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Thread: The United Nations — The New "Too Big To Fail"

  1. #1 The United Nations — The New "Too Big To Fail" 
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Haiti's cholera outbreak came from UN peacekeepers troops, killing thousands of Haitians and sickening hundreds of thousands more, but the UN refuses to obey its own rules and hold itself accountable. So, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who is watching the watchers?


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    The entire world is watching the watchers...merely incapable of bossing them around.


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  4. #3  
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    Why don't they hold Nepal responsible? How much direct control over those troops would the UN itself have had?
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  5. #4  
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    studies show a very close match of the strain of cholera that was found in October of 2010 in Haiti to South Asian strains that were prevalent in Nepal. And finally, there are studies that show that there had been a major outbreak of cholera in Nepal from July to August of 2010.
    close match
    and no mention of the strain prevalent in the july/august Nepalese outbreak.

    ok
    still a tad iffy?
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    This somewhat a problem and factor when I was working with FEMA.... a first rule when considering support teams, issuing contracts to outsiders and NGOs was to have reasonable certainty it wouldn't make things worse. FEMA coordinators and members couldn't be called from within the disaster area, the idea being they needed help or were already doing what they could. Any team sent into the disaster area needed to provide its own support or have a good plan to do so without drawing of disaster area resources--that would include food, water, transportation, garbage disposal...and similar to this case: sanitation.

    Not sure what's meant by hold responsible. Are we suggesting the fire the planners of the relief efforts, or perhaps people who failed to follow through this planning concerns similar to those I mentioned? Or criminal negligence? I could see something like this as a civil negligence case in the US, compensated with money, but not sure if such structures exist in international courts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Why don't they hold Nepal responsible?
    But it isn't all of Nepal - just the Nepalese army.
    Well, not all of the Nepalese army - just the section assigned to the UN.

    But...who do you think has the most money?
    The Nepalese army?
    The Nepalese government?
    Or the UN.

    Or maybe I am just too cynical.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Why don't they hold Nepal responsible?
    But it isn't all of Nepal - just the Nepalese army.
    Well, not all of the Nepalese army - just the section assigned to the UN.

    But...who do you think has the most money?
    The Nepalese army?
    The Nepalese government?
    Or the UN.

    Or maybe I am just too cynical.
    Probably you're cynical. I don't think the UN has gobs and gobs of money to spare. The US. Government, maybe. Not the UN.

    Nepal doesn't have a lot of money either, but it was their government's negligence. If you can't control the behavior of your own military, then it's time to throw in the towel and admit you're not really a "government".
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    Nepal doesn't have a lot of money either, but it was their government's negligence. If you can't control the behavior of your own military, then it's time to throw in the towel and admit you're not really a "government".
    This is one of the problems of the UN being a voluntary association of nations which individually volunteer for involvement in various disaster relief and peace-keeping operations.

    The problem arises when something which is unremarkable in one country, or centrally important to its culture, conflicts with whatever is required in a particular operation. If it never. even. occurs. to an authority within a country, whether it's the government or a ministry or the military, that an endemic disease or a behaviour or a cultural expectation that might endanger the project's objectives should be mentioned in organising their participation you end up with this kind of problem.
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    I don't understand how Nepal can be held responsible here--it wasn't their base camp, it was a UN base camp. It is rather doubtful they knew about or deliberately sent soldiers with cholera to Haiti. Nor does the article suggest Nepal was in charge of the base camp sanitation facilities.
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    It is the overall responsibility of the UN to sort the problem and compensate the victims because ultimately they were in charge. It's them that should carry the can because they allowed this situation to happen.
    Now since virtually every country is now part of the UN then we have to share collective responsibility and pick up the tab for what has happened.

    We can't really expect the Nepalese Government to pay all the compensation and for resolving the problem, it's unrealistic. They can't afford and they're unlikely to pay anyway, but this doesn't or at least it shouldn't just excuse the UN of it's responsibility. The Nepalese were only in Haiti at the auspices of the UN and under their mandate. Furthermore it's seems extremely unlikely there was any malice behind the cholera outbreak, again even more persuasive that the UN has to carry the can.

    What it shows also though is it seems to highlight the fact that the UN really isn't set up properly to provide effective disaster relief around the world, they don't seem to have the correct planning in place, nor resources or personnel to provide a controlled response when disasters do occur. It just all seems like piecemeal scrapping together of voluteers and donations well after the fact with little to no real coordination.

