There is a big United Nations anti-corruption conference going on in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss how the world can help in fighting corruption by setting up mechanisms of recovering money that is expatriated to foreign banks by corrupt government officials – especially presidents.
Participants and UN officials hope that it will set the pace for the much needed international cooperation in the fight against corruption, if the body can get the necessary instruments to track and crack down on corrupt officials.
The conference is being attended by many journalists from mainly developing countries, who are sharing their experiences in investigative reporting, primarily on corruption issues. The journalists are also expected to discuss how to act as whistleblowers while preserving their professional integrity.
This is no mean conference. The UN has decentralised its activities so much to try and make them more efficient, including introducing "One UN" project, or Delivering as One. Everyone appreciates the world body’s need for effectiveness and therefore relevance, but it will be found that what fails other institutions to work is the lack of finances, without which no activities can take place. So it is that even the UN needs to be supported in order to continue operating, otherwise such well-meaning conferences and well-thought out objectives will come to naught.
It is disheartening that the UN comes out with very well meaning declarations to help downtrodden people and nations, but when it comes to enforcing them, it cannot bite. There is a UN treatise on genocide for example, and indeed this body has dispatched representatives to Kenya to find out more about whether what is happening there cannot spiral into a genocide. But what can the UN do after this?
We have to give it to them for trying. The UN tried to have a presence here in Rwanda in 1994. It has tried to enforce some order in Darfur and Somalia, as it is on the ground in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But these are just half-measures, as they acknowledge a serious problem without effectively bucking it.
It is not the UN’s problem. It is the problem of little funds to fight escalating world problems. We are not the UN’s mouthpiece, but we recognise the need for more contributions to the UN so that it does its work more effectively than it is doing now. It has the infrastructure; it just needs the financial muscle to push through projects like this anti-corruption one, plus numerous others like Darfur, in order to play a more effective humanitarian role.