Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

A muffled whistle blow- the UN is in denial

The United Nations (UN) is the closest thing we have to a supranational and legitimate organisation. Not only does it promote the rule of law globally or endow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but is responsible for several peace keeping projects around the world. In short, it is a protector of the peoples of the world.

Certainly, as all organisations, it is not flawless. But it is increasingly showed, the UN is incapable of maintaining its own values within the organisation. However, one would expect that it in order to sustain its own legitimacy and image it takes these problems seriously?

Unfortunately, the answer is often no.

On several occasions, it has come to the surface that rather than admitting its own flaws by dealing with the issues, the UN has chosen to cover up whistle blows from within it (Walden, 2012).

The most recent case came to the attention of the media only this week. The Swedish UN veteran ambassador, Anders Kompass, who has a long experience in the humanitarian field, reported about sexual abuse on children in the Central African Republic, executed by French UN peacekeeping soldiers. Several young boys were forced to sexual abuse in exchange of food, proving of how the UN soldiers took advantage of the children’s desperate situation and thus undermining their duty: to protect and bring hope (Laville, 2015).

Anders Kompass.

But instead of admitting flaws in the organisation, there was no response from the UN and consequently Kompass took the same report to French authorities, who instantly decided to take it seriously. This time, the UN responded, but not by dealing with the offenses, but by suspending Kompass for sharing confidential material. He now faces dismissal. Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon claims that this is not a case of whistleblowing but rather that Kompass has breached the protocol (Charlton, 2015).

This proves that the UN is more concerned with its own image and that it is unwilling to admit its internal problems, as it punished Kompass for displaying the flaws of the UN, which they tried to cover up, to the world. However, this might be just what is needed. People like Kompass is what helps maintain the legitimacy for the organisation. The media has a big and important role to play here as the eyes of the world subsequently turn to the UN (Laville & Chrisafis, 2015).

If the UN chooses to dismiss Kompass, this highlights the fact that the UN works under denial, especially in the light of the actions of the French government, who has acknowledged the misconducts (Laville & Chrisafis, 2015).

Whistle-blowers are vital for an organisations such as the UN to operate credibly and legitimately. Furthermore, the media is the most important tool for a whistle-blower, particularly when it is something on such high-level as the UN. The UN undoubtedly has obvious flaws in its operation. The media attention can consequently help in putting pressure to reform the organisation so that it can deal with its internal problems in the future (Matthewson, 2014).

Charlton, 2015, Authorities Secretly Investigated Accusations That French Soldiers Raped Children in Africa, in US News and World Report, Accessed April 2015.

Laville, 2015, UN Aid Worker Suspended for Leaking Report on Child Abuse by French Troops, in the Guardian, Accessed April 2015.

Laville & Chrisafis, 2015, UN Accused of ‘Reckless Disregard’ for Allegations of Peacekeeper Child Abuse, in the Guardian, Accessed April 2015.

Matthewson, 2014, Media, Ethics, and Whistleblowing, in Expolink Whistleblowing Hotline,

Walden, 2012, Protecting Whistleblowers at the UN, in Foreign Policy in Focus, Accessed April 2015.


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One thought on “A muffled whistle blow- the UN is in denial

  1. ellipeh on said:

    I do agree with you that whistle blowers are important in todays world to keep those who are in power in check and to give us a chance to know the true story. However I also think that sometimes whistle blowing can have a negative fact as well, sometimes the information is exaggerated or misinterpreted (after all it does not come from an official source). It would be interesting to consider aspects like this. As well how should the UN deal with it? Clearly it should have admitted its fault in the first place and tried to deal with the problem, but it is too late for that. What should it do now that the truth is out? I think it would be nice to briefly include other incidents of whistle blowing in relation with the UN as well, because you mention in the beginning that it happened several times, however I do understand that we are limited in relations to the word count.


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