Thursday, May 17, 2007

U.N. Fiasco: Zimbabwe Holds Key Development Post

Blogger Greg St. Arnold is a Marquette student who has spent some time in Africa, so it’s logical that he would pick up a story that most Marquette students (and indeed most U.S. bloggers) will overlook.

But it’s a story with considerable international import.

Zimbabwe’s environmental minister will chair the United Nations Committee on Sustainable Development.

That’s right. Zimbabwe. A nasty dictatorship that is not developing sustainably -- or any other way. Quoting the Financial Times.
Enemies of the United Nations could not hope for a greater gift than the election of Zimbabwe to chair the UN commission on sustainable development. A more suitable role for one of President Robert Mugabe’s henchmen might be to head a commission for sustainable dictatorship: Zimbabwe’s lurches on despite the wilful destruction it has visited on its people.

In putting forward Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, for the chair, African governments have inflicted on themselves - as well as the UN - an astonishing blow. The commission, created in 1993, is the UN’s main forum for addressing the relationship between development and the environment. Africa’s turn to fill its chair - which rotates among regions - offered an opportunity to occupy the moral high ground.

[. . .]

In the UN forum, however, absurdity has prevailed. Despite the fact that some African governments are tired of the ill repute Mr Mugabe brings to the continent, its leaders are seemingly incapable of taking a collective decision to freeze him out.

The timing of the UN debacle is unfortunate for another reason. It sends a bad signal as talks start to re-capitalise the African Development Bank and replenish funds for the World Bank’s International Development Association. Even if the issues are separate, Africa has scored a spectacular own goal.
For at least a couple of generations, idealists held out the hope that the United Nations would bring peace and prosperity to the world.

The truth, of course, is that its brand of multinational politics isn’t any better than any other brand of politics. Sometimes bad people prevail. Often they can block any constructive action.

In this, the United Nations is no worse than the U.S. Congress.

But mystery is: why did anybody ever think it would be better?

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