From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Jan 25 2010 - 08:15:43 EST
Is is time for the UN to be scrapped?
January 25, 2010 - 3:43PM
Even those who applaud the work the UN does are honest enough to admit that
there is much wrong about the way it behaves and its moral authority.
For those who follow the UN, a recent Associated Press investigation that
the UN “cut back sharply on investigations into corruption and fraud within
its ranks, shelving cases involving the possible theft or misuse of millions
of dollars” is not surprising.
Even those who applaud the work the UN does are honest enough to admit that
there is much wrong about the way it behaves and its moral authority.
When its founders met in San Francisco in 1945 they had noble aspirations in
mind, hoping, as its charter states, to "save future generations from the
scourge of war". Sadly, the news is not good. When it comes to global peace
and security- the purpose for which it was founded- any assessment of the
UN's merits must reflect on its tattered record and its series of failures
that have cost millions of lives. Indeed, there are many grounds for
reproach and regret in the body's conduct in the face of ethnic cleansing.
The UN's hand wringing and passive response to the genocide in Darfur, where
hundreds of thousands have died and 1.7 million have been driven from their
home, has further damaged its fragile credibility. China and Russia, members
of the Security Council, reject even threatening sanctions against Sudan
because they do not want to jeopardize their commercial relations with the
Sudanese government (China has huge oil interests in Southern Sudan).
Imagine how many lives could have been saved and can be saved with a modest
UN force on the ground.
Equally appalling was the foot dragging that led the UN to sit out the
terrible genocide in Rwanda in 1994, where close to a million people were
shot and clubbed to death. General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commander
of the UN force stationed in Rwanda, told the UN that Hutu extremists were
getting ready for a campaign of "extermination." His proposal to confiscate
the weapons stockpiled by the Hutu so as to stop the plan was vetoed by the
UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Once the killing began, Dallaire
could have used the forces under his command to stop the massacres, but was
instructed by the UN to only evacuate foreigners but no Rwandans. After
issuing pious resolutions, the UN withdrew most of its forces instead of
As one critic observed, "In the face of evil, the United Nations encourages
good men to stand aside and do nothing". The UN did nothing in Bosnia when
tens of thousands of Muslim were being murdered, watching helplessly until
the US began bombing Serbian military positions, forcing the Serbian forces
to agree to all allied demands. In fact, the UN forces assigned to protect
the Muslims of Srebrenica, who were led to believe they would be safe in the
UN declared six “safe areas”, pulled out and abandoned the victims to be
During the second Congo war, in which nearly 5 million people lost their
lives, the UN failed to intervene effectively or carry out humanitarian aid.
Allowing Iraq to defy its will for 12 years without responding emboldened
Saadam Hussein and left the UN badly battered. The UN's chronic failure to
enforce its own 17 resolutions against Iraq, including 1441, a resolution of
last resort, proved that it was clearly not up to the task. Under its watch
North Korea has gone nuclear and Iran is soon to follow.
To this day, the UN can't agree on a new treaty against terrorism because
member states can't agree on how to define it.
The UN is scandal ridden. In the Congo, Bosnia, East Timor, Cambodia and
Kosovo UN peacekeepers have been accused of raping and sexually abusing the
women and children they were sent to protect. Add to this the oil-for-food
program which took billions intended for hungry Iraqis and gave it instead
to Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to bribe French and Russian businesses
and to the U.N.'s own man in charge, Benon Savan, and a disturbing picture
Consider also the farcical Human Rights Commission, now known as The Human
Rights Council (UNHRC). In 2001, the US lost its seat, while tyrannical
Libya and slave owning Sudan, among the world's worst human rights abusers,
have served as its chair, along with members that have included Zimbabwe,
Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, China,
Madagascar, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These despotic and human rights
violators sit in judgment on themselves and others. A bad record, it seems,
is no bar to membership on this commission.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch has complained: "The
reason highly abusive governments flock to the Commission is to prevent
condemnation of themselves and their kind, and most of the time they
succeed." Kofi Annan belatedly admitted that the commission,
euphemistically, had a “credibility deficit.”
There is one country that the UNHRC has focused most on. Israel.
