Even for the United Nations, this is over the top. It’s stock stuff at the UN that the worst offenders periodically plonk themselves down in one or another of the presiding seats and bask in the mantle of the world’s leading multilateral institution, with its promises to promote peace, prosperity and human dignity for all. Thus, in recent years, has Libya chaired the General Assembly and enjoyed a seat on the UN Security Council; thus did Iran chair the governing board of the UN’s flagship agency, the UN Development program, and gain itself a seat last year on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. So it is that China, Russia, Cuba,Saudi Arabia and Cameroon sit on the Human Rights Council.
Now the UN has outdone itself, yet again. North Korea has just assumed the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva. Never mind that North Korea is a nuclear pace-setter among duplicitous rogue states, has busied itself for years peddling missiles and nuclear technology to the Middle East, is under UN Security Council sanctions, and last year indulged in the unprovoked sinking of a South Korean war ship and shelling of a South Korean island. At the UN Disarmament Conference, the presidency rotates among the 65 member states. North Korea’s turn has arrived. Ergo, because UN procedure routinely trumps all decency or common sense, North Korea has taken up the presidency of the Disarmament Conference.
It is, to be sure, a short presidency. The term for each of these rotating presidents is just four weeks. And the UN Conference on Disarmament is best known these days for having been gridlocked for years, to the point of complete debilitation. It might be tempting to dismiss this outrage as just some sort of cosmetic gaffe — absurd, but harmless.
Except, it isn’t harmless. It gives the lie to everything the UN pretends to stand for, and emboldens North Korea’s regime to believe that monstrous misconduct, at home and abroad, is actually no bar to a seat at the table with civilized governments. The UN promotes itself as a defender of world peace and security, a champion of human dignity. Under the banner of such promises, the UN enjoys billions in funding from the world’s leading democracies — especially the United States, which for the entire UN system foots roughly one-quarter of the bill for all 192 member states. And with the facilities thus lavished upon it, the UN then hands North Korea the presidency of its Conference on Disarmament.
Worse, scroll down past the UN press release, to the statements of member states upon the handover of this presidency to North Korea. There you can peruse the praise and good wishes for North Korea of China, Nigeria, and — yes — Portugal, whose envoy is “looking forward” to working with North Korea in coming weeks. Worse still, is what the world’s governments, including the US. administration, are not saying. Apparently, diplomatic politesse is more important than speaking out to protest the monstrosities that should be obvious here to anyone with an ounce of integrity or sense. Where’s the outrage?