Review: Burundi on the Brink 1993-95–A UN Special Envoy Reflects on Preventive Diplomacy

4 Star, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Stabilization & Reconstruction, United Nations & NGOs

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4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Reading for Hard Issues–Graduate Minds Only,

April 8, 2001
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah

This book is for graduate students and hard-core professionals whose lives might depend on really understanding the ugly complexities of places like Burundi where they will be sent again and again.

This book is depressing. One sees both the heroism and the futility of United Nations activities. Sadly, whereas the Texas Rangers might have gotten away with sending one great man to handle a major crisis, the United Nations, sending one great man and an assistant, is decades behind the times in terms of understanding what it is about and how to obtain results in today’s world.

The lessons from Burundi summarized by the author at the end of the book are an excellent conclusion:

Problem Area #1: Shortcomings in UN Machinery and Culture, including no intelligence gathering and analysis; weak institutional memory; lack of accountability; and luxury and inefficiency.

Problem Area #2: Overreliance on Military Intervention

Problem Area #3: Unintended Consequences of Humanitarian Assistance

This book left me with a profound respect for the people that work for the United Nations, and with a continuing profound distrust and disrespect for the United Nations as an entity. It is not working. It needs a complete make-over, and one wonders if the time has not come for a new international gathering of governments and non-governmental organizations, to conceptualize a completely fresh start that harnesses distributed resources spanning the full range from civil economic assistance to police protection and training, to violent military intervention.

Let me say this again: this is a very good book, it is only for the best and the brightest, and it calls into question the entire United Nations structure and management. Instead of paying our dues to the United Nations, instead of Ten Turner giving them a billion dollar tax avoidance contribution, we should probably create a new international Fund for Peace that uses the Internet and the network effect to nurture “many small acts” instead of one large industrial-age monstrosity called the United Nations.

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