Just read “The Whistleblower” by Kathy Bolkovac – a tough and highly principled American police officer, hired by a private company DynCorp – which was in turn contracted by the UN in Bosnia – to work as part of the International Police Task Force there from 1991 to 2001. She proved effective at handling domestic abuse and gender violence cases – and was promoted to the UN’s human rights desk on these issues. She describes the poor/non-existent training given by DynCorp, and how she later discovered that several senior officials working in Bosnia had faced sexual harassment charges back in the US. Even more seriously, she discovered that quite a few IPTF and UN personnel were visiting brothels populated by kids trafficked in from places like the Ukraine. Some even “bought” girls as domestic or sexual servants, and apparently thought nothing of it. She filed reports, but was met with resistance from officials and was eventually sacked by DynCorp. She subsequently won her case against DynCorp for wrongful dismissal.
It’s painful reading for anyone who works for the UN – only relieved to some extent by the strong and determined individuals she came across who did help her and supported her cause. I am a believer in UN peacekeeping and political missions – and independent research on them by groups like the Rand Organization has shown they have a high rate of successfully reducing violence at relatively low cost. But the problem of private, poorly-trained contractors – with, crucially, no legal accountability, is an incredibly serious problem both for organizations like the UN and the US military. Continue reading