1 December 2003

Four months have passed. The stonewalling continues. The scapegoating of lower level staff seems to be the order of the day. Higher level officials who competed in taking decision now compete in disclaimers. Yes, they did attend meetings, but did not really follow all the points raised. They did receive reports but actually passed them on to officers with more time on their hands. They knew, of course, that there were risks and threats. They even heard the fallen Special Representative declare in the Security Council that he and his staff were "vulnerable." But you know how things happen, goes the argument. A very senior person hardly has time to focus on any particular issue more than a few minutes -- half an hour max.

Well, these pompous utterances will not work this time. This was the biggest tragedy that hit the United Nations. People want accountability. A first "investigation team" was formed by Mr. Ahtisaari who by the way is now "Special Representative of the Secretary General for Northern African" or something similar. After a "thorough study" of his "half and half" report, another committee was formed from distinguished individuals who are expected to come out with another report requiring further study and continued thought. The only "action" taken thus far was to hit the politically helpless "Security Co-ordinator," a citizen of isolated Myanmar. Certainly his permanent representative will not be knocking doors down to defend him; even if he did, he will be reminded of a potential visit by Razali Ismael to raise human rights violations. Even the preliminary Ahtisaari report points out, however slightly, to specific officials in the higher chain of command. But then they are either too connected or too well informed to be provoked by tough action, however deserved. Maybe a way out could be found with the help of their government -- like a semi-ministerial appointment in a new government or another prestigious international posting. Meanwhile, the attempt from "those above" seems to focus the issue and the blame on "security." That will not work. There is so much emotion, credibility and conviction at stake to disregard through time consuming committees. Take your time, one month or two more. But then real action is required. And, by the way, the teflon is wearing out.