United nations

What do Munroe Bergdorf and Andrew Tate have in common?

For inadequate men scared by self-willed women, by the start of the 21st century, things were getting dangerously out of hand. The old right-wing ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche’ method of corralling and controlling us had been woefully discredited with the second world war. (Like the old brand of anti-Semitism, coincidentally, which was also looking for a new angle – and found it in the fresh’n’funky Islamist kind.) A ‘caring’ and ‘progressive’ way to thwart uppity women was needed, but repeated and risible attempts at ‘men’s rights’ movements were rightfully mocked. So how could men abuse women while not being accused of sexism? Simple, say: ‘We’re women too. How can we be misogynists?’ And so the shock-frock-troops of transvestism formed a pincer movement with the aggressive masculinists embodied by Andrew Tate to assault the gains

What is the point of the UN?

When all this is over, we will have to hold a grown-up and perhaps very difficult conversation about the United Nations. No institution is perfect, or has supernatural powers to stop war or despotism, and perhaps nothing could have dissuaded Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. But the UN’s failure to prevent one fifth of its permanent security council from overrunning another member state should give us pause. There are the hard realities of realpolitik, of course, but there is also the question of endemic institutional failure. It may be that we will either have to change how we think about the UN or change the UN itself. In a session

The United Nations race report hypocrisy

Oh dear. Four weeks after the government’s Sewell report on race relations was released, a group of United Nations experts has decided to weigh in, claiming that it attempts to ‘normalise white supremacy’ and could ‘fuel racism’ in the UK. According to a lengthy press release issued today, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on Monday ‘strongly rejected’ the ‘stunning’ report, arguing it ‘repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twists data and misapplies statistics.’ It argues that: ‘The report’s conclusion that racism is either a product of the imagination of people of African descent or of discrete, individualized incidents ignores the pervasive role that the social

Buying power: how China co-opts the UN

It was one of those forgettably historic moments at the United Nations. The year was 2015, the UN’s 70th anniversary, and China’s President Xi Jinping was in New York, speaking in person to the UN General Assembly. In festive spirit, Xi announced that China would set up a $1 billion trust fund to be dispersed over ten years to ‘support the UN’s work’ and ‘contribute more to world peace and development’. So began the Peace and Development Trust Fund, one of China’s more insidious projects to co-opt the UN, its logo and its global networks. On Xi’s watch, China has become the second-largest contributor to the UN General Assembly and

The UN should be ashamed of its anti-Israel boycott list

I knew if we waited long enough, the United Nations would make itself useful. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has produced a handy catalogue of companies that supporters of Israel can give their business to. Of course, this was not Michelle Bachelet’s intention. Bachelet is the commissioner and before that she was an exquisitely unpopular Chilean politician and head of UN Women, the all-girl Ghostbusters of UN agencies that fights global mistreatment of women by putting out hashtags and putting Saudi Arabia on its executive board. Now Bachelet has released ‘a database of all business enterprises involved in certain specified activities related to the Israeli

Voices of import

By the age of eight Vaira Vike-Freiberga had learnt that life was both ‘very strange and very unfair’. Her baby sister had died from pneumonia the previous year because of the harsh conditions of life in a refugee camp in Germany (this was late 1944 and her family had fled their native Latvia for fear of the communists). Her mother soon had another child but when Vaira went to see her new brother in hospital she observed the young woman in the next-door bed turning her face to the wall against her wailing baby, product of a gang-rape by Russian soldiers. The nurses had given this unwanted baby girl the

Remembering Srebrenica

It’s almost 25 years since the atrocity at of Srebrenica, the last massacre on European soil. It’s not the kind of event that anyone will be too keen to remember: we quite rightly salute D-Day veterans, a reminder of those whose sacrifice led to the freedom we have today. But it’s worth remembering Srebrenica too – it offers a shocking case study in how a perfectly peaceful community could be almost destroyed when forces of xenophobia, racism and imperialism are allowed to proceed unchallenged. I was in Sarajevo recently to listen to the stories about that massacre. It’s one thing to know the details – over 100,00 killed in the

This extinction warning just doesn’t add up

Anyone watching the BBC’s News at Ten on Monday would have been surprised to learn that economic growth poses a dire threat to the future of life on this planet. We’re used to hearing this from climate change campaigners, but I’ve always taken such claims with a pinch of salt, suspecting that the anti-capitalist left is distorting the evidence. Apparently not. ‘One million species at risk of imminent extinction according to a major UN report,’ intoned the BBC. ‘It says the Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed by the relentless pursuit of economic growth.’ So does this mean the Extinction Rebellion protestors are right? I decided to do some digging to

The United Nations and the fracturing of Western unity

The United Nations Security Council was designed to, in a phrase, keep the peace. Life didn’t have to be brutish and short; if the great powers got into a room, they could wield their collective might and solve any problem.  The Security Council’s top priority—“the maintenance of international peace and security”—would prevent a third Great War from killing millions of people. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a utopian fantasy land. It turns out that the Security Council, populated by fifteen different countries with their own set of interests, can be just as dog-eat-dog as the world in which it represents. And in the age of Donald Trump, the top UN body

The Berlioz problem

Hector Berlioz was born on 11 December 1803 in rural Isère. ‘During the months which preceded my birth my mother never dreamed, as Virgil’s did, that she was about to bring forth a laurel branch,’ he writes in his Memoirs. ‘This is extraordinary, I agree, but it is true… Can it be that our age is lacking in poetry?’ And so on, for nearly 600 candid, facetious, outspoken pages. Berlioz’s Memoirs are the inner voice of the Romantic generation as you’ve always imagined it, and everyone who’s interested in music in the 19th century — no, scrub that, everyone who’s interested in European culture — should read them. As a