UN scholar Anne Bayefsky has noted that the Human Rights Council has:
"Passed more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191
U.N. members combined. The council has one (of only 10) formal agenda items
dedicated to criticizing Israel. And one agenda item to consider the human
rights of the remaining 99.9 percent of the world's population. ... It has
terminated human rights investigations on Belarus, Cuba, Liberia, and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. And all investigations of 'consistent
patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and
all fundamental freedoms' in such states as Iran, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have been 'discontinued.'"
No wonder that the Goldstone report (established by the UNHRC to investigate
Operation Cast Lead in Gaza) has been found to be highly problematic and
Since the 1960’s, almost 30 per cent of the resolutions passed by the UNHRC
have been aimed at Israel, and of the 10 emergency special sessions ever
convened, six have been directed at Israel. Israel is the only country with
its own UN monitor, the Special Commission to Investigate Israeli Practices
Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the
Occupied Territories. The UN failed to sanction Saddam Hussein when he
"rewarded" Palestinian homicide bombers for murdering Israelis.
The United Nations General Assembly has been, for the most part, a platform
for denunciations of Israel. In 1975, the General Assembly passed the
infamous 'Zionism is racism' resolution, later rescinded, that marked the
anti-Israel campaign that continues to this day. Then US Ambassador to the
UN Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan recalled in his book A Dangerous Place,
that the shameless resolution was not only aimed against Israel but also
against world Jewry. Intellectual William F. Buckley observed at the time
that the UN had become “the most concentrated gathering of anti-Semitism
since the days of Hitler’s Germany” while Lionel Trilling maintained that
with this legal travesty the ghost of Hitler haunted the halls of the UN.
When the first declaration on religious intolerance was passed in 1981,
anti-Semitism was excluded, while in the infamous 2001 World Conference
against Racism in Durban references to Anti-Semitism were excised from
almost all sections of the final declaration. In November 2003 Kofi Annan
refused to publicly support a proposed General Assembly declaration
At the 2001 UN Durban Racism Conference, Israel, out of all of the
dictatorships and serial rights abusers, was singled out as a racist state.
In 2003, the General Assembly passed four resolutions focusing on specific
countries, reserving 18 for Israel alone. China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE,
Yemen and Zimbabwe were spared rebuke. Even a resolution against Sudan,
guilty of cross amputation, death by hanging, crucifixion, and stoning women
to death for adultery, was defeated.
In 2004, Israel was discussed, for five straight days, under the guise of
self determination, racism and then was the only item on the Human Rights
Commission’s agenda dedicated in its entirety to one member state, when all
191 countries were treated jointly under a separate item.
And when in May 2004, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN’s special envoy to Iraq (who
boasted that he has never knowingly shaken hands with an Israeli or a Jew)
told reporters that “the policy of Israel is a poison in the mid- East”,
Annan’s spokesman said that Brahimi was speaking in his personal capacity
and brings to the table strongly held views.
Up until recently, Israel was the only country denied membership in any UN
In 2000, following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, three Israeli soldiers
patrolling the U.N.-overseen Lebanese border were kidnapped by Hezbollah
terrorists. When Israel learned that Indian peacekeepers from the United
National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had videotaped the kidnapping it
asked for the tapes. Both UNIFIL commanders and Terje Roed-Larsen, the
Secretary General's personal representative to the Middle East said no such
tape existed. Eventually, the UN admitted it possesed the tape, which could
have helped Israel in tracking down the kidnappers, but refused to release
it, claiming it wanted to remain neutral. The UN later admitted it had
second tape related to the kidnapping. After 10 months of intense pressure,
it allowed Israeli officials to view the tapes. Ultimately, it was concluded
that the three soldiers were pronounced murdered. When The U.S. House
Middle East Subcommittee convened a hearing on the deaths of the three
Israeli soldiers, its chair Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen lambasted the
United Nations for aiding the Hezbollah terrorists. The tapes were of vital
importance to Israel since it believed that the Hezbollah were disguised as
U.N. peacekeepers and were therefore able to lure the soldiers.
Indeed, against the abiding saga of abiding animosity, one journalist has
speculated that perhaps the UN regrets its decision to establish the state
of Israel in 1948.