    Perhaps what the world really needs is a well funded and resourced UN Global Emergency Disaster Relief Agency, that has proper plans in place to deal with whatever contingency may occur anywhere in the world. Much of the staffing could be provided by countries with high unemployment rates whilst the richer members of the UN could help provide most of the funding. In this way there would always be a well trained and effective rapid response available to any emergency.
    It end the need to depend on countries like Nepal having to volunteer their services in situations such as this, and restore some proper control to such situations.
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    I wouldn't toss the baby out with the bathwater. The UN is the absolutely right agency to coordinate these types of relief efforts, with lots of experience, expertise and resources. It does highlight a failure of planning though which needs to be fixed. And I agree with you that having a reliable force would help, rather than a coordination cells trying to manage a hodgepodge of people on the ground. That being said, the US is the last nation on earth that would agree to such a permanent attached relationship, even on a rotating basis.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    I don't understand how Nepal can be held responsible here--it wasn't their base camp, it was a UN base camp. It is rather doubtful they knew about or deliberately sent soldiers with cholera to Haiti. Nor does the article suggest Nepal was in charge of the base camp sanitation facilities.
    I guess I don't really know the details. I was thinking that the soldiers had set up and managed their own base camp.



    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    It is the overall responsibility of the UN to sort the problem and compensate the victims because ultimately they were in charge. It's them that should carry the can because they allowed this situation to happen.
    Now since virtually every country is now part of the UN then we have to share collective responsibility and pick up the tab for what has happened.
    The UN lives off of more-or-less voluntary contributions from the member states. It's not like the Federal Government where FBI agents will show up at your doorstep and make you pay your taxes.




    We can't really expect the Nepalese Government to pay all the compensation and for resolving the problem, it's unrealistic. They can't afford and they're unlikely to pay anyway, but this doesn't or at least it shouldn't just excuse the UN of it's responsibility. The Nepalese were only in Haiti at the auspices of the UN and under their mandate. Furthermore it's seems extremely unlikely there was any malice behind the cholera outbreak, again even more persuasive that the UN has to carry the can.
    I don't think the UN intended any malice either.


    What it shows also though is it seems to highlight the fact that the UN really isn't set up properly to provide effective disaster relief around the world, they don't seem to have the correct planning in place, nor resources or personnel to provide a controlled response when disasters do occur. It just all seems like piecemeal scrapping together of voluteers and donations well after the fact with little to no real coordination.
    That's because piecemeal scrapping together of volunteers and donations is really all the UN is equipped to be able to do.

    It's much more of a "shoe-string" operation than I think you're giving credit.


    Perhaps what the world really needs is a well funded and resourced UN Global Emergency Disaster Relief Agency, that has proper plans in place to deal with whatever contingency may occur anywhere in the world. Much of the staffing could be provided by countries with high unemployment rates whilst the richer members of the UN could help provide most of the funding. In this way there would always be a well trained and effective rapid response available to any emergency.
    It end the need to depend on countries like Nepal having to volunteer their services in situations such as this, and restore some proper control to such situations.
    I'm sure it does need that.

    Now.... how are you going to get the world governments to pay for it?
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    I remember that Haitians were staging protests very clearly directed at world media to say "UN is making us sick". At the time, this was mocked by Canadian media: Haitians are conspiracy nuts, don't know what's good for them, etc. I'm pretty sure the Canadian government echoed the incredulity, and it's no boast to say this country wields unsurpassed authority in the UN.

    Now, we're supposed to intervene under this newish ethic termed the "responsibility to protect" - which begins with believing the common people's word over the government line, regarding their welfare. But with Haiti the de facto government was the international community. And when this (government) denied that it was harming (its own) people, our choice of side to believe really went against the spirit of the responsibility to protect.

    My opinion: International/multinational entities like UN in Haiti or NATO in Afghanistan should recognize they sometimes act as de facto governments (AKA regimes), and should then have the same responsibilities expected of locally elected or non-elected governments.
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    [QUOTE=kojax;451112]

    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    It is the overall responsibility of the UN to sort the problem and compensate the victims because ultimately they were in charge. It's them that should carry the can because they allowed this situation to happen.
    Now since virtually every country is now part of the UN then we have to share collective responsibility and pick up the tab for what has happened.
    The UN lives off of more-or-less voluntary contributions from the member states. It's not like the Federal Government where FBI agents will show up at your doorstep and make you pay your taxes..