Living with

I’m not at all sure about the formula a person living with, followed by something unwelcome, such as Alzheimer’s disease, HIV or psoriasis. Perhaps I should describe myself as a person living with my husband. The formula is recommended by many Aids organisations that follow the ‘terminology guidelines’ of the UN Programme on HIV/Aids. Instead of saying that someone is infected with HIV, we should call them a person living with HIV. It is meant to be less patronising and avoids suggesting someone is ‘powerless, with no control over his or her life’. No one should even be called a patient, but must be called a client, which is ‘more

United Nations’ British racism report gaffe

Brexit Britain is a more racist country than before the referendum, according to the United Nations, whose inspector told us on Friday that anti-foreigner rhetoric has now become ‘normalised’. But how did Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism, manage to make such a stark finding having spent just 11 days in Britain? After all, if her ‘end of mission statement’ is anything to go on, Mr S. thinks her conclusions might have been somewhat cobbled together. Achiume, it seems, didn’t even get a chance to run her damning report through a spellcheck before publishing it. Referring to a study by Warwick University, Achiume managed to misspell the university’s name

Fact check: the UN Special Rapporteur’s report on British racism

The first instinct of many people towards Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights who finished her 11 day visit to Britain yesterday by claiming that Britain is in the grip of a Brexit-related upsurge in racial intolerance and discrimination, will be to tell her to keep her nose out of our affairs. I am not going to fall into the trap of offering material which could be used to try to prove her point. So let me just repeat, as I wrote here on the day she arrived, that I am delighted she has chosen Britain for one of her first visits since her appointment last September

Is Brexit a human rights emergency? The UN seems to think so

How easy it would be to be goaded by the visit of Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s “Special Rapporteur on Racism” to Britain. “My mission…will focus on explicit incidents of racism and related intolerance as well as attention to structural forms of discrimination and exclusion that have been exacerbated by Brexit,” she says, as well as “xenophobic discrimination and intolerance aimed at refugees, migrants and even British racial, religious and ethnic minorities”. How tempting it will be for some to tell her to bug off and deal with some real human rights abuses. But I am not going to be goaded, even if there will be many left-liberal-types who will be

Syrians are paying a heavy price for the UN’s incompetence

The United Nations Security Council has major responsibility in its job description: to maintain international peace and security. It is spelled out in Article 24 of the U.N. Charter, a tall task in normal circumstances but one that nonetheless underscores the core of the council’s very existence. Without it, the Security Council might as well be simply another distinguished debating society – a place where interesting, intellectually stimulating conversation occurs but where people leave without finding much consensus. On the subject of Syria, the top U.N. body has been anything but distinguished. Nor is there serious debate going on in the room. Conversations on how to stem the violence perpetrated by the

Oxfam isn’t alone: UN peacekeepers also exploit women in their care

A Times investigation has uncovered the terrible fact that women and possibly young girls in Haiti have been exploited by the very people paid to keep them safe: the staff of Oxfam, which sucks up £300 million a year from us in public and private money.  It’s a shock — and it’s not. Under the cover of moral superiority, out of sight and out of the media, all manner of NGOs, charities, and the saintly UN have committed some of the most disgusting crimes against the world’s most vulnerable women and children, and got away scot free. Not even the hyper-sensitive  #MeToo movement seems to give the shadow of a

Letters | 1 February 2018

Creeping repression Sir: John O’Sullivan is correct to argue that Europe’s centrist establishment often ‘does not really accept the right of its challengers to come to power. And when they do, it casts them as being illegitimate as extremists’ (‘A new Europe’, 27 January). We fear, however, that like a number of our fellow conservatives, Mr O’Sullivan’s enthusiasm to see elites get their come-uppance creates blind spots for creeping authoritarianism. At the end of a second term by its Fidesz government, Hungary performs worse on all of the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators than it did a decade ago. In its Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation finds a

America has sometimes stood proudest at the UN when it has stood alone

Outvoted on a resolution on Israel, on the wrong side of international opinion, the United States ambassador responded with an intemperate address to the UN General Assembly. America’s diplomat told the countries assembled: ‘The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act… A great evil has been loosed upon the world. The abomination of anti-Semitism… has been given the appearance of international sanction. The General Assembly today grants symbolic amnesty — and more — to the murderers of the six million European Jews.

There’s still some method to Donald Trump’s madness

Donald Trump’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly was both an echo of George W. Bush and something original. At times, one expected the president to lapse into a Texas drawl and warn about ‘nuclear weapons’; at others he was distinctly The Donald. Despite the seeming contradiction, it was a fairly cogent and consistent address; it also overflowed with the customary bombast. Trump began firmly in carrot-top mode, gloating about how well the American economy had done since he was inaugurated. Then came an abrupt escalation: ‘Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists,’ Trump warned, ‘but threaten other nations and their own people with the most

Donald Trump discovers his inner neocon

Donald Trump fully embraced his inner neocon before the United Nations today. He lashed out at North Korea, indicating that he was ready to ‘totally destroy’ it. He upbraided Iran as a corrupt and malignant regime that had taken America and its allies to the cleaners with the nuclear deal—’One of the worst and most one-sided transactions.’ And for good measure, he scoffed at various socialist regimes around the globe. The only term missing in his dyspeptic assessment of the carnage around the world was ‘axis of evil,’ the phrase that George W. Bush made famous when he decried Iran, North Korea and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. The language