— United Nations Reform —

September 28, 2010

Not Quite a "Barb"

Justin Katz

So, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in keeping with his usual subject matter, utilized the podium of the United Nations to call for investigation into the conspiracy theory that the United States was behind the 9/11 attacks. And I'm sure he's just a-fearin' all over after the response of our own president:

"It was offensive," Obama said in an interview with the Persian service of the BBC that was to be broadcast to the Iranian people. "It was hateful."

"And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of ground zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable," Obama said.

"Inexcusable" has to be among the most useless words in our era. Especially in the mouth of the current commander in chief, it requires no course of action from anybody and has no implicit threat. Indeed, we could reasonably suppose that the most hedged of apologies from Ahmadinejad would be met with a stumbling eagerness to excuse his comments.

Look, Ahmadinejad is the most prominent face of a theocratic tyranny who appears to revel in the civil bonds with which people whom he sees as his enemies bind themselves, and the United Nations is a band of bureaucrats whose purpose is to further hamstring those nations that are willing thus to be strung. What's truly inexcusable is that the United States offers unquestioning legitimacy to an organization that gives a globally respected platform to tyrants, including seats on laughable human rights committees and conferences designed to marginalize the world's one Jewish nation while they shake down wealthy countries to aid that may be siphoned to dictators' coffers.

November 20, 2007

UN Hyped a Problem to Generate "Awareness"

Marc Comtois

Well hi-diddly-doo! The UN has admitted to over-estimating the AIDS epidemic. First, the reassessment:

The United Nations' top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement.

The latest estimates, due to be released publicly Tuesday, put the number of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40 percent from last year's estimate, documents show. The worldwide total of people infected with HIV -- estimated a year ago at nearly 40 million and rising -- now will be reported as 33 million.

Then we learn that ideology (gasp) affected the reporting of skewed numbers.
Some researchers, however, contend that persistent overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV. Critics have also said that U.N. officials overstated the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial support for combating AIDS.

"There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda," said Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."

The United Nations' AIDS agency, known as UNAIDS and led by Belgian scientist Peter Piot since its founding in 1995, has been a major advocate for increasing spending to combat the epidemic. Over the past decade, global spending on AIDS has grown by a factor of 30, reaching as much as $10 billion a year.

But in its role in tracking the spread of the epidemic and recommending strategies to combat it, UNAIDS has drawn criticism in recent years from Epstein and others who have accused it of being politicized and not scientifically rigorous.

For years, UNAIDS reports have portrayed an epidemic that threatened to burst beyond its epicenter in southern Africa to generate widespread illness and death in other countries. In China alone, one report warned, there would be 10 million infections -- up from 1 million in 2002 -- by the end of the decade.

Piot often wrote personal prefaces to those reports warning of the dangers of inaction, saying in 2006 that "the pandemic and its toll are outstripping the worst predictions."

Sounds like the consensus is changing, huh.

December 5, 2006


Marc Comtois

The U.N. insiders who organized Stopbolton.org are pretty happy that their target has resigned. As Jim Barron's indicates, there can be little doubt that Senator Chafee's refusal to support the nomination of John Bolton to the U.N. was the unsurmountable hurdle. And that is something of which Chafee is quite proud:

Chafee's opposition to Bolton as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee "was what made it not happen," said Chafee spokesman Steven Hourahan. "Without his vote in committee, it wasn't going to go."
Hourahan said Chafee was "very comfortable" with his decision to effectively remove Bolton as ambassador. He said it was "clear that the the American people sent a message," in the November election that they were unhappy with Bolton's confrontational style and the Bush administration's foreign policy...

"Mr. Bolton did not demonstrate the kind of collaborative approach that I believe will be called for if we are to restore the United States' position as the strongest country in a peaceful world," the senator said. "This would be an appropriate time to choose a nominee who has a proven ability to work with both sides of the political aisle, a history of building strong international relationships and a reputation of respect for the institution of the United Nations."

Of course, others disagree and Bolton did accomplish a few things over his short tenure. Even the anti-Bolton folks admit that Bolton was effective in the Security Council. But it was his work in the General Assembly that raised so many hackles inside the U.N., especially Bolton's "incendiary rhetoric."

Continue reading "Bolton"

March 16, 2006

A Challenge to Senator Russell Feingold

Carroll Andrew Morse

At least part of the criticism of Senator Russell Feingold's propsed resolution to censure the President because of the NSA wiretap program concerns the Senator's decision to pursue a symbolic gesture when there are real policy matters to be considered. Here is a policy issue, currently before the US Senate, where Senator Feingold could help lead a more meaningful deliberation about the relationship between executive and legislative authority than he is currently doing.

