United Nations Reform

The United Nations has an important role to play in international affairs. However, every year, the UN General Assembly’s agenda is clogged with a large volume of one-sided resolutions that frame Israel as the sole perpetrator of aggression in the Middle East, making no mention of Palestinian culpability for their role in perpetuating conflict in the region, let alone other regional sources of conflict, instability and gross human rights abuses. The cumulative volume of anti-Israel vitriol and the sheer number of these unbalanced resolutions precludes credible involvement by the UN in various Mid-East issues – including moving the conflict toward a peaceful resolution.

Canadians believe the UN should take a constructive approach to the conflict and focus on peace and reconciliation, not blame and vilification.

The UN Human Rights Council is also negatively affected, with wildly disproportionate attention paid to Israel, the only country included as a permanent agenda item for consideration and condemnation. With its membership regularly composed of states notorious for human rights violations (including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Congo, Libya and China), the UNHRC spends more energy on passing hostile resolutions against Israel than it does on all the world’s worst human rights violators combined – including Iran, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea. Moreover, Israel is the only country that is subjected to mandatory, one-sided, and prejudicial investigation, presupposing Israeli culpability in its terms of reference.

The Durban Review conferences held under UN auspices have similarly been hijacked by a pointedly anti-Israel agenda that has repeatedly prevented it from fulfilling its purpose of opposing “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.” Ironically, these conferences have become incubators of the very sentiments they were intended to combat, predictably repeating the original 2001 Durban antisemitic hate-fest, which tried to label Jewish national self-determination a racist endeavour. Canada, the United States and Australia boycotted the 2009 Durban II conference, while the European countries walked out on its proceedings. 15 countries, including Canada, the United States, Australia and European states, boycotted Durban III, held in September 2011.

The UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also been affected by the counterproductive politicization of UN agencies. Inexplicably, UNESCO refused to remove Syria from its human rights committee despite the countless abuses perpetrated by the Assad regime that are diametrically at odds with everything UNESCO is supposed to represent.

In June 2012, UNESCO’s 21-nation World Heritage Committee voted to approve a Palestinian bid to place the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on its list of sites of World Heritage in Danger despite the opposition of UNESCO experts who determined that the Palestinian application did not fulfill basic criteria for this emergency procedure, and despite opposition to the bid from leaders of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, these politically-motivated and counterproductive actions continue to stymie the important work UNESCO was created to undertake.

Perhaps most glaringly, the UN has been used by the Palestinians as a means of circumventing peace negotiations with Israel. Palestinian initiatives to secure recognition of statehood absent a negotiated peace agreement run contrary to UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements and provide a recipe for continuing conflict. Even more troubling is the declared objective of such initiatives, as articulated by Palestinian officials including President Mahmoud Abbas, to gain access to additional UN bodies and exploit them to further isolate Israel internationally.

These unilateral efforts will not bring about a Palestinian state but will, instead, further entrench the systemic abuse of UN institutions and render constructive UN contributions to genuine peace-building even more remote.

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