U.N. to Mugabe: You’re a gadfly

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been turning heads with his appearance at the UN World Food Summit. What’s this thug and clown doing here, people are asking?

The UN Dispatch blog responds to the criticism.

In Slate on Tuesday, Anne Applebaum offered the bold proposition that Robert Mugabe’s attendance at this week’s emergency meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization proves that the UN is useless. As she put it:

With an unerring sense of timing, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe arrived in Rome this weekend, thereby demonstrating the profound limitations of international diplomacy. Indeed, it’s hard to think of any other single gesture that would so effectively reveal the ineffectiveness of international institutions in the conduct of both human rights and food-aid policy. Even someone standing atop the dome of St. Peter’s, megaphone in hand, shouting, ‘The U.N. is useless! The E.U. is useless!’ couldn’t have clarified the matter more plainly.

First things first, I think the millions of children around the world who didn’t die of polio this year because they received a vaccination through the UN World Health Organization may dispute that. But I digress.

The odious Mugabe’s attendance at the meeting of the Food and Agricultural Organization does not show that the UN is useless. It does, however, show that sovereignty is still a driving force of international relations–which means that sometimes heads of state we don’t like are invited to forums in which more responsible leaders also participate. It’s not like Mugabe has a veto over what can or cannot be discussed at the meeting. He’s there. He’s a gadfly. Get over it.

Well said. I just can’t believe a (loosely) U.N.-sponsored site can call a head of state a odious tin pot dictator. But I do love it. Almost enough to renew a little faith in the U.N. Almost.