Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The U.N. And The Internet

Doesn't it just make you feel good to know that the fine people at the United Nations who brought us the oil-for-food scandal would like to control the internet. Who better than repressive tyrants and money hungry bureaucrats to ensure the free flow of information around the world?

Claudia Rosett is on the case.
The UN’s 1945 founding mandate was to promote peace. Sometime during the past six decades of dictator-packed voting blocks, diplomatic privileges, immunities and institutional secrecy, the UN instead got into the business of promoting mainly itself. At today’s UN, that involves the self-interest of two basic groups, and neither bodes well for the internet.

The first UN group is interested mainly in censorship, though they’re also partial to money where they can get it. That would be the General Assembly, made up of the UN’s 191 member states. Unfortunately, that membership includes dozens of repressive regimes, such as China, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and information-summit-hosting Tunisia; in other words, countries whose despots have a common interest in hating and fearing the kind of freedom the Internet might offer their subject fellow citizens. Under the guise of taking control of the net to bring orderly access to all, they hope to acquire control over exactly who gets what. It is telling that in the list of financial contributions for the Tunis summit, the third-largest donor state after Japan and Sweden (both jockeying for influence at the UN) was Saudi Arabia— whose rulers specialize in banning just about every freedom you can imagine, including free speech.

The second group is the UN Secretariat, which is mainly interested in money, though they’re also partial to censorship when they can get away with it – which, since they operate with diplomatic immunity, is most of the time. According to the UN charter, the Secretariat is simply supposed to function as the administrative arm of the UN, run by a Secretary-General whose job is basically to manage the shop. But for quite some time the Secretariat has been evolving into more or less a state unto itself, led by a Secretary-General whose ambitions-- on the evidence of his various campaigns, programs and proposals over the past eight years-- tend less toward managing the office than running the world.