Credit the Geneva-based UN Watch with dredging the diplomatic swamps of the United Nations to bring to light the appalling information contained in an April 23 UN press release. The soporific headline of the release: “Economic and Social Council, Opening Coordination, Management Meetings, Adopts Five Decisions, Holds Subsidiary-Body Elections.”
I’ll get to the bombshell in a minute. But first, for those who might not be familiar with the UN’s Economic and Social Council, best known to its intimates as ECOSOC: this is a body enshrined in the 1945 UN Charter. It consists of 54 member states, elected to three-year terms by the UN General Assembly. Within the UN, ECOSOC is no small presence. On its web site, ECOSOC describes its portfolio as including “[t]he world’s economic, social and environmental challenges,” and claims “broad responsibility for some 70% of the human and financial resources of the entire UN system, including 14 specialized agencies, 9 ‘functional’ commissions and five regional commissions.”
Thus laden with responsibilities, ECOSOC met this Wednesday, and — as mentioned in its eye-glazing press release — held elections “to fill numerous vacancies in 17 of its subsidiary bodies.”
So what? Here’s what: here’s information on that same ECOSOC meeting translated into the more forthright language of the UN Watch press release:
“Iran sweeps coveted UN rights posts.”
Yes, ECOSOC has just elected Iran — again — to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.
ECOSOC also elected Iran to the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and (by acclamation, which presumably means the U.S. agreed) the Commission on Population and Development. Iran is also among ECOSOC’s nominees — to be elected by the General Assembly — for the Committee for Programme Coordination.
For good measure, ECOSOC also elected Iran to the 19-member Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. As UN Watch notes, this is a powerful committee because it decides which NGOs are allowed official access to the UN system. Membership on this committee, according to UN Watch, is “a coveted position because it allows governments to silence criticism by acting as the gatekeeper and overseer of all human rights groups that seek to work inside the world body.”
America’s UN ambassador Samantha Power pronounced the U.S. “very disappointed” by the results of ECOSOC’s NGO Committee election. She noted that Iran’s authorities “regularly detain human rights defenders, subjecting many to torture, abuse, and violations of due process.” Power further noted that in the regional-bloc voting system of the UN, where Iran is a member of the Asia-Pacific group, it is particularly troubling that Iran won its NGO Committee seat by running unopposed.
Amid the murk of UN elections, that’s an interesting bit of information. One might well wonder why the U.S. government — considering its official “pivot” to Asia — did not do more to persuade one of Asia’s democracies to run against Iran.
Perhaps there’s room here for some creative diplomacy. Given Iran’s eagerness to serve on UN commissions, committees, conferences, governing boards, and anything else up for grabs, perhaps it’s time the U.S. campaigned for the UN to establish a Committee for Misogynistic, Sanctions-Violating Human Rights Abusers. ECOSOC seems to like that sort of thing; Iran would fit right in.