Lords of Impunity: How the United Nations Failed the World and What Can Be Done to Transform It is a former United Nations insider’s account of how the world’s most influential intergovernmental body allows the most heinous crimes to take place under its watch without suffering any consequences. The book reveals the web of lies, cover-ups, corruption and impunity within the UN that has allows wrongdoing – ranging from sexual exploitation of vulnerable people to theft of donor funds and fabrication of data on disasters – to continue unabated. It is based on her own experiences and the experiences of other UN whistleblowers who have taken on one of the world’s most powerful – and respected – organisations, and endured severe retaliation as a result.
The book is inspired by her earlier self-published book, UNsilenced (2016), which exposes the plight of UN whistleblowers and how the UN system failed them. UNsilenced received many positive reviews on Amazon.com and in the local and international media. She then decided to write Lords of Impunity, which is a different kind of book in scope, size and focus as it is not devoted entirely to UN whistleblowers but looks at the larger issue of how the UN’s actions or inactions have had a devastating impact on people who need the UN’s protection the most. In this book, she has included her personal experiences at the UN and in-depth analyses of recent events and issues that the UN failed to address adequately, including the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements and the current Covid-10 pandemic. The book also contains a list of recommendations on how the UN can be transformed. It is different from other books in this genre because it:
Part One looks at several recent reported cases of UN employees who exposed wrongdoing and suffered retaliation, for example, the ordeal of a UN whistleblower who was harassed after he exposed a multi-million dollar fraud case in Kosovo and the former UN spokesperson who revealed atrocities committed by the Sudanese government against the people of Darfur. It also shows how UN agencies routinely fabricate data in order to raise funds, to remain relevant, or to appease powerful UN member states, and why UN agencies exaggerate or underplay the extent of a disaster, with some reference to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Part Two of the book shows how the UN routinely turns a blind eye to atrocities committed in countries by focusing on the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq, the genocide in Rwanda, and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in 2018.
Part Three looks at how the world’s premier human rights organisation fails to protect vulnerable populations and its own employees from human rights abuses, including sexism and racism.
Part Four of the book shows how and why UN staff members who commit wrongdoing never face justice. It also explains why the UN’s internal justice system is stacked against the victims. The book concludes with recommendations on how the UN system can be made more transparent and accountable.
Rasna Warah is a Kenyan writer and journalist of Indian descent and the author of five non-fiction books: UNsilenced (2016); War Crimes (2014); Mogadishu Then and Now (2012), Red Soil and Roasted Maize (2010); and Triple Heritage (1998). Her books on Somalia, War Crimes and Mogadishu Then and Now, examine the impact of war on Somalia’s cultural, political and economic environment by focusing on corruption, both within the aid sector and within Somalia’s fragile government. Her short story, "Have Another Roti", was published in Nairobi Noir in 2020.
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