The U.N., poverty, and liberals

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 28, 2002

I got into a little donnybrook back in late May, as Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bono toured Africa, for decrying how too much aid money finds its way into the black hole that is the U.N. bureaucracy.

My good friend Jeff Hauser and I cordially debated (yeah, revisionist history, don't hit a guy while he's down) what the exact percentage of the U.N.'s World Health Organization budget was spent on administration.

Well, it's three months later and the U.N. is holding its "World Summit on Sustainable Development."

Apparently 60,000 people have headed to Johannesburg, South Africa, to spend a week determining how to help lift poor people around the world out of poverty.

Kenneth Adelman takes on the U.N. and its faux concern for the poor in an article at

It's another massive waste of money. Another diversion from the real needs of the poor. Another boondoggle for the rich to jet somewhere exotic to gush over their concern for the poor.

If I sound aggravated, it's because I lived in a desolate African nation (Zaire, not the Congo) for more than two years in the early 1970s. So I've experienced the wrenching misery of Third World poverty -- up close and personal.

It's also because I served as a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the early 1980s. So I've learned the inanity of U.N. conferences -- again, up close and personal.

As head of the U.S. delegation to several such conferences, I heard hundreds of speeches urging each conference to increase the "political will" to implement past U.N. conference declarations.

The Johannesburg summit does likewise. It will urge implementation for the U.N. conference 10 years ago in Rio.

The man's got credentials -- so what exactly is going on?

Millions of dollars spent on the wealthy traveling to a neat tourist spot to produce multi-lingual speeches and documents about the poor. This U.N. conference has a budget of an exorbitant $55 million. The South African government, plagued by widespread poverty among blacks, will contribute $20 million.

Instead of the 60,000 jetting to South Africa for another round of U.N. speeches and declarations, just imagine how many poor Africans could be helped by $55 million spent on real programs to raise levels to $2 per day.

So, there's $55 million that's being spent just so the Europeans can feel better about themselves as they look down their noses at us Americans. That's quite a bit of money just to give the rest of the world a shot of nationalist self-esteem.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is heading the U.S. delegation to this conference -- we should've kept him and his entourage at home and sent the money to some Afghanistani relief organizations.

The next time the U.N. wants to impress us with how much they care about the poor, I propose two words that will save all of them millions of dollars: conference call.


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August 2002



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