Sunday, June 24, 2018

The UN was designed to fail. And it does.

The UN was designed to fail. And it does

Washington Examiner

Commenting on the U.S.’ withdrawal from the United Nations’ misnamed Human Rights Council, Ambassador Nikki Haley didn’t mince words. She called it a “hypocritical and self-serving” organization that actually protects rights abusers, and a “cesspool of political bias.” 
Although best-known for its peace-keeping in areas of conflict — where it enjoys a mixed record, at best — the U.N.’s agencies, commissions, and panels have a dismal record of accomplishment, especially while acting as the world’s regulator-wannabe for all manner of products, processes and activities. Along with failing to defend human rights, the U.N. regularly panders to activists and, not coincidentally, adopts policies that expand its own scope and responsibilities. Science and free markets routinely get short shrift; in U.N. programs and projects, everything becomes an exercise in PR, politics, and international horse-trading. 
In an article published last December, two respected commentators called for the U.S. to cut funding for the U.N.’s World Health Organization and its International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is plagued by incompetence and poor science on its good days, and failed to address a major scandal marked by corruption and conflicts of interest.
The U.S. has long been a hugely disproportionate funder of U.N. activities — our mandatory assessment and voluntary contributions total some $8 billion— but the era of America as the U.N.’s sugar-daddy is waning. Last year, State Department staffers were instructed to find significant cuts in U.S. funding for U.N. programs (above the mandatory assessment) — the first signal of long-overdue belt-tightening.
Why are incompetence and profligacy rife within the sprawling organization? In several respects, it’s in the U.N.’s DNA.
First, the U.N. is essentially a monopoly. Inefficiency and incompetence are not punished by "consumers" of their products or services spurning the U.N. and patronizing a competitor. On the contrary, it is not uncommon in these kinds of bureaucracies for failure to be rewarded with additional resources. Unlike in business, if a program isn’t working, government bureaucrats clamor to make it bigger.
Second, U.N. officials are rewarded for making the bureaucratic machinery run — that is, for producing reports, guidelines, white papers and agreements, and for holding meetings — whether or not they are of high quality or make any sense at all. And they often don’t; the bureaucrats often sacrifice veracity for consensus — sort of like letting eight-year olds vote on whether a whale is a fish or a mammal.
Third, there's no accountability — no U.S. Government Accountability Office, House of Lords Select Committee or parliamentary oversight, and no electorate to kick the U.N. reprobates out when they act contrary to the public interest. It's hardly surprising, therefore, that we see egregious examples of arrogance and corruption, let alone day-to-day featherbedding, laziness, and incompetence in the thousands of individual U.N. programs and projects. 
Fourth, in the absence of accountability, U.N. officials feel little need for transparency; its public relations offices simply spin, spin, spin the anti-technology, anti-capitalist party line, which often fails to take into consideration that scientific progress and modernity give rise to greater prosperity and longevity.
Fifth, the pool of possible candidates for U.N. leadership positions is not a promising one. The organization is no meritocracy: The country or region of origin of a candidate seems to be more important than his credentials and qualifications. Also, if you were a head of state or government minister, would you choose to lose your best people to the U.N.? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep them close, to make you look good, and to benefit your country? It’s hardly surprising that the U.N. ends up with the least competent and most disaffected, dysfunctional, and dishonest officials.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser and a former ambassador to the U.N., once said of its headquarters: “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” He was probably wrong — it might be a significant improvement. 
Ambassadors Bolton and Haley, who understand well the U.N.’s manifest deficiencies, should advise the president that U.S. discretionary contributions should go only to U.N. programs that are consistent with the interests and values of the U.S., and that we should withhold funding and participation from U.N. agencies and programs that are found to be corrupt or incompetent. Maybe we’ll be able to get rid of more than 10 floors of the U.N.’s headquarters.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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