by Peter C. Earle
Peter C. Earle is an economist and writer who joined
AIER in 2018 and prior to that spent over 20 years as a
trader and analyst in global financial markets on Wall
research focuses on financial markets, monetary issues,
and economic history.
has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters,
NPR, and in numerous other publications.
holds an MA in Applied Economics from American
University, an MBA (Finance), and a BS in Engineering
from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
United Nations Headquarters
the United Nations is a feeling
that transcends political ideologies.
Even many who view the UN
as an essential institution gripe about the composition of its
councils and its mounting listlessness over the last few decades.
From charges of
appeasement to accusations of moral relativism and beyond, the UN is
regularly decried as an ineffectual circus of multinational
bureaucrats, purposely or unwittingly promoting the interests of a
global elite and undermining the sovereignty of nations.
rarely inclined to subtlety, see it as a Trojan horse for a
World Order, paving the way for a supranational world government.
Nevertheless, many of those complaints (and some of those
suspicions, at least circumstantially) are justified.
Despite its foundational
goal of "maintain[ing] international peace and security" the U.N.
has clung to an increasingly desultory role since its formation
after World War II, adding
mostly ineffective missions along
Although the monitoring of human rights has been a part of the U.S.
mission since its founding, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights was drawn up in 1948; during the 1980s it began picking up
With the adoption of the
Vienna Declaration and Program of Action at the World Conference on
Human Rights in 1993, that focus was formalized and infrastructure
(a High Commissioner, with an office and staff) added.
Yet the U.N. has never failed to the extent that it has throughout
This year, the United
Nations has effectively stood as a bystander and partial accomplice
amid the most widespread violations of human rights at any time in
its seven-decade history.
A Pantheon of
Proponents of the UN often cite the relative stability, despite
smaller regional conflicts, which prevailed between its 1945
founding and the early 1990s.
Yet the ineffectiveness
of the UN seems to have increased since the end of the Cold War,
strongly suggesting that the (again, relative) interim calm has more
to do with a clearly demarcated, two-power world than anything the
UN can lay claim to.
Since the collapse
of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, the organization has
unable to stop bloody conflicts in,
...to name a few,
ineffective responses to atrocities in,
of Iraq in 2003 was called "illegal" by the UN, bringing to mind an
peacekeeping missions have been effective, they tend to develop the
character of foreign policy ‘heirlooms:' the average age of the 14
active United Nations missions is 26 years.
corruption have further tarnished its idealistic facade, as have
legendary stories of
abuse in New York City, where the UN Headquarters occupies 18
acres of priceless Manhattan real estate.
retaliatory policies are part of the mix as well.
plenty of reasons
not to take the United Nations
But those should be set aside for the most recent
abdication of its charter.
It claims to,
rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities;"
the latter permitting U.N. officials to "examine, monitor,
publicly-report, and advise on human rights from a thematic or
And yet despite a
handful of vacuous comments, the United Nations has stayed virtually
global lockdowns by its member states.
Looking the Other Way
In 1984, the
Forty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights met at a
high-level conference in Siracusa, Italy.
The purpose of the
meeting was to discuss the situations under which the observation of
human rights by governments can be either reduced or suspended as
practitioners, and other experts in human rights from all
regions of the world."
deliverable of that meeting is entitled "The Siracusa Principles on
the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".
[a] group of 31
distinguished experts in international law… from,
Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Greece, Hungary, India,
Ireland, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland,
Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States
of America, the United Nations Center for Human Rights, the
International Labor Organization, and the sponsoring
upon the need for a close examination of the conditions and
groups for permissible limitations and derogations [of civil and
stipulate that in the event that the integrity of a member state is
if a disease outbreak or other health emergency
arises that poses the risk of state collapse, the suspension of
certain human rights can be limited or removed, temporarily...
Any such moratorium
is, per the Siracusa Principles, proscribed in the following
It must be
based upon scientific evidence
exist for a finite, predetermined amount of time
It must be
proportional to the effort
It must be
subject to review
respect human dignity
Let's set aside
that a group of international attorneys drew up guidelines for when
human rights can be suspended in the interest of preserving
governments - which in terms of U.N. membership runs from
democratically-elected officials to totalitarian regimes.
