One big headache

Brian Jones
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Before the Cold War melted away a couple of decades ago, it was common to hear idealists proclaim that a “world government” was the solution to stopping wars, arms races and various other ills that have plagued the human race since the first caveman required stitches due to an aggressively swung wooden club.

One big government would — the theory went — force the miscreants in the Kremlin and the White House to stop threatening each other with annihilating bombings, and instead provide bowls of rice and milk to the world’s starving millions.

World government seems such a quaint 1970s idea, but some people — such as UN-crat for life Stephen Lewis — won’t concede the notion is outdated and dangerous.

The modern argument has morphed into devotional support for the United Nations, which is deified by its supporters as far more principled and just than any state government could ever be, because it

truly encompasses the hopes and dreams of all mankind for peace and tranquility. You can read about it in pamphlets.

Idealism, then as now, is wonderful and necessary, but not at the expense of the facts “on the ground,” as today’s generals and news anchors like to quip.

Corrupting power

Purveyors of world government overlook a simple but important facet of governance: as power increases, so also does the tendency toward corruption.

The UN’s influence has risen since the end of the Cold War, but there is scant evidence that its representatives and bureaucrats are any more principled or moral than those who toil for state governments.

There have been headline-making scandals, such as the UN bureaucrats who made billions by trading food for oil when sanctions had been put on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. UN soldiers and employees have been implicated in sexual abuse and rape in the Congo civil war. And, of course, the UN General Assembly in New York now serves as one of the premier institutions worldwide in reviving and reinforcing anti-Semitism.

And this week, Postmedia News reported, the U.S. Supreme Court “upheld the tenet that the United Nations is above the law, refusing to question the world body’s legal immunity in a sexual harassment case involving one of the UN’s top former officials.”

Courting disaster

According to the report, UN staffer Cynthia Brzak alleged that Ruud Lubbers, who was then chief of the UN’s refugee agency, had groped her after a 2003 meeting. A UN investigation determined Brzak’s allegation was true.

Investigators also heard from witnesses who claimed Lubbers, a former prime minister of the Netherlands, had groped actress Angelina Jolie while she was at the UN to be introduced as a goodwill ambassador, although no complaint was lodged after that alleged incident.

A lower U.S. court had ruled UN staffers are immune from lawsuits. According to Postmedia News, Brzak had pursued legal action after then-secretary general Kofi Annan rejected UN investigators’ recommendation that Lubbers be disciplined. That would be the same Kofi Annan who so often self-righteously lectured citizens of developed countries about their moral obligations and duties.

Brzak went so far as to state her case in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama. As quoted by Postmedia News, she wrote, “Since the United Nations internal justice system is not independent or credible, the use of diplomatic immunity to prevent UN staff access to national legal systems is morally repugnant and … unconstitutional.”

Most world citizens would likely agree. But the UN has the law on its side. Justice will have to remain the preserve of speeches and flowery oratory.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at

Organizations: United Nations, Postmedia News, UN General Assembly U.S. Supreme Court The Telegram

Geographic location: U.S., Iraq, Congo New York Netherlands

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Recent comments

  • Mr. T
    October 08, 2010 - 12:43

    "as power increases, so also does the tendency toward corruption". Very true, it seems to happen with any large organization (political, religous, or financial) that is given too much power.