How UNESCO, UN agencies should save their credibility by acting now


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is a global body working to promote its founding statement. To begin with, UNESCO’s job is not only educational or scientific as its name suggests. Neither is it to explore, recognize world heritages and register them. UNESCO has also other lofty purposes that could not pass the test of the difficult times in Ethiopia.

According to one source, “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), agency of the United Nations is established in 1946 to encourage collaboration among nations in the areas of education, science, culture, and communication. Through such cooperative endeavors, UNESCO hopes to encourage universal respect for justice, laws, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. (emphasis added) The organization’s founding statement declares that “peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.”(emphasis added).

As it can be seen from the above statement, the interesting point here is the last part of UNESCO’s declaration of intent which includes respect to human rights, justice, law and fundamental freedoms. Despite such haughty statements, UNESCO has stood on the sidelines in the current conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian federal forces. It is now universally acknowledged that the TPLF, the only author of the human right violations, the unjust occupation and destruction of human lives and properties in Amhara and Afar regions. UNESCO has never spoken in defense of the victims of such injustices and human rights abuses. Why it is doing so is clear now more than any time before.

As a UN agency, UNESCO is the victim of master-servant relationship between the UN and the Western powers including the United States. For long decades, the US has been the largest contributor to the budgets of specialized UN agencies. As a result of this relationship, UNESCO is acting in tandem with the interests of the rich masters who are manipulating the strings behind the scenes. It has to take sides in the ongoing disputes between the West and Ethiopia over the nature and objectives of the war against the neo-fascist TPLF and its Washington backers. So, UNESCO has betrayed its lofty ideals and has, intentionally or unintentionally, stood on the side of criminals instead of the people of Ethiopia in those regions who are the victims.

Of course no one is in a position accuse UNESCO of collaboration in a planned and systematic genocide in the Amhara and Afar regions. Yet, UNESCO stands accused by history for the silence and inaction that has characterized its behavior in the conflict, for saying nothing when the TPLF barbaric hordes invaded the respected Lalibela stone-hewn churches. These barbaric and illiterate hordes did not do their dirty jobs in Lalibela simply because there were no women and girls to rape, no building to destroy or loot and no machinery to be disassembled and transported to Mekelle.

According to another document, the World Heritage Sites, to which Lalibella is part, “was established to implement the terms of the World Heritage Convention, an agreement adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. The convention states that a World Heritage Committee “will establish, keep up to date, and publish” a World Heritage List of cultural and natural properties, submitted by member states and considered to be of universal value. (emphasis added) To date, 182 nations have signed the convention.

According to the same source, “UNICEF also provides a relief network for children and their parents or other caregivers in the aftermath of disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, and droughts. It has worked extensively with children from war-torn countries to help alleviate their suffering. The organization works to prevent child abuse, child labor, sexual exploitation of children, and the use of children as soldiers. In the United States, UNICEF has focused its work on inner-city children victimized by random violence and gang warfare.

What has UNICEF done to live up to it high sounding promises in the context of the conflict in Ethiopia? The answer is a resounding “nothing!”

Ethiopia has done its part in getting its world heritage sites registered but UNESCO has failed to take proper care of the sites and more particularly those in Amhara region where the heritages are exposed to vandalism, looting and destruction.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is another UN agency mandated to protect the health and wellbeing of people everywhere in the world and provide them with the necessary assistance in time of natural or man-made crises. According to the same sources, “WHO was established in 1948. In collaboration with national governments and other international aid agencies, WHO works to reduce human disease, funds medical research, provides emergency aid during disasters, and aims to improve nutrition, housing, sanitation, and working conditions in developing countries (emphasis ours). These are high sounding objectives that are reduced to naught when we compare intent and practice.

The passivity and paralysis of international organizations like WHO is shocking indeed. Hundreds of hospitals, clinics and health stations are destroyed in the war zones of Amhara and Afar. And yet the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has not issued a statement, condemned the actions of the criminals by denouncing the acts of blatant destructions of the health infrastructures that were built through years of tremendous efforts and at staggering costs to the Ethiopian government and some aid agencies.

The present boss of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, is an Ethiopian national who enjoyed the support of the Ethiopian government and African countries to win the post during the voting for the prestigious post. What is shocking now is that Dr. Tedors, as a professional and a man holding the highest post in a global health institution, has not uttered a word against the damages done to the health infrastructures