May 30, 2001
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
The day after the United Nations voted the United States off the
U.N. Commission on Human Rights, National Public Radio's Juan
Williams asked Mary Robinson, the U.N.'s high commissioner on human
rights, if she worried the United States might withhold funding for
the commission and the United Nations in general.
She said she hoped not. "I hope the Americans see it as a
wake-up call to take a more positive approach," she said. "I hope
they address the underlying reasons this happened and try to earn
their way back on."
Oh, it's a wake-up call, all right. And Americans certainly
should address the underlying reasons it happened-craven betrayal
by our leftist "friends" in Europe, such as France.
Here we thought the United States and the United Nations were on
their best terms in at least a decade. We were thinking about
rejoining the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), which we left in 1984 to protest the
organization's growing anti-Western bias, budgetary mismanagement
and advocacy of policies that undermine freedom of the press and
free markets. We had begun to pay past dues and to consider paying
We know better now.
And don't forget that on the same day we lost our human rights
seat, we also were voted off the U.N. commission that deals with
anti-narcotics enforcement. Now, it's one thing to knock us off the
Human Rights Commission-clear-thinking people still see us as the
world's foremost guardian of human rights, and other countries that
truly embrace human rights can keep the flame alive.
But when it comes to drug enforcement, no one else seriously
tries. The United States attempted to involve European Union
countries in Plan Colombia, the $3 billion effort to curb
Colombia's lucrative drug trade. Cocaine-Colombia's chief
export-has begun to ravage Europe as it ravaged the United States
during the 1980s. And heroin, its No.2 product, has long been a
staple of the European drug scene. But as the day to write checks
drew near, our EU friends found other budget priorities took
So kick us off. Keep us locked out of the room where world drug
interdiction policy is hashed out. As with the Human Rights
Commission, apparently our money is important but our input is
We at The Heritage Foundation have received this "wake-up call"
before. In the early 1980s-another low point for the United
Nations-we launched the "U.N. Assessment Project" to examine our
relationship with the world body and push for reforms. Longtime
Heritage watchers still hail it as one of our most successful
Before it was over, the United States had pulled out of UNESCO,
passed the Kassenbaum-Solomon amendment-which tied full U.N.
funding to specific reforms-and fundamentally altered our
relationship with the United Nations.
Since then, Heritage has kept a wary eye on the United Nations.
But it's clear that now we must take an even closer look. So, over
the next several months, we plan to re-examine the gamut of U.N.
ministries and programs and explain, both to Congress and to the
public, what they're up to and why they do or don't merit continued
Our project in the 1980s worked in part because the U.N.
ambassador at the time-Jeanne Kirkpatrick-supported our research
efforts wholeheartedly. President Bush's choice for U.N.
ambassador, John Negroponte, has yet to be confirmed, but we hope
and expect he will be similarly helpful. We look forward to working
with the new ambassador as we proceed with the project. But the
review will go on regardless because, in light of recent events, it
Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation
(www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research
Distributed nationally by the Associated Press
U.N. Wake-up Call?
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
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