December 15, 2010
U.N. Gets New OversightBy Wendy Wright
It's a delicious irony.
Radical feminists' dreams came true recently with the creation of U.N. Women, a new über-agency that will agitate globally for their pet projects using unrestricted funding from governments.
Yet in an unexpected twist, a Republican congresswoman will soon be in charge of the House Foreign Affairs committees that oversee U.S. involvement at the U.N.
And this lady plans to tighten the purse strings.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is the new chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is no pushover. An exile from Cuba, she's a staunch critic of repressive regimes, and she's adamantly pro-life.
After Republicans placed her at the helm, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said, "I plan on using U.S. contributions to international organizations as leverage to press for real reform of those organizations, such as the United Nations."
The U.S. is the largest funder of the U.N., contributing 22 percent of the U.N.'s regular budget and more than 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget. Ros-Lehtinen wants U.S. contributions to be voluntary until the U.S. creates an office to audit the U.N. for transparency and waste.
Diplomats and activists at the U.N. are already feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. Their plans for a global conference on youth, sure to stir up controversy over abortions for minors and dissing parents, are crumbling after the country that offered to host it, Tunisia, couldn't find other countries willing to pay for it.
Yet, America's current economic crisis of crushing debt and high unemployment did not deter President Obama's plans to increase U.S. contributions to subsidize U.N. Women.
U.S. official Carol Fulp declared at a U.N. conference last month that the U.S. is "delighted" with the U.N.'s new agency and has generously pledged that Americans will pay for it.
As Fulp said, "The U.S. is the largest contributor to the U.N., and we intend to remain so. We plan to continue our strong support of U.N. Women at levels consistent with or exceeding recent contributions, subject to the availability of appropriations."
That was November 8. The tidal wave of the election six days earlier has reached the U.N.'s shores, sweeping conservatives critical of the U.N. into key positions.
The combined budgets of the four existing women's departments at the U.N. (which will be consolidated into U.N. Women) constitute about $220 million. Advocates for this new agency are demanding a budget of $1 billion.
Women are not neglected at the U.N. In addition to the existing departments, a commission of delegates from member countries meets annually, and women's issues are "mainstreamed," or woven throughout U.N. programs. Even UNICEF -- the U.N. agency for children -- focused its attention on women when Bill Clinton placed radical feminist Carol Bellamy as its executive director.
In fact, Bellamy's ten-year reign at UNICEF provides a good example of what goes wrong at the U.N. She retooled the children's agency to emphasize a "rights-based approach" instead of finding and filling the most desperate needs of children. Conferences on rights and legal advocacy for rights replaced efforts to provide basic child survival. Resources were spent on developing children's rights (at cushy conferences for adults) while children died from malnutrition and malaria.
Girls were more equal than boys and received the bulk of attention. Women took priority over children as Bellamy redirected funds from child survival to women's issues.
The British medical journal The Lancet reported that "UNICEF has lost its way during Carol Bellamy's long term of office" because she "has failed to address the essential health needs of children" due to her "preoccupation with [women's and children's] rights." The journal reported the "shocking" fact that six million children die each year of preventable causes, mostly of malnutrition, even as "cost-effective interventions are available for all major causes of child mortality." They blamed it on "Bellamy's unwillingness to engage with child survival."
(But really, could anyone have expected much from a woman who, as a New York state legislator, voted against the Aid to Live Aborted Child Act? It mandated that a baby who survived an abortion would get the same care as any other premature baby.)
I'm sure President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton have high hopes that U.N. Women will be a bastion for a "rights-based" approach to women.
Women need respect and opportunity, not a global agency demanding money and power for its elitist leaders.
With a no-nonsense woman in charge, hopefully money will be better spent elsewhere rather than going to another U.N. agency to empower the people who run it.
Wendy Wright is President of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women’s organization.