House Cleaning at the U.N.

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Congress voted last week to hold back 50 percent of funding for the U.N. if it doesn’t clean up its act. But even a little bit of house cleaning has stirred up a hornet’s nest.

According to Kofi Annan's (search) chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown (search): “This place is entirely like revolutionary France, where the level of backstabbing and betrayal would make Shakespeare wince.” (Source: The Times)

What’s causing all the backstabbing? “The real story is the level of resistance by those who don’t want change, frankly.” One of the main things that must change is the level of political and financial favors that are exchanged among friends and family at the U.N. This leads not only to nepotism and inefficiency but also to credible charges of corruption.

That’s why eyebrows were raised when The New York Sun reported that Mr. Malloch Brown rents his house from Bush critic George Soros (search), whose Open Society Institute has cooperated with the United Nations in the past. The Soros house rents for $120,000 a year, just $8,000 less than Mr. Malloch Brown’s entire take-home pay. Mr. Malloch Brown says that he gets no price break from his friend Mr. Soros and pays for his rental with savings.

Mr. Malloch Brown also says he disagrees with Mr. Soros’s tireless campaign against John Bolton (search) to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. But house cleaning at the U.N. isn’t going to be made any easier when house deals like this one raise interest in the press.

And that’s the Observer.

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