pressure to deliver quickly because of the situation on the ground, the risks of corruption are very high," Transparency International's chair Huguette Labelle said. "This is where ... it is so important to be able to introduce in the whole system of peacekeeping measures to prevent corruption, to detect it."