Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Why most international organizations are useless

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2010

One of the principal differences between the Right and Left in the area of foreign policy has to do with international organizations. The Left loves them, the Right hates them. Whether it be the UN, the World Court, or any of a hundred other organizations, the Left believes that international organizations are more moral actors than individual governments, and that we would all be better off if everything were decided by these groups rather than by individual nations acting to further their own selfish interests. The Right counters that these organizations, by their very multilateral nature, are inefficient and ineffective.

Case in point: Last May, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights issued a finding against the government of Kenya. The Commission found that that the Kenyan government violated international law by forcibly evicting members of the Endoroi tribe in order to turn their land into a wildlife park.  At a recent summit, the African Union, which groups together the heads of state of most of the nations of Africa, recently confirmed and endorsed that finding. The Left is hailing this decision as a “landmark decision that sets a precedent for recognizing the land rights of indigenous people in Africa.”

So what’s the problem? The evictions in question took place in the 1970s -over thirty years ago. That’s right, it took thirty years for African organizations to agree that booting native tribes off their land is bad. How much comfort do you think the Endoroi people will take from this “landmark decision”? You can rest assured there is a zero chance of any of them getting their land back.

By contrast, imagine if the United States, at the time of the expulsions, had acted unilaterally, without “consulting with our allies.” The US could have denounced the expulsions and warned the Kenyan government that if it did not reconsider its actions, all US aid to Kenya would be cut off. Given that Kenya was quite a bit poorer back then, such a threat would have carried a lot of weight.

As an analogy, imagine if there was a road delta near your home with grass that had become overgrown and needed to be cut. You could contact the Town and ask them to do it and be told that there isn’t enough funding. You could try to get a bunch of neighbors together to chip in to get it taken care of , only to find that half of them don’t care and some actually like the grass the way it is. Or you could take your lawnmower and just go do it.

I am not saying that all international organizations are without merit. It’s good to have venues where nations can communicate and talk about their issues. It’s good to have groups that can coordinate long-term initiatives like disease eradication and shared water usage. But when there is a need for timely and effective action to solve an immediate problem, such as a troublesome dictator developing nuclear weapons, international organizations by their very nature are basically useless.

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