Are Human Rights Really a UN Priority?

03/12/2012 05:28 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2012

When someone acts in a twisted manner for a long time, at some point you get used to it and stop expecting them to act any different. You accept them for what they've proved themselves to be, despite what they may be saying for image purposes. I think that's what happened in the case of the UN: it was
founded after World War II with the stated aims to facilitate international security, human rights, and achievement of world peace. But 67 years later, and the impotence regarding Syria, it's hard not to wonder: what values does the UN really stand for?

Last week, the UN human rights body, UNESCO, condemned Syria for the brutal murder of its own citizens. This condemnation comes after a year during which thousands of innocent people have been murdered, children were shot and tortured and women were raped in the streets. These atrocities have become an everyday ritual for Syrian citizens. The city of Homs has been a bloody battle field for the past month: tanks, heavy artillery, no electricity, no heating, and children gathering snowflakes in bowls so that when they melt, they'll have something to drink.

Despite all this, and ridiculously so, Syria is actually still a member of UNESCO's Human Rights committee. This committee, that's supposed to be driven by the noblest cause of all, couldn't muster up the courage to vote for Syria's expulsion, which means that Syria still takes part in decisions about human rights elsewhere in the world. Confused? So am I. But it's far from being the first time I'm confused about the UN's priorities.

In the past years, Libya was a respected member of the UN Human Rights Council. Not only that, being embraced by this council, Qaddafi gave away a yearly 250 thousand dollar human rights prize that carried his name, for over 13 years. We all know what happened later. Some other countries that are now members of the Human Rights Council are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Nigeria, Kuwait, Congo and Bangladesh. What is the nature of the council's decisions if these are the countries that are taking part in making them?

Just a few weeks ago the UN Security Council tried to pass a decision to call Assad to step down, after becoming a mass murderer of his own people. This attempt was vetoed by Russia and China, who seem to have more important interests than the lives of citizens, as far as Syria is concerned.

Today we see more bloodshed in Syria. It seems to be getting worse every day. And what does the UN do about it? Everything it does seems to be "too little, too late" -- the few condemnations in the past months not only came after long months of mass murdering, they had no effect at all. Whereas decisions that could have had some effect, have been overruled.

None of us are naive. We all know this world is cruel, and that it will take a lot of work to even partially fix it. We all know that international relations are based on cold and sometimes ruthless interests, usually of an economic or strategic nature. But the whole point of the UN was to be different: to become the organization that promotes human rights and stops violence and brutality, while putting the cold and ruthless interests aside.

Sadly, it seems that the awful suffering of the Syrian people is not necessarily relevant to the UN's practical decisions, or to the real interests it is driven by. The question, this being the case, is how
relevant the UN's existence is to our world's real needs.