Believe it or not, but three years ago Zimbabwe was elected to head the UN
Commission on Sustainable Development. How anyone could choose the
government of Robert Mugabe, a regime that has destroyed the country’s human
and natural resources and starved its people is mind-boggling. When you
consider that North Korea currently sits on the executive boards of both The
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the U.N. Development Program
it’s clear that something is not right. Two years ago, on the same day that
Iran informed the world that it could now enrich uranium, it was re-elected
as vice chair of the U.N. Disarmament Commission. This was despite the U.N.
Disarmament Commission ruling that Iran violated its non-proliferation
resolutions. Eric Shawn, author of The U.N. Exposed: How the United Nations
Sabotages America's Security and Fails the World said of Iran’s election,
"If there isn't a more blatant example of the hypocrisy and meaninglessness
of some of the decisions over there, I don't know what is. You can't make
this stuff up." Syria, on the US State Department’s list of terrorist
nations for the last 30 years was elected as the U.N. Disarmament Commission
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) has also failed to live up to its mission and founding ideals. It
awarded Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s brutal dictator (accused of murder,
torture and slave labour of children) the prestigious gold Borobudur medal
in 2006 for “strengthening friendship and cooperation between nations,
development of cultural and religious dialogue, and supporting cultural
diversity”. This was after the European Union voted in October 2005 to
partially suspend its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with
Uzbekistan—the first time it has ever done so with any country.
In 2006, UNESCO awarded another tyrant, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez,
the José Martí International Prize, given to those who have contributed to
the “struggle for liberty”. The prize was personally presented to Chavez by
Cuban president Fidel Castro. Perhaps the prize was for Chavez taking the UN
stage and calling President Bush the devil, saying “it smells of sulfur
still today" a day after Bush addressed the world body. And just this month,
UNESCO sponsored a conference in Beirut that gave international “resistance
organisations” such as Hezbollah a forum to attack Israel and the United
Last October, Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s minister for Culture narrowly lost his
bid to become UNESCO's next director general after he was considered a
shoo-in to win the election. In May 2008, Hosny publicly vowed to personally
burn any Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries, a pledge that led
several leading intellectuals and peace activists, including Nobel Prize
winner Elie Wiesel, to call on the UN to “spare itself the shame" of
choosing such a leader. Reporters Without Borders, the Journalism watchdog,
said Hosni did not show his support for the freedom of expression - one of
UNESCO's underlying missions - and said that he was “one the main actors of
censorship in Egypt”. After his loss Hosni blamed “Zionist pressures” and an
unnamed group of Jewish leaders who wielded influence on the elections.
The real problem is that the UN does not distinguish between brutal
dictatorships such as North Korea or Syria and free, democratic societies
such as Australia. There are fewer than 50 democracies among its 192
To put it bluntly, any genocidal, theocratic or terrorist state is welcomed.
That is why Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust
and has openly called for Israel to be wiped off the map, has been twice
invited to speak from the United Nations General Assembly podium. His 2009
speech, in which he accused Jews of seeking to "establish a new form of
slavery and harm the reputation of other nations…to attain its racist
ambitions" was full of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic language which prompted
11 countries to walk out, including Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Great
Britain and France.
A few days later Israel’s PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, hit back at Ahmadinejad's
questioning of the Holocaust. Holding up the protocol of the 1942 conference
at Wannsee, Berlin, where senior Nazis decided on the extermination of
European Jewry, and the blueprints for Auschwitz, including gas chambers and
crematoria - where more than one million Jews were murdered - Netanyahu
castigated U.N. delegates who remained for Ahmadinejad's speech, “To those
who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the
Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no
decency? A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a
man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to
wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter
of the United Nations!"
One of the suggestions put forward is that democracies stand united in
campaigning more vigorously for human rights initiatives and attempt to
change the membership qualifications so as to exclude brutal and
authoritarian regimes. Former presidential candidate, Senator John McCain
has called for the establishment of a League of Democracies, “a group of
"like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace." However, the
idea of a United Democratic Nations to substitute the UN has not been
pursued seriously by any country.
With a budget of $3 billion and a staff of some 15,000 the Secretary General
of the UN does not lack resources to take a strong stance on a host of
issues and to act decisively. Money is not the problem.
The UN has been often derided as an ageing toothless tiger in decline, an
undemocratic, inefficient, secretive, unaccountable body that needs to take
a long, hard, unbiased look at itself. The question is whether the UN’s time
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