    I still feel the the United Nations is far more able to afford to pay for compensating the Hatian victims and to help resolve the problems than Napal would be. G20 countries, the world's richest, could afford to contribute towards the cost of such restitution, but also there is a moral obligation here. Haiti was torn apart by an earthquake, it's peole left with little or nothing and we, the UN, come along and compound the problem for them. Ok yes the motives were pure, born of a genuine sense of compassion to help, but still we have caused a situation for them that was even worse, with many getting sick or dying. Yes certainly the UN isn't the greatest institution since sliced bread and funding is certainly quite bit stetchy, but still it is what we have, it's the organisation that brings all of our countries together to act collectively in all of our names, so when the UN does get something wrong like with the situation in Haiti, then I would like to expect that it can act appropriately and put it right. Should this mean that we have to pay more money into the UN to allow it to fulfill such obligations then that's what we as tax payers in our own nations should do and our governments should ensure the UN recieves enough of our money to do this.


    We can't really expect the Nepalese Government to pay all the compensation and for resolving the problem, it's unrealistic. They can't afford and they're unlikely to pay anyway, but this doesn't or at least it shouldn't just excuse the UN of it's responsibility. The Nepalese were only in Haiti at the auspices of the UN and under their mandate. Furthermore it's seems extremely unlikely there was any malice behind the cholera outbreak, again even more persuasive that the UN has to carry the can.
    I don't think the UN intended any malice either.
    Yes what I believe this shows though is that because it was an accidental mistake on the part of UN member country then they shouldn't personally be held liable, meaning that liability falls back upon the shoulders of the UN, where as if it had been a deliberate act then clearly those responsible would have been held accountable. But the same argument doesn't carry weight for the UN as a whole because it's member countries are more able to bare the financial burden much more easily than either Haiti or Nepal, but furthermore they were in chrage.
    You cannot seperate authority and responsibility, ultimately they had that authority and now must accept the responsibility.


    What it shows also though is it seems to highlight the fact that the UN really isn't set up properly to provide effective disaster relief around the world, they don't seem to have the correct planning in place, nor resources or personnel to provide a controlled response when disasters do occur. It just all seems like piecemeal scrapping together of voluteers and donations well after the fact with little to no real coordination.

    That's because piecemeal scrapping together of volunteers and donations is really all the UN is equipped to be able to do.

    It's much more of a "shoe-string" operation than I think you're giving credit...
    Now this where I think we can learn some lessons, the UN doesn't have in place the right type of organisation to deliver effective global disaster relief, howevr the point that what it does have is a "shoe-string" operation" as you so delicately put it really still doesn't change this fact.
    Saying that it doesn't have the funding helps us to understand the situation, but it doesn't solve the problem. If we can all accept what we need then we have a good platform to go back to the UN and present the need for proper funding for an actually effective global disaster relief agency. Surely we can present a good case for such a viable project, given the trillions spent around the world on war and defence. Just think what could be put into place if every country donated 1 or 2 percent of their defence budgets towards such a cause. Maybe in 30 years we might not even notice such an organisation, instead just take it for granted that they will be there in an emergency the way in which we might expect a fire engine or ambulance to arrive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    I remember that Haitians were staging protests very clearly directed at world media to say "UN is making us sick". At the time, this was mocked by Canadian media: Haitians are conspiracy nuts, don't know what's good for them, etc. I'm pretty sure the Canadian government echoed the incredulity, and it's no boast to say this country wields unsurpassed authority in the UN.

    Now, we're supposed to intervene under this newish ethic termed the "responsibility to protect" - which begins with believing the common people's word over the government line, regarding their welfare. But with Haiti the de facto government was the international community. And when this (government) denied that it was harming (its own) people, our choice of side to believe really went against the spirit of the responsibility to protect.

    My opinion: International/multinational entities like UN in Haiti or NATO in Afghanistan should recognize they sometimes act as de facto governments (AKA regimes), and should then have the same responsibilities expected of locally elected or non-elected governments.

