Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Peacekeeping Procurement
Remarks on Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Peacekeeping Procurement
Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Permanent
Representative to the United
Remarks at a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
February 22, 2006
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Good afternoon. Well, I think we had a very important meeting today. I think it's significant that the Security Council took up this very important issue of waste, fraud, and abuse in peacekeeping procurement. As you know, this is the first of two meetings on problems in peacekeeping. Tomorrow we'll hold the second on sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping. I think that what you heard was unanimous support for continued reform in the UN system to correct the abuses that were discussed today. I think you could see from the number of people in the room how seriously the issue is taken and I think that this is an important step forward. It's only the first step and that's all it was intended to be. But I think the fact that we we're holding the meeting and the level of participation and the opinions that were expressed make it a success. I hope we will have equal attention tomorrow on sexual exploitation and abuse because it too undercuts the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations, it's a stain on the organization's reputation, and is something we should have zero tolerance for. So I hope the attention we got today will be reflected tomorrow as well.
REPORTER: Japan's Oshima mentioned that this whole issue, in some respect, endangers his government's ability to maintain support for peacekeeping, their 20%. In the US case, how much is there a similar endangerment? How much do you feel this must be addressed or else there is a threat of the (inaudible) for it, or that UN peacekeeping support will be called into question by Congress?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I think there is very strong support for the concept of peacekeeping both by the administration and in Congress. But we should be entitled to have effective peacekeeping without waste, without corruption, and without mismanagement. I thought the single most important piece of news today in the meeting was the statement by the Ambassador of Japan on the potential impact on Japan's contribution to peacekeeping. He said it, and he's a very gentle man, and he said it in his quiet way, but it was electrifying as far as I was concerned.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, the administration has proposed in the budget that just went up, the full funding for our assessment of peacekeeping. That's what we're going to press for. But it is Congress that appropriates funds in response to the President's requests and we'll have to see what the answer is.
REPORTER: (inaudible) what it needs is more money to better train and hire more officials and keep them in the position so they can manage correctly?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: You know, I'll wait and see what their proposal is.
REPORTER: Ambassador of South Africa (inaudible) continued to insist that this was the wrong turf for discussing this issue, and he kept on saying that this is a divide between the developing and developed nations. Do you think that can be bridged, that it can be settled before we move forward?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I don't see it as a divide as I think I've answered repeatedly in response to your questions. I think it's entirely appropriate for both the Security Council and the General Assembly to debate questions of peacekeeping operations. Manifestly the subject touches on competencies that both bodies have. Now let me just explain as I did yesterday, when you say those who argue the General Assembly has responsibility for procurement with respect to peacekeeping, well, of course there wouldn't be an issue of procurement in peacekeeping if there weren't peacekeeping. And who decides that there will be peacekeeping? The Security Council. So manifestly, the Security Council has antecedent jurisdiction over this matter because it falls within their responsibility for international peace and security. Now with respect to the specifics, certainly that's one of the reasons we've said that the General Assembly has a role to play. But I think, you know, you're all experienced reporters, you've covered the UN for a long time, if the answer is we're going to give this to the Fifth Committee, seriously, what do you think that means? That's why we're prepared to try and have the Security Council act, why we thought this open debate today was important, and why it was important to have expressions of views by any member of the organization that wanted to come before us.
REPORTER: To follow up on Mark's question, Mark Malloch Brown at the end of his remarks, said that any reform, apparently including reform of the procurement department of peacekeeping, will require throwing more money at the problem. How do you justify that to American taxpayers?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I'm going to wait and see what their proposals are, but I don't accept that logic a priori.
REPORTER: Another subject, it is always my subject, it's on Lebanon. Tomorrow two judges will come here to the United Nations to discuss the Lebanese proposal on the nature of the international tribunal, my question is how close are we to find out who are the suspects? Who are the responsible for this act? And my second question, how close are we - no - did President Assad (inaudible) accept to be interviewed by Brammertz and his team?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I really don't have anything new on either question at this point. Although we expect the investigation is proceeding. The discussions here tomorrow are on the subject of what the tribunal will be to try those who are ultimately charged with the crime. But I don't have any new information to contribute on your basic questions.
REPORTER: Mr. Ambassador, on the issue of this meeting today, you said the United States, when it sees a problem, you like to fix it, you describe this as an important first step. Well, what is next? How are you going to fix this problem?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The first, the step that we took today, and that will be complemented tomorrow on the hearing of sexual abuse and exploitation, is to familiarize members with the problem. I think it's important that people have a better understanding of what the difficulties in peacekeeping are. I think one salutary effect of today's meeting was that a lot of permanent representatives showed that they had read or, that somebody on their staff had read, the OIOS audit report. Now I think that is an important step forward. That's a big distinction between the Security Council and the Fifth Committee, where permanent representatives rarely dare to show their faces. So the question of what we do next, I think, obviously depends on the will of the Security Council. You heard a lot of opposition today to the Security Council doing anything and obviously one has to factor that into account. But I want to make it clear, on behalf of the United States, that we think that the Security Council is a forum where action can be taken. We authorize peacekeeping missions; we write the resolutions that create them; we can take steps in those resolutions or elsewhere. We are not at all trying to impede the work of the General Assembly. I have said, from the get-go, from the very first conversation I had with President Eliasson, we would welcome General Assembly debate on the subject. I am happy that we were the first movers here, to get the debate going, now let's see the debate continue in other bodies.
REPORTER: Specifically are you talking about that you think the Council can take because its of its authorization peacekeeping?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think that gives very broad latitude. And as I say, I try and do this journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so today was the first step, tomorrow's the second step. You have to familiarize people and get them to admit that there is a problem. I thought it was important that nobody today downplayed the seriousness of this as an issue. So I think we take it one step at a time.
REPORTER: (Inaudible) discussing over at the Security Council, some events in Iraq have been unfolding, and I wonder if you have a position as President of the Security Council and then I will have a follow-up.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Right, well President Bush, I think, has already spoken for the United States on that subject and I don't have anything to add to that. I think Secretary Rice may speak as well. We are currently circulating a possible press statement for the Security Council to consider. We have a meeting this afternoon as you know on Haiti, but it is possible that it would certainly be our hope, to have a press statement or presidential statement that I could issue at that point. I don't have anything as my capacity as President but I would obviously endorse everything that President Bush said.
REPORTER: Can I follow up on this please? Since you have distributed elements, at least, of the Presidential Press Statement, could you kindly share with us what you have proposed, not that this will be
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, because the other members of the Security Council would not listen to me on Procurement waste fraud and abuse if I gave the press statement before they had consented to it.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: To express, well, come on, again I will just leave it with what President Bush said. I stand with him on that.
REPORTER: Are we going to see a resolution on Sudan or action on what the people suggested should be on the sanctions list?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I am not going to comment on the question of the sanctions list, which I read about in your newspaper this morning, maybe you were the author of that story. You know, these leaks that everyone complains about, they are just out there, everywhere. We are working on the resolution on Sudan and there will be experts meetings, I think tomorrow. And as I have said before we are hoping to pass that resolution by the end of February.
REPORTER: Just to follow up on that (inaudible) these are bad people, why not name and chain them?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: This was the subject of extensive discussion within the Security Council, it wasn't necessarily the view of the United States that those names should be kept, withheld from the public, but that is the Security Council. And we will continue to discuss it now that apparently some members of the press have copies of it. Okay, any other questions? Thanks, very much.
Released on February 22, 2006