Zimbabwe to Chair UN Commission on Sustainable Development—Unfortunately, That's Not Just a Sick Joke

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It's enough to make you weep or throw things in frustration. Zimbabwe has been selected to head the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. As the Times (London) observes, Robert Mugabe's government has

…left 700,000 of its citizens without accommodation by bulldozing their homes, caused millions more to starve after violent land seizures that destroyed farming and so mismanaged its own economy that it has the world's highest inflation.

The Harrisonburg Daily News properly asks:

Is there any nation on Earth more unsuited for that position?

I can think of a few other possible nominees. Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo come to mind, but the Daily News' point is valid.

This is not an isolated instance of outrageous UN appointments. Recall that Libya was once selected to head the UN Human Rights Commission.

Frequent reason contributor Jonathan Rauch once proposed creating a league of democracies as a counterweight to a thoroughly corrupt UN.

Finally, it seems that Robert Mugabe is following my advice on how to achieve the miracle of poverty.

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  1. Well, as these countries are part of the U.N. it ain’t like they can be kept off these bodies, especially since rotation is part of the process.

  2. Grotius: Correct. But as I understand it the “rotation” is between continents, not just countries. While few African countries are poster children for “sustainable development” (also known as democratic capitalism), Botswana would have been a better choice. Or maybe the US should just refuse to join or support UN agencies that produce such outrageous results. I’m just saying.

  3. On that “League of Democracies” business, George Orwell wrote an essay about that idea in the 1930s. Seems that his primary objection has gone away with the end of empires and might be a pretty good idea to dust off and try now.

  4. Zimbabwe is an obvious choice to preside over sustainable development issues. Afterall, its government ensures that its status as a developing country will be sustainable.

  5. I think there was a candidate for President in 2004 who advocated blowing up the UN building. Of course he was going to give them a week to evacuate.

    What was name of that candidate again, it’s right on the tip of my tongue.

  6. Grotius, it does the raise the questions of (1) why these countries are part of the UN, and(2) why these positions are filled by rotation.

    Not to mention (3) why is there a UN in the first place?

  7. The closest thing to a League of Democracies is the EU which, at times, looks more like a League of Bureaucrats. Expecting change from large, formal organizations of governments with hundreds of entrenched interests is silly.

    BTW, has anyone here even heard of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development until this incident? Is it similar to the UN Commitee on Decolonization which apparently exists to fight for the rights of oppressed Bermudans?

  8. Ron Bailey,

    Well, African countries represent a big block of votes and as I understand that plays into these issues. I don’t pretend to be any sort of expert on the U.N. though.

    R.C. Dean,

    Because the U.S. created it and the time we apparently wanted it to represent all individual nations.

  9. I think folks tend to forget that our nation birthed the U.N.

  10. I think folks tend to forget that our nation birthed the U.N.

    That is one late-term abortion I would have supported.

  11. In the 1940s, there were many fewer countries in the world, and the UN served the purpose of giving the US and the USSR another point of contact. The expansion of countries in the world, and the rise of nonstate power, has made the purposes for which the UN is useful less important.

  12. jb,

    Perhaps. But the question why does it look like it does? In part because it was founded in a particular way.

  13. That is one late-term abortion I would have supported.

    Grotius tees it up, and Guy knocks it out. Well done, sir.

  14. Come on, it’s the perfect showpiece of “sustainability” Abject poverty and subsistence farming being the ultimate goal of the sustainability hawkers.

  15. What was name of that candidate again, it’s right on the tip of my tongue.

    Michael Badnarik! The same guy who wanted to get rid of drivers licenses and keep prisoners tied to their beds for the duration of their sentences, so their muscles would atrophy.

    And I voted for him. Says a lot about Bush and Kerry, no?

  16. I think folks tend to forget that our nation birthed the U.N.

    Yet another example of FDR’s naive foolishness haunting us well into the next century.

  17. crimethink,

    Maybe. What I find hilarious about the founding is the (completely predictable) spying being done by the various parties to the U.N. Charter. Distrust existed from the start.

  18. Does the UN have it’s own anthem yet, for when it becomes our world government? Or at least some theme music? Because I’d like to suggest something based on that calliope circus music.

    You know, the one that goes:

    Doot-doot doodley doot-doot-doo
    Doot-doot doodley doot-doot-doo
    DOOT doo doot doot, DOOT doo doot doot
    Doot-doot doodley doot doot doo doo

    Doot-doot doodley doot-doot-doo …

  19. Yet another example of FDR’s naive foolishness haunting us well into the next century.

    I don’t think FDR was niave. FDR was a very politically savvy fascist.

