Published September 24, 2002
A statement went almost unnoticed in President Bush's Sept. 12 address to the United Nations General Assembly on Iraq.
The president pledged to rejoin UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- from which the U.S. had withdrawn in protest in 1984. Rejoining is a mistake.
The U.N. and its alphabet-soup agencies are committed to spreading a politically correct agenda on issues such as gender around the globe. The U.N. is a corrupt, mismanaged and power-hungry organization that has contempt for the U.S. and for individual rights.
UNESCO is not the benign agency it is sometimes painted as, as President Reagan discovered. In the early '80s, American tax dollars were funding about 25 percent of UNESCO's bloated budget which -- it was discovered -- went largely to fund leftist causes or into the pockets of then Director-General Mahtar M'Bow and his cronies.
The rest of the American tax money went into producing proposals such as UNESCO's "New World Information Order," approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 1974. The policy required journalists around the world to be licensed to practice so that cultural bias in reporting could be prevented through the threat of revocation or non-issuance. Translation: Western journalists and their values would no longer be allowed to "dominate."
In exiting UNESCO with congressional support, Reagan declared the agency "extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited a hostility toward the basic institutions of a free society, especially a free market and a free press."
In re-entering UNESCO, Bush stated that the "organization has been reformed." UNESCO's critics, such as the Heritage Foundation, dispute the effectiveness of reorganization within the notoriously corrupt agency. But, assuming UNESCO has been ably reformed, what is its true mission? What will the U.S. be funding to the tune of at least $60 million a year?
UNESCO's first Director-General Julian Huxley prepared the official document "UNESCO, Its Purpose and Its Philosophy" in 1946. Speaking of a need to transcend traditional religions and political-economic doctrines (e.g. free trade), Huxley declared, "The task before UNESCO ... is to help the emergence of a single world culture, with its own philosophy and background of ideas, and with its own broad purposes." [Emphasis added] He wrote of the "transfer of full sovereignty from separate nations to a world organization."
UNESCO's current mission statement speaks in vague terms of contributing "to peace and security in the world ... in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms."
The ideology lurking beneath the noble vagueness can be judged by which issues UNESCO addresses and which it skirts.
UNESCO is ambitious in the area of bioethics. This is the crossroads between medical science and morality that includes issues such as abortion, cloning, euthanasia, population control, and gene therapy. According to a 2000 address by Koichiro Matsuura, then director-general of UNESCO, the agency's objective was "the construction of a shared bioethics, that is, of universal principles in bioethics." It has established active sub-agencies like the UNESCO Bioethics Committee and International Regulation of Gene Therapy.
Huxley predicted this focus in his 1946 document. He wrote, "Even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable."
One bioethical issue UNESCO skirts is China's one-child policy, established in 1979. For decades, the policy has forced women who exceed the government-approved number of children to abort, even in the late pregnancy.
Among the millions of the policy's victims are the first-born infant girls killed by parents who are desperate for a son to support them in old age. UNESCO itself estimates such deaths at "more than one million."
Why, then, is there no official condemnation of the one-child policy, which is arguably the greatest bioethical atrocity on the globe? UNESCO makes clear and official statements of what should be legal regarding gene therapy. Yet it seems unable to come up with a firm statement on one-child policies. UNESCO's Web site includes articles defending -- as well as critiquing -- China's policy, as though the murder of millions of female infants was a debatable issue. UNESCO seems determined to support the family planning programs of the U.N. which has been complicit in the slaughter.
The U.N. and UNESCO have no respect for individual rights or for America. One day after the U.S. was voted off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, commentator Juan Williams asked Mary Robinson -- then U.N. high commissioner on human rights -- if she worried about America withholding funds. She replied "I hope the Americans see it as a wake-up call to take a more positive approach." She believed Americans should try to "earn their way back" onto U.N. committees.
A more accurate phrasing is "buy" their way back. The U.S. should walk away.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.