The UN, No Forum for Women's Rights
The shadows of children raped by United Nation (UN)
peacekeepers in the Congo and the women molested by
a top UN official fall across the www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/Review/english/49sess.htm
49th Session of the Commission on the Status of
Women (CSW). From February 28th to March 11th, the
UN will meet in New York City to review global
progress on the womens human rights
agreement known as the www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/
Beijing Platform (1995). Over 6,000 advocates of
womens rights will attend.
How can a self-respecting woman, let alone a
feminist, legitimize the UN through her presence?
CSW should be in the forefront of those crying out
for justice and UN accountability. Instead, the CSW
will almost certainly call for expanding the
UNs power and funding.
Rage will be directed instead at President Bush
who has already created www.manilatimes.net/national/2005/feb/27/yehey/opinion/20050227opi5.html
pre-meeting controversy. On Thursday, the Bush
administration signaled its refusal to renew an
unconditional commitment to the Beijing Platform a
declaration of womens rights promoted by the
Clintons, which many consider to be a radical
feminisms global agenda.
Bush is balking because the declaration is seen
to legitimize abortion as a human
right. Given the wide-spread reports that the
UNs was complicit in Chinas forced
abortion policy, the administrations caution
about how the Platform will be interpreted and
implemented is justified.
But if abortion is center stage, a more
fundamental question still remains. But what moral
standard is the UN a proper stage on which to
negotiate womens rights? How much blood and
corruption has to splatter before the UNs
moral authority is washed away?
Its credibility on human rights has been broken
beyond repair by the food-for-oil scandal that, as
a FOX News series stated, ended up with
Saddam Hussein pocketing billions to become the
biggest graft-generating machine in
Its integrity on womens rights was
destroyed in 2001 scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=160672003
by the surging traffic in under-aged prostitutes in
Bosnia. The traffic was not only created by the
arrival of tens of thousands of male UN personnel
who sought prostitutes but also by behind the scene
involvement by UN personnel. www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2002/0122.html
The female staff member who blew the whistle was
first fired and then exonerated by unfolding
The intervening years have not improved the
UNs record. Approximately 50 U.N. personnel
currently face some 150 allegations of sexual
abuse, most of them involving children, in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. The situation has
been labeled www.canadafreepress.com/2005/media022505.htm
the sex-for-food scandal because
children traded sex for the handful of food they
needed to live.
Reports from the Congo surfaced last year.
An article in Decembers London Times stated,
When the police arrived the man was allegedly
about to rape a 12-year-old girl. The accused
serial rapist and pedophile was a UN expert in the
$700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the
war-ravaged nation. Anneke Van Woudenberg of the
Human Rights Watch organization, states, "The U.N.
is there for their protection, so when the
protectors become violators, this is particularly
The UN tends to stonewall such accusations
despite its zero tolerance policy
toward sexual abuse. When abcnews.go.com/2020/UnitedNations/story?id=489306&page=1
ABCs 20/20 confronted William Swing, head of
the Congos UN peacekeeping mission, he blamed
the problem on a small number of miscreants. He
emphasized the remedial measures taken such as
curfews and prohibitions against raternization with
prostitutes. ABCs cameras caught a group of
peacekeepers out after the curfew with prostitutes
at a bar. When Swing commented, Perhaps my
wasn't aware of it,
ABC pointed out that several from senior management
were also at the bar.
Investigative journalist David Ross explains
that the abuse is a by-product of the de facto
immunity from law enjoyed by UN personnel. Ross
writes, Peacekeeping troops come from U.N.
member states and are only accountable to their own
governments. U.N. civilian employees enjoy immunity
from local prosecution and as a result tend not to
face charges in countries where they are
stationed. Perhaps this explains why
reports now suggest that sexual abuse by UN
peacekeepers is worldwide.
This could be good news. If there is a
structural incentive to abuse, then
abuse could be minimized by changing the structure.
But reform requires the one thing that the UN seems
determined to avoid: taking responsibility.
Consider the news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4278871.stm
Lubbers scandal that played out earlier this month.
Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
was accused of unwanted physical
contact with a female staff member in
December 2003. The scandal emerged only after the
Independent, a UK newspaper, published details of a
confidential report (July 2004) from the UN's
Office of Internal Oversight Services which pointed
to a pattern of sexual harassment. Until then,
Secretary General Koffi Annan declined news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3963639.stm
The Independents expose was published on
February 18th; news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4282333.stm
on February 20th, Lubbers resigned at Annans
The UN is no more forthcoming on the
sex-for-food scandal. In response to a michellemalkin.com/archives/001530.htm
blistering commentary by Michelle Malkin entitled
"U.N.'s Rape of the Innocents," Jane Holl
Lute -- Asst. Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
Operations repeated www.nypost.com/postopinion/letters/22104.htm
the standard line. A zero tolerance policy is being
enforced. Moreover, she called Malkin
negligent for not reporting on the
UNs remedial measures.
This is not an agency that shoulders
Which returns to the question, why are feminists
pretending that the UN is a proper stage to discuss
womens rights? No self-respecting woman would
walk through its doors.
* * *
McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The Independent Institute
in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of
many books and articles, including her latest book,
Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the
21st Century. She lives with her husband in
Also, see her daily blog at www.zetetics.com/mac
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