Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is targeting the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council. She uses her toughest language yet and slams the body as a haven for dictators ahead of a visit to its headquarters in Switzerland next week.
“When the world’s preeminent human rights body is turned into a haven for dictators, the idea of international cooperation in support of human dignity is discredited,” she told us.
Haley is due to address the Council in Geneva on June 6–the first-ever address to the Council by a U.S. Permanent Representative–before she then travels to Israel, where she will meet with Netanyahu and visit a number of Israeli historical sites.
The visit to Switzerland is likely to be a tense one. The Trump administration has contemplated an exit from the Council over its anti-Israel bias and its questionable membership, which includes countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. A Senate subcommittee met last month to assess if the U.S. should remain a member of the body.
The U.S. boycotted the Council’s opening session in March over the anti-Israel agenda before it, and Haley herself has called the Council so corrupt and filled with bad actors, using it to protect their own behavior.
Haley told us the Council has done good work in places such as North Korea but it also allows countries on the Council, such as Venezuela and Cuba, to have their abuses ignored: Venezuela is a member of the council despite the systematic destruction of civil society by the government of Nicolás Maduro through arbitrary detention, torture and blatant violations of freedom of the press and expression. Mothers are forced to dig through trash cans to feed their children. This is a crisis that has been 18 years in the making. And yet, not once has the Human Rights Council seen fit to condemn Venezuela.
Calling on the U.N. to reclaim the legitimacy of this organization, Haley told us she will outline the needed changes when she visits the Council.
Those changes include competitive voting for membership on the council–to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats and end the practice of singling out Israel for criticism.
“When the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel, a country with a strong human rights record, and just seven resolutions against Iran, a country with an abysmal human rights record, you know something is seriously wrong,” she told us.
UN is a corrupt bloated bureaucracy that for seven decades has existed to provide cushy jobs for international deadbeats, and to promote the interests of tyrannical regimes and anti-American pygmy states. Recognizing the UN’s failures and corruption, some commentators are calling for targeted reductions of the $10 billion a year we spend on the UN and its 15 affiliated organizations, thus prodding Turtle Bay to reform. But the better argument is to withdraw completely. Changing the shade of lipstick on this multinational pig is not going to keep it from acting like a pig.
Indeed, reforming the UN is a mantra politicians periodically repeat in order to avoid doing what’s necessary to make significant changes. Remember the old UN Human Rights Commission? It was completely ineffective because it regularly seated some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including China, Zimbabwe, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Syria, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam. At the same time, commission members seek to avoid directly criticizing states with human rights problems, frequently by focusing on Israel, a state that, according to analysis of summary records, has for over 30 years occupied 15 percent of commission time and has been the subject of a third of country-specific resolutions. To add insult to the injury, that same year the Commission passed a resolution giving the Palestinian Arabs the de facto legitimate right to use terrorism against Israel.
The serial ignoring of Sudan’s responsibility for the human rights disaster unfolding in Darfur, and the election of Sudan to the Commission finally put an end to the UNHRC, which was replaced in 2006 with the pseudo-reformed UN Human Rights Council. After ten years it’s obvious that the change was cosmetic, as the Council has repeated the same sins of its predecessor. It continues to seat members from nations like current members China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, all notorious for violating human rights. And it continues its chronic demonization of Israel, which it has condemned five times more than any other country. Nor is this vicious bigotry confined to the Council: last March, the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) condemned only one nation, Israel, for violating women’s rights. So much for reform.
This gross hypocrisy and serial failure should not be surprising. Like all multinational institutions, the UN exists to serve the interests of its members, no matter how corrupt or brutal they are. Moreover, the UN’s foundational ideal––that it would resolve conflict through diplomacy, promote democracy, and foster human rights––assumed that the whole world was sincerely interested in these Western goods. More important, it also ignored the necessity for lethal violence to back up its lofty principles and punish the violators of them. Indeed, without a means of enforcing its ideals, the UN has ended up serving as an instrument of illiberal and totalitarian states for furthering their interests and supporting their aggression against their enemies and often their own citizens.
The idealists behind the creation of the UN can’t say they weren’t warned. The sorry history of the League of Nations should have been a deterrent. The League failed to stop the interwar aggression of Italy and Japan, and Germany’s serial violations of the Versailles Treaty, all of which culminated in the carnage of World War II.
In fact, the League was only three years old when its weakness and fecklessness were exposed. In 1923 Mussolini used the murder of some Italian diplomats in Greece as a pretext for advancing his designs on Albania by taking over the Greek island of Corfu. His fleet sailed into the harbor and bombarded a fortress, killing 15 refugees. Greece went to the League for justice.
British diplomat Harold Nicolson recognized that this incident was a test of the League’s viability. “Should the League fail, in such flagrant circumstances, to enforce obedience to its Covenant, it was realized that the authority of the League would be forever impaired.” Secretary General of the League Sir Eric Drummond agreed with Nicolson on the importance of the League’s enforcement of its rules: “This challenge has brought into question the fundamental principles which lie at the root of the public law of the new world order established by the League.” In the end, the League did fail and exposed its lack of credibility. Its Council of Ambassadors made Greece pay Italy reparations as the price of Italian withdrawal.
If that history is too ancient, the fledgling UN was faced with a similar challenge to which it too failed to rise. A mere three years after the UN’s creation, five Arab nations, including four members of the UN, violated UN Resolution 181 establishing the state of Israel, and attacked the new country created by international law. Rather than using force to punish the violators of the UN Charter, the UN did nothing to help the beleaguered country, and Israel had to defend itself with aid from a few sympathetic nations like Czechoslovakia.
