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Thursday, January 12, 2006 

Neutering the UN

Fiona de Londras on Bush's man at the UN (John Bolton) and the UN Council for Human Rights:
"...As I wrote here reform of the CHR is one of the main prongs in Kofi Annan’s reform package and is long overdue. [...] Now what does Bolton want to do? He wants to ensure that the five permanent members of the Security Council (USA, UK, France, People’s Republic of China and Russian Federation) would have automatic and permanent membership of this Council[...]"
As she notes, "nice". (None of the five have particularly good human rights records)

We've been saying for a very long time that one of the fundamental goals of US right-wingers in the past decade has been to either make the UN into a puppet for Washington, or else to destroy it entirely. The actions of Bolton - a hardcore wingnut - need to be seen in this light. The reassuring US rhetoric about 'reform' has just about as much basis in reality as that about 'freedom' and 'democracy', and people shouldn't be fooled by it. There's an undeniable need for reform in order to fix parts of the UN, but giving in to the self-serving demands of the Bush administration will only make things far worse.

Compare the Bolton position above with the widespread wingnut hysterics last year on the suggestion that control over the Internet be taken away from the US [Wall Street Journal]:
"But the availability of such information threatens a great many despotic nations which do not believe individuals should have access to information that may be damaging to their governmental societies. The regimes in China, Cuba, Iran, Syria and Tunisia, for example, believe Internet content must be controlled so that individuals do not have access to any information that has not been approved by their governments. In China the word "democracy" is not allowed on the Internet; it is just too dangerous to the communist government. And so such nations want international controls on Internet usages and content.

Today no organization or government controls the Internet. The mechanics of participation--domain names, suffixes like .com and .org, and technical codes--are supervised by the independent organization Icann, an acronym for Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, based in America and loosely overseen by the U.S. government. Much of the rest of the world, gathered last week in Tunisia for the U.N.-hosted World Summit on the Information Society, wants to take over that responsibility, or as European Union spokesman Martin Selmayr put it, the U.S. must "give up their unilateral control and everything will be fine." Perhaps as fine as it is in China, where, according to the New York Times, "major search engines . . . must stop posting their own commentary articles and instead make available only pieces generated by government-controlled newspapers and news agencies."

Old Europe and the despotic nations want exactly that--international Internet content control. And they have convinced the EU establishment that U.N. control of the Internet would be just and appropriate. The last United Nations World Summit on the Internet--held in 2003--concluded that "governments should intervene . . . to maximize economic and social benefits and serve national priorities." The report of the U.N. Working Group on Internet Governance says it would have "respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, " explaining that meant "multilingual, diverse, and culturally appropriate content" on the Internet.

And what is "culturally appropriate" content? If your nation is a free society--America, Ireland, Australia--a free and unregulated-content Internet is a good thing. For dictatorships and state controlled societies--the former USSR, China or Cuba--it is a catastrophe, for allowing citizens free access to information puts your government at risk. And if you are in between--a socialist government like France or Germany--U.N. control is a good thing because government control is always better than unregulated markets."
It goes on in that vein for some time, including a bizarre claim to the American readership that the UN will tax their email if it seizes control. (What horror!)

Except that none of the WSJ columnist's claims are true. Not the bit about the Internet being "loosely overseen" by the US government, nor the bit about democracy inevitably flowing from a free-market approach. Not even the bit about UN control being the death of untaxed electronic communication. Should we be surprised?

(Note also the implication that Ireland is considered part of "New Europe". We'd guess that our assistance with US torture flights can only help us grow into the role)

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)



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