U.N. Com­mis­sion on Sus­tain­able De­struc­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Zim­babwe’s four-digit in­fla­tion rate, the worst in the world, is one sign of the eco­nomic sham­bles in this once-pros­per­ous coun­try. Af­ter nearly three decades of misrule un­der strong­man Robert Mu­gabe, its farms are wrecked and its peo­ple are on the brink of star­va­tion. It is there­fore a most grisly cu­rios­ity that the United Na­tions has just made Zim­babwe head of its Com­mis­sion on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment. This, for a regime whose only sus­tained ac­tiv­ity is de­struc­tion — the sys­tem­atic de­struc­tion of lives, com­mu­ni­ties and wealth.

The vote to in­stall Zim­babwe came May 11. It was Africa’s turn to elect a chair and the gov­ern­ments on the con­ti­nent chose Zim­babwe by a 26-21 mar­gin in a se­cret vote, with three ab­sten­tions, re­port­edly as a ges­ture of de­fi­ance to the de­vel­oped world. That rings true, since it cer­tainly could not have been for eco­nomic rea­sons. About the most sym­pa­thetic face to put on mat­ters is that African gov­ern­ments are re­act­ing in de­fi­ance to Euro­pean and Amer­i­can en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic poli­cies with which they dis­agree. Even so, any such char­ac­ter­i­za­tion would also be com­pelled on the mer­its to call this vote a dis­grace.

Zim­babwe is a coun­try where, two years ago, the gov­ern­ment made refugees of ap­prox­i­mately 1.5 mil­lion of its cit­i­zens in “Op­er­a­tion Clear the Trash,” which bull­dozed “un­law­ful” town and cities. This is a coun­try where pota­toes are a “strate­gic crop.” This is a coun­try whose op­po­si­tion leader, Morgan Ts­van­gi­rai, is ar­rested re­peat­edly and beaten by regime forces for the “crime” of speak­ing out and hold­ing po­lit­i­cal ral­lies. Now, this regime’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives are en­trusted with an or­ga­ni­za­tion whose in­spir­ing prin­ci­ples in­clude the fol­low­ing: “Hu­man be­ings are at the cen­tre of con­cerns for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.”

Euro­pean gov­ern­ments were par­tic­u­larly op­posed to Zim­babwe’s can­di­dacy, for rea­sons which be­gin with a very prac­ti­cal con­cern. Top Zim­bab­wean of­fi­cials chair­ing the com­mis­sion would not be able to travel to many West­ern cap­i­tals ac­tive in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment be­cause Zim­babwe’s abysmal hu­man-rights record dis­qual­i­fies their visas. But they very clearly were also op­posed to Zim­babwe’s bid be­cause of the mock­ery it makes of the U.N. de­vel­op­ment agenda. Not even the busi­ness-as-usual of sanc­ti­mony and the dol­ing of cash can get un­der­way if this thug­gish regime is in charge.

The stage is now set for a pe­riod of even greater con­fu­sion than nor­mal at the United Na­tions on the sub­jects of the en­vi­ron­ment and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. To the ex­tent that this serves as fur­ther ev­i­dence of the need for dras­tic change at the United Na­tions — by no means a cer­tain propo­si­tion — it would be a sil­ver lin­ing to this vote.

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