UN peacekeeping: Poor men’s wars fought by the very poorest people?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 12, 2013


It’s best to read Transparency International UK’s new report alleging corruption in UN peacekeeping, alongside this list:

  1. Bangladesh: 8,781
  2. Pakistan: 8,216
  3. India: 7,840
  4. Ethiopia: 6,498
  5. Nigeria: 5,463
  6. Rwanda: 4,686
  7. Nepal: 4,462
  8. Jordan: 3,507
  9. Egypt: 3,095
  10. Ghana: 2,809

This is the ranking of countries by total number of military and police contributions to United Nations operations. The UN prepared the list on January 31, 2013. (For the record, Britain was 45th of 114 countries and contributed a measley 282 personnel; the US was 60th with just 117.) At the start of the year, 93,244 troops or policemen were deployed on UN business in 16 locations across the world.

Now, Transparency International has identified “28 types of corruption that threaten peacekeeping”. It should not be much of a surprise (to Transparency or anyone else).  For, the UN’s top 10 troop contributing countries don’t come off well in Transparency’s own Corruption Perceptions Index 2012. The Index ranks countries and territories according to how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. It awards scores from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

So here’s where the top 10 troop contributing countries stand on the Corruption Perception Index 2012:

  1. Bangladesh: 8,781 personnel contributed to UN – scored 26 on corruption index
  2. Pakistan: 8,216 to UN – 27 on corruption index
  3. India: 7,840 – 36 on corruption index
  4. Ethiopia: 6,498 – 33 on corruption index
  5. Nigeria: 5,463 – 27 for corruption
  6. Rwanda: 4,686 – 53 for corruption
  7. Nepal: 4,462 – 27 on corruption index
  8. Jordan: 3,507 – 48 for corruption
  9. Egypt: 3,095 – 32 for corruption
  10. Ghana: 2,809 – 45 for corruption

As Transparency International puts it, “a country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories included in the index.” The 2012 Index had 176 countries and territories.

Not a single one of the top 10 troop contributors to the UN scores higher than 53 on the Index, making them a bunch of countries whose public sector is generally perceived as eminently corruptible, if not entirely corrupt.

Entirely unsurprising then that Transparency’s new report describes “officers in the police unit in MINUSTAH (Haiti) extort(ing) money from daily paid workers”.

The New York Times reports a frosty response from the UN to Transparency’s allegations.

But it is probably time to reassess who fights what war and why. When he took office as Africa’s first UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali talked about “rich men’s wars” and “poor men’s wars”. That was 1992. Since then, almost all UN operations appear to have become wars that the poor overwhelmingly fight in the poorest parts of the world.