Then again, it is important to recall that these organizations cost us a lot of money, which they tend to use to try to undermine democratic nation states. So, keeping a weather eye on them is of some importance.
First up, as ever, is the United Nations, now under new management and not a whit better for that.
It seems that UN peacekeeping troops will not be sent to Chad because the situation there is too volatile. Undoubtedly so, but I was under the impression that it is the peacekeepers’ job to ensure that the situation gets less volatile. I suppose, that would be called peacemaking.
The two SecGens have differed on what ought to be done.
Unlike his predecessor, Ban made no recommendation on whether the council should deploy a U.N. peacekeeping force to Chad and neighboring Central African Republic to help thousands of civilians caught in local fighting and the spillover of Sudan's Darfur conflict.There is a risk, said Ban Ki-moon, the new SecGen that the UN troops will be seen as interfering with the military agenda of the various groups, particularly Chadian rebels, based in Sudan and, therefore, legitimate targets for attack. And there I was thinking that it is only the evil Americans and British who could find themselves in such a situation.
In one of his final reports, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended against deploying peacekeepers to the two countries until all parties agree to a cease-fire and start talks aimed at a political solution. He cited the risk to troops and very difficult logistics.
Ban stressed that a lasting solution to the crisis in both countries depends on their leaders. He urged the governments "to move forward rapidly and to muster the political will and establish peace and stability in their countries and in the region."Meanwhile, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, a sensible website that, nevertheless, suffers from an idea that somehow the UN can be reformed and improved, published and editorial piece in the New York Sun.
In it he takes on Jeffrey Laurenti, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a former adviser to Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation, who finds the make-up of the “new” UN Human Rights Council, still packed with countries who would not recognize human rights if they met them in the street.
"The biggest institutional overhaul to emerge from outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan's U.N. reform drive," wrote Mr. Laurenti, "was the upgrading of the policy body overseeing human rights to a yearround Council, four-fifths of whose members are bona fide democracies; the Council's nation-specific focus on war-fighting excesses by Israel and Sudan, however, offended the West and Islamists respectively."As Mr Neuer says, “never have so few words on a U.N. subject managed to convey so much misinformation”.
Firstly, it is not exactly accurate to say that the body has been upgraded. It may meet more often than its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights met but, so far, it has not even censured a single country with abysmal human rights record. Even the Commission managed to odd censure.
Secondly, Mr Laurenti shows himself to be part of the problem as he equates Israel’s defence against Hamas and Hezbollah attacks with the mass murder, torture, rape and ethnic cleansing that are being conducted by the janweed militias in Darfur with the full approval of the Sudanese government.
Instead, the council so far has devoted 100% of its condemnations — three special sessions and eight resolutions — to one-sided attacks against Israel, granting immunity to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism. The world's major Western democracies, Mr. Annan, and even harsh critics of Israel like Amnesty International have decried the council's politically motivated bias.How bad were these condemnations if former SecGen Kofi Annan and Amnesty International have decried them?
Then there is the question of the bona fide democracies that, according to Mr Laurenti, make up the Council. Of course, a body that deals with human rights ought to be made up entirely of bona fide democracies and countries where the rule of law is paramount but even four fifths would be an achievement if it were true.
These are the 47 members:
Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia, Brazil, France, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Japan, Mali, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Switzerland, Uruguay
A mixed batch, to put it mildly. According to Freedom House’s annual survey about half the members of the Council do not meet the basic standards of full democracy.
So, where does this assessment of four fifths come from? This is Mr Neuer’s idea:
He [Jeffrey Laurenti] apparently refers to the fact that 37 council members have signed on to the Community of Democracies, a loose association of over 100 countries, membership to which requires little. Under Mr. Laurenti's definition, "bona fide democracies" include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Morocco, and Vladimir Putin's Russia — regimes that jail journalists, trample basic freedoms, or commit systematic torture.The Community of Democracies is an interesting organization, since, at times, it has been suggested as an alternative to the severely discredited United Nations. Set up in Poland in 2000, its Council’s “mission statement” is as follows:
CCD is different from the many NGOs that promote democracy. We believe that an environment of cooperation among nations offers the best hope for resolving the critical problems of our age and that an organization of democracies acting in concert is a vital step in that direction. What distinguishes us is that CCD is the only nongovernmental organization in the world with an exclusive focus on the Community of Democracies. We believe that an effective way to consolidate the gains of democratic expansion is by strengthening that Community. We view this effort, which includes the creation of a Democracy Caucus in the UN, as a means toward our long-range goal -- consolidating democracy globally by constructing an enduring framework enabling democracies to act in concert on the issues of concern to mankind.A good deal of it makes sense, though one cannot help wondering what a Democracy Caucus in the UN might achieve. Also, despite its desire to keep the international bureaucracy to a minimum, organizations and institutes seem to have been set up in various places.
The problem is, of course, the signatories to the original document that includes such democratic countries as Bangladesh, Haiti, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela.
A secondary problem is the asserted principles of the organization, the first one being “our common adherence to the purposes and principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” with only the fourth one mentioning “democratic values”.
The long list of democratic principles and practices are routinely ignored in several of the signatories and a large proportion of UN member states. For instance, does the Arab Republic of Egypt really uphold the principles of
The right of every person to freedom of opinion and of expression, including to exchange and receive ideas and information through any media, regardless of frontiers.Somehow, I find that hard to believe after yesterday’s news.
The right of every person to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.