Friday, December 30, 2005

Englund, the UN and the tsunami homeless

One year ago -- Dec. 26, 2004 -- a tsunami walloped a huge swathe of the world from Indonesia all the way to Africa. Some 300,000 people were swept to their deaths,...

Across the Western world, TV viewers reached into their wallets, chipped in the best part of $5 billion, and left it in the hands of the United Nations and the "nongovernmental organizations," the world's self-proclaimed moral consciences.

You'll recall that, immediately after the tsunami, Jan Egeland, the Norwegian bureaucrat and big U.N. humanitarian honcho, gave a press conference attacking the "stinginess" of wealthy nations, like the Great Satan. Given that, at that moment, Mr. Egeland's vast, permanent 24/7 "humanitarian relief" bureaucracy was focusing on giving press conferences in New York, while the only actual "relief effort" was conducted ad hoc by the Pentagon and the Royal Australian Navy, his remarks seemed a little churlish, to say the least.

But even folks who aren't on the Turtle Bay payroll have somehow bought into the curious proposition that helping people without going through the U.N. bureaucracy -- saving lives unilaterally, so to speak -- is illegitimate. So Mr. Egeland and the like-minded got their way: Billions and billions of dollars were contributed to tsunami relief. And what happened to it? A year later, of the 1.8 million left homeless, only 20 percent have been rehoused. The rest are still in temporary shelters....

So who ought to be the experts? Well, how about Jan Egeland and his U.N. staff? These guys get full-time salaries to think about nothing but international disaster relief, and yet the best they can do when disaster strikes is stand in front of a camera in New York and announce they're sending someone to the region for an "assessment" of the "situation," just as soon as the U.S. Air Force emergency team have flown in and restored room service to the five-star hotel.

In fact, Mr. Egeland was wrong. Had Western nations been more "stingy," the aid might have been better targeted and more effective. As it was, your average Third World kleptocrat official quickly figured out every NGO on the planet was trying to catch his eye by waving large amounts of dollar bills. ```

Next time it might be easier just to eliminate the middle man and have Bongo and Sting and Sir Bob Geldof and Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney hold an all-star fundraising gala for the Indonesian Customs Inspectors' Retirement Fund.

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