In its abuse of American taxpayer dollars and trust, the United Nations has come up with many creative projects over the years, ranging from terrorist schoolhouses in Gaza, to procurement fraud, to per diems for pedophiliac peacekeepers. Now, the U.N. is on the brink of channeling millions in U.S. funds to pay for an encore of its notorious America-bashing, Israel-trashing conference held six years ago in Durban, South Africa.
All this might appear less than urgent, given that Durban II, or the “Durban Review Conference,” is scheduled for 2009, with the actual venue yet to be chosen. But hidden from easy public view, deep in the thickets of the U.N. bureaucracy, preparations have now arrived at the critical stage of requesting millions from the U.N. budget. In the coming year, the planners would like to hold a series of advance meetings, jetting around the world for consultations and regional conclaves (such as the Tehran regional preparatory meeting that preceded Durban I). They want interpreters, air tickets, conference halls, and subsidies for participation by like-minded nongovernmental organizations.
All this takes money. But the Durban II planners, including such oil-rich regimes as Iran and Libya, are not proposing to fund it themselves. Instead, they want U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to give them a free ride by allocating to this conference and its preparations some $7.2 million — for starters — from the U.N. regular budget. Because American taxpayers finance 22 percent of the U.N. budget, that means the U.S. would effectively be picking up almost one quarter of the tab not only for Durban II itself, but for every preparatory pajama party over the next year.
Even that, however, does not begin to convey the full extent of the abuse and hypocrisy which has already gone into the early planning of Durban II. This project has its roots in the U.N.’s 192-member General Assembly, where non-democratic states enjoy a majority. Influential members of that majority have become accustomed to treating U.S. money and support for the U.N. not as a respected gift of the American people, but as an entitlement spigot from which to siphon off for their own uses whatever they can get.
In 2006, the U.N. General Assembly, with its hefty lobby of Islamic dictatorships approved a proposal to launch Durban II, under the excuse of holding a “review” of Durban I. The General Assembly then farmed out management of this conference to the then-new Human Rights Council, based in Geneva. That Council had just replaced the old, Israel-fixated despot-stacked, discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, which in 2003 had become a poster-child for U.N. perversion by electing Libya as its chair. By now, the new Human Rights Council, similarly stacked and even more single-mindedly fixated on attacking Israel, has likewise discredited itself — to the extent that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen earlier this year proposed prohibiting the U.N. from using U.S. funds to support its activities.
Under the umbrella of this Human Rights Council (which Ros-Lehtinen suggested would more appropriately be named the “Human Wrongs Council”) the U.N. has now set up a secretariat in Geneva dedicated to handling arrangements for Durban II. At the first big planning conclave, held in Geneva this past August, delegates by acclamation chose as head of their preparatory committee (or “prepcom,” in U.N. jargon) none other than Libya. Indeed, they tapped the same Libyan ambassador, Najat Al-Hajjaji, who in 2003 had chaired the former “Human Rights” Commission. Among the other countries chosen to sit on the prepcom’s 20-member executive committee were Pakistan, Cuba, Russia and Iran. The official report of the meeting was prepared by a “Vice-Chairperson-Rapporteur” (I guess that’s an official U.N. title) from Cuba.
From there, the action shifted to New York, led by Pakistan — whose delegate had spoken at the Geneva prepcom for Durban II on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Last month, Pakistan introduced a resolution in the General Assembly’s so-called Third Committee in New York, which is supposed to deal with social and human rights matters. Buried deep in the Orwellian blather of this 55-item resolution was a request for the Secretary-General to allocate funds from the UN’s regular budget for the Durban review conference.
Ban’s budget office duly examined the request, and estimated that $7.2 million would be needed to embellish the conference plans with the desired regional meetings, additional Geneva gatherings and subsidies envisioned for assorted NGOs and official delegations from “least developed countries” — a list which overlaps substantially with some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, including such countries as oil-rich Sudan and Equatorial Guinea.
On Nov. 28, this resolution, with its $7.2 million price tag, was discussed, with some oral amendments, in the Third Committee. The U.S. delegate read out a statement objecting to the resolution and urging that the Office of the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner devote more effort to genuinely fighting racism, “rather than put its valuable resources toward more conferences.” Then came the vote. This Pakistan-sponsored resolution was so egregious that even the often-gutless European Union joined the U.S. and Israel in voting against it. But in the U.N.’s Third Committee, which includes the same thug majority as the General Assembly, that’s still not enough to carry the day. The delegates of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Burma, Zimbabwe, Libya and Sudan, along with a few score others, pushed the buttons to light up the great big voting board on the wall, 119 green lights to 45 red, with six abstentions, in favor of moving Durban II along the U.N. conveyor belt toward funding from the regular budget, with its fat slice of U.S. bacon.
That brings us up to date. Ban Ki-moon’s budget office is now reportedly tinkering with the estimate of dollars for Durban II. The amount might change, but the basic scene remains the same — with the door open for more funding down the road. The Durban II budget request is about to come up for review by the General Assembly’s 16-member budget oversight committee, known as the ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions). The ACABQ got into the news earlier this year when its former chairman, then the highest-ranking Russian at the UN, Vladimir Kuznetsov, was convicted in New York federal court of conspiracy to launder kickbacks collected by a colleague, Alexander Yakovlev, in connection with U.N. procurement deals. But more mundanely, the ACABQ is also known for nodding most budget items through by consensus.
If America nods along, the next step would be the main U.N. budget committee, and then the General Assembly itself. There, the same old majority of non-democrats would almost certainly be delighted to shovel money earned by taxpayers of the free world toward paying the bills for Durban II.
There is still a window in which to down-size this monstrosity-in-the-making. At the very least, there is still a chance to send the message that if Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan & affiliates wish to plan another anti-American, anti-Israel hate-fest, they are not welcome to spoon money for it out of the U.N. jam jar — mocking American generosity in the process. Let them pay for it themselves.
For that to happen, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, would have to wake up at the switch, and put up a fight more persuasive than ritual statements of diplomatic protest from his staff. What’s really needed is a Secretary of State willing to go to the mat to protect the interests of Americans and our closest allies at the UN. Failing that, which is evidently what’s going on right now, we need a U.N. Secretary-General with the integrity to impound the funds rather than politely dole them out to be abused. Otherwise we will soon see American tax dollars used to mold this next U.N. crucible for cooking up hatred of the free world.
– Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.