According to the Washington Post, (h/t Kathryn Jean Lopez from NRO’s Corner) the United Nations is about to create a new body to replace its discredited Commission on Human Rights

The Bush administration indicated Tuesday that it is prepared to help fund and possibly try to join a U.N. Human Rights Council despite deep reservations about the value of the new rights body.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns assured U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Jan Eliasson by telephone that the United States will formally oppose the creation of the council in a General Assembly session Wednesday but supports its overall mission, U.S. and U.N. officials said…

The United States backed a proposal by Annan to set higher standards for membership in the rights body, including a requirement that members get support from two-thirds of the General Assembly to be elected.

But the United States balked at a compromise offered by Eliasson that did not include several of its amendments -- including a proposal to bar countries facing U.N. sanctions from joining -- and that would have required new members be elected by an absolute majority -- at least 96 countries. A final U.S. push to persuade Eliasson to make several changes to the text or to reopen negotiations failed.

There is a conflict brewing here. Any proposal allowing countries facing United Nations sanctions to join human-rights bodies runs counter to two different pieces of legislation currently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (of which Senator Feingold is a member).

This is from Section 201(b) of Senate Bill 1394, which has already been passed by the United States House of Representatives…

(2) A Member State shall be ineligible for membership on any United Nations human rights body if such Member State is (A) subject to sanctions by the Security Council or (B) under a Security Council-mandated investigation for human rights abuses.
A competing bill, Senate Bill 1383, imposes the same requirement in its section 9(b)...
It is the sense of Congress that the United States should use its voice and vote at the United Nations to pursue meaningful reform of international human rights institutions that includes actions by the United Nations…to make ineligible for membership on any United Nations human rights body a Member State that is (A) subject to sanctions by the Security Council or (B) under a Security Council-mandated investigation for human rights abuses.
How is this at all related to the Feingold censure resolution, you ask? The difference between the two bills is that the first bill mandates automatic cuts in UN funding if the UN refuses to implement human rights commission reform (as well as other reforms). The second bill is more of a suggestion than a requirement. It leaves decisions about witholding funding entirely to the discretition of the President

Senator Feingold's Democratic colleagues in the House overwhelmingly supported the second approach, leaving enforcement of UN reform in the hands of the President -- the same President that Senator Feingold wants to censure, because he doesn't trust his judgement on matters of national security. House Republicans overwhelmingly supported the first bill, where UN funding cuts become automatic if reforms are not implemented, no Presidential intervention required.

Will Senator Feingold, supposedly concerned about too much unchecked Presidential authority, lead a Democratic effort to pass the version of UN reform that does not involve Presidential discretion? Or will Senator Feingold's interest in Presidential authority suddenly vanish in a case where Congress would be taking a stronger stand than the executive branch on inhibiting the actions of dictators, terrorists, and other assorted human rights abusers?

February 11, 2006

Congressman Mike Pence on United Nations Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

WASHINGTON D.C. – Mike Pence is one of the authors and the primary sponsors of the “tough” version of United Nations reform currently under consideration by Congress. During a question-and-answer session with Congressman Pence, I had the chance to ask him if he believes that United Nations reform will pass this year.

Congressman Pence thinks that there will be United Nations reform this year, partially through legislation, and partially through the tenacious efforts of John Bolton. Pence characterized the House UN reform bill as setting a timeline for reforms that the United Nations has already embraced on issues like accounting, transparency, and human rights.

Congressman Pence believes that the US must use the power of the purse to implement UN reform with teeth and that his bill does that. He hasn’t seen the latest iteration of the Senate bill, but the Congressman believes that the House and Senate will come together to pass a tough reform bill.

According to Congressman Pence, the UN has “consistently been an utter failure in its core mission, which was to bring the free nations of the world together to confront tyranny in a collective way” evidenced most dramatically by the unwillingness of the UN to follow through on sixteen separate resolutions throughout the 1990s; "it wasn’t that diplomacy failed, it wasn’t that America failed, it was the United Nations that failed".

Congressman Pence believes that if these reforms are not achieved, then the US needs to "seriously consider putting our heads together with the other nations of the earth that are committed to freedom and consider a new forum for the twenty-first century" – a forum that won’t spend "an enormous amount of time trying to tie down this great nation".

