September 25, 2020 | Washington Examiner

As UN celebrates 75th anniversary, dictators still dominate

September 25, 2020 | Washington Examiner

As UN celebrates 75th anniversary, dictators still dominate

The United Nations is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, but hold the applause. The global body has still failed to address the two key issues that undermine its legitimacy in the United States: anti-Israel bias and hypocrisy on human rights. The U.N.’s key human rights bodies include numerous dictatorships, which use U.N. bodies to deflect attention from their own abuses. All the while, the U.N. obsessively criticizes Israel, the one truly democratic country in the Middle East, with a track record on human rights that is far better than most of the governments voting to condemn it.

These two persistent defects are on full display as the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Economic and Social Council, and other U.N. bodies gather virtually this month.

At the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Economic and Social Council, Israel remained the only country in the world with a separate agenda item dedicated to highlighting its flaws. In her opening speech to the Human Rights Council, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, denounced Israel’s alleged human rights abuses against the Palestinians but remained silent about the terrorism of Hamas, Islamic jihad, and other radical Islamist groups in Gaza. She also failed to acknowledge the landmark peace accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Similarly, the Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution lambasting Israel, and no other country, for allegedly violating women’s rights. The vaguely worded resolution provided few details, instead offering a blanket assertion that Israel’s “occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.” The resolution passed by a vote of 43-3, with eight abstentions. The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia both voted in the affirmative, despite their own questionable credentials as arbiters of women’s rights.

The Saudis, along with Russia, Cuba, and China, are presently running for seats on the Human Rights Council. These four may seem like improbable candidates, yet they have all won seats in the past, since human rights offenders are numerous in the General Assembly, which elects the members of the Human Rights Council.

Appropriately, the General Assembly began its annual session under the leadership of its newly elected president, Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir, who represents an Islamist regime responsible for major human rights abuses, including the mass incarceration of journalists and the torture of political prisoners. Without irony, on Monday, he presided over the passage of a resolution reaffirming, in honor of the U.N.’s 75th anniversary, the U.N.’s commitment to human rights.

Meanwhile, conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya continue with no end in sight. More than a million Uighur Muslims languish in concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang region. The regime in Iran executed wrestler Navid Afkari for crimes to which he confessed under torture. In Belarus, protests continue against the regime of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko. Russia continues to bomb hospitals in Syria, and Moscow likely played a role in the recent poisoning of dissident Alexei Navalny.

Yet the U.N. has amounted to little more than a bystander to these events. “As the world body turns 75,” the New York Times observed just before the U.N. gathering began, “it also faces profound questions about its own effectiveness, and even its relevance.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Seventy-five years ago, representatives of 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to draft and approve the U.N. charter. After two world wars marked by unspeakable suffering, the U.N.’s founders sought to devise a new institution that could and would prevent major human rights abuses. The U.N., stated the charter, aims to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

Since then, the U.N. and its member states have adopted a range of human rights conventions, including the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and consistently offered paeans to the importance of human rights. Earlier this year, to mark the U.N.’s 75th anniversary, Secretary General Antonio Guterres released a document called “The Highest Aspiration: A Call to Action for Human Rights,” which purported to renew the U.N.’s founding commitment to human rights. Strikingly, Guterres acknowledged that the U.N.’s mission remains unfulfilled. The “cause of human rights faces major challenges, and no country is immune,” he wrote. “Disregard for human rights is widespread.”

“My goal for the United Nations – as it marks its seventy-fifth anniversary – is to promote a human rights vision that is transformative, that provides solutions and that speaks directly to each and every human being,” asserted Guterres.

Yet Guterres’s call to action failed to acknowledge that the U.N.’s own structure, with a disproportionate influence of dictatorships and preoccupation with Israel, lies at the root of its own ineffectiveness. Ultimately, the U.N. will remain unreformed if it cannot or will not admit its own failings.

Tzvi Kahn is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @TzviKahn.

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