Talk about appointing “an arsonist as fire chief”, says Maurin Picard in Le Figaro. The UN Human Rights Council held its “Social Forum” in Geneva last week, and its chairman was none other than Ali Bahreini, Iran’s ambassador to the UN. That’s right: a two-day human rights jamboree was overseen by the representative of an oppressive regime that suppresses, kidnaps and tortures its opponents. Members of the diplomat class insist there’s nothing wrong with this: Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy supremo, says the appointment was merely the result of a rotation “in accordance with UN procedures”. But elsewhere the decision has raised a “torrent of indignation” – and rightly so.
Iran is part of a “nebula of authoritarian regimes” that uses the “UN galaxy” to challenge the established US-led world order. Just look at some of the other attendees in Geneva: “eminent defenders” of human rights such as China, Cuba and Venezuela. And it’s not just the West’s enemies that do this. In 2017, Saudi Arabia somehow managed to be elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, a body “exclusively devoted to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”. There’s nothing wrong with multilateralism, of course, and international diplomacy isn’t easy. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that the UN is becoming “a toy of its enemies”.