August 9, 2005

Maybe the Candidates have a Position on UN Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

Still waiting for Senator Chafee's office to answer my inquiries about UN reform. In the meantime, I sent the following inquiry to the official campaign e-mail addresses of the three Democratic candidates campaiging for US Senate (in alphabetical order by last name), Matt Brown, Carl Sheeler, and Sheldon Whitehouse.

The AnchorRising weblog would like to know Candidate {name}'s position on the following issue…

There are currently two United Nations reform bills before the United States Senate: S1394, which authorizes the withholding of dues if specific reform criteria are not met; and S1383, which leaves any withholding of dues related to failure to reform to the discretion of the President. Does the candidate support either of these reform proposals?

More detailed information about the UN reform proposals is available here.

August 3, 2005

Senator Reed's Position on UN Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

Well, sort of....

Senator Reed’s deputy press secretary left a message in response to my call on UN reform this morning. Senator Reed’s respectable, though not very informative, position is to refrain from commenting until a specific UN reform proposal comes out of the foreign relations committee.

I had also asked if the events of the Bolton nomination would effect the Senator’s willingness to trust the President with broad powers to withhold UN dues. The Senator’s spokesman did not comment on this part of my question. (Nothing in this post should be construed as implying that the Senator’s staff is being less than 100% forthcoming in providing the Senator’s position. I am just pointing out that a position does not seem to exist yet.)

The details of the UN reform proposals can be found here. In the Senate, the Hyde-Pence bill has been designated S1394.

July 27, 2005

The Gory Details of the UN reform bills

Carroll Andrew Morse

No word today from my Senators on their positions on UN reform.

Here are some of the gory details. This is from Section 601 of the House version of UN reform.

(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4) and in accordance with paragraph (2), until such time as all certifications (or alternate certifications) are submitted in accordance with subsection (a), the United States shall appropriate, but withhold from expenditure, 50 percent of the contributions of the United States to the regular assessed budget of the United Nations for a biennial period.
I believe it is the Secretary of State doing the certifying. What types of things are being certified? Most are bureaucratic/personnel type matters. But a few are higher-level policy matters. Here is an example (from Section 201, paragraph (b)) related to the Human Rights Commission
(1) A Member State that fails to uphold the values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shall be ineligible for membership on any United Nations human rights body.
(2) A Member State shall be ineligible for membership on any United Nations human rights body if such Member State is (A) subject to sanctions by the Security Council; or (B) under a Security Council-mandated investigation for human rights abuses.
(3) A Member State that is currently subject to an adopted country specific resolution, in the principal body in the United Nations for the promotion and protection of human rights, relating to human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of such country in such country, or has been the subject of such an adopted country specific resolution in such principal body within the previous 3 years, shall be ineligible for membership on any United Nations human rights body. For purposes of this subsection, an adopted country specific resolution shall not include consensus resolutions on advisory services.
(4) A Member State that violates the principles of a United Nations human rights body to which it aspires to join shall be ineligible for membership on such body.
(1) and (4) are kind of fuzzy. But (2) and (3) are objective criteria. If a country under sanction from the Security Council is allowed on the Human rights Commission, then UN funding is withheld.

The Senate version adds an extra layer of procedure. This is from Section 12 of the Senate bill

(a) In General- The President is authorized to withhold 50 percent of United States contributions to the United Nations in a year if the President has determined in the most recent report submitted under section 11 that the United Nations is not making sufficient progress to implement the reforms described in this Act.
The Senate bill contains provisions about the Human Rights Committee similar to the House bill. The difference is, in the Senate bill, allowing a country under sanction from the security council does not trigger an automatic funding cut; it gives the President the right to withhold funds.

There are arguments for both approaches. Which option do you think is better? And which approach do Senator Reed and Senator Chafee think is better?

July 26, 2005

Rhode Island Senators on UN Reform - ???

Carroll Andrew Morse

I’ve put calls into both Senator Reed’s and Senator’s Chafee’s office inquiring about their positions on the UN reform proposals in Congress. There are basically 3 possible positions…

1. The “Hyde-Pence” position – Congress should pass a list of objective reform criteria and automatically cut some portion of UN funding if the criteria are not met.
2. The “Coleman-Lugar” position – Congress should pass a list of reform criteria, then leave it to the discretion of the President if funding is to be cut if the criteria are not met.
3. The position that tying funding cuts to reform is too harsh a position to be considered.

I will let you know our Senate delegation's position on this matter as soon as it becomes available to me.