United Nations deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch Brown has a singular view of what constitutes international diplomacy. He said in a speech recently that the American public is ignorant of the importance and effectiveness of the UN because of the U.S. government's tolerance of "too much unchecked UN-bashing and stereotyping." .... In fact, during its six decades, the overall record of the United Nations has been so rife with failure, corruption and incompetence -- to say nothing of poor judgment, rudeness and condescension, as exemplified by Mr. Malloch Brown -- that it deserves to be disdained.
The organization's best known interventions -- attempts to attain and maintain peace -- too often have been exercises in lowest-common-denominator diplomacy that progresses at a glacial pace; and its essays into public health and environmental protection are frequently disastrous failures. The UN's leaders and programs consistently lack an appreciation for the relationship between wealth creation and public and environmental health. Mr. Malloch Brown's boss, Secretary General Kofi Annan, has expressed the hope that concern for "intellectual property" will not "get into the way" of producing and distributing drugs for a potential avian-flu pandemic. In other words, companies that make drugs and vaccines should abandon their intellectual property at Mr. Annan's whim.
Even if the recent incidents of corruption, dishonesty and profiteering -- exemplified by the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal and its coverup, sexual abuse of refugees by UN officials and peacekeepers, the botched investigation of the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri, and procurement scams -- are anomalies, it is hard to explain away the anti-social outcomes of business as usual.
Nothing the UN has inflicted on innovation is worse than its record on biotechnology applied to agriculture and food production. At the UN's Task Force on Biotech Foods (which operates under the auspices of something called the Codex Alimentarius Commission, itself a creature of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization), only gene-spliced products are addressed, a scope that has been condemned by experts repeatedly as unscientific and indefensible. The work of the task force prevents the wider diffusion of a superior technology for agriculture and food production and is directly detrimental to farmers, consumers, academic researchers and industry worldwide. It will exacerbate malnutrition and starvation in the developing world....
The UN's assault on innovation and wealth creation demands a counter-attack. The United States and other like-minded nations can provide the firepower by withholding funds and participation from UN agencies and programs that are corrupt or incompetent. Better still, they should cease paying any dues at all until the entire organization undergoes fundamental and genuine reform.
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