But like the League, the UN didn’t have and still doesn’t have a credible military capacity to enforce its terms and resolutions by punishing violators. Partly that’s because there is neither agreement on the principles that would legitimize the use of force, nor a harmony of national interests that would induce member states to contribute soldiers and resources to such a force unless their own interests or security were endangered. Obviously the Arab states that invaded Israel had quite different principles and interests, which trumped those ideals of the UN Charter they had signed.
The lesson still hasn’t been learned. Fast-forward to 2002. Saddam Hussein had violated with impunity 16 UN Security Council Resolutions regarding his long record of murder, invasion, aggression, and active pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But after George W. Bush spent months seeking another resolution approving the Iraq War, the UN refused––not because of principle, but because of the various national interests of Security Council members like France and Germany. Thus they squandered an opportunity to show that violators of UNSC resolutions would be punished, creating a deterrent to future violators.
This long history shows that “covenants without swords” will not create security or peace, as proven by the some 50 million murdered since World War II in genocides, ethnic cleansing, invasions, and annexations like Tibet and Northern Cyprus, all of which happened on the UN’s watch, and some of which––like in Rwanda and Bosnia––took place in sight of the Orwellian named “UN Peacekeepers.”
Trying to reform the UN is like redecorating a house whose foundations are not just built on sand, but rotten through and through. Half-measures like selected and temporary cut-offs of funding won’t work. A total withdrawal of U.S. funds until serious reforms take place offer the best hope, but it is a slim one. Getting out of the UN and creating a new confederation of democracies with proven records of adherence to human rights might work, but the checkered history of NATO suggests that is a problematic solution as well, given the primacy of national interests for sovereign states, and the problem of free-riders and the selective adherence to the principles and terms of a treaty.
Perhaps it’s time to recognize that idealistic internationalism has failed, and that we can advance our interests and protect our security by relying on our own political order of electoral audit, free and open debate, and ballot-box accountability, and by making alliances with those nations that serve our interests rather than, like most of the UN member states, actively subvert them. D.C. isn’t the only swamp our new president needs to drain.
A Usexit, you-sex-it, movement has rarely ever taken hold, with the last attempt to encourage such a move dying in committee in 2015. Then, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL) alongside a number of other Congressmen and women floated the American Sovereignty Restoration Act (ASA).
At the time, the bill called for a repeal of The United Nations Participation Act of 1945, much like how Brexit campaigners in the United Kingdom would prefer not to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and simply repeal the 1972 European Communities Act.
The ASA called for the following: The President shall terminate all membership by the United States in the United Nations, and in any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations. The United States Mission to the United Nations is closed. Any remaining functions of such office shall not be carried out.
Commenting at the time, Rep. Mike Rogers said: Why should the American taxpayer bankroll an international organization that works against America’s interests around the world? The time is now to restore and protect American sovereignty and get out of the United Nations.
His Senate colleague Rand Paul (R-KY) has previously remarked: I dislike paying for something that two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States. There’s a lot of reasons why I don’t like the UN, and I think I’d be happy to dissolve it.
Putting a spotlight on an already morally questionable institution like the United Nations — replete with its Human Rights Council with the likes of Saudi Arabia chairing it — brings the UN itself, not Israel’s settlement-building policies, into question. A USexit campaign could take root soon, a chance for Donald Trump to drain the international swamp. Draining the sewage of Turtle Bay is a must.
The Saudi Arabia that publicly beheads women and dangles bodies from cranes was elected to the UN Women’s Rights Commission. This is not the punchline of a twisted joke, but the intergovernmental UN shaming itself.
After the scandal of re-electing Saudi Arabia to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, that same Saudi Arabia which has been indiscriminately bombing Yemeni civilians for more than two years, now gets ‘elected’ to the new position of Women’s Rights Commission for 2018-2022 term by the United Nations’ premier human rights body.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been called into question numerous times before, especially after 47 people – including prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr – were executed in a single day.
Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that flared up in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority have long complained of marginalization.
Despite making extensive use of the death penalty and carrying out dozens of public executions, the ‘rich’ country remains a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and now also an advocate (!) for women’s rights.
There is lack of ability and legal means for citizens to choose their government; restrictions on universal rights, such as freedom of expression, including on the internet, and the freedoms of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected all aspects of women’s lives.
Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to abolish it. Under this system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, marry, or exit prison. They may be required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare. Women regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions without a male relative, from renting an apartment to filing legal claims. All women remain banned from driving cars in Saudi Arabia.
The credibility of the world’s top human rights body, which was set up to ensure it is able to effectively address human rights violations without being undermined by geopolitics and competing national interests, is now being brought into question because of the dreadful track record of one of its members, Saudi Arabia, and the failure of other members to call it to account. Rather than putting an end to the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia at the Human Rights Council, the UN keeps giving more human rights positions to the kingdom on a silver plate.
If the UN feels somehow compelled to turn a blind eye to the human rights violations committed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia before it joined the UN, then the least it could do is track KSA’s horrendous record since it joined the UN Human Rights Council in January 2014. Since then the kingdom has carried out gross and systematic human rights violations both at home and in neighboring Yemen.
We are currently at a time when the United Nations is assuming a posture of complete complicity with Saudi Arabia’s inhuman tyrannical war crimes, human rights violations, suffering, slavery and religious persecution. The UN is now literally Saudi Arabia’s cynical cover-up body that helps it get away with and conceal its gross and systematic violations by offering it to chair both the UN Human Rights Council and the Women’s Rights Commission.
The UN as a top human rights body has been sucked into the abyss of money and power, and there is no sign of a return to a rational and fair position in the near future.