With ‘Rogue Regimes’ in U.N. Leadership Posts, Why Should U.S. Continue ‘No Strings Attached Funding,’ Lawmaker Asks

By Patrick Goodenough | July 12, 2012 | 5:09am EDT

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the United Nations headquarters in New York in September 2008. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Citing Iran’s election to a body overseeing a United Nations conference negotiating a global arms trade treaty, a senior Republican lawmaker Wednesday slammed the world body for continuing to elevate disreputable regimes to leadership positions.

“How many more good U.S. taxpayer dollars will the administration keep throwing after the bad?” asked Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading critic of the U.N. on Capitol Hill.

Iran was last week named as a member of the “bureau” supervising the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a month-long meeting in New York aimed at finalizing a conventional arms trade treaty.

Put forward by the Asia regional group, Iran’s nomination drew no objections from any country present.

As CNSNews.com reported earlier, the move came at a time when, according to an expert panel monitoring U.N. Security Council sanctions, Tehran continues to contravene a ban on exporting weapons, with Syria’s Assad regime the main beneficiary. Iran also continues to defy several Security Council resolutions relating to its nuclear program.

Its provocative conduct in the international community has not prevented Iran from taking up numerous leadership posts at the U.N., however.

“Even as the Iranian regime funnels weapons to Assad and his thugs to butcher the Syrian people, the U.N. did nothing to block Iran from being elected to negotiate an arms trade treaty,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

“Every week, it seems the U.N. finds a new way to hit bottom. Coming on the heels of the discovery that a U.N. agency supplied Iran and North Korea with sensitive technology, the election of Iran for this conference again shows whose agenda the U.N. is enabling.

“Last year, North Korea and Cuba served consecutive terms as president of the U.N. Commission on Disarmament,” she recalled. “How much longer can the U.N.’s apologists make excuses for these outrages?”

At the time of North Korea’s appointment to the Commission on Disarmament’s rotating presidency, the State Department said it had “chosen not to make a big deal out of this because it’s a relatively low-level, inconsequential event.”

Canada, by contrast, said it would boycott the session chaired by Pyongyang.

This week, the administration again played down the significance of Iran’s ATT appointment, with a State Department official telling Fox News that “it’s a symbolic position with little impact on a month-long negotiation that must be decided by consensus.”

‘Bar abusers from leadership posts’

Last January, the administration’s New York-based representative for U.N. management and reform, Joseph Torsella, pledged that the U.S. would no longer tolerate inappropriate appointments at the U.N.

“If a member state is under Security Council sanction for weapons proliferation or massive human rights abuses, it should be barred, plain and simple, from leadership roles like chairmanships of U.N. bodies,” he said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Abusers of international law or norms should not be the public face of the U.N.,” he added. “With these and other reforms we’re fighting, quite simply, to ensure that member states’ actions at the U.N. match up to the U.N.’s founding principles and values.”

Torsella said it was time “to chip away at the outmoded idea that uncontested slates and strict regional rotations are more important than the U.N.’s credibility and effectiveness.”

The U.N.’s five regional groups – Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others – frequently submit “closed slates” of candidates for U.N. leadership posts, putting forward the same number of countries as there are seats available for that group.

The practice has paved the way for some of the world’s most repressive regimes to become members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, for example.

Similarly, Iran was one of three Asian countries put forward last week for three positions earmarked for Asia in the ATT bureau. (The other two were Japan and South Korea.)

Still, no country is obliged to accept closed slates.

In 2009, Iran was elected onto the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women, despite concerns raised by hundreds of  Iranian women’s rights activists that Tehran would use its position “to curtail progress and the advancement of women.”

Since no country raised an objection or called for a vote Iran was elected to the position “by acclamation.”

Neither the U.S. Mission to the U.N. – where Torsella is based – nor the State Department responded to queries this week.

Ros-Lehtinen is author of legislation, marked up by her committee last October, seeking to change the way the U.N. is funded – a shift from “assessed” to “voluntary” contributions – allowing major funders like the U.S. to use their financial leverage to push for meaningful reforms.

“It’s time to end unconditional, no strings attached funding to a U.N. that lets the inmates run the asylum,” she said Wednesday. “We need to leverage our contributions at the U.N. to achieve real reforms, which include ensuring that rogue regimes are not elevated to positions of power.”

The administration strongly opposes the legislation.

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