OTHER VOICES

Discipline for the UN

Posted July 12, 2011, at 7:59 p.m.

The United Nations has never lived up to the grandiose aspirations of its founders. By the 1990s even many of its supporters admitted the world body had become a bloated debating society. Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called it “elephantine” and decried the chronic waste and lack of accountability.

Since then, the United Nations has done little to raise much-lowered expectations, and the latest news item will hardly help: The new president of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament is — wait for it — North Korea.

That’s right: This is the same regime that is a notorious proliferator, that has refused to participate in disarmament talks, that walked away from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that defines the phrase “rogue state.”

Pyongyang’s man at the conference, So Se Pyong, says he’s eager “to do everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward.”

Hardly, said Canada’s delegate, Marius Grinius. The conference doesn’t do much of anything, he said, adding, “Indeed, it is not negotiating anything and has not been for a very long time.”

Fifteen years ago, Washington tried to discipline the United Nations by withholding a portion of the considerable share of dues paid by American taxpayers. That led to some mild reforms, including the creation of an office with powers akin to an inspector general. Perhaps it’s time for another effort to win reform through withholding dues.

The Kansas City Star (July 6)

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