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Many people associate the United Nations organization with humanitarian work, disaster relief, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and international cooperation. Unfortunately, humanitarian activities represent only a tiny fraction of the organization’s activities (heavily funded by the United States and European countries), and the UN does not require or enforce its ostensible human rights “standards” among member nations.
The Russian moralist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn received the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature for his writings on Soviet atrocities that exposed the moral bankruptcy of the socialist/communist system, and is widely recognized as one of the great moral voices of the twentieth century. Solzhenitsyn observed in his Nobel Lecture that the United Nations not only failed to live up to its professed principles, but actually became a vehicle of oppression:
“A quarter of a century ago, in the great hopes of mankind, the United Nations Organization was born. Alas, in an immoral world, this too grew up to be immoral. It is not a United Nations Organization but a United Governments Organization where all governments stand equal; those which are freely elected, those imposed forcibly, and those which have seized power with weapons… UNO made no effort to make the Declaration of Human Rights, its best document in twenty-five years, into an OBLIGATORY condition of membership confronting the governments. Thus it betrayed those humble people into the will of the governments which they had not chosen.”(1)
Systematic Discrimination and Racism
UN Watch, an independent nongovernmental watchdog with special consultative status to the UN Economic and Social Council, observed that the United Nations routinely engages in systematic discrimination:
“Every year, the General Assembly adopts some 20 resolutions against Israel and only 5 or 6 against the rest of the world combined, with one each on Iran, Syria and North Korea. The General Assembly adopts zero resolutions on systematic abusers like Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia.”(2)
Legal scholar and human rights advocate Judith Bergman wrote:
“The discrimination is too obvious to ignore. There are 193 member states in the UN. For 20 resolutions a year to be lobbed at the only democratic country in the Middle East, which actually observes human rights and equality under the law -- but only 5 or 6 at the remaining 192 states, which include major violators of international law such as China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Nigeria and Iran -- speaks of an extremely ingrained form of state-sponsored discrimination or ‘racism...’”(3)
United Nations “Human Rights Council”
Western democracies have betrayed professed values, engaging in quid pro quo deals with repressive states and treating human rights of citizens of nations other than their own as if it were a bargaining chip rather than an inalienable value. Notwithstanding the state-sanctioned murder of dissidents and the highest rate of beheadings in two decades, many based on arbitrary judicial discretion,(4) Saudi Arabia’s ambassador was elected to chair the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 2015, apparently as a result of secret “vote-swapping” with the United Kingdom.(5) Despite United Nations findings that state-sponsored death squads in Venezuela engaged in thousands of extrajudicial killings of young men in 2018 and 2019,(6) United Nations members voted to grant Venezuela a seat on the Human Rights Council, notwithstanding concerns raised by human rights groups.(7)
As one might expect from a council composed of some of the world’s human rights abusers along with other nations willing to engage in “horse-trading” for political gain, the United Nations Human Rights Council has been little more than a political platform, with the occasional token resolution against real inequities in an attempt to maintain some public credibility. UN Watch documented numerous inequities of the UNHRC, noting in part:
“Every year, at the Human Rights Council Israel is condemned in at least 5 resolutions, while there are only 3 on Syria where hundreds of thousands have been killed since 2011 and millions displaced. Other countries like Iran which executes children, North Korea which holds tens of thousands of political prisoners in gulag like prison camps, and Myanmar which is accused of genocide against Rohingya Muslims get only 1-2 resolutions per year and some of the worst abusers like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia get 0 resolutions...
“The resolutions on Israel are suffused with one-sided political hyperbole and systematically suppress any countervailing facts or context that might provide balance, while resolutions on other countries often contain praise and encouragement for the government.”(2)
Human rights lawyer Judith Bergman wrote:
“The UNHRC has not passed a single human rights resolution against Egypt, one of the top 5 most prolific executioners in 2019. There are countless other examples of countries with atrocious human rights records that are not only not called out by the UN and its human rights bodies, but actually serve on those bodies; countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia, which all currently serve on the UN Human Rights Council.
“In contrast, Israel's perceived and alleged crimes feature as a permanent item on the UNHRC's agenda, the so-called Item 7 Agenda, so that when the UNHRC is in session, Israel is always condemned. No other country, no matter how wanton its human rights abuses, is singled out.”(3)
Systematic discrimination and bigotry are also pervasive in United Nations subsidiary organizations, including the Commision on the Status of Women (CSW) and the World Health Organization (WHO). UN Watch further reported:
“Other UN bodies, like the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the World Health Organization (WHO) condemn only one country at their annual meetings – Israel.
“In condemning only Israel, the CSW gives a free pass to serial women’s rights abusers like Saudi Arabia where the male guardianship system is highly restrictive and gives male relatives the authority to make critical decisions about women and Iran where women face prison for defying the forced hijab law.”(2)
Female Iranian protesters who defy “the subjugation of women” including religiously-imposed codes of dress and conduct have been ignored by the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women and Western feminists.(8)
The United Nations has also been actively complicit in human rights abuses. Reports have confirmed that the United Nations routinely provided to China the names of dissidents invited to speak at human rights meetings; some were barred from travel, arrested, and even disappeared and presumed executed.(9)
World Health Organization
UN Watch noted: “In condemning only Israel, the WHO ignores massive health crises like Syria’s bombing of hospitals and medical convoys and mass hunger in Venezuela and the collapse of its health care system causing millions to flee.”(2)
Although China was “the only major country that has blatantly lied and covered up the [coronavirus] pandemic,” the World Health Organization promulgated inaccurate narratives, failed to conduct credible, transparent investigations, and failed to hold China accountable.(10) The organization’s leader has been cited for conflicts of interest.
Unaccountability and Obstruction
Notwithstanding admissions that "U.N. peacekeepers dumping human waste into a major river system" led to a deadly cholera epidemic that killed over 9,000 in Haiti, the organization has not accepted responsibility or paid damages.(11) Armin Rosen of the Atlantic noted that "The World Body actively discouraged and even impeded journalists and public health investigators attempting to trace the causes of the pestilence.” He observed:
"In the context of the organization's privileged status under international and domestic law, this announcement was really a way of avoiding having to address any damages, ever. The U.N. has few legal obligations to anyone or anything other than itself, and it's not fighting the cholera allegations because it simply doesn't have to."(11)
Rosen cited concerns that the U.N.'s privileged status "actually deprives American claimants of their constitutional right to due process," and fails to "meet the minimum standards of due process as required by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.”
Even the New York Times editorial board railed against the U.N.’s role in “Haiti’s imported disaster.”(12) When confronted with incontrovertible evidence after long obstruction, the U.N. admitted its role in the cholera outbreak.(13) Nonetheless, the organization claimed immunity from damages. U.S. courts denied Haitian claimants the right to sue the United Nations.(14) The last lawsuit was dismissed in 2017,(15) sending a clear message that the United Nations cannot be held accountable.
The False Dichotomy
Supporters of the United Nations often paint an all-or-nothing false dichotomy: either one supports the institution as-is, or one is alleged to support isolationism and disengagement from the international community, and/or dire pictures are painted of a return to primitive barbarism in which nations would solve their differences through armed struggle.
This dichotomy is simply not accurate. To the contrary, the United Nations has repeatedly propped up authoritarian states, and providing them false legitimacy which has impeded reform and fueled impunity of human rights violators. Human rights and personal liberties worldwide have continued to recede since approximately 2006 as the United Nations has blocked reform and accountability for oppressor nations. Standing up for principle and requiring nations to adhere to the organization’s acknowledge universal standards of human rights, and only seating nations which adhere to proclaimed democratic standards, would be a great step forward for human rights and freedoms.
1. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. “Nobel Lecture.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Center, 1972 (for 1970 Nobel Prize in literature). http://solzhenitsyncenter.org/nobel-lecture
2. “How the UN discriminates against Israel.” UN Watch, November 4, 2019. https://unwatch.org/how-the-un-discriminates-against-israel/
3. Bergman, Judith. “The United Nations' Institutional Racism.” Gatestone Institute, July 19, 2020. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/16214/united-nations-institutional-racism
4. Associated Press. "Saudi Arabia: beheadings reach highest level in two decades." The Guardian, January 1, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/02/saudi-arabia-beheadings-reach-highest-level-in-two-decades
5. Osborne, Samuel. "UK helped Saudi Arabia get UN human rights role through 'secret deal' to exchange votes, leaked documents suggest." The Independent (UK), September 30, 2015. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/uk-and-saudi-arabia-made-secret-deal-to-exchange-votes-for-human-rights-council-seats-leaked-a6673491.html
6. Miles, Tom. "Venezuela death squads kill young men, stage scenes, U.N. report says." Reuters, July 4, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-un/venezuela-death-squads-kill-young-men-stage-scenes-u-n-report-says-idUSKCN1TZ1PW
7. "Venezuela Does Not Belong on the UN Human Rights Council." Freedom House, 18 October 2019. https://freedomhouse.org/article/venezuela-does-not-belong-un-human-rights-council
8. Meotti, Giulio. "Iranian Women Defy the Mullahs; Western Feminists Nowhere in Sight." Gatestone Institute, 19 January 2020. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15464/iranian-women-western-feminists
9. Newman, Alex. “Leaked Emails Confirm UN Gave Names of Dissidents to CCP.” Epoch Times, February 25, 2021. https://www.theepochtimes.com/emails-confirm-un-gave-names-of-dissidents-to-ccp_3711143.html
10. Lowsen, Ben. “The WHO should be more wary of China.” The Diplomat, February 11, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/02/the-who-should-be-more-wary-of-china/
11. Rosen, Armin. "How the U.N. Caused Haiti's Cholera Crisis -- and Won't Be Held Responsible." The Atlantic, February 25, 2013. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/how-the-un-caused-haitis-cholera-crisis-and-wont-be-held-responsible/273526/
12. Editorial Board. "Haiti's Imported Disaster." The New York Times, October 12, 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/haitis-imported-disaster.html
13. Domonoske, Camila. "U.N. Admits Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak That Has Killed Thousands." National Public Radio, August 18, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/18/490468640/u-n-admits-role-in-haiti-cholera-outbreak-that-has-killed-thousands
14. Ingram, David. "U.S. judge rules Haitians cannot sue U.N. for cholera epidemic." Reuters, January 10, 2015. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-haiti-lawsuit/u-s-judge-rules-haitians-cannot-sue-u-n-for-cholera-epidemic-idUSKBN0KJ0PX20150110
15. Gladstone, Rick. "Court Dismisses Remaining Lawsuit against U.N. on Haiti Cholera." New York Times, August 24, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/world/americas/haiti-cholera-lawsuit-united-nations.html