United Nations (UN)
The UN is a global collaboration of 193 member states (and 2 observer states) to address common challenges faced by participating countries. The partnership began in 1945 when 50 nations agreed to a preliminary charter in San Francisco that pledged to “maintain international peace and security” and “develop friendly relations among nations” among other objectives. While these aims were laudable, the UN mission and activities have morphed considerably since the organization’s inception over seventy years ago.
In recent decades, the UN has spent billions of global taxpayer dollars pushing questionable resolutions and misguided initiatives. The United Nations’ tobacco control regime has advocated tirelessly for greater tobacco taxation, a regressive policy that studies show has the unintended consequence of promoting less healthy products. Additionally, UN policy promotions are often unworkable and devoid of priority. In the midst of a raging civil war, the World Health Organization has recently pushed the Syrian government to reduce smoking rates in its country.
In addition to ineffective programs, the UN regularly pushes economic policy reports that advocate weakening property rights. The 2016 UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines report indicts Western patent systems for high drug prices and low global access, while ignoring the role of intellectual property in encouraging medical innovation. Panel participants even suggested phasing-out intellectual property altogether, and substituting industry research and development expenditures with government funding.
The UN has an abysmal record in preserving press freedom. In the first two days of the UN-funded World Health Organization’s 2014 Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a tobacco control treaty, the public was ejected and the press had their event credentials revoked. Journalist Drew Johnson was forcibly removed from the 2016 Conference of the Parties meeting in India for violating the continued ban on press presence. This hostility toward journalism perpetuates a culture of secrecy, and keeps respected press freedom groups from monitoring the organization. The U.N.’s initial decision to deny consultative status to the Committee to Protect Journalists was largely the result of opposition by South Africa, China and Russia, countries with spotty press freedom records.
Fortunately, the United States and allies from around the world have the leverage to hold the organization’s feet to the fire and demand reforms, with billions of dollars worth of annual budget contributions.