  20. Stevo Darkly,

    On the U.N. anthem question see this.

  21. Bob wrote:
    “Come on, it’s the perfect showpiece of “sustainability” Abject poverty and subsistence farming being the ultimate goal of the sustainability hawkers.”

    I gather you’re just engaging in jesting polemics, but you are at all serious, I must strongly disagree. As evience, I show http://www.treehugger.com wherein a considerable amount of new technology is shown along with expected politcal comentary and debate from a variety of ‘green’ circles.

    While it’s not ‘libertarian’, I see no evidence there that ‘hawkers’ want everyone to be in abject poverty; and while generally bullish on the 100 Mile Diet thing, they have expressed caution about it. Subsistence farming isn’t necessarily ‘sustainable’.

  22. I can think of a few other possible nominees. Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo come to mind, but the Daily News’ point is valid.

    I think Zimbabwe still wins hands down. Mugabe took what was a pretty good economy and systematically ran it into the ground. The current governments of Haiti and the DR Congo simply inherited what were already basket cases. (Though I will admit that whatever Haitian government took over after the U.S. Marines left in 1934 has about as much to answer for as does Mugabe.)

  23. Q Joe to come in to defend the need for the UN.

  24. World Publics Favor New Powers for the UN; Most Support Standing UN Peacekeeping Force, UN Regulation of International Arms Trade

    Publics around the world favor dramatic steps to strengthen the United Nations, including giving it the power to have its own standing peacekeeping force, to regulate the international arms trade and to investigate human rights abuses.

    hier

    Full report: PDF!

  25. Dude I’m not going to a sight called treehugger.com. I have some standards.

  26. Just to be a contrarian voice here…

    It seems that Zimbabwe has the most to learn from the process, and, therefore, may be the perfect country to head up the study on this issue.

    There seems to be some assumption that heading up the commission is the same thing as determining the output of the committee.

    Communication between nations with different skill sets and perspectives is the point of the UN… and the motivation behind rotating countries through various positions.

  27. “Abject poverty and subsistence farming being the ultimate goal of the sustainability hawkers.”

    That is a serious distortion of reality.

    From the Worldwatch Institute

    “Sustainable economics is about making the global economy sustainable without sacrificing the benefits of industrialism. One focus of Worldwatch work on economics has been government spending and taxation policies. Currently, governments subsidize environmentally harmful activities such as driving, logging, and mining, tilting the economy in the direction of resource waste and pollution.”

    http://www.worldwatch.org/taxonomy/term/118

  28. “Does the UN have it’s own anthem yet, for when it becomes our world government?”

    Of course.

  29. Herman Daly has some points that need to be addressed in any serious discussion.

    http://dieoff.org/page88.htm

    “Growth in GNP should cease when decreasing marginal benefits become equal to increasing marginal costs. But there is no statistical series that attempts to measure the cost of GNP. This is growth mania, literally not counting the costs of growth. But the situation is even worse. We take the real costs of increasing GNP as measured by the defensive expenditures incurred to protect ourselves from the unwanted side effects of production and add these expenditures to GNP rather than subtract them. We count real costs as benefits.”

  30. “Dude I’m not going to a sight called treehugger.com. I have some standards.”

    Actually, much as it pains me to say it, treehugger.com can be quite interesting. That said, abject poverty may not be the ultimate goal of “sustainabilty”, but it is the condition that poor countries will find themselves constrained to if they stay sustainable.

  31. I don’t think FDR was niave. FDR was a very politically savvy fascist.

    His tendency to cuddle up with Stalin, in whom he had an almost childlike trust, goes against that opinion. I’m going to have to side with Napoleon on the whole incompetence vs. malice thing.

  32. The defining characteristic of “sustainable development” is that it recognizes the need for economic growth in order to achieve environmental protection. Desperately poor people in Africa, for example, do things like chop down trees for firewood, burn forests for agriculture, and shoot endangered species for meat. The intellectual breakthrough that the Rio Conference produced was the recognition by environmentalists that stalling economic growth is both immoral, and counter-productive to environmental protection.

    But hey, accusing people of wanting to starve Africans is almost as cute as accusing them of wanting to feed people into plastic shredders. And just as intellectually dishonest.

  33. The UN – at least, the General Assembly and committees – isn’t a thing, it’s a forum. It’s a place where we work to further our interests and values, and compete against our opponents. Like any other venue, it has its own rules.

    The League of Democracies wouldn’t replace the UN; it would allow us and those who share our bedrock principles to win in that venue.

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