Published February 23, 2011
As the body count rises from the brutal repression of revolt in Libya, the United Nations is abruptly cutting some of its intimate ties with members of the ruling family of despot Muammar al-Qaddafi.
In response to a question from Fox News, a spokesman for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency, revealed that his organization had just terminated the appointment of Qaddafi’s daughter Aisha as a National UNDP Goodwill Ambassador For Libya, “following the recent events.”
The “recent events” was a reference to the increasingly bloody repression of revolt in Libya, where anywhere from 200 to 1,000 dissidents have reportedly been killed, and where Aisha Qaddafi’s brother, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, has declared that he will fight “to the last bullet” to preserve his father’s regime.
The separation between Aisha Qaddafi and UNDP was no doubt painful for both sides. Ms Qaddafi is Secretary General of a Libyan welfare organization called the Waatasemu Charity Association, and her goodwill ambassadorship, announced in July 2009, was part of an effort to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and the issue of violence toward women, both sensitive topics in Libya.
Ms Qaddafi’s charity was also generous to UNDP in other ways, donating $1.5 million for construction of a co-educational elementary school for Palestinian children in Gaza, which was slated to begin construction in January.
UNDP’s spokesman justified the separation by citing a U.N. Guideline governing the appointment of Goodwill Ambassadors or Messengers of Peace, calling for termination of the relationship “if the Messenger of Peace or Goodwill Ambassador engages in any activity incompatible with his/her status or with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, or if the termination is in the interest of the Organization.”
UNDP was also hastily creating a similar distance between itself and Aisha’s brother Saif, whose own charitable vehicle, the Qaddafi Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF), was granted official observer status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) by the U.N. in January 2009.
The UNDP announcement of that status cited a “long and healthy partnership” between the Qaddafi foundation and the U.N., which included “numerous successful projects.”
The effusive 2009 UNDP announcement came at a time when Saif Qaddafi was being lionized, especially in Europe, as a reformer who would modernize and perhaps abate the stultifying Qaddafi dictatorship as his father faded from the scene.
But by this week, the enthusiasm was greatly muted. The sole “successful project” cited by UNDP in response to questions from Fox News about the touted partnership was a project to eliminate land mines in Libya, carried out by the Libyan De-mining Society, an NGO that operates “under the supervision of GICDF” but is ostensibly separate from it.
That project, started in 2009, involved UNDP creation of a mine removal manual emphasizing a “humanitarian approach” to the activity, provision of a “mine action management course” for “a wide variety of stakeholders” and the passing on of an undefined “gender guideline” to local mine removal staff, and cost $255,000. It ended in 2010, according to the spokesman.
The UNDP official made no mention of other programs involving the U.N. agency and Saif Qaddafi’s charity, some of which were referenced in the original UNDP press release bestowing special status on GICDF. These included additional HIV/AIDS awareness work, and a plan to increase Libyan community involvement in environmental protection.
In addition, UNDP said at the time, “new opportunities for cooperation are being discussioned by U.N, UNDP and the Qaddafi Foundation, to further cement this partnership and take advantage of the new avenues of cooperation offered by the foundation’s official U.N. NGO status.”
Apparently not any longer. This week, in an apparent attempt to downplay the Qaddafi charity’s U.N. observer status, officials in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), where NGO status is recorded, had added a badly spelled entry that underlined the fact that the charity did not have the additional distinction of “consultative” status, meaning the right to address official meetings.
But whether consultative in status or not, the Qaddafi charity was apparently still talking a language the U.N. is hardly ever unhappy to hear: the ringing tones of cash.
A statement on the Gaddafi charity website announced that the organization six months ago signed a $50 million deal with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNWRA, to build 1,250 new homes in Gaza as replacements for those it claims were destroyed by Israel
It remains to be seen whether Libya’s largesse will have any effect on deliberations of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where the European Union is pressing for an investigation of “extremely grave human rights violations” in connection with the repression of protesters during the upheaval.
Libya itself is a member of the council, until 2013. Among the nations also serving as members of the 48-nation Council are such jittery Arab states as Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia—and such other despotisms as Cuba and China.
George Russell is executive editor of Fox News