    If you're suggesting that when the international community goes to the aid of people or countries that have suffered some form of disaster then they should be both mindful and respectful of the wishes of the local populous, then I whole heartedly agree. What I think is harder to do sometimes though is trying to implement a plan on the ground and deal with various different victims with their own differing wishes and views. This is where it's vital to have the proper coordination in place and be able to respond to a changing situation and circumstances. The more organised the UN response is the more fexibility it will be able to have on the ground because it's not busy spending all it's time worrying about it's own problems. Also I don't think a military orientated stratergy would go a miss at times, given that military planners have to build flexibility into their stratergy on the basis that that no plan survives first contact with the enermy, meaning that disaster planners should work on the basis that the moment they come into contact with the victims they need to be able to change their plans to meet the immediate needs of those victims, harder to do when the team is made up of seperate units all doing their own thing.

    But again I think it all comes down to orgainsation, the more organised they are the better.
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    Former UN Chief Koffi Annan faced the dilemma of his own son having been found to be charged with embezzeling something like $200 million dollars from the "oil for peace" program, the son having been one of the administrators of that program. Asked if he would consider stepping down from his position because of this he replied, "Hell, No!".

    I heard him say it. Disgusting, Revolting. REVEALING! What REAL good does that fu...ing organization do, anyway?
    A large billboard located along I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson proclaimed "Get us out of the U.N."! The fine print below said, "John Birch Society". That group has been over and over made to look subversive, to the public, by the government. I wonder why? jocular
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    "John Birch Society". That group has been over and over made to look subversive, to the public, by the government. I wonder why?
    Because they're racist and anti separation of church and state along with several other distasteful policies? Surely that's enough.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    "John Birch Society". That group has been over and over made to look subversive, to the public, by the government. I wonder why?
    Because they're racist and anti separation of church and state along with several other distasteful policies? Surely that's enough.
    Distasteful to some, perhaps a majority, but see, we cannot force everyone to share our distastes with us. jocular
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    we cannot force everyone to share our distastes with us
    I'm not American, but I thought the freedom of religion thing was a pretty strong preference among US citizens who respect their constitution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    Yes certainly the UN isn't the greatest institution since sliced bread and funding is certainly quite bit stetchy, but still it is what we have, it's the organisation that brings all of our countries together to act collectively in all of our names, so when the UN does get something wrong like with the situation in Haiti, then I would like to expect that it can act appropriately and put it right. Should this mean that we have to pay more money into the UN to allow it to fulfill such obligations then that's what we as tax payers in our own nations should do and our governments should ensure the UN recieves enough of our money to do this.
    The trouble is that if they pay anything out at all, it won't be enough.

    If these were filed as "wrongful death" suits in the USA, against an American corporation, that corporation would pay as much of the claim as it could and then file for bankruptcy.

    I don't know for sure how deep the UN's pockets are, but I get the impression that if they took all the money they could possibly assemble, and then gave it to all the victims, they'd be writing them a check for maybe 100 dollars, or so. A veritable slap in the face. (And this is often how such suits end against a corporation when it files bankruptcy.)

    They equally damned if they do, and damned if they don't. But if they do they'll be broke. If they don't then they can continue operating as a functional organization.





    We can't really expect the Nepalese Government to pay all the compensation and for resolving the problem, it's unrealistic. They can't afford and they're unlikely to pay anyway, but this doesn't or at least it shouldn't just excuse the UN of it's responsibility. The Nepalese were only in Haiti at the auspices of the UN and under their mandate. Furthermore it's seems extremely unlikely there was any malice behind the cholera outbreak, again even more persuasive that the UN has to carry the can.
    I don't think the UN intended any malice either.
    Yes what I believe this shows though is that because it was an accidental mistake on the part of UN member country then they shouldn't personally be held liable,
    Why shouldn't they be personally liable?

    meaning that liability falls back upon the shoulders of the UN,
    Why the double standard?

    Who says it falls on the shoulders of the UN? Maybe it simply gets called "bad luck" and falls on nobody's shoulders.

    Or better yet: why don't we figure out who exactly made the decisions about how sanitation was going to be set up in that camp? We might get lucky, and it might turn out it was farmed out to a corporation.



    where as if it had been a deliberate act then clearly those responsible would have been held accountable. But the same argument doesn't carry weight for the UN as a whole because it's member countries are more able to bare the financial burden much more easily than either Haiti or Nepal, but furthermore they were in chrage.
    You cannot seperate authority and responsibility, ultimately they had that authority and now must accept the responsibility.
    There's your problem then. Who had authority? UN peacekeeping missions have a lot of ambiguity between how much soldiers remain under the command of their home nations, and how much they are under UN command. The member nation can override any order given to their soldiers.

