Friday, March 6, 2015

Why the UN Has Been Such a Failure

The UN’s main man on the environment, Achim Steiner, has just provided monumentally bad advice to government policy makers.

Speaking in Cairo on 4 March at the opening of the biennial African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, Steiner asserted that the “only insurance against climate change impacts is ambitious global mitigation action” combined “with large-scale, rapidly increasing and predictable funding for adaptation.”

If anything is clear from the UN’s 45-year record of trying to deal with the problems of the human environment, it is that “mitigation action” is completely useless unless we deal with the destructive economic forces driving a multifaceted global crisis.

The UN has been unable to say so because the major industrial countries are in thrall to mega corporations that profit hugely from ignoring environmental concerns.

They ensured UN inaction by putting a Canadian oilman in charge of the first World Conference on the Environment (Stockholm, 1972), and making him the first head of the new Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Under his direction UNEP studied problems and identified causes but never ever hinted at the need for wholesale redirection of the world economy, the only thing that can stop our slide to disaster.

UNEP's stock in trade became international agreements to deal with negative impacts.

Meanwhile, another part of the UN that did try to negotiate a Code of Conduct for corporations was quietly wound up.

This lack of cojones is not just on environmental matters.

Even more glaring is the example of the UN Security Council, which has never been able to undertake its primary task of disarming the world and building a global security system because its five veto-wielding “Permanent Members” are the world’s largest arms producers and their elites profit hugely from war.

Less known but even more venal is the organization’s failure to deal with the enormously violent crime wave that has washed around the world since the 1960s.

Analyses show that drug trafficking has been its primary driver and that it now funds all other forms of organized crime, including “Islamic terrorism.”

But the UN has pussy-footed around the matter because Britain’s primary industry, banking, is neck-deep in laundering drug money.

None of this is secret. Books and expert analyses provide the sordid details in ample measure.

But getting from expert analyses to public policy has been impossible because the Cold War empowered a fascist apparatus in major countries that constrains politicians and the Press even in the freest of societies.

Revealing detail: The New Yorker, as genteel a publication as ever graced the rough and ready world of journalism, now has an encrypted system to receive material from whistle blowers.

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