I hear people badmouth the United Nations…a lot. “What the hell is the point of a United Nations? They don’t actually do anything.” In the back of my mind, I always sort of disagreed, but wasn’t really sure because I actually didn’t have any tangible examples to back up my position. The World Food Program maybe? The UN High Council on Refugees? I have always felt that an open and transparent forum to discuss global issues between countries, even if the best resolution they have to offer is usually non-binding, isn’t a bad thing. And, as a matter of principle, I disagree with with former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, on every single issue, from foreign policy to favorite season of the Wire. He famously said in 1994 – a full decade before taking up the post of UN ambassador – this about the institution:
There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.” He also stated that “The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”[
Such an asshole.
But this week can be chalked up as a win for the institution, since Cote D’Ivoire’s recalcitrant, thuggish big man former president, Laurent Gbagbo was sheepishly captured in his basement and is now going to be tried in the International Criminal Court. Continue reading →
A few years ago, I used to subscribe to Harper’sMagazine. The lead article in one of the issues was titled “Let them eat cash: Can Bill Gates turn hunger into profit?” It seemed interesting, but couldn’t really understand much of it at the time, since I didn’t know anything about food aid policy, or development in general. Just the other day I met someone who is working with the World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress program out here in Ghana. She asked me what I thought about the WFP and food aid in general. So I gave her my typical screed about food aid providing a market for surplus corn and soyabean production in the United States while calling it aid. And I talked about how flooding the market with low-cost (or no-cost) food may be necessary in the short-term, but is counterproductive in the long-run, since it undermines the competitiveness of the private sector in the areas where it is delivered and leaves the market in a state of atrophy. The conversation reminded me to go back and re-read the article. This time, I understand it much better.
The author, Frederick Kaufmann, attended a world summit on hunger and climate change (fitting both into the busy schedule). Continue reading →