Meeting room of UN Human Rights Council, Geneva
Some of the world’s worst human rights violators have now been placed in charge of protecting the world’s human rights.
China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan are among the 15 countries that have won seats on the UN Human Rights Council in a secret-ballot of the 193-member UN General Assembly.
China jails opponents of the regime and has sent hundreds of thousands of Uighurs into state re-education camps. Russia poisons its dissidents. Pakistan represses Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis. Cuba is a police state.
Farcical as this is, it’s nothing new. The council has often included human rights abusers such as Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Qatar and Venezuela.
Its activities also make a mockery of its remit. “If a state thinks they can conceal the human rights violations they may have committed, or escape criticism by sitting on the Human Rights Council, they are greatly mistaken,” said the council’s spokesman Rolando Gomez. But that is exactly what does happen.
The council routinely ignores violations by tyrannical regimes while perversely and egregiously targeting its condemnations instead at Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East. Since 2006, the council has adopted 90 resolutions condemning Israel — more than all the resolutions against Syria, North Korea and Iran combined.
The US has expressed its disgust over this monstrous travesty of human rights, with the Trump administration pulling out of the council altogether in 2018. To their shame, Britain and the EU remain silent about its intrinsic moral bankruptcy and continue to lend it authority and implicit approval by remaining members. The UK and France are now to take their places on the council once again, with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab having refusedto say whether the UK would support China in the vote.
The reason for the council’s systemic perversity, however, lies deeper — in an existential problem with the UN itself.
Gomez boasted that when the newly elected members take their seats in January, 119 of the 193 UN’s member states will have served on the council, reflecting its diversity and giving the council “legitimacy when speaking out on human rights violations in all countries.”
But this is in fact the essence of the problem. The UN does indeed represent the world — and most countries in the world are tyrannies, authoritarian despotisms or failed states.
The UN’s original membership of 51 states has swelled over the years to 193. This growth transformed it from the defender of freedom into a vector of injustice, corruption and moral indifference. By 1993, only 75 out of 184 member states were free democracies.
Everything changed with the arrival of the non-aligned nations. This bloc of countries, mainly from Asia and Africa, believed the west had dominated the UN for too long. Their numbers enabled them to dominate it instead and suffuse it with a poisonous ideology aimed at taking revenge on the west for their perceived oppression under colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.
Their arrival turned the UN into an intrinsically anti-western body. Having been sidelined by the Cold War, which exposed its irrelevance, the UN became in effect the captive of the Soviet bloc and its allies.
In 1985, the Soviet bloc and its associates introduced a resolution, passed the following year in watered-down form, which was designed to preserve their power to abuse their citizens’ human rights. The UN turned into a platform for anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israel hostility while sanitising or ignoring real human rights abuses.
Yet as if it has turned itself into the chorus to John Lennon’s Imagine, the pathologically guilt-ridden and deluded liberal west (the current Trump administration apart) persists in regarding the UN as a dispassionate and moral arbiter of global peace and security whose sanctified decisions have the authority of holy writ.
By every possible standard, however, the UN has conspicuously failed to live up to its own objectives of maintaining global peace and security.
It has failed to keep peace in the world, failed to stop global conflicts, failed to halt the carnage in Syria. It has done nothing to prevent Islamic jihadi aggression, nothing to halt the horrific mass murder of Christians in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, nothing to stop the murder of opposition politicians and extinction of human rights in country after country.
Instead, the overtly anti-American, anti-western and anti-Israel UN provides a rhetorical shield and effective justification and incitement for tyranny and oppression. It has turned the free societies among its members into effective accomplices to terrorism, genocide and other abuses of human rights.
It’s high time to acknowledge the failure of the original ideal and why it has failed. What’s needed instead is a United Democratic Nations. Such an organisation would command more respect than a trans-national institution founded on the mistaken belief that tyrannies and free societies can be bound together for mutual advantage.
The UN was created as a result of the shattering impact of the Second World War. It was founded on a starry-eyed belief in the brotherhood of man. But if a lion lies down with a lamb, the lion doesn’t turn vegan. The lamb gets eaten.