U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon publicly acknowledged Thursday that he removed the Saudi Arabia-led coalition currently bombing Yemen from a blacklist of child killers —72 hours after it was published — due to a financial threat to de-fund United Nations programs.
The secretary general didn’t name the source of the threat, but news reports have indicated it came directly from the Saudi government.
The U.N.’s 2015 “Children and Armed Conflict” report originally listed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen under “parties that kill or maim children,” and “parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.” The report, which was based on the work of U.N. researchers in Yemen, attributed 60 percent of the 785 children killed and 1,168 injured to the bombing coalition.
After loud public objections from the Saudi government, Ban said on Monday that he was revising the report to “review jointly the cases and numbers cited in the text,” in order to “reflect the highest standards of accuracy possible.” But on Thursday, he described his real motivation. “The report describes horrors no child should have to face,” Ban said at a press conference. “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 de-fund many UN programs. Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair.”