Thursday, March 31, 2005

UN a Mockery

SO Kofi Annan is "struggling with depression", according to British newspaper The Sunday Times, and on the verge of stepping down as head of the UN.

And why shouldn't he be? Meanwhile, and more dramatically, the continued march of democracy throughout the Middle East and beyond suggests the UN is more interested in preserving sclerotic dictatorships than encouraging liberal, representative governments.

Most worryingly for Annan, the independent inquiry into the Iraqi oil-for-palaces (sorry, oil-for-food) scandal is coming ever closer to the secretary-general's doorstep: Not only does his son Kojo's company, Cotecna, keep cropping up in connection with the scam, but it appears the senior Annan knew much more than he let on about his offspring's dealings with Saddam Hussein's regime.

But even if Annan's days -- if not those of the UN -- are numbered, that does not mean that the busybodies of Turtle Bay, New York, and Geneva, Switzerland, are not still finding plenty of things to do. Like meddle in Australian politics, for example. In a fantastic example of being critical of the speck in someone else's eye while missing the plank in one's own, the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has come to the conclusion that human rights and multicultural tolerance in John Howard's Australia are as rare as Tasmanian tigers. Voluntary student unionism today, compulsory re-education camps tomorrow.

The report, available through the website of the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights (, makes for some entertaining reading -- and is also a cautionary tale about the dangerous fallacy of "international law".

One of the committee's big problems in the report is that some Australian states and territories have mandatory sentencing requirements for certain crimes. This is problematic for the UN because more indigenous people are sent to jail under these laws than members of other ethnic groups -- something which, in the perverse correlation-proves-causality logic of the UN, proves Australia racist. (The idea that mandatory sentences might also lead to a colour-blind judiciary apparently never occurred to them.) Under UN thinking, Australia's democratically elected state and territorial governments are free to make their own laws -- so long as they don't offend a body whose voting members are mostly very non-democratic countries.

The report shows even more of the committee's cards when it "notes with concern reports that prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in Australia has increased and that the enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation may have an indirect discriminatory effect against Arab and Muslim Australians", and recommends that "enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation not disproportionately impact on specific ethnic groups and people of other national origin". This is both dangerous and disingenuous: while most Arabs and Muslims are expressly not terrorists, only a fool would look at who seems most determined to bring Western civilisation to grief these days and not make the connection.

Yet tellingly, while the UN was happy to take a bunch of "reports" about anti-Muslim behaviour on faith, the committee also made no mention of the very real rise in anti-Semitism in Australia during the past few years - or that suburban Islamic bookstores openly sell anti-Jewish and anti-Christian propaganda, including the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction?

There are, of course, multiple reasons for the UN's actions: for one thing, the committee was subject to an intense lobbying campaign by professional activists who believe Australia is just one big, sunny gulag, only we're all too blind to see it. For another, Australia has hardly played ball with the UN lately; not only did we side with the US in Iraq but five years ago, after a similar report, Alexander Downer had the courage to say: "We are a democratically elected government in one of the most liberal and democratic countries you will find on earth. And if a UN committee wants to play domestic politics here in Australia, then it will end up with a bloody nose."

These days, the UN has got a lot more than a bloody nose - it is also facing a crisis of legitimacy that has been coming for years. From the start, its biggest problem has been that, to paraphrase the old joke about the Holy Roman Empire, it is neither united nor comprised of nations. Far too many of the member-states did not earn their nationhood in any sort of real way (by, say, populating and cultivating territory or fighting a war of independence) but because someone a long time ago drew some lines on a map. And as modern history has proven, the resulting governments treat their citizens with about as much respect. For the UN to call Australia out for racism and human rights violations would be a joke if it weren't so serious.


Blogger English Professor said...

Very informative post, Michelle. Now, if only we could get Sudan to issue some statements about violence in the inner cities . . .

12:24 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Amy~ I just feel the UN has so much to answer. I loathe the hypocracy.

7:36 AM  

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