UN – Is it really the best we’ve got?


    Most of us in the Western world have learnt in school that the UN is an impartial global organization, where all countries get representation, which was formed after World War II for the purpose of providing a framework for talks between countries to ultimately prevent international conflicts.

   Grasping the work of the UN is not an easy task, as it is a convoluted organization made up from many offices, committees and specialized bodies. The major building blocks are the different departments most known are probably the General Assembly, Security Council and International Court of Justice (in the Hague). However it also includes the Secretariat, Economic and Social Council and Specialised Institutions. Under these departments operate numerous bodies, for example the Human Rights Council (HRC), World Food Program (WFP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and over ten more. In a similar way, there are councils under the other departments, such as the Military Staff Committee under the Security Council …etc. Working along the different parts of the UN are specialized bodies such as the famous International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and many more.

    It is not unreasonable to assume that anyone not working in the UN or studying the UN is unlikely to understand all the different bodies and where they are in the hierarchy. Since the mainstream media has to avoid reporting too much information or topics which lack interest, the result is scarce reporting on the UN. However despite the little reporting most understand the basic function of the UN, which is that different country delegations vote on decisions whether a topic should be researched and later whether it should be addressed and how. For example, the UN General Assembly could vote to deploy the World Food Programme on a hunger stricken country and later vote again to increase the budget, based on the WFP findings.

    The funding for the UN is made by its members and currently most of the budget comes from the US (22%), followed by Japan (12.5%), Germany (8%), UK (6%) …etc. The amount paid to the UN does not give the members any more power as all votes are equal, however there are 5 countries that wield the veto power in the Security Council (US, UK, Russia, France and China), which is an extremely powerful tool, as the recognition of countries and military actions are decided within that council.

    While the members of the UN are not elected in the same way as our local politicians and therefore do not have to campaign to the public and gather votes, unfortunately, it still relies on voting as a way of operating. As a consequence alliances and dirty politics to secure votes is still very much part of the game. It creates strange alliances not dissimilar to local politics, for example like the UK’s Liberal Democrats from the far left, who have joined power with right wing conservatives to gain a majority on votes in the coalition, despite Labour being the Liberal Democrats natural partner. Similar behaviour could be viewed in the UN, where different countries have created a voting coalition against a common “opponent”.

    While there is nothing illegal about the voting alliances, there is a lot to say about the morality, which is expected to be held at the UN and the consequential diversion from its goal. One of the most noticeable examples is the Human Rights Council, who managed to condemn the violence in Syria only on the 23rd of August, after over 1000 civilians were killed by the army. Strangely, China, Russia, Cuba and Ecuador still voted against the decision, while other countries insisted on the watering down of the condemnation, before agreeing to vote in favour. A look at the trading agreements and investment between the countries in question, may help to explain the dubious decision to vote against condemnation.

    Just as the UN various bodies are not immune from perversion of justice, accordingly they employ research bodies that follow their politics and do not always adhere to the highest professionalism. A famous case is Richard Falk and his bias against US and Israel politics, which despite outrages statements has not suffered any consequences. In the Op-Ed, in which Richard Goldstone has retracted some of the allegations made against Israel, he clearly stated that the research done was not thorough and contradicted facts that later became available through by other independant means.

    Another example of self-interest voting results in the repeated vilification of Israel in the UN. While Israel is a democracy defending itself with a relatively low number of deaths and numerous evidence of taking measures to protect civilian lives, it is routinely criticized in the UN. There is no argument that Israel should be criticized for mistakes and taken to court for deliberate wrongdoing, however, it is perplexing that so much emphasis is put on Israel, when there are so many tyrannies and conflicts around the world with a significantly higher death toll (refer to the table on this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_military_conflicts).

    Other than the notoriously biased HRC there are plenty more examples of double standards in the UN and a deeper examination would reveal a clear pattern of a Communist-Arab block that repeatedly votes against Israel and the US, while protecting its members, often dictatorships allowing very little freedom. This alliance makes any vote doomed from the start, as the contents plays a small part, what matters is who is in the voting panel and who would benefit from the outcome.

    However despite the troubling politics, the UN is also responsible for a great deal of positive impact around the world through its organization such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF and others. The UN has funded many laudable ventures helping nations in need, as well as maintaining or preventing conflict.

    It is very important therefore to maintain the UN for all its good, but at the same time scrutinize it, as one should scrutinize any political body. The organization UN Watch (unwatch.org) has been extremely good at not letting some hypocrisy or controversy go unnoticed. However the difficulty of addressing or bettering the situation remains, since the delegates are not elected and little can be done to remove them.

    Only time will tell, whether the UN will make itself irrelevant by making unacceptable decisions prompting its funders to pull their money away and consequently its power would be diminished, or whether the changing of the world economics would bring new funders to the tables, which would ultimately change the tone of the UN accordingly. The third option of course is that delegates serving in different bodies, would vote based on the values the committees demand them to uphold and leave their country politics behind, however this looks like the most unlikely scenario.

Anders Behring Breivik – A murderer’s profile and motives


    Only a couple of days have passed since the horrific massacre of innocent people, mainly teenagers, in Norway and already the picture is starting to get a little clearer about the motives behind the killing. At first this incident didn’t seem relevant to the Middle East, but as it turns out, the Middle East and Muslims have a lot to do with this case.

