March 8, 2011 | The Daily

U.N.-Friendly Acts

With Libyans dying by the hundreds in their uprising to evict Moammar Gadhafi, the United Nations is speedily backing away from the same Libyan regime it so recently embraced as one of its most favored darlings.

Since lifting sanctions on Libya in 2003, the U.N. has honored Gadhafi’s envoys with seats on the Security Council and Human Rights Council, plus the 2009-10 presidency of the entire U.N. General Assembly. Now the U.N. is professing itself shocked — shocked! — that Gadhafi is displaying brutality consistent with his previous four decades of terror, repression and slaughter.

The U.N. Security Council just last night passed new sanctions on the barbarous regime that Gadhafi has vowed to defend “to the last drop of blood.” The Human Rights Council, in emergency session Friday, voted for the first time to launch a special inquiry into abuses in Libya, urged the General Assembly to suspend Libya's membership in the council, and plans to focus on Libya again tomorrow, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expected to attend.

It’s a commendable U-turn, but has the U.N. really learned anything? Or, with Gadhafi’s carnage flooding the headlines, is the U.N. merely scrambling to protect its own image before returning to its thug-friendly business as usual?

Here are four things the U.N. could do that would not only help Libyans, but also a great many others, including the discredited U.N. itself.

First, the U.N. should start by publicly apologizing for its gross indifference to its own charter values of freedom and human dignity, a betrayal superbly illustrated by, but hardly limited to, the suffering in Libya. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should apologize for personally dignifying Gadhafi last March by jetting to Libya for a summit of the Arab League, chaired by Gadhafi.

Second, Ban should further call upon the General Assembly to explain to the world its actions in electing to the Human Rights Council not only Libya, but such human rights violators as Russia, China, Cuba, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia. Ban should ask why, if Libya is to be suspended from the council, these other repressive states should not get the boot as well.

Third, the current president of the General Assembly, Switzerland’s Joseph Deiss, should not only apologize for, but explain to the world, in candid detail, the roots of the U.N. rot that led to the General Assembly’s choice of Libya in 2009 for its president.

Fourth, the U.N. Security Council, beyond any late-in-the-day reprisal of long-gone sanctions on Gadhafi’s regime, should demand that Ban launch an independent inquiry into the backroom methods of the despot-friendly lobbying blocs of the General Assembly, such as the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Group of 77 plus China. Such blocs help boost tyrannies like Iran, Cuba and China, as well as Libya, into positions of dignity and influence at the U.N. This has produced such travesties as the 2009 anti-Semitic Durban Review conference on “racism,” held in Geneva and featuring Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the star speaker, with Libya chairing the preparatory committee. A full airing of how dictators connive to exploit the U.N. could help prevent any budding despotic regimes from hijacking the current Arab uprisings.

If all this sounds like too much to ask, it is actually the least the U.N. could do, both to support the people of Libya and to begin to redeem itself. In the coming days, we are likely to see Gadhafi become the sole sacrificial goat at a U.N. that loves to dignify dictators, while the organization quite likely launches emergency appeals for loads of money to bankroll its aid to the same Libyan people whom, until just last week, it so blithely betrayed. That’s nice business for the U.N., where agencies routinely take a cut for their services. But what’s most desperately needed from the U.N. right now — not only by the people of Libya but by the captive populations of such repressive states as Syria, Cuba, China, Iran and North Korea — is an about-face that fully recognizes that they, the people, are more deserving of a seat at the table than many of the eminences now motoring in their limousines, in New York and Geneva, to and from the U.N.’s emergency sessions on Libya. 

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