AFRICAN nations have just fed opponents of the United Nations and of aid to Africa a large chunk of red meat in electing Zimbabwe, a disgracefully ruled country, to head the U.N. Committee on Sustainable Development.
Reasonable people often find themselves having to defend the overall usefulness of the United Nations and the need for the United States to continue supporting it. Aid to Africa frequently falls in the same category, in need of being defended as policy because so much of it seems to go down the drain through waste and corruption.
Now the Africans have really done it. They have insisted - against U.S., European, and other advice - on choosing Zimbabwe, the best known of the badly ruled African countries, to a senior U.N. development position.
Zimbabwe has been governed for the past 27 years by President Robert G. Mugabe and his cronies. Under Mr. Mugabe's lead, the country has been reduced from economic health, which included not only food sufficiency but also food exports, to widespread starvation, plus inflation that runs above 2,000 percent.
Nonetheless, based on the fact that African nations at the U.N. decided it was Zimbabwe's turn to have the prestigious chairmanship of the Committee on Sustainable Development, Zimbabwe was elected with African votes, backed up by votes from non-African nations unwilling to deflect the insult to logic and to the world body.
Aid to Africa is already in trouble. Rock star Bono, who in 2005 extracted from the G-8 developed nations a promise to double aid to Africa by 2010, reported back this week that many of them were far off track in fulfilling their pledges.
The U.N. is, of course, also always in trouble in obtaining adequate funding for its activities from member governments, including the United States, although this year Congress put more money in the budget for aid to Africa than the Bush Administration requested.
In terms of support for both the U.N. and Africa, the Africans could not have done worse than to give a large, undeserved tribute to Zimbabwe and its president by electing the country to a responsible U.N. leadership post.
African nations may have found some satisfaction in sticking their fingers in the eyes of donor countries, but in terms of meeting the needs of their people, honoring and rewarding Zimbabwe at this time was a thoroughly irresponsible act.
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