United Nations SUCKS
By Anam Ansari

June 11, 2011

Today I was exploring the United Nations’ website, and in a little corner I saw the heading “who we are.” Now I have often been told I do not have a very philosophical mind, but I thought “indeed! who are they?” So with the curiosity inside of me, I clicked the link. Now, what was written about who they are is not as important as what it said beneath their paragraph-long description: “Our global workforce is made up of 33% women and 67% men. The United Nations strongly encourages women to apply for available positions.” This statement reminded me of a very emotion-sparking article I had read just a few weeks earlier about the UN creating a group called the UN Women (UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women). Now, reader beware: if you are a hard-core feminist or even someone who truly vouches for the existence of equal rights for women, I warn that you proceed with caution in reading what is written below as it may cause sudden bursts of anger/sadness and/or an utter loss of faith/confidence in the UN system or simply, just a loss for words.
The article I read a few weeks earlier was written in the Toronto Star about the creation of UN Women. Naturally, one of the first steps was to create an Executive Board consisting of countries which serve as a “role model” in regards to equality of men and women for countries which lack behind in such progress. Quite unnaturally, one of the Contributing Countries was chosen to be Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read correctly... Saudi Arabia: where women are not allowed to drive, women are not allowed to get a job, go to school or get married without permission of a male “guardian”, and I could go on. Even somebody who knows nothing has heard of the infamous “Saudi Arabia: the land where women cannot drive.” (In fact, I think that would make for a great slogan for the country). As Mona Eltahawy points out in the Toronto Star article, Saudi Arabia was also the country which had zero women athletes at the 2010 Asian Games in China. In fact, in 2008, Human Rights Watch released a 54-page report on the lack of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
What surprises me is the mere hypocrisy of the United Nations. They encourage women to apply for jobs in the UN, they even create the UN Women, which could serve as a great organization to further women’s rights where they are needed, and then they go on and place a county where the implementation of women’s rights is MOST needed on the Executive Board to serve as a role model for other countries. I am not trying to judge the entire system of the UN by a major failure in one aspect of the organization, but you can forgive me then for not having complete and utter faith in the “wonderful” system of the United Nations. You can also forgive me for calling the UN hypocritical when in 2008, they were outraged by the response of a Saudi delegate at a women’s rights panel in Geneva. The man was asked why men are permitted to marry up to four wives in Saudi Arabia and his response was: the law was created to ensure that a man’s sexual appetite was met legally if the need be so. But just two years later after this incident, Saudi Arabia is allowed to serve as a member on the Executive Board of UN Women.
I am highly tempted to judge the entire system of the UN based on this, but I shall suspend judgement. As a young activist, I wholeheartedly want to believe that the UN is efficient and successful but when I hear about situations, it is hard to have even an ounce-ful of hope for an organization which is supposed to “alleviate poverty” or “defend human rights” (and I quote from their “who we are” statement). So for now, I say change must come from the individual and nowhere else!

Article about UN Women from Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/890485--saudi-arabia-s-spot-on-the-board-of-un-women-a-sad-joke
UN’s Who We Are statement: http://careers.un.org/lbw/home.aspx?viewtype=WWA
Executive Board of UN Women: http://www.unwomen.org/about-us/governance/executive-board/#eb_bureau
Human Rights Watch Report on Saudi Arabi’s lack of rights for women: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/04/saudi-arabia-a.html

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