27 September 2006

They are lining up

SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) is coming to the end of his second term in office but, I have no doubt, that his retirement will not be impoverished. Yesterday the Times devoted an editorial to the incredibly important question of who his successor might be and who it ought to be.

It seems that, according to Buggins’ turn, it will have to be an Asian personality, as the last one of those was U Thant from 1961 to 1971. He was followed by Kurt Waldheim and because the list was that way round, the Europeans are out of the consideration this time round.

Well the former Thunderer thinks that this is a very poor idea. SecGens should be chosen on the basis of merit. What kind of merit?
Any candidate must understand the challenge: putting the UN house in order will take courage, political will and an integrity that is proof against institutionalised bureaucracy or political pressure. The secretary-general has come to be seen as the world’s top diplomat; but the job specification is to run the UN, a role that has been badly neglected.
Hmm. I thought SecGen Annan was supposed to be putting the UN house in order. Whatever happened to that?The former Thunderer is backing a dark horse, the Latvian President, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who is certainly more decorative than the other candidates. Her biography shows a personality well versed in transnational politics and, no doubt, tranzi-speak. No wonder, the Times finds her impressive, adding rather curiously, that she “should not be disqualified … by being European or a woman”. Is there some article in the UN Charter that says women cannot aspire to the position of Secretary General?

The trouble with this and any other article on the subject is a lack of discussion as to what might be wrong with the UN. It is true to say that the role of the SecGen is to run the UN but what is he or she to run that organization for?

What is the purpose of the UN? This is not an unimportant question since the organization eats up a great deal of our money. And the money is not exactly contributed evenly or fairly.

As the indefatigable Claudia Rossett notes
Iran, with 67 million people, pays .157%, or $3 million. Venezuela, with 26 million people, pays .171%, or $3.2 million.

Just to pick a handy standard of comparison, Israel, with only 7 million people, pays .467%, or $9 million. In other words, the oil-rich states of Iran and Venezuela, put together , pay only slightly more than two-thirds of what Israel contributes all by itself.

All this is utterly dwarfed by the U.S. contribution of 22%, or $423.4 million. And that’s just a small fraction of the real river of U.S. money flowing into the UN, which, including voluntary contributions, will top $5.3 billion for this year alone — more than one-quarter of the UN’s real budget of about $20 billion (when it comes to money at the UN, there’s always more to the story).
She picked Iran and Venezuela, of course, because of the supremely ridiculous and appalling behaviour of the two tyrannical rulers of those countries at the opening of the General Assembly last week. But then, their antics, particularly Ch├ívez’s embarrassing sulphur-sniffing, were applauded by the majority of the UN delegates, who are luxuriating in New York because the money provided by the American and other western taxpayer.

The point is that most of the UN’s members have no interest in or understanding of the supposed aims of that organization. It is supposed to be dedicated to the promotion of freedom, democracy and human rights. How many of its members have those desirable political qualities within their borders?

The UN with its corruption and unaccountability reflects many of its member countries. But it goes beyond that. In the very nature of such an organization, it cannot be accountable. To whom would it be so? Therefore, its officials, its various delegates and its peacekeeping troops behave in the most appalling fashion and there is nothing we can do about it. Except for one thing – stop financing it.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who must have been astonished to see that someone could top his performance, has told the media that SecGen Kofi Annan had assured him that he need not pay any attention to the Security Council deadline for him to stop enriching uranium. The SecGen has denied these allegations and one can choose whom one believes.

So the expensive and pernicious farce that is known as the United Nations goes on. The minor detail of who actually is the SecGen does not seem to me to be all that important.