It is always a mistake to conclude, after some untoward event at the United Nations, that the bottom has been reached. Just in the past few weeks there have been two new events that suggest there is no bottom.
First, the ambassador of Sudan was elected at the end of January as a Vice-President of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). If this was not bad enough, the President of ECOSOC (Amb. Osorio of Colombia) issued the following organizational statement on February 12:
the President informed delegations of the decisions made earlier regarding the division of responsibilities during the 2013 substantive session….To that end, he would be responsible for the high-level segment….and Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman (Sudan) the humanitarian affairs segment….
Sudan, chair the humanitarian affairs segment! This was too much for the United States, the EU, and Canada, who objected. The UN document sets out on the objections, which were delivered (or at least reported) in the strange language spoken at the UN. It is a language in which reality is submerged.
Just before the Council concluded its work, several delegations raised objections about President Osorio’s recommendation earlier in the week that Council Vice-President, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman (Sudan), would Chair the humanitarian affairs segment (see Press Release ECOSOC/6560). Delegates called into question the Sudanese Government’s commitment to human rights….
The representative of Canada said that it was his delegation’s understanding that the President had recommended Sudan’s Chairmanship of that segment….Canada would raise its objection and point out that the actions of the Sudanese Government had led to a “devastating” humanitarian situation in Darfur, as well as in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. That Government was intimidating national civil society organizations attempting to provide lifesaving assistance to desperately needy populations in those areas. Against such a backdrop, Canada strongly objected to Sudan serving as Chair of the Council’s humanitarian segment.
The representative of the United States said that, while her delegation appreciated the President’s efforts to assign a division of responsibilities that would allow the Council to efficiently undertake its important work, the United States was “deeply concerned” by the decision to recommend Sudan as Chair of the humanitarian segment. Khartoum’s “long track record” of blocking humanitarian assistance to is own people and its ongoing attempts to impede the elaboration of a viable access framework for aid delivery to Blue Nile and South Kordofan states were deeply troubling.
A representative of the delegation of the European Union expressed “strong concerns” about some of the points that had been raised by Canada and the United States, and would also appeal to the President to postpone the decision on delegation of responsibilities.
Faced with these objections, the president of ECOSOC backtracked: “Finally, President Osorio said that as there appeared to be no broad agreement on the distribution of responsibilities, he would postpone action on the matter and commence consultations to arrive at a decision.”
“Strong concerns,” “deeply concerned;” at least Canada “strongly objected.” But even the UN Human Rights Council calls what happened in Darfur a “genocide.” One longs for the day when a Daniel P. Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, or John Bolton rose to the occasion and delivered for the United States a scathing denunciation of the moral compass that permits Sudan to chair the “humanitarian segment.” Those American representatives were not usually “concerned;” they expressed our outrage, our contempt, our utter rejection of such Orwellian conduct and language at the UN.
Nor was this all; as noted there were two signal events, both brought to our attention by the invaluable organization UN Watch. The UN’s “Decolonization Committee” has just unanimously re-elected Syria’s representative as its “rapporteur,” as Syria’s official news agency happily reported. As UN Watch noted, this committee is “charged with upholding fundamental human rights in opposing the ‘subjugation, domination and exploitation’ of peoples.” Because the Assad regime is one of the world’s worst examples of “subjugation, domination and exploitation,” in this case of its own rebellious population, this election is another disgrace.
Perhaps the bottom has been reached for February. But perhaps not: stay tuned, and follow UN Watch.
UPDATE: UN Watch reported on March 7th that Sudan had been removed from the humanitarian post. Amb. Osorio reversed himself, under pressure from democracies that thought his decisions absurd and unacceptable. Pressure works, sometimes.