Over the weekend, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development elected a new chair...Zimbabwe.
Yes, that Zimbabwe.
This is so ridiculous, monstrous, and pathetic on so many fronts it's hard to know where to start excoriating the UN for this truly idiotic decision.
Asking Zimbabwe to chair a commission on sustainable development is like asking Pol Pot to chair a panel on overpopulation. What aspect of Zimbabwe's development is sustainable or could serve as a model to other countries? The fact that the country doesn't have enough power for its capital city, or its farms? The 50% contraction of its economy since 2000? The 2,200% inflation? An unemployment rate believed to be around 80%? A life expectancy that has dropped from 55 to 35 in 27 years? The destruction of entire villages in the name of urban beautification? I guess those who believe that sustainable development means reversing economic development would be OK with the last one...and let's not forget the brutal political repression that has been going on.
This is the country that the UN has chosen to lead the world on the issue of sustainable development. I have written many times about the implications of the UN's preference for sovereign equality over values, law, norms, or basic human decency. How can this body be expected to advance human rights, prevent genocide, or serve as even a shadow of a world government if it can't punish one of the worst regimes operating today?
Madeline Albright and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had an op-ed in the Washington Post this past March arguing that:
However, they go on to assert that they "are not suggesting that the world should intervene to impose political change in Zimbabwe. We are suggesting that global and regional organizations and individual governments should make known their support for human rights and democratic practices in that country, as elsewhere." Which global organizations? The UN? As is evidenced by this, the UN cannot and will not act against its members until it's almost too late, not necessarily then, as Sudan and Rwanda readily demonstrate.
The crisis in Zimbabwe raises familiar questions about the responsibilities of the international community. Some argue that the world has no business interfering with, or even commenting on, the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This principle is exceptionally convenient for dictators and for people who do not wish to be bothered about the well-being of others. It is a principle that paved the way for the rise of Hitler and Stalin and for the murders ordered by Idi Amin. It is a principle that, if consistently observed, would have shielded the apartheid government in South Africa from external criticism and from the economic sanctions and political pressure that forced it to change. It is a principle that would have prevented racist Rhodesia from becoming Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe from ever coming to power.
What regional organizations? The African Union? Not likely. The AU has been hesitant, to say the least, to take on Zimbabwe and its anti-colonial hero-president Mugabe.
So, if anything is going to happen, it will likely fall to the US, the EU, NATO, and/or other western organizations to do something. Of course, any such actions will violate the international law of sovereignty, they will violate the will of the international community as expressed by the UN, and they will no doubt resemble cultural imperialism. So be it. That is what it is going to take to end the suffering in Zimbabwe. In Darfur. In North Korea. And everywhere else that the UN has turned a blind eye.