Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Exclusive: Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Demands UN Reform – Where Does the President Stand?


September 28, 2009

The Editors

There has long been an effort – many efforts, in fact – to reform the United Nations, but apparently to no avail. There has been pressure to reform the UN Security Council, to reform global governance at the UN, to reform the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Development Program and the UN Relief and Works Agency and much, much more. To date, nothing has been reformed.
Things are so bad at the UN that, back in July, member states were even unable to reach consensus during a session of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Comprehensive Convention onInternational Terrorism. On what were they trying to agree? The definition of terrorism and “terrorist acts,” “state terrorism” as a form of terrorism, activities of armed forcesof the state during armed conflict, the title of the convention, and the timing of the conference on terrorism.
We kid you not.
An example of such glaring incompetence is the question of the unresolved issues at the UN Human Rights Council. According to Foreign Policy magazine:
The task of reforming the United Nations Human Rights Council is a daunting one. Since the council was set up in 2006 to replace the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights, it has achieved little to cheer about. Human rights pariahs such as China, Cuba, Egypt, Russia, and Saudi Arabia have been easily elected to the council and have so far achieved great success in making sure it doesn't do its real job. Israel gets pummeled time and again, while countries like Zimbabwe, Belarus, and Uzbekistan escape serious attention. Even the situation in Sudan has received only a weak and mostly ineffective response. A newly released Freedom House ‘Report Card on the Human Rights Council’ gives the council a passing grade in only one of 11 criteria.
With this litany of failures, it is understandable when critics claim that the council is unsalvageable and that no amount of resources can fix its inherent problems. But these critics overlook the fundamental reason why it has failed to date. The council's primary weakness is not that the world's most repressive societies manage to get themselves elected and then run roughshod over the council's other members, but rather that the majority of the world's democracies let them do it. There are more democracies than dictatorships in the world today; yet curiously, it is the despots who focus their diplomatic energies on the council.
The United States is perhaps the only democracy with the clout needed to move the council in the right direction. At a time when Freedom House has tracked three straight years of global backsliding in fundamental political rights and civil liberties, it is all the more urgent to try to shore up the world's only global body dedicated to protecting and advancing human rights.
In spite of pinning virtually all hopes on “the only democracy with the clout needed,” experts say that the Obama administration, evidently lacking both courage and backbone, is unlikely to push such despotic countries as those who sully the Human Rights Council by their membership on it for much-needed UN reforms in any area or at any council at the United Nations.
Luckily, there are others in Washington who disagree with the apparent Obama strategy and bravely say so out loud. One such leader is U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who this past week delivered a special address on the Floor of the House calling for sweeping reform at the United Nations.
The statement by Ros-Lehtinen is as follows:
UN agencies have proven time and again to be corrupt, ineffective, biased, and hijacked by enemies of freedom. Yet, the U.S. continues to send billions to the UN – no strings attached.
The UN Human Rights Council, dominated by human rights abusers like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia, recently released a report accusing Israel of ‘war crimes’ and ‘possibly, crimes against humanity’ for defending its citizens against rocket and mortar fire from Islamist militants in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) still refuses to vet its staff and aid recipients for ties to violent extremist groups.
The UN Development Program (UNDP) is accused of misusing funds in Zimbabwe,Afghanistan, and North Korea, to name a few.
The list goes on and on. It is time to bring real reform to the troubled United Nations, and to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to work for the American people, and not for the UN, where the inmates run the asylum.
It should be noted that Ros-Lehtinen is the author of the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act (H.R. 557), which conditions U.S. contributions to the UN on sweeping, meaningful reform of the UN system. This measure has the support of nearly 100 co-sponsors.
Let your Congressional representatives know what you think about such an important topic. We can guarantee they will want to hear from you.
- Brought to you by the editors and research staff of FamilySecurityMatters.org.

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