Over in Turtle Bay, the U.N. General Assembly is now wrapping up its key fall session. After taking a good hard look at human rights violations around the globe, it has come to the following conclusions about the world’s ills: In 2010, eighty percent of all its condemnations of alleged human rights abuses – twenty-one resolutions – will have been directed at Israel alone.
The Assembly will also finish the year having decided that only six more of the 192 U.N. member states raise human rights concerns. Warranting a single resolution each are Afghanistan, Burma, Georgia, Iran, North Korea, and the United States.
This astonishing result percolates up primarily from the General Assembly’s main committees, such as the third committee on humanitarian affairs and the fourth committee on decolonization which finish their business before Thanksgiving. All U.N. members sit in each of these committees, so that over the past two months a thousand diplomats have huddled in meetings and churned out documents, speeches, webcasts and press releases.
All these busy bees, however, could not manage to come up with a single resolution about the horrors in Sudan – where reports of government forces killing and raping civilians in Darfur continue to surface. Tens of thousands have fled in fear this year alone, while humanitarian relief is deliberately impeded by the government in Khartoum.
Nor did the General Assembly think Haiti warranted a resolution, though the U.N. is at the center of recent riots amid claims that its peacekeepers have fueled the cholera epidemic already affecting eighteen thousand residents.
The billion Chinese without elementary civil and political rights went unnoticed.
Millions of Saudi women, trapped in their homes at the will of their male guardians, were forgotten.
And no mention was made of the other myriad number of non-democracies and human rights basket cases where torture, female genital mutilation and gross violations of every kind are routine.
The virtual ban on country-specific human rights resolutions – except when it comes to demonizing the Jewish state – is a result of a theory of international human rights protection that has taken the U.N. by storm. It goes by many names, such as “non-selectivity,” “impartiality,” “objectivity,” and “de-politicization.” “Naming and shaming” used to be considered an important tool for encouraging change.
At the Assembly last week, Sudan described the prevailing view of this now out-of-vogue idea. Too “negative” they called it. Today, it’s all about “constructive dialogue.”
Every U.N. diplomat, of course, can translate this babble. “Non-selectivity" means don’t select my state, or any of my pals, for criticism. "Politicization" means any politics that is not in sync with my state's politics is unacceptable. The game is really an old Soviet trick for avoiding scrutiny and criticism, which Islamic states and dictatorships everywhere have fully embraced.
The problem is that Western governments have recently fallen for this nonsense too. Only two weeks ago the Obama administration sat in the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and allowed the United States and its human rights record to be ridiculed by some of the world’s most notorious abusers – in the name of even-handedness.
A few days later, on November 9, the Council followed-up by presenting the administration with a list of recommended reforms, itemized together with the proud sponsors. They included: “end all forms of racial discrimination” (Libya); “ensure the implementation of U.S. obligations under international humanitarian law…” (Iran); “end excessive use of force by law enforcement bodies” (China); and “ban torture and other ill-treatment in U.S. detention facilities” (North Korea).
How did the Obama administration react to this travesty? Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, told the assembled: “The work of this very Council is very close to the history and culture of our country.” -- A rolling-over-in-the-grave moment for Founding Fathers, if there ever was one.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is the only senator to insist on an annual accounting of all the money U.S. taxpayers send to the U.N. every year. He finally extracted the information for the fiscal year 2009: $6.35 billion, or about 23% of the U.N.’s budget from all sources.
Isn’t it about time our dollars were put to better use?
Anne Bayefsky is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.