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OPINION: The Day the US Departs the UN, By Owei Lakemfa

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – When I was in the Governing Body of the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) representing African workers, I made a checklist of countries and their ratification of International Labour Conventions.  I discovered that Zimbabwe, Nigeria  and South Africa have  some of the best Labour Laws in the world. In contrast, that the United States (US) the supposed citadel of freedom and democracy, has disdain for basic Labour Rights and Conventions.

That the US has either not signed, ratified or had withdrawn from basic ILO Conventions that seek to defend  the fundamental rights of workers or protect humanity. These include the core    Conventions  on Child Labour, Forced Labour  the  Freedom of Association,  Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, Equal Remuneration and on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Others include the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution,  and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

America has been involved in many dirty wars   in which unspeakable  atrocities are committed. These include those in Vietnam and Latin America, and in contemporary times, in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it is not surprising that it rejects Conventions such as those  on the “Non-applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity”  and that for the “Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.” In the case of the latter, the US under President Walker Bush kidnapped people from the streets of various countries and dumped them in detention centres around the world especially Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay. It was called Rendition. The victims   were tortured with some dying, held for years without trial,  and prevented from getting justice anywhere as America does not recognize the judiciary of any other country, and refuses to be a signatory to either the International Judicial Court or the International Criminal Court.

It also rejects  Conventions like those  on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, the Law of the Sea  and of course, the Paris  Climate Change Agreement. In fact the Trump Presidency claims that Climate Change is a scam! Given its claims to being  a defender of human rights  and promoter of a humane world, I am at a loss how American interests can be harmed if it ratifies  a Convention like the Rights of Persons with Disabilities passed by the UN General Assembly since December 13, 2006!

As its pronouncements, tantrums and actions on the issue of Jerusalem revealed,  the US views the UN with suspicion and disdain; sees it  as an unacceptable supra-nationality endangering American sovereignty and its ancient, narcissistic  “America First’ ideology. For it, the UN is only good to validate American interests and foreign policy such as the Resolutions on the invasion of Korea (1950) Iraq (2002) and Libya (2011) On other matters, it resorts to bullying, threats and intimidation. At any given time, it appears the US is on the war path either with the UN or one of its agencies.  When it could not bully the ILO in 1977, it left but returned in 1980. In the mid- 1980s, the US had   running battles with various UN agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)the International Telecommunication Union, the ILO, the International Atomic  Energy Agency and of course, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)

It is with UNESCO the US   has had the most battles. The body has been fair to America, awarding it amongst other things, 23 World Heritage sites including  the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and the Independence Hall where the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. But America decided  to dictate to UNESCO. This  was resisted by the Senegalese, Amadou-Mahta M’Bow its Director General (1974-1987) America accused UNESCO of spending funds on Disarmament proposals, promoting group rights rather than individual rights, setting up a “New Information World Order” and promoting a “New International Economic Order” in which it alleged rich countries are to transfer resources to poor countries. It also accused UNESCO of  being hostile to the Free Market ideology and increasing its $200 Million budget by 10 percent. At a point, it went personal, accusing M’Bow of corruption.  When all these failed,  America  through  a December 20, 1984 letter signed by Secretary of State, George .P. Shultz, withdrew from UNESCO. Eighteen years later, America returned. However, following  UNESCO’s Resolution asking Israel not to change the historical nature of Jerusalem, America again withdrew its membership of  the UN agency on October 12, 2017.

The US behaves as if the world is a jungle and that as the king, it is not liable for any   atrocity it commits, is answerable to nobody or institution, subject to no rules, laws or conventions and bounded by no etiquettes or morals.

Mr. Trump is not the first President to have  antagonistic relationship with the United Nations since President Franklin D. Roosevelt joined in the push for the creation of a new world body after World War II, but having spent only twelve months in office, he is becoming the most truculent.

I am sick and tired of America throwing tantrums ad disturbing world peace. Why is it incapable of employing simple diplomacy and lobby to persuade other countries rather than endless invocations of threats, insults and blackmail? Why does the US assume it is the policeman of the world which has the inalienable right to beat the rest of humanity into line?  America which picks 22 percent of the UN budget is the largest contributor to the world body, but is that why it is so brash and behaves as if without it, the UN will wither away? Who says the UN Headquarters can only be in US?

The day the United States  leaves the United Nations will be a glorious one; the world will be free from endless threats and one big bloke breathing down the necks of UN officials like a drunken colonial master. It will be a day the world body will commence  more dialogue, persuasion and respect of other views. The stranglehold on the world body will loosen and we would have a freer atmosphere to discuss serious issues in a more logical manner rather than might always being right. It will be a glorious day for world peace.



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