Resources updated Tuesday, March 14, 2017
March 14, 2017
The UN Human Rights Council, currently in the midst of a four-week session in Geneva, will have more reports on Israel than on Iran, North Korea and Syria combined. There are five reports on Israel, two on Iran and one each on North Korea and Syria. The Council calls for the production of these reports in prior sessions, and then the UN secretariat in Geneva and New York goes to work producing them as part of their daily routine all year round. The reports then lead to new resolutions by the Council condemning Israel, and these resolutions in turn call for another set of reports. The General Assembly appropriates the funds for the Council's cycle of anti-Israel reporting, condemning and resolution-passing - leaving the U.S. taxpayer footing 22% of the bill.
Here are the reports to be considered at the current Council session on Israel and three of the world's worst human rights abusers:
While the Trump administration has currently decided to remain on the UN "Human Rights" Council in the hope of "reforming" it, Council participants have a different idea. The Council is currently in session in Geneva and heard on March 3, 2017 from the expert "rapporteur" it appointed to deal with the subject of torture. Ben Emmerson told the Council that "irresponsible" President Trump made his "blood run cold," and was motivated by "jingoistic populism."
Here is just part of what the Human Rights Council's appointee had to say:
"To hear President Trump in the first days after his inauguration, grimly extolling the virtues of torture as a weapon in the fight against terrorism and confirming his personal willingness to authorize the use of torture if asked to do so was enough to make the blood run cold. It shows a staggering level of ill-preparedness to govern. To think that the current president of the United States would be prepared for reasons of jingoistic populism to reintroduce what is arguably the single greatest act of lawlessness perpetrated by the Bush administration, to fuel the resentment that stokes the risk of terrorism, and to add hypocrisy to the charges which ISIS levels at the West in its relentless recruitment drives – all this leaves one wondering whether lasting progress in this field is ever going to be possible. If one of the world's most powerful nations, a permanent member of the Security Council, is once again prepared to abandon our collective values on the pretext of defending them, then one is left to wonder whether anything at all has been achieved in the last 15 years. The constant refrain from the Security Council – that terrorism must be fought in ways that are compatible with international law and in particular international human rights law – rings hollow when the head of state of one of its 5 permanent members makes irresponsible statements of his willingness to authorize international crimes."
The UN may not have a definition of terrorism, but it does know the core of its counter-terrorism responsibilities: protecting the human rights of terrorists. A UN "special rapporteur," or expert, on protecting human rights while countering terrorism has "strongly" recommended the UN establish a new counter-terrorism office that would, at its core, be responsible for protecting human rights in counter-terrorism efforts.
The recommendation was made in special rapporteur Ben Emmerson's report the UN Human Rights Council, currently in a month-long session in Geneva.
In his words:
"...the Special Rapporteur strongly recommends the establishment of a new office of Under-Secretary-General for counter-terrorism coordination, whose responsibilities would include, at their core, the protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism and which would work in close cooperation with, and on the advice of, OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights]."
"Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland at the UN Human Rights Council on March 3, 2017, the representative of Qatar, Ali Khalfan Al-Mansouri, called for distinguishing "terrorism" from "resistance." The remark was made following a UN expert's presentation of a report on human rights while countering terrorism.
In his words:
"Moreover, we need to distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate resistance, which is the right of peoples who suffer from occupation and oppression."
During a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 7, 2017, Iran – which executes individuals for homosexual conduct under its Sharia law - called sexual orientation a "non-issue" as it relates to religious freedom. The remark was made in response to the inclusion of language addressing discrimination against the LGBT community in a UN expert's report on religious freedom.
In the words of Tofigh Sedigh Mostahkam, the representative for Iran:
"We are also concerned that the issue of sexual orientation, in other words the LGBT issue, has been mentioned in the report of the Special Rapporteur, which is a non-issue with regard to the report."
"This week brings fresh reports that the Trump White House wants to slash funding to the United Nations, possibly by as much as 50%. That would be a wise move, and if that's what actually happens, it would be a good start and a welcome signal -- the first from an American president in many years -- that it is time for the UN to stop treating Washington as a moronic sugar-daddy. It is way past time for the UN (and Washington itself) to stop treating U.S. tax dollars as a multi-billion-dollar annual entitlement for the bigots and thug governments that so amply populate Turtle Bay. It is time for the U.S. to stop shelling out roughly $10 billion per year for the benefit of a UN in which, for instance, the member states have just elected -- I'm not kidding -- the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, as head of the largest voting caucus at the UN assemblies in Vienna.
But behind any move to slash UN funding loom a number of questions. What, precisely, might America hope to achieve? Where can this go? If the aim is to reform the UN, is that even possible?
The usual defense of the UN is that it may be 'imperfect,' but 'it's all we've got' -- a refrain that tends to be accompanied by prescriptions for reforms that either won't stick, or won't work at all.
My argument is, if the UN is all we've got, then it is way past time to come up with something else.
And while it happens fairly often that columnists here and there (myself included) will call for defunding the UN, replacing the UN, supplanting the UN, and so forth, there is very little in the public domain that actually explores, in serious ways, in detail, with the benefit of real expertise, exactly how America might divorce itself from the UN, and avail itself of arrangements more appropriate to the 21st century.
In the elite circles of Washington and New York, there has long been an implicit taboo on any serious call for the U.S. to shrug off the UN. It's time to end that taboo. It is time for a real debate. It is time for some of those with the know-how, resources, and genuine goodwill toward future generations, to take a serious, in-depth look at the opportunity cost to America of cleaving to the UN. What possibilities are we passing up, in order to maintain this multilateral morass? Is the UN really the best we can do? Could we please start asking these questions not as a rhetorical flourish, but as serious questions?
In my Broadside on 'What to Do About the UN,' I argue that the UN, for all the high-minded aims of its charter, is basically configured to fail, and is doing so in ways increasingly dangerous to the U.S.
The UN, for all its flowery promises, was designed with appalling flaws from the start. The UN operates with no real accountability, no functional moral compass, and no mechanism for acquiring any such vital features. The problems that lead almost inevitably to the UN's bigotry, waste and abuse of its lavish funding and ever-expanding mandates are written into its tyrant-friendly, diplomatically-immune collectively-irresponsible DNA. The incentives suggest, and the record goes far to confirm, that for America the effort to genuinely reform the UN is a project about as promising as investing in the golden future of the workhorse, Boxer, in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm.'
Unwinding the U.S. from the UN might seem a daunting project. But surely it is worth asking whether the toll of sticking with the UN might turn out to be even worse. If I may quote from the closing lines of my Broadside on the UN (yes, I am hoping you might be interested to read it in full):
The UN is swift to tout its own achievements, real or imagined. But there is plenty in the record to suggest that the more we understand about the real workings of the U.N., the stronger the case for consigning it to the heap of failed collectivist experiments of the 20th century and for designing better alternatives. Either this task gets done in the not-so-distant future because men of vision and good will put their minds to finding ways to do it. Or it waits upon the aftermath of some cataclysm, toward which the U.N., as now configured, increasingly impels us."