Accuracy in Media

So-called U.N. reform is in trouble, and members of the press are already gearing up to blame the U.S.  Howard LaFranchi, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, has written a piece, dated March 28, on how “countries harbor old suspicions about those pressing for reform-in particular the United States.” This kind of journalism blames America for the U.N.’s problems.

But he goes on to contradict himself. He says, “Hopes for the reforms were buoyed by last week’s approval of a new human rights council. It replaces the discredited human rights commission-a change world leaders had demanded last fall. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson says that getting the human rights issue done opens the way to focusing on the big management questions.” The Human Rights Council was approved in the face of a “no” vote from the U.S., which believed it wasn’t tough enough to exclude human rights violators. After voting against it, the U.S. announced that it would nevertheless support and even fund it. So how can the U.S. be an impediment to U.N. reform? It seems as if the U.S. is getting rolled on changes in U.N. bodies that really don’t amount to anything substantial. Still, the U.S. goes along with the charade.

LaFranchi makes a reference to this, noting that the new body is “less bold than some powers including the U.S. had advocated.” Less bold? The U.S. had wanted human rights violators excluded from membership on this body. The use of the term “less bold” is a new low in obscuring the facts. It was a failure by the U.N. to reform itself. 

Regarding U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s overall U.N. reform plan, LaFranchi  reports that it “received at least initial encouraging words from the U.S. And that is good, reform proponents say, because a U.N. transformation needs strong support from the world’s only superpower.”

But is the Annan plan, which is said to cost $510 million,  true U.N. “reform?” LaFranchi conveniently forgot to mention that Annan received a $500,000 cash gift from the government of the United Arab Emirates, which, it turns out, is perfectly acceptable under the U.N. Charter because the rules that affect U.N. employees don’t affect the Secretary-General. Nothing in the Annan plan will change that. And recently, at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, the American who now manages U.N. financial affairs, Christopher Burnham, declined to comment on Annan’s gift. He also disclosed that new financial-disclosure forms, which are supposed to be submitted by top U.N. officials, will not be released to the public. Is that the fault of the U.S.?

LaFranchi has a pro-U.N., even an anti-American, bias. That’s why he relied on “U.N. proponents” in his article who want to blame the U.S. for things that go wrong at the world body. They were Lee Feinstein, a former Clinton State Department official; Edward Luck, a former president of the pro-U.N. United Nations Association; and Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, one of the groups that supported creation of the bogus Human Rights Council against the wishes of the U.S.

LaFranchi quotes Roth as saying that “a lack of U.S. engagement” in the U.N. reform process leads to speculation that some U.S. officials “want to produce a U.N. failure to demonstrate that the U.N. can’t reform-and thus should be abandoned.”

But the U.S. engaged in the process, hoping to produce a responsible Human Rights Council, and was outvoted 170-4. The U.S. tried its best, but the U.N. itself proved that the process was flawed. Blaming the U.S. for this result is turning reality on its head. But that’s journalism at the Christian Science Monitor, a paper supposedly known for its coverage of foreign affairs. 

The problem is the U.N., not the U.S. Let’s have some recognition of the facts.

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