On December 21, the 193-member UN General Assembly held an emergency special session at the request of Arab and Muslim states. The session was aimed at rebuking President Trump’s recent announcement to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Not surprisingly, the special session passed a non-binding resolution approved by 128 states, declaring Trump’s announcement is “null and void and must be rescinded.” But this resolution only serves as the latest example that the UN lacks moral authority to resolve the thorniest world affairs.
The UN Is a Hotbed of Corruption
It’s well-known that the UN is one of the most corrupt organizations on this planet. The UN has never issued any detailed reports on how it spends the funds member states contribute. It rarely subjects its accounting and finance to external audit.
The last time any independent inquiry of the UN’s finance and accountability was done was in 2005, by Paul Volcker, a former head of America’s Federal Reserve. The independent commission investigated the UN’s then-largest humanitarian aid program, the oil for food program established in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian needs. The 2005 investigation of this program discovered massive corruption involving Benon Sevan, the former head of the UN’s oil-for-food program in Iraq, Alexander Yakovlev, an officer in the UN’s procurement department, and then-UN general secretary Kofi Annan’s son Kojo.
After the disclosure that the UN’s humanitarian program was a huge scandal, the UN vowed to reform. A special anti-corruption task force it set up in 2006 was dissolved at the end of 2008. Since then, little has changed and corruption continues to be business as usual inside the UN.
In 2015, several Chinese business people were arrested by the FBI in the New York for allegedly paying bribes to the president of the UN general assembly, John Ashe, to perform certain services for wealthy Chinese businessmen. In 2016, a Macau-based real estate developer, Ng Lap Seng, was also charged with bribing Ashe. According to U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara, “For Rolex watches, bespoke suits and a private basketball court, John Ashe, the 68th President of the UN General assembly, sold himself and the global institution he led.” Ashe died in a very mysterious way just days before he was to appear in the bribery trial.
The United States is the largest contributor to the UN. The series of corruption scandals only demonstrates that rather than doing good in the world, U.S. taxpayers’ hard earned money has enriched some UN bureaucrats at the expense of the world’s needy and the poor. An organization like the UN that is rife with corruption doesn’t have the moral authority to tell the United States what to do.
UN’s Structural Problems Have Hindered Its Effectiveness
The UN’s founding charter declares that the UN’s mission is “to maintain international peace and security.. develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” Such a mission is honorable and dignified. Yet the UN’s structural problems have hindered realizing its hefty mission.
A major structural problem is that the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France are the only permanent members of the powerful, 15-seat Security Council since 1945. Each has veto power. Authoritarian regimes like China and Russia often use their veto powers to support client states such as North Korea, and prevent any meaningful resolutions to major crises such as Syria and Ukraine. Because of the social, economic, and ideological differences of these five nations, it seems nothing effective can get done at the UN. Given that the membership of the UN general assembly has grown from 53 nations in 1945 to 193 in 2016, surely some kind of change is due if the UN wants to have significant impact on world affairs.
Another UN structure problem is personnel. A post at the UN is a sweet deal: nice pay, a nice location, a guaranteed parking space, and, yes, the diplomatic immunity. No wonder that an ambassadorship to the UN and senior staff positions are often handed out as rewards to member nations’ political supporters, regardless of diplomatic experience. The UN usually selects its leadership from the same pool of people, which inevitably allows it to be abused by shady characters who are there to serve their own and their home countries’ interests, rather than the interests of UN missions.
The New York Post named a few names who abused the office of the president of UN general assembly, such as “Serbia’s Vuk Jeremiććc, who in 2012 tried to whitewash his nation’s role in the Balkan wars a decade earlier. Or Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nas-ser, who got the position in 2011, shortly after the corrupt soccer-ruling body, FIFA, awarded Qatar the right to host the 2022 World Cup.”
Then “as the UNGA passed its usual vacuous resolutions promising equality for all, its president was Sam Kutesa — who was also serving as foreign minister of Uganda, where new laws had just declared homosexuality a felony.” The same Sam Kutesa was charged by a U.S. prosecutor for a bribery scandal, in which he was paid a $500,000 in exchange for obtaining “business advantages” for a Chinese energy company while he served as president of the U.N. General Assembly from 2014 to 2015.
The UN has become a bloated, corrupt, and ineffective bureaucracy. It doesn’t have the moral authority to address the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The UN’s Anti-Isrel Bias Is Appalling
While the UN charter claims it is an “organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members, “ Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is often subjected to the UN’s anti-Israel bias. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon justified Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians by saying, “it is human nature to react to occupation.”
The UN’s Human Rights Council, packed with human rights abusers such as Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela, permanently singles out Israel under a special agenda item and condemns Israel at every one of its meetings. The UN Commission on the Status of Women condemned Israel as the only country in the world violating Palestinian women’s rights, while ignoring the violations committed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and many abuses women suffer in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.
The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) singled out Israel as the only violator of “mental, physical and environmental health,” while ignoring the atrocities taking place at the time in Syria and Yemen. Interestingly, the same WHO appointed Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old authoritarian leader, Robert Mugabe, one of the worst human rights abusers in the world, as WHO’s goodwill ambassador in 2017. It had to recant its offer after worldwide outrage.
The UN has done little in the last six decades to come up with any reasonable solution to the Israel- Palestine conflict. By singling out Israel constantly and repeatedly as the target for its condemnation, the UN has already lost moral authority to be the right venue to solve this conflict.
How the Trump Administration Should Move Forward
The result of Thursday’s vote on Jerusalem was predictable. But the world should know this about Trump by now: Trump is a typical contrarian. The more you criticize him and tell him what not to do, the more he is determined to do it.
Not to mention that the United States was founded by free people, and we value freedom. Therefore, we’ll always support any nation like Israel that promotes democracy, human freedom, and the rule of law. On the issue of establishing U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, President Trump has the support of the majority of American people and the U.S. Congress, which in 1995 passed a law to establish the Jerusalem embassy by a vote of 93-5.
It will benefit the Trump administration, however, to recognize that much of the sensitivity around Jerusalem is due to its holy places for a wide variety of religions. Rather than simply ignoring other nations’ objections to our decision, there are a few things the administration can and should do to move forward with lesser resistance.
First is to present the facts. While the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, Jerusalem’s previous controlling government, was a poor steward of Jerusalem’s holy places, Israel has been exemplary. Only under the protection of a democracy can people of all religions who regard Jerusalem as their holy site freely worship the way they want and have equal protection.
The second thing is to show that establishing an U.S. embassy in West Jerusalem doesn’t preclude a two-state solution. On the contrary, it is entirely consistent with re-establishing Palestinian rule along the 1967 lines. Denying this betrays a desire to wipe out Israel’s existence. The best way to show Trump’s resolve for the Middle East process is to appoint a special envoy to kickstart the peace negotiation as soon as possible. The UN’s empty resolutions have done nothing for peace in the Middle East. With determination and pragmatism, maybe the United States can.