Tag Archives: Anthony Banbury

Anthony Banbury: “The UN Is Failing”

Anthony Banbury served the United Nations as assistant secretary-general for field support. He dealt with the Haiti earthquake, conflict in the Central African Republic, and the prohibition of chemical weapons in Syria.

His latest assignment was as head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

Anthony Banbury

Anthony Banbury

He’s earned kudos for his work around the globe — and at UN headquarters in New York. He commuted there from his Westport home.

Now Banbury is leaving.

In a story to be published in this Sunday’s New York Times — and already posted online — Banbury writes: “I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold. And that’s why I have decided to leave.”

The Westporter describes a

blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.

Banbury describes astonishingly, scarily frustrating incidents involving his Ebola work; lack of accountability; decisions driven more by “political expediency” than by the UN’s own values, and more.

A 10-year-old Ebola survivor, and Tony Banbury.

A 10-year-old Ebola survivor, and Tony Banbury.

He concludes:

I am hardly the first to warn that the United Nations bureaucracy is getting in the way of its peacekeeping efforts. But too often, these criticisms come from people who think the United Nations is doomed to fail. I come at it from a different angle: I believe that for the world’s sake we must make the United Nations succeed.

In the run-up to the election of a new secretary general this year, it is essential that governments, and especially the permanent members of the Security Council, think carefully about what they want out of the United Nations. The organization is a Remington typewriter in a smartphone world. If it is going to advance the causes of peace, human rights, development and the climate, it needs a leader genuinely committed to reform.

United Nations

The bureaucracy needs to work for the missions; not the other way around. The starting point should be the overhaul of our personnel system. We need an outside panel to examine the system and recommend changes. Second, all administrative expenses should be capped at a fixed percentage of operations costs. Third, decisions on budget allocations should be removed from the Department of Management and placed in the hands of an independent controller reporting to the secretary general. Finally, we need rigorous performance audits of all parts of headquarters operations.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a man of great integrity, and the United Nations is filled with smart, brave and selfless people. Unfortunately, far too many others lack the moral aptitude and professional abilities to serve. We need a United Nations led by people for whom “doing the right thing” is normal and expected.

To read Anthony Banbury’s entire piece, click here.

(Hat tip: Maxine Bleiweis)

Tony Banbury: Report From UN’s Ebola Emergency Mission

On September 8, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave Tony Banbury his new assignment: heading up the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency  Response.

The deadly disease was ravaging 3 countries in Africa — and sowing terror as far away as the US.

Tony Banbury

Tony Banbury (Photo/Simon Ruf for the UN)

Banbury never hesitated. The Westport resident — whose day job is assistant secretary-general for field support — had been dispatched to hot spots before. He dealt with the Haiti earthquake, conflict in the Central African Republic, and the prohibition of chemical weapons in Syria.

But this crisis was different. He had to convince a staff to follow him to a continent where a deadly epidemic raged — with no end in sight.

Over the weekend in Westport, he wrote up an action plan. More than 130 countries sponsored the resolution — a record.

“We went from mission conception to mission establishment in 6 days,” Banbury says proudly. “The UN never works that quickly.”

He flew to Africa. With a staff of “young hard-chargers,” he set up headquarters in Accra, Ghana. He worked up to 16 hours every day — literally, with no day off — for the next 4 months.

Tony Banbury, with government and military officials in Guinea.

Tony Banbury, with government and military officials in Guinea. (Photo/Ari Gaitanis for the UN)

“The UN had never had an emergency health commission,” Banbury says. His group worked on multiple levels. The epidemic involved medical, political, social and humanitarian dimensions.

Usually, a UN group would gather information, assess and analyze it, create a plan, deploy personnel and equipment, then become operational. The process takes months.

Banbury’s group did all that simultaneously. The Secretary-General wanted action. They acted.

In Accra, Banbury created a command-and-control structure. He tackled tough issues, made hard decisions, negotiated with high-level diplomats.

Tony Banbury with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is the president of Liberia, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Tony Banbury with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is the president of Liberia, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. (Photo/Ari Gaitanis for the UN)

He spent plenty of time in planes and helicopters, too. During 6 tours of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone he met with presidents; representatives of organizations like Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, WHO and USAID; and ordinary citizens. Taxi drivers, for example, drive sick people around — and have an enormous impact on the ground.

Banbury also toured treatment centers and command posts.

All international crises share  certain elements — an urgency to achieve results, and unexpected complications.

But, Banbury says, this experience was much different from all others. Though Haiti’s death toll of 230,000 far surpassed that of Ebola, conditions following the earthquake “got better every day. The damage was already done.”

In Africa, Banbury explains, “it was so hard to understand where the disease was, or figure out infection rates. For a couple of months, each day was worse than the one before. And we knew that would continue for a while.”

A 10-year-old survivor, and Tony Banbury.

A 10-year-old survivor, and Tony Banbury. (Photo/Martine Perret for the UN)

In addition to isolating patients and finding the proper people, equipment and sites to bury the dead, Banbury’s group had to halt, then turn around numbers that rose exponentially.

“That was very hard to do,” he conceded. “But we set ambitions targets.” Thanks to his work, and a global response — including support from NGOs, governments, the US military and the UN — they succeeded.

Banbury’s assignment was supposed to end in December. But he remained in Africa over the holidays, because he wanted to set a good example for all those he had encouraged to join him.

Tony Banbury calls this the toughest moment of his 4 months in Africa. The Sierre Leone graveyard included the names of ages of Ebola victims -- and one freshly dug plot, awaiting the disease's latest casualty. (Photo/Ari Gaitanis for the UN)

Tony Banbury calls this the toughest moment of his 4 months in Africa. The Sierra Leone graveyard was filled with Ebola victims — and one freshly dug plot, awaiting the disease’s latest casualty. (Photo/Ari Gaitanis for the UN)

He knew — based on news reports from Texas and New York — that some people would fear him when he returned. He called the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Westport Weston Health District and Westport Board of Education (3 of his 4 children are still in local schools).

All provided excellent support. He took his temperature twice a day, for 21 days, and reported the results. He was symptom-free.

“It’s nice to be back,” Banbury says. It was tough missing Christmas with his family, but he’s had time to sleep, read and decompress. There was praise from his UN colleagues.

Still, Banbury confesses to mixed emotions. Eradication of Ebola is unfinished. But numbers of infections and deaths continue to fall. Today, they’re at their lowest rate since last June.

Now, Banbury is back at his regular job. He spends his days worrying about Mali, South Sudan, Iraq and Boko Haram.

Unfortunately, the work of the UN assistant secretary-general for field support never ends.

Fortunately, Tony Banbury is that man.

Click below for an interview with Tony Banbury, from the Center for Strategic & International Studies.





Westporter To Lead UN Ebola Response

In more than 25 years as a peacekeeper and emergency management expert, Anthony Banbury has served the United Nations — and the world — in crises like the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2004 Japan tsunami.

From 2003 to 2009 he was Asia regional director for the World Food Program.

Anthony Banbury

Anthony Banbury

Now the Westport resident has a new — and crucial — job. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has named Banbury as special representative and head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

Banbury leaves tomorrow for Africa. Under his leadership, the mission will provide the operational framework to treat infected patients, ensure essential services, preserve stability and prevent the disease’s spread to other countries.

Before joining the UN, Banbury worked in the White House with the National Security Council, and at the Department of Defense.