LETTER: How to control UN agencies

Share
Related Topics
From Mr John Gordon

Sir: You perceptively analyse what is wrong with international agencies ("A world order of scandal and graft", 11 May), but you are wrong in the conclusions you draw from the one instance in recent years when Western countries have withdrawn from a UN agency (the US from Unesco in 1984, the UK in 1985).

These moves were far more closely linked to the domestic agendas of the Reagan and Thatcher governments, and in particular to the influence in both capitals of the bitterly anti-UN, right-wing US Heritage Foundation, than to what was actually happening in Paris. Unesco had many faults, but they were not those of financial corruption (both the US General Accounting Office and the British Audit Office gave it a clean bill of health), nor of the director-general, Amadou-Mahtar M'Bow, riding roughshod over the wishes of member states.

Unesco's weaknesses, in fact, largely stemmed from decades of Western neglect and indifference and could not possibly have been completely remedied in the short 20-month period we arbitrarily gave to the organisation to pull its socks up (the Americans gave even less). We left despite progress towards reform, which officials in Whitehall privately recognised was the most that could be achieved in the time available, and despite the pleas of our EC and Commonwealth partners to stay on and help them complete the process. To our shame, we are still out.

In suggesting that UN bodies are basically uncontrollable, except by an as yet hardly existent international public opinion, you are falling into the same trap as the British anti-Europeans in attacking the European Commission. As intergovernmental organisations, UN bodies are legally, financially and politically responsible to their member states. If those states fail to exercise their powers of control, it is they, rather than secretariats, who should be pilloried.

The key issue of UN reform is that of political leadership by member states. More particularly, it is a question of whether Western countries have the determination, skill and vision to build a consensus among the broader membership of where the UN system is going and of what changes in it are necessary.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN GORDON

London, N6

11 May

The writer was British Permanent Delegate to Unesco (1984-5.)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments