TCS Daily


Putting the Stain in Sustainable Development

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - May 31, 2007 12:00 AM

In yet another act designed to engender outrage and disbelief among observers of the United Nations, the U.N. has allowed Zimbabwe to head the Commission on Sustainable Development. The U.N.'s acquiescence to Zimbabwe's bid shows just how dysfunctional the international institution has become.

When it comes to sustainable development, Zimbabwe—to put matters mildly—is hardly a role model for the rest of the world to follow. Earlier this month, the country was forced to ration electricity, allowing homes only four hours a day of power. In addition to lacking power, there are consistent food and fuel shortages in Zimbabwe, making life utterly miserable for the country's inhabitants.

The regime of Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, is famous for having left up to 700,000 of its citizens homeless after having bulldozed their homes and for having allowed millions to starve in the wake of forcible land seizures that were part of the nationalization of the farmland and which helped harm the agricultural sector. Zimbabwe's land nationalization scheme and the destruction it caused have been declared a crime against humanity, which makes legal action against Zimbabwe possible in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The land seizures instituted by the Mugabe regime have also had a disastrous effect on wildlife, as this article reports:

• Wildlife on most of the privately owned conservancies and game farms in the dryer areas of the country have been severely poached by a variety of people exploiting the break down of the rule of law.

• The damage to Zimbabwe's wildlife heritage has not been systematically assessed due to the prevailing war-like situation on the ground, but all reports point to catastrophic losses of irreplaceable endangered species such as black rhinos and painted dogs, as well as the destruction of commercially important herds of wildlife.

• The Communal Lands and National Parks have been less severely affected, but worrying reports indicate that the security of wildlife and the environment in these areas continues to deteriorate daily, and risks to animal populations in these areas are increasing due to chronic environmental problems, increasingly uninformed and irrational actions by politicians, loss of human capacity and deteriorating infrastructure.

Part of the reason why electricity needs to be rationed in Zimbabwe is to help increase wheat production in the wake of a poor farming season. The government officially blames drought for the poor crop production but the misguided land "reforms" instituted by the Mugabe government have contributed mightily to Zimbabwe's agricultural plight. The lack of food is perhaps most noticeable in the way in which prisoners in Zimbabwe are treated. Zimbabwe's prison population is chronically underfed and subject to the rampant spread of disease as a result of malnourishment. The government is unable to import food because of hyperinflation, which has reached an astounding 2,200%. Of course, it is likely that Zimbabwe's government does not much care for the fate of its prison population, given the fact that it violently suppresses any and all dissent directed against the government. All manner of torture and degradation is commonplace against those who have the temerity to speak out against the abuses of the Mugabe regime. As this article appropriately asks, "Is there any nation on Earth more unsuited" to head up the Commission on Sustainable Development than Zimbabwe?

Probably not, but those who are not impressed—or are not horrified—by the statistics above and believe that there must be some hidden good news to be found in Zimbabwe should probably take note that the country's residents are voting with their feet and leaving the country as fast as possible in order to escape the country's ongoing misery. Of course, let it never be said that Zimbabwe lacks the funds necessary to glorify Mugabe even as he works to ensure that his country seeks further in ruin.

All of this is bad enough, but the real tragedy is that the decision to allow Zimbabwe to head the Commission on Sustainable Development is not an isolated example of bad judgment on the part of the United Nations. In fact, the United Nations has a gift for finding the worst possible candidates to head up its various commissions. Over four years ago, inexplicably, Libya was selected to head up the United Nations Human Rights Commission. In 2005, the Commission had as members countries like Cuba, the Sudan, Egypt and, yes, Zimbabwe. Against the objections of the United States, the Human Rights Commission was replaced by the new Human Rights Council, which continues to host Cuba and the Russian Federation despite the latter two countries' continuing abuses of human rights. As Claudia Rosett points out, the United Nations Development Program has been bankrolling dictators like Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong Il and others while preventing proper oversight of its activities. Brett Schaefer writes that African nations have repeatedly stepped up to support Zimbabwe's membership on the Executive Board of the World Food Program, the Executive Board of the U.N. Children's Fund and the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Program despite the country's manifest lack of qualifications to serve as any kind of leader or role model in the international community. And evidently, it is easier than some might expect to get U.N. peacekeepers to abandon the project of keeping the peace. All you have to do is offer an attractive bribe.

The United Nations is a broken down organization. It cannot successfully carry out its stated mission and suffers from its serial tendency to put the fox in charge of the chicken coop when staffing its various commissions. It is impossible to deny that the organization needs serious reform, reform that will and should shake the U.N. to its very foundations. Absent such reforms, the U.N. will not only fail to live up to its charter, it will, by its actions, undermine the very purpose of its existence.

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4 Comments

The mind boggles....!
Stories such as this continuously boggles the mind, particularly when you consider the great hope for mankind that the formation of the United Nations once inspired. How could this once most-promising organization fallen so far?

More importantly, why does the U.S. continue to spend taxpayer dollars to support the UN? Indeed, why are we still a member?

Disfunctional UN
Jeez, mabybe it's because all the dummy school teachers, and then the dummy left wing professors, and the liberal MSM keep brainwashing the public about the UN, that people still want to give up more to that dispicable outfit. The enemies of america just laugh about it that americans continue to support an enemy organization. It's one of the reasons that so many people around the world think americans are stupid.

dummy school teachers
Dietmar, are you serious? Dummy school teachers brain washing the children into supporting the UN?
drink some more kool-aid
The UN is disfunctional, but this has nothing to do with school teachers, get off your horse and actually look at the problem instead of slinging crap at all the same targets just because some ass like rush limbaugh decides he doesnt like school teachers. teachers get far too little respect in this country and it because of people like you.

dummy school teachers
I don't hear rush l. but i suppose he knows too that most teachers are left wing. But most of the teachers and professoriate are well known for being left wing, thus UN supporters, but I suppose it's possible that you are the only guy left that doesn't. Unless of course, you're also a liberal. Likewise the MSM, if not these place, where do you think so many people would get the idea that the UN is not dysfunctional, and actually want the US to give up even more soverignty to it?

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