(ANTIMEDIA) United States — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted Thursday Saudi Arabia had been removed from a blacklist for maiming and killing children as a result of unnamed sources’ threats to defund United Nations programs. In plain language, an unknown entity used extortion to force the U.N. to reverse an important move toward ensuring the safety of children.
According to an as-yet unsubstantiated report from Foreign Policy, that threat came directly from the Saudi government — though immediately after the report blacklisting the Saudi-led coalition went public, the kingdom vociferously denounced its placement, and was removed within 72 hours — perhaps lending an air of credibility to the allegation.
Ban came under sharp criticism for the abrupt backtracking; but on Thursday, his reasoning for the move became all-too apparent.
“The report describes horrors no child should have to face,” Ban told a press conference, as the Intercept reported. “At the same time, I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs. Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair.”
As the Intercept pointed out, Saudi Arabia donates “hundreds of millions of dollars a year to U.N. food in Syria and Iraq.” According to a report on humanitarian assistance, the kingdom is one of the top ten largest donors in the world — providing $755 million in aid in 2014, alone.
“It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure,” Ban lamented. “Scrutiny is a natural and necessary part of the work of the United Nations,” he continued, calling the dilemma “one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make.”
In a seemingly tacit admission, the Saudi Ambassador to the U.N., Abdullah al-Mouallimi, held a follow-up press conference afterwards, the Intercept reported, stating, “We didn’t use threats, but such a listing will obviously have an impact on our relations with the U.N.”
He added, “It is not in our style, it is not in our genes, it is not in our culture to use threats and intimidation.”
Despite that assertion, the Saudi government has employed exactly that tactic already this year — threatening to withdraw all investments in the United States should a proposed bill pass allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks to pursue litigation against the nation.
No indications for what — if anything — will result from the secretary general’s acknowledgement that extortion played a key factor in the highly contentious removal of the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition from the blacklist. Considering the enormity of the announcement and the heft of the financial weapon wielded, that question is imperative going forward.
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