    When the first report came in, it was east to assume that this is again the doing of a deranged individual in an all too well known format, which includes taking a weapon, going on a killing spree and eventually getting caught and turning the gun on himself. However this case is notably different. Since the murderer is still alive, the number of dead is significantly higher than normal, the attack includes a separate car bomb and the planning as it turns out was meticulously done.

    Before looking at the reasons of why this was done and tying it into a global event, it is important to reiterate the obvious, which is that targeting of non-combatant civilians could never be justified. The killer acted wrongly and should be persecuted according to the local law. Moreover, the law enforcement organizations need to asses, whether this was a one off event and if not, invest resources in ensuring this does not happen again.

    Anders Behring Breivik is a 32 year old Norwegian. He has spent the last 9 years of his life plotting this event, as part of an organization called the Knights Templar. During his preparation regime he has carefully documented his every move, which gives insight to his background and beliefs in a 1500 page document.  Breivik comes from an affluent family and is also a self-made millioner according to his document.  In his writing Breivik displays great intelligent capacity and even more determination. The document talks about the relationship Breivik has with his family and friends, it goes into details about his strict training and steroid regime and his hatred to the left party that has dominated Norway for over 100 years. From the document it becomes very apparent that Breivik is creative, well educated, confident and has the ability to appear as an average person in order not to arouse suspicion.

    As with most cases of massacre the media and public are trying to put Breivik in a category, which would give an insight to why he committed this massacre. However, in this case it is not easy to map him to a sect. While his ideology is Christian, he clearly has not based his massacre on Christianity scripture nor did it stem from a messianic mission. It is more accurate to state that Breivik based his ideology on European history and culture, which happens to be Christian.

    Breivik mostly opposes the left party, which has a very lenient attitude towards immigration into Norway. It is very hard to get exact statistics about immigration as some of the information such as country of origin is bundled as well as the fact that the question of religion observance is not asked. However from what is available, it could be observed that as of January 2010, Norway’s population was 4.8 million and around 826,000 people had an immigration background (either them or their parents immigrated to Norway). The exact number is 17% immigrants of the total population, however, most of these are from neighboring countries or Eastern Europe, to which Breivik seems indifferent. When looking specifically at the Muslim population, which Breivik went against in his manifesto, the recorded number is about 100000, which is only about 2% of the population.

    If the numbers are so low, then why does Breivik oppose Muslims so much?

    Reportedly in 1980, there were only about 1000 Muslims in Norway, this number multiplied by 100 in only 30 years. In a country with a small population, this number is quite significant. For example, the UK has about the same percentage of Muslims, however in the UK the total population is 60 million, therefore, despite the higher Muslim birth rate, the overtime percentage impact on the demography is much smaller. Also, regarding the concentration of Muslims, most of the immigrants have settled in Copenhagen, which consists of 7.5% Muslims. For Copenhagen residents this may distort the percentage of Muslims actually living in Norway. As to the impact of Muslims in everyday life, it is next to impossible to get any reliable statistics, which has a breakdown by religion or ethnicity, for example crime.  However based on media reports, it could be deducted that even if not the reality, at least the perception is that most of the country’s rape reports describe the assailant as Muslim and the victim as Norwegian, also the majority of inmates in Norwegian prisons are Muslim. In Brievik’s mind the calculation is simple, more Muslims, more crime as well as change of European status quo. This calculation of course assumes that every Muslim would always follow its religion and propagate the values that Breivik opposes, this assumption is perhaps the biggest point of contention in the ideology between Breivik and the leftists in Norway.

    According to Breivik’s theory the only time that action was taken against Muslims in Europe was during the civil war in Yugoslavia, which ended prematurely in his opinion. He goes on to complain the fact that his government is responsible for giving Yasser Arafat, a terrorist in his mind, a noble price for peace and especially the politically correct stance, which was highlighted in Norway’s government’s apology about the Cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. In his manifesto, Breivik shows a complete disregard to the people he thinks are bringing the demise of Norway.

    The most shocking aspect of the attack to the Norwegians is possibly not the fact that someone is anti-Islam and has committed a massacre, rather that he targeted the government and the left party’s next generation, rather than Muslims themselves. This fact shows again that this was not purely a personal hate vendetta against another race, but a calculated politically motivated attack, which originated from racist sentiments.

    While Norway licks its wounds and will continue to do so in the coming weeks, the main concern around the world is whether this was a one off incident, or whether we are likely to see terrorism of a new kind. Possibly this could have been the high profile event for the Knights Templar’s, which could kick-start their activity, in a similar way that 9/11 was for Al Qaeda, or this could be an inspiration for copycat cases, however in the latter, it is hard to assume that it would be executed in the same percision and reach the same death toll.

    What is clear is that this event was a game changer for Western society. Despite the fact the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who also opposes the Muslim immigration and status quo change in Europe, has condemned this act and no other person, religion or country has openly supported it, Europe has to deal with the fact that political terror has come from one of its own. The murderer was an educated, patriotic, intelligent and economically successful  individual, which has defied the behaviour the world has come to expect from someone in that position. As the trial takes place, it is apparent that Breivik is intent as using it as a stage to publicize his ideology, whether the Norwegians manage to prevent that or not, he has already won, since his story and ideology are on every front page and headline and tomorrow no doubt, while most would want to believe that the innocent did not die in vain, the topic of discussion will be Muslim immigration to Europe.