Europe Was Behind US Defeat at the United Nations
Jeane Kirkpatrick was the US ambassador to the United
Nations during Ronald Reagan's presidency.
Washington-The United States has been an active member of the United
Nations Human Rights Commission from its founding in 1947. But in May,
the US suffered a highly publicized defeat when it failed to poll the
votes needed to win one of the three seats allocated to Western countries.
Instead, three members of the European Union (EU) won the seats allocated
to the Western Group (WEOG, as it is called in UN circles): France with
52 votes out of a possible 54, Austria with 41 votes and Sweden with 32.
The US, trailing with 29 votes, was eliminated.
Various explanations were offered for this defeat. Many emphasized the
widespread disagreement in the world body with various US policies, including
the Kyoto treaty, the International Criminal Court and the Land Mine Treaty.
Others pointed out widespread disagreement with the Bush administration's
decision to construct a missile defense and abrogate the ABM Treaty with
the now nonexistent Soviet Union.
None of these discussions took account of the significant fact that, during
the same week, the US candidate, Ambassador Herbert Okun, was defeated
in his effort to win reelection to a seat on the International Narcotics
Control Board. In that election, on May 3, the 54 member states of ECOSOC
(Economic and Social Council) voted among 32 candidates to fill five vacancies
without regard to regional distribution. Once again, three EU countries-Austria,
Netherlands and France-were elected as were Peru and India.
In the case of both the Human Rights Commission and the Narcotics Control
Board, the outcome was a surprise since the number of written confirmations
of intended support for the US candidate was substantially higher than
the number of votes actually cast.
Some observers in and out of the United Nations explained the failure
of the US to win a Human Rights Commission seat as a consequence of its
hard-hitting human rights policies, especially this year, when American
delegates spearheaded efforts to discuss repression in both China and
Cuba. This, of course, is what a Human Rights Commission should discuss.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chair of the House International Relations Committee,
described the vote as "a deliberate attempt to punish the US for
its insistence that the commission tell the truth about human rights abuses
whenever they occur." I think he's right. The US habit of truth telling
in the United Nations about human rights violations was surely an important
basis of some countries' decisions. So is the US' regular opposition to
unfair attacks on other members-such as Israel.
The records of repression matter as more and more governments that are
themselves infamous human rights violators have managed to get elected
to the Human Rights Commission (thereby acquiring votes), e.g.: Libya,
Syria, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Uganda. China and Cuba are also members.
The ambassador of France has attributed the success of his country in
the Human Rights Commission to the fact that France's foreign policy is
founded on "dialogue and respect." By implication, the US failure
is based on their absence. China agrees. China has suggested that the
time has arrived for the US to "stop using human rights issues as
a tool to pursue its power politics and hegemonism." It will be possible
to do that when China stops using its power to violate its citizens' human
rights. I hope that US policy remains based on empathy for the repressed.
The US has no friends among those countries that regularly repress their
citizens-and not many friendly associates.
The vote in the Human Rights Commission makes one wonder if the United
States has reliable friends and allies among the democracies.
There is not much question that the distance between the US and its NATO
allies has grown in the last decade. The European press shows its displeasure
in a steady stream of articles highly critical of the US and the "American
way." The criticism has intensified since the inauguration of George
W. Bush, who undertook to move America rightward at a time when all but
two of the 15 member states of the EU have Socialist governments.
I think it is clear that the rapid consolidation of the EU already has
had a negative impact on US relations with several continental European
countries in the United Nations. Traditionally, the US has had close relations
with some-but not all-EU members, but now it has become difficult for
a US representative to discuss an issue or make common cause with a representative
of an EU country.
There is a widespread belief among informed Americans that our allies
played a significant role in the US defeat in the Human Rights Commission.
It is a fact that if either Sweden or Austria had stepped down in favor
of the US, we would have won a seat. That is how friends, allies and affinity
groups operate in the United Nations to achieve common cause.
The US will never be able to achieve or even work toward our goals in
the United Nations if, in addition to opposing our adversaries, we must
also compete with our best friends. Our one vote can never win against
the EU's 15.
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