Sunday, April 13, 2008

Now Even the U.N. Destroys Books

Sadly enough, I have reached the point where stories about libraries and bookstores needlessly destroying books do not surprise me anymore. Those making such foolish decisions are generally idiots who should never have reached the level of authority required to make that kind of decision in the first place. Somehow they managed to get promoted above their level of competency and reached positions that allowed them to destroy the books under their care. Case closed: stupid people do stupid things.

But this Washington Post article detailing UNESCO's destruction of almost 100,000 books over a two-year period, books that were written and published using UNESCO funds (think for a minute where this money comes from, my fellow taxpayers), managed to stop me in my tracks this morning. How do these incompetents continue to get away with this? Apparently, the person responsible this time has already retired from UNESCO and there is little that can be done to punish him for his horrible decision to destroy the books rather than have them moved to new warehouse space.
PARIS -- For more than two decades, 250 historians and specialists labored to produce the first six volumes of the General History of Latin America, an exhaustive work financed by UNESCO, the United Nations organization created to preserve global culture and heritage.

Then, over the course of two years, UNESCO paid to destroy many of those books and nearly 100,000 others by turning them to pulp, according to an external audit.
South African Ambassador Nomasonto Maria Sibanda-Thusi told the executive board: "We believe that some decisive disciplinary action is needed. The main player may have retired, but what about those that knew but chose to remain silent?"

According to the report, the destruction occurred in 2004 and 2005, when UNESCO's overflowing book storage warehouses in Paris were relocated to Brussels. Rather than pay to move 94,500 books, auditors reported, UNESCO officials ordered them destroyed. The books were turned to pulp for recycling, the audit says.
Auditors made the discovery during a wide-ranging investigation of abuses and waste in UNESCO's book publication and distribution operations.

Because too many books often were ordered and others were never distributed properly, tens of thousands piled up in UNESCO's storage facilities at a cost of about $100,000 a year, until the agency decided to shift distribution functions to a Brussels company and move its stocks there.
Please read the entire article, especially the second page, because the whole story is much worse than these few quotes indicate. This smells of cover up and I'm sure that everyone involved will escape any kind of punishment. It would be very interesting to follow the money trail of this whole process, a process that went wrong from the beginning with more books than necessary being printed in the first place and then allowed to sit in warehouses rather than being properly distributed. Publishers made money, warehouses made money and, ultimately, the company that pulped the books made money. Who else made money? And those around the world who could have used the books are still empty-handed.

The U.N. and UNESCO continue to cover themselves in glory. Why am I not surprised by yet another scandal involving those organizations?


  1. This is indeed very disturbing. There are many book charities that would have loved to have had these books if they didn't want to move them to the new warehouse space. In some cases, they even pay the shipping.

  2. The U.N. is so corrupt that this kind of thing from them shouldn't surprise me, but it did...too much money being thrown around, shabby accounting, and lots of personal greed is a bad combination as the U.N. continues to prove.