DANIEL HANNAN: Corrupt and incompetent, the UN has no right to lecture us
UN's Rashida Manjoo has criticised Britain for having 'sexist culture'
Daniel Hannan points to nations with worse records on women's rights
Conservative MEP for South East says UN 'cuts its staff off from reality'
Hits out at the tens of thousands of UN 'bureaucrats' in US and Europe
17 April 2014
Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England
Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP for South East England, has hit back at United Nations Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo, over her claims of a sexist culture in Britain
Do you know in which country women suffer the worst discrimination?
You might guess at one of the East African states where female genital mutilation is common, or perhaps one of the Asian nations in which thousands of girls are sold into prostitution.
You might say China, where female embryos are disproportionately aborted, or Yemen, where a woman’s testimony is worth half a man’s, or Afghanistan, where honour killings are widespread, or Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden to drive.
Well, you’d be wrong - wrong, at any rate, according to Rashida Manjoo.
The place with the most insidiously sexist culture on the planet, the United Nations Special Rapporteur assures us, is the United Kingdom.
‘Have I seen this level of sexist culture in other countries? It hasn’t been so in-your-face in other countries. I haven’t seen that so pervasively in other countries. I’m sure it exists but it wasn’t so much and so pervasive.’
What form does it take, this pervasive sexism?
According to Ms Manjoo, whistling in the street and ‘sexist images of women’.
What kind of person could argue, and apparently believe, that wolf-whistles create a more pervasive sexist atmosphere than, say, forced marriages or the exclusion of girls from school?
Who could assert, with evident sincerity, that Britain is as bad a place to be female as Somalia?
Why, a UN bureaucrat of course. The same sort of bureaucrat as Raquel Rolnik, another UN Special Rapporteur, who last year argued that the Coalition’s decision to stop paying housing benefit for unoccupied rooms amounted to an abuse of human rights.
Mrs Rolnik is from Brazil, where 12 million people live in favelas - squalid shantytowns ringing the major cities. Does she honestly imagine that those Brazilians would not gladly swap their slums for a British council house, with or without a spare room subsidy?
United Nations Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo, pictured addressing journalists in central London in April 2014, caused a storm when she said Britain has a 'sexist culture'
Then again, the UN has a way of cutting its staff off from reality. Working in a cloistered international environment, enjoying massive tax-free salaries and perks, convinced that their cause is just, they can slip all too easily into self-righteousness.
Businesses must answer to their customers and their shareholders. Politicians must answer to their constituents. But international civil servants - accountable to no one - are free to concentrate on making themselves comfortable.
The UN was formed in 1945 with the noble ideal after World War II of bringing together 51 member countries to prevent another such conflict.
Based mainly in New York and Switzerland, it now employs tens of thousands of bureaucrats and encompasses 193 states - some run by kleptocrats and dictators - which fund it roughly in proportion to their wealth.
Britain will pay around 5 per cent of its $5.5 billion budget this year. But, as I said, the UN is not directly accountable to anyone.
Daniel Hannan has hit out at the tens of thousands of 'bureaucrats' working at the UN's headquarters in Switzerland and the US. Pictured is the UN Security Council in New York
It is hardly surprising that such insulation should, over time, have made it flabby, self-serving and corrupt.
The UN, in this regard, is no different from the International Olympic Committee, FIFA or, of course, the EU.
Human nature being what it is, international bureaucracies can hardly fail to be both smug and sleazy.
The UN’s problem is especially severe because it is thought to embody a lofty ideal. As with the mega- charities or the NHS, people are reluctant to criticise it.
We would rather fantasise about an idealised UN - a body that brings nations together, stops wars, promotes human rights - than look at the necessarily grubby organisation that has taken form before us.
Yet it is precisely our indulgent attitude that licenses its corruption. And, when I say corruption, I am not talking about sloppy accounting or big expense accounts.
I am talking about real monstrosities, such as sex-trafficking in former Yugoslavia by UN personnel who spectacularly failed to do the very thing they were supposedly there to do, namely provide safe havens for civilians.
According to young prostitutes who’d been trafficked from poverty-stricken places such as Romania and Moldova, six out of the eight ‘clients’ they were forced to sleep with daily were members of the UN ‘blue berets’ peacekeeping forces.
I am talking, too, about the UN-run oil-for-food racket which operated in the run-up to the second Iraq war.
Rwandan refugees carrying water containers make their way back to their huts at the Benaco Refugee Camp in Tanzania, near the Rwandan border, in May 1994. Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has accused the UN of 'mindboggling incompetence' ahead of the mass genocide that later occurred in Rwanda
In theory, it allowed Saddam Hussein to sell oil and buy basic supplies for his sanctions-ravaged people with the revenue. In practice, UN contractors and Saddam’s party officials pocketed millions from kickbacks while ordinary Iraqis suffered terrible privation.
I am talking about the mind-boggling incompetence of the order issued in 1994 to the commander of the peacekeeping force in Rwanda who had stumbled upon arms caches, and who intended to seize them before they could be used to murder civilians.
He was told in no uncertain terms to leave the weapons where they were. Eight hundred thousand people died in the ensuing genocide.
And I am talking about UN officials selling arms to Congolese militias while at the same time, it is reliably reported, poaching elephants and trading in their tusks.
We don’t like to dwell on such failures. We push them from our minds, because we want to give the UN the benefit of the doubt.
Yet it is this thinking that encourages the wrongdoing in the first place.
Only in the U.S., which is especially touchy about its sovereignty and resents interference from the UN, is the body’s malpractice widely reported. Elsewhere, we tend to treat the organisation as the source of ultimate moral sanction.
Which is, if you think about it, a very odd thing to do.
How can we take seriously an organisation whose members voted onto its Commission for Human Rights such shameless human rights-abusing countries as Sudan and Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe?
Why should a vote by the UN General Assembly — in which each member state has its say — mean more than a vote in our own House of Commons? Why should we be influenced by how Uzbekistan, Iran and Cuba cast their ballots?
Yet, bizarrely, we are. Every proposed military action — in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria — is now debated largely in terms of whether it has UN authority.
What do we mean by ‘UN authority’? We mean, in practice, how France, China and Russia vote on the Security Council.
We are, in other words, contracting out our foreign policy to Francois Hollande, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.
Daniel Hannan claims Britain is 'contracting out' our foreign policy to the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured, and French President Francois Hollande
Every time war looms, you can be certain that Anglican bishops will assure us that those three atheists are the final arbiters of whether it is just.
It’s not that UN employees are more venal than anyone else. Man is fallen and, in every organisation, you will find people who give in to temptation.
It’s simply that, like other global technocracies, the UN doesn’t have to explain itself to anyone. It is powered by its own sense of moral superiority; and the rest of us overlook its peccadilloes on the grounds that it means well.
What would I do to reform it?
I’d pare back the UN to its most elemental role, namely providing a forum for the arbitration of disputes among states.
I’d scrap — or at least pull out of — the massive associated bureaucracies that lay down the law on every subject from the status of refugees to employment rights, from development aid to drugs, from housing to climate change. Not because these matters are unimportant, but precisely because they are too important to be left to remote officials.
Our ancestors fought for centuries to establish the right to hire and fire their lawmakers. Yet, at global as at European level, we seem content to hand power to technocrats who answer only to themselves.
Ms Manjoo is, of course, entitled to her view about British sexism, as is Mrs Rolnik to hers about our housing benefit. But if they want to dictate policy, they should take the trouble to get themselves elected first.
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