Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UN Women and hypocrisy

Today the UN member states voted to decide which countries should serve on the board of the new UN Entity on Women. Note the use of the word "entity." The member states could not agree whether the new body should actually do anything, so heaven forbid it be called an "agency" because it might have, you know, agency. So it is an "entity." It exists. Whether it does anything else is an open question.

So Iran, for some reason, decided that it wanted to be on the board. Why Iran did this I do not know. It's like being the unpopular kid in school and writing a sign that says "kick me!" on your own back, just to make a point. Naturally, the West jumps on the opportunity. Days before the vote, they nudge tiny Timor-Leste into running against Iran for the last remaining seat on the board. (Stop me when this sounds like your middle school student government. What, it already does? Yeah, mine too.)

Western nations then browbeat, bribe and cajole every undecided country into swinging against the Iranians (footnote: I'm not kidding about the bribes. On voting day every delegation found a nice brown package of I-don't-know-what in red-white-and-blue ribbon on their desk. This is standard UN procedure, here.) In the end, little Timor-Leste — which barely even has a government — wins going away. Afterward, US Ambassador Susan Rice smugly speaks of how Iran was defeated, "and defeated handily."

Why is this hypocrisy? Because here are the countries that got elected unopposed, with no complaint or opprobrium by anyone:
- Libya, where women can technically own property but in practice don't, and where Muammar Qadaffi is escorted about by a phalanx of all-female bodyguards
- Saudi Arabia, ranked second to last among 93 countries on the Gender Empowerment Index, a country where women still aren't allowed to drive cars or go anywhere without a male family member escort
- Democratic Republic of Congo, where pretty much everybody — government soldiers, ethnic rebels, foreign militias, even the occasional UN peacekeeper — uses rape as a weapon of war. Three months before the vote, several hundred women were systematically raped in a 24 hour rampage in the country's lawless east and the UN didn't even find out about it for a fortnight. Five DAYS before the vote, the mass rape of over 600 women on the Angolan border was uncovered.

Rice, asked to explain why the Congolese and the Saudis got a free pass, said "I am not going to deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of U.N. Women that have less than stellar records on women's rights, and indeed human rights."

Fair enough, Ambassador. Iran getting on the UN Women board would have been ridiculous. But DR Congo getting on was an atrocity.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did Than Shwe's astrologer predict this one?

What is it with Myanmar getting leveled by horrendous cyclones right before shame elections? We all remember Cyclone Nargis (see all my "Burma and the Death of Responsibility To Protect" posts from a while back) striking right before the vote on the new constitution, but now category 4 cylone Giri has hit the country barely a week before its sham democratic election.

I blame the new flag.

Speaking of elections, I'm off to vote now myself. And you should do the same.