by Lorrie Goldstein
Now that the United Nations has asked Robert Mugabe to be a global leader for tourism, I’m trying to come up with a good ad campaign for Zimbabwe to help it attract more international visitors.
How about: “Zimbabwe: Come for the fixed elections, stay for the ethnic cleansing”?
Or, “You’ll leave your heart in Zimbabwe … along with various other body parts.”
Or, “Zimbabwe’s economy will surprise you … because it doesn’t have one.”
Aside from touting the infamous, 88-year-old dictator as a poster child for tourism — even though Mugabe is banned from travelling in Europe due to international sanctions — the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will also hold its next general assembly in southern Africa in August next year, under the joint sponsorship of Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia.
Faced with almost universal condemnation and outrage from human rights groups over its recognition of Mugabe — whom, they warn, will use it for propaganda purposes inside Zimbabwe to boast the world community accepts him — UNWTO hastily pointed out it is not bestowing any formal title on Mugabe, such as making him a UN ambassador.
Of course, this explanation satisfied no one.
Human rights groups and Zimbabwean political dissidents wondered out loud how the UN could do something so damaging to the cause of human rights.
Indeed, when the UN — now trying to muster a credible international response to Syria’s massacre of 108 people, including 49 children, in Houla — pulls stunts like this, it just makes people shake their heads in disbelief and disgust.
Then again, is it really all that surprising when, for example, Zimbabwe, Iran and China all currently sit on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women?
Iran, for example, not exactly known for its stellar reputation on women’s rights, joined the UN’s Status of Women Commission in 2010, right after one of its senior religious clerics blamed earthquakes on women who wear revealing clothes.
That was three years after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted to students at Columbia University, during a visit to New York to address the UN General Assembly, that women enjoyed equal rights in Iran.
He also told them Iran had no homosexuals.
But is all of that any weirder than the fact Libya was named to the UN’s Human Rights Council in 2010, when it was under the iron fist of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, or that Saudi Arabia and China are also members in good standing of the UN’s top human rights body?
This keeps happening because membership in UN human rights organizations isn’t based on the human rights records of member countries, but on the calendar (i.e., when it’s their turn to join) and on their membership in various UN voting blocks.
In the real world, while one can see the value in a handful of UN bodies such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF — although even they are not entirely without controversy — when it comes to human rights, the UN lacks all credibility.
Canada is the seventh largest financial contributor to the UN among its 192 member nations.
At some point, don’t we have to start asking ourselves whether this is money well spent?
Categories: Contributor Columns