Monthly Archives: March 2009
Frenzied anti-Durban propaganda is not limited to blogospheric wingnuts, I’m afraid. Writing in The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Representatives Mike Pence and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen rail on next month’s anti-racism conference with feverish gusto, eagerly seizing the bait of the ridiculous premise that the entire conference is worthy of scrapping because it seeks to build off its predecessor. The Representatives’ heated rhetoric — which more or less forecasts an Armageddon of hatred if the United States and its allies do not repudiate every tidbit of the conference — unsurprisingly soars into the absurd, reaching a level that borders on the downright offensive.
Like the struggles of years ago, we must never eschew what is right in favor of what is easy. We can abdicate neither our responsibility to address and reject bigotry wherever it lurks, nor our obligation to safeguard public funds as Americans face extraordinary economic challenges. To give meaning to the words ‘Never again,’ the United States and other responsible nations must not fund or participate in any part of Durban II.
Pence and Ros-Lehtinen begin their piece with a reference to the Holocaust. To imply that participating in the Durban Review Conference would amount to another mass murder of Jews is just sickening. Yes, the 2001 Durban conference was marred by disgusting anti-Semitic rhetoric, and yes, some of the participants in its successor have tried and will try to peddle loathsome Holocaust-denying myths (which, it bears mentioning were soundly rejected in the Durban final outcome document, which explicitly recognizes and condemns the Holocaust). But please — a sense of proportion. Bloating this hateful language into mass murder gives it far more impact than it deserves, and it demeans both the cause of anti-racism and the actual experience of the Holocaust.
As ironic as Claudia Rosett’s good question yesterday is the fact that Pence and Ros-Lehtinen are actually quite unintentionally on the right track. “We must never eschew what is right in favor of what is easy” — except that what is easy here is, in fact, to sacrifice the Durban Review Conference to the wolves howling against it, and to leave the fight against racism painfully un-waged. Similarly, one might reasonably think that “our responsibility to address and reject bigotry wherever it lurks” would lead us to decry not only the excesses of the fringe elements of the Durban process, but also the powerful strains of racism that still haunt society, and which the Review Conference has the potential to deal with. That potential is vastly increased with the U.S. leadership that these two representatives would unfortunately have us abandon.
The Secretary-General is ready to remind leaders of the G-20 nations at their coming summit who is really suffering from the financial crisis. And he’s not planning on letting them fudge the deadline for the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the bold development initiatives set in 2000.
Ban said: “We cannot move this target date. 2015 is the deadline and target. We must be able to keep the target.”
You tell ‘em, Ban.
The problem, of course, is that it is not the G-20 countries that are most struggling to uphold their commitments to reducing poverty, promoting good governance, eradicating disease, and fulfilling the other prerogatives of the MDGs. The countries that are behind in their 2015 targets won’t be represented at the April 2 London meeting, which is perhaps why Ban feels the need to so strongly campaign on their behalf. The wealth of the G-20 countries, however, will inevitably have to play a crucial role in helping developing nations meet their targets. Pushing for a hard and fast 2015 deadline, even if it looks improbable that all of the goals will be met by then, is the best option here, for acting too audaciously will certainly prove less harmful to the world’s poor than acting not audaciously enough.
A fascinating diavlog between the famed (and controversial) utilitarian bio-ethicist Peter Singer and libertarian-minded economist Tyler Cowen. Singer has a new book about philanthropy, which is the ostensible topic of this diavlog. In the excerpt below, the duo debate aid-effectiveness and ways to reduce poverty.
At the very end, Singer gives a nod to the Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion author. As regular readers are no doubt aware, a couple of weeks ago Collier released a new report for the United Nations Industrial Development Agency. Having read the report, I think that Collier would argue that the biggest impact poverty reduction projects and policies are those that help countries to expand their manufacturing base. Manufacturing exports, says Collier, can do more to help countries trapped in endemic poverty than natural resource extraction or farming exports — and certainly more than aid alone.
President Obama issues a special message to the Iranian people on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Be sure to watch to the end in which President Obama issues a send off in farsi. From the White House.
This line, “The measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create,” sticks out. Obama seems to be signaling to the Iranian people that he understands that the Iranian nuclear program is a point of national pride. In turn, Obama seems to be showing the rest of us that curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions is going to require more than just pressure on the elites.
The first, that General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockman should be using his position less divisively. Rosett quotes d’Escoto as urging “a united nations, not a subjugated nations.” He then should work in support of fostering this unity, rather than grandstanding in Tehran to attack certain member states (you can guess which one) and to cleave an even deeper divide than already exists between those he calls “subjugated” and those he would decry as subjugators. d’Escoto is of course entitled to his personal views, but as the most visible representative of the United Nations’ all-inclusive body, he should concern himself more with facilitating global dialogue, mending differences, and creating a productive work atmosphere, rather than inflaming tensions and exacerbating existing hostilities. Still, Claudia, there’s no need for jibes about his “substantial girth.”
The second is the affirmative answer to the question that Rosett poses (albeit derisively) in the title of her column: “does the UN really matter?” To Rosett, it only seems to matter in that it sucks money, grants legitimacy to nefarious actors, breeds terrorists, et cetera — her standard diatribe. The true answer to the question, I trust, is more easily obvious to any who have ever actually interacted with UN blue berets. Does the UN really matter to the child in Kenya who receives vaccinations from UN aid workers? Does the UN really matter to the woman in Afghanistan who went to the polls for the first time thanks to the UN’s help? Does the UN really matter to the family in Haiti whose house UN peacekeepers helped rebuild?
As Rosett intones with ignorant sarcasm, yes, the UN matters a lot.
(image of General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann)
Osama bin Laden tries to stick his trouble-making nose into Somalia’s already troublesome politics. If he sees the need to try to destabilize the country, maybe that’s a good sign that it’s beginning to stabilize?
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.