    If the UN commander issues an order to set up a base camp, is he going to say exactly how he wants that camp set up, or leave it to the division's own internal (Nepalese) officers to hammer out the details and instruct their own men to set it up?

    Probably in hindsight, the UN commander should have entered the camp and taken a look around to see if their sanitation was up to snuff, and then ordered them to fix it if it wasn't. Maybe then the Nepalese would get all upset and insulted at his objections and decide to leave instead of help, but .... that would have been for the better in this case.

    It all comes down to how much you think the UN ought to treat its member states as children? Telling Nepal it's soldiers can't even handle their own sanitation could become a serious diplomatic breakdown. Akin to telling a small child to come back when they're potty trained.


    Just think what could be put into place if every country donated 1 or 2 percent of their defence budgets towards such a cause. Maybe in 30 years we might not even notice such an organisation, instead just take it for granted that they will be there in an emergency the way in which we might expect a fire engine or ambulance to arrive.
    World Wide defense spending is 1.75 trillion/year, so 2% of that would be 35 billion. That's about equal to the Federal Budget of Angola. It would be quite a lot more than they're getting now.

    Right now the UN's official budget is 2.8 billion. By contrast, Nepal's federal budget is 5.3 billion. Which ironically means Nepal is the bigger fish.

    United Nations Official Document

    List of countries by military expenditures - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    List of government budgets by country - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Former UN Chief Koffi Annan faced the dilemma of his own son having been found to be charged with embezzeling something like $200 million dollars from the "oil for peace" program, the son having been one of the administrators of that program. Asked if he would consider stepping down from his position because of this he replied, "Hell, No!".

    I heard him say it. Disgusting, Revolting. REVEALING! What REAL good does that fu...ing organization do, anyway?
    A large billboard located along I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson proclaimed "Get us out of the U.N."! The fine print below said, "John Birch Society". That group has been over and over made to look subversive, to the public, by the government. I wonder why? jocular
    Because they are and always have been racists and excessively (and I hate the words right/left) but right extremists who don't really like anything that isn't white and looks like satin. Grew up with a friend, whose parents were John Birchers, and in spite of the era he grew up in....and the music scene he was involved in, he retained his parents "John Birch" ideology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    we cannot force everyone to share our distastes with us
    I'm not American, but I thought the freedom of religion thing was a pretty strong preference among US citizens who respect their constitution.
    I would say it is for the vast majority.
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    If the UN went out of business today, who would notice ?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wilson View Post
    If the UN went out of business today, who would notice ?
    The whole world. Their contributions, coordination, oversight and expert teams for everything from water purification and disease control to nuke inspections are directly behind the vast reduction in violence and sickness over the past half a century.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wilson View Post
    If the UN went out of business today, who would notice ?
    The whole world. Their contributions, coordination, oversight and expert teams for everything from water purification and disease control to nuke inspections are directly behind the vast reduction in violence and sickness over the past half a century.
    Ok dude, is the UN going to intervine in Egyp ? Is the UN goiong to intervine in Syria ?
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wilson View Post
    Ok dude, is the UN going to intervine in Egyp ? Is the UN goiong to intervine in Syria ?
    Since those are the only two countries who have ever been in trouble, I guess if the UN doesn't intervene then they will have done nothing ever.
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    Application of force and military efforts aren't' the only things worthwhile (American of Chuck Norris mentality I guess?).

    Most of the heavy lifting by the UN happens through the efforts of thousands of small teams to teach developing nations how to set up water purification, run bus lines, set up a small banks, a medical clinic, a sewer system, a local police station and a hundred other things. Instead of a blue helmet at a guard post, we should be thinking of a retired electrical engineer advising a village electrician in some place we can't pronounce how to set up a generator power distribution hub--or a retired nurse teaching a team of natives first aid workers how to inventory medicine and triage who gets to see the one doctor etc.

    We can quibble about UNs inability to solve every civil war (while the US thankfully sits on its hands), but shouldn't forget to give them credit for dramatically improving the conditions of developing nations around the world such as eradicating small pox.
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    Plus.... managing to do all of that on a 2.8 billion budget. Literally less than 1/1000 of the US government's budget.

    Seems to me the US government should be listening closely and taking notes whenever the UN speaks about its operations.
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