UN purges

The Bush administration has mounted a campaign to purge the United Nations of those civil servants deemed out of step with Washington. The first and most prominent to go was Mary Robinson, the former Irish President whose work as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was honoured by Amnesty International as ‘courageous and committed’. The US stealthily but ferociously lobbied against her reappointment, due to her independent stand on the Middle East and other human-rights issues. Another recent victim of the US campaign is Robert Watson, the much-respected chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who on 19 April was replaced by Rajendra Pachuari, an Indian economist. A leaked memo from ExxonMobil had previously asked the White House: ‘Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the US?’

Days later on 22 April, Jose Mauricio Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was deposed. Bustani had overseen the destruction of two-thirds of the world’s chemical-weapon facilities. Diplomats suggest his biggest ‘crime’ was trying to persuade Iraq to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, thus allowing OPCW inspectors to inspect Iraqi facilities and depriving Washington of quasi-justification for military action against Baghdad. In a similar vein it’s been reported that Paul Wolfowitz, Under-Secretary of Defence, ordered a CIA investigation of Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the UN organization established at the end of the Gulf War to inspect Iraqi arms facilities.

In this context, if the US purges continue and rise to higher levels, UN member nations may see the entire post-World War Two framework of multilateralism start to disintegrate.

New Internationalist issue 348 magazine cover This article is from the August 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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