The @UN’s activist-expert problem is far bigger than Steve #Hege, #DRC and #Rwanda

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November 1, 2012 by soniauwimana

Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, under fire for alleged anti-Semitic views

Steve Hege is finished: that much we know.

He will present his hopelessly compromised “final report” to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee later this month, and that is the last we will see of him.

Hege is an embarrassment to the UN leadership who appointed him and his mandate will be terminated at the conclusion of this tawdry, shameful process.

Not, it must be added, before he has managed to inflict significant damage on Rwanda’s reputation*.

Which, it must be further added, was his explicit intention when he wrote in 2009 that peace in the Great Lakes region was only possible once the FDLR was at the table and this, in turn, could only happen once “international opinion eventually sours on the Rwandan regime”.

It doesn’t matter how many times I read those words, I am never less than stunned that the person who wrote them was placed by the United Nations in such a prime position to cause harm to Rwanda.  It is nothing less than staggering. Which explains why not a single UN official has stepped forth to defend Hege since these writings came to light.  No-one.

Not only will Hege be shown the door this month, so will every other member of his Group.  They are all tainted by Hege’s bias, and are thereby implicated in what is now widely acknowledged (including, I am told, by Ban Ki-Moon himself) as a politically corrupted process.  For many in the Security Council, the Reuters leak was the final straw.  For others, they have long since given up on the process. What happens now is just going through the motions.  The GoE report is not worth the paper it is written on. Dead on arrival.

But, as I have pointed out recently, Rwanda is far from alone in objecting to debilitating bias on the part of UN-appointed ‘experts’.  It is a full-blown epidemic.

The Cote d’Ivoire panel has earned the wrath of Ghana.  The Somalia-Eritrea panel is a complete mess, torn apart by accusations of bias and sectarianism.  And, most recently, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has come under fierce attack for his radical, anti-Semitic views.  Richard Falk, a Princeton academic, used his most recent UN-stamped report to call for an international boycott on businesses who operate in the new Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in other disputed territories.  (N.B.  I am largely agnostic on the Israel/Palestine question; the issue here is expert bias).

Falk’s boycott call, while warmly embraced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other enemies of Israel, caused shock and consternation throughout international diplomacy.

The UK, US and Canada quickly joined Israel to demand Falk’s immediate sacking.

A reporter demanded of Falk:

“Are you a rapporteur or an activist?”

Very good question.  But people familiar with Falk were less than surprised by his drastic over-reach.  As reported in the Jerusalem Post:

Falk has long been a controversial figure. In 2011 he wrote on his blog that there had been an “apparent cover-up” by US authorities over the September 11 attacks, and also posted an anti-Semitic cartoon, which was later removed.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

In all seriousness, what is going on with this experts process at the UN?  Specifically, how do these radical ideologues find their way into such powerful positions? What kind of vetting process is in place to avoid UN panels being hijacked in this way?

There is clearly a systemic problem.  While the old powers seem willing to ignore it when it comes to African trouble-spots, they moved decisively when the same problem of bias affected Israel.

With any luck, the Falk case will draw greater attention to the UN’s deep and deteriorating problem with activist-experts.


*Not enough to prevent Rwanda’s election to the Security Council on the first ballot with 148 votes, a stinging loss for Hege, Jason Stearns, Ken Roth and cohorts.


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