During the novel
coronavirus pandemic of 2020, other than a handful of mealy-mouthed,
sanctimonious press releases and speeches, the leadership of the UN
stood by - not even deploying their classically impotent, symbolic
There were no legal
actions, no threats of sanction, no requests for additional
information, and no deployment of observation teams.
lockdowns, threats against civilians, and a wide range of other
human rights violations were undertaken the world over.
Many endure to this
day, all but neglected by the appointed global watchdog for "peace"
Comments from the
Office of the Secretary General (SecGen) of the UN
predictably wove a noncommittal, contradictory path as brutal policy
responses to the pandemic drew on from weeks to months:
the time for all governments to step up and do
everything possible to contain the disease - and to do
so without stigmatization, and respecting human rights.
containment is possible, but the window of opportunity
later on March 6, 2020, a spokesperson for the Rights Chief
at the UN Office of the High Commissioner
who are already barely surviving economically, may all
too easily be pushed over the edge by the measures being
adopted to contain the virus."
roughly half of Earth's population - 3.9 billion people in no less
than 90 countries or territories - were ordered to stay at home.
"So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a
country's epidemic, but they cannot do it alone," adding
that other methods including test and trace should be
initiated as well.
(The WHO is
the directing and coordinating authority for health matters
within the United Nations system.)
Countries must "not use the COVID crisis as a pretext
for repressive measures[.]"
On May 14,
2020, the UN Human Rights Commissioner again urged
governments to be cautious when
lifting lockdowns, adding that allowing,
"politics or economics" to drive decisions is unwise.
Unsurprisingly, in mid-July UNICEF announced that the food
security of some
132 million people could be in jeopardy by the end of
And on it went,
until on September 24th the SecGen (António Guterres)
the failure to control the virus on a,
"lack of global
preparedness, cooperation, unity, and solidarity."
And less than a
week later with no shame or
and social consequences [of the pandemic] are as bad as we
feared, and in some cases, worse."
not news that for the United Nations, economics are a
distant consideration of any discussion, not least of which is
But in light of this year's
colossal failings, the
time is right for an U.N.-free world; at the very least, a U.S.-free
Enough Is Enough
Defenders of the
United Nations have a number of parries at the ready against the
standard array of criticisms.
They argue that in
a world where so much instability is created by non-state entities -
terror networks, for example - the impactfulness of a multi-state
organization is blunted.
Those excuses don't
this wasn't a global terror group or a regional threat.
The political response to the pandemic took the wholly undisguised
form of governments threatening, imprisoning, and in some cases
attacking their own citizens.
If, as politicians
are fond of saying,
the battle against the spread of the SARS-CoV-2
virus is a "war,"
...UN member firms have been engaged in
war crimes on
a scale not seen since World War II.
no one would
(or should) make the argument that the scope of death camps,
forced labor, and summary executions in the first half of the
1940s matches that of tyrannical, widespread disease mitigation
Yet the depraved
indifference with which the global scale of lockdowns, and in
particular the wholesale economic destruction of communities has
been received by the named invigilator warrants comparison.
Add in the
likelihood of widespread hunger and such inevitable costs as
worldwide increases in stress disorders, spikes in suicides, and
widespread substance abuse and the comparison becomes even more
Of the U.N.'s
failings and… glaring inadequacies" - and whether explained by
cowardice, corruption, or indecision - the failure to speak clearly
in favor of human rights (with science and history squarely on the
side of standing up for human rights) is low from which the United
Nations should not be permitted to recover.
That is to say, not
in its present or any other form.
It's bad enough
that the United States government has a history of supporting brutal
regimes with taxpayer dollars.
financing an estimated 22% of the U.N. operating budget and just
south of 30% of the so-called 'peacekeeping' budget for an
organization that won't stand up for our human rights, let alone
that of billions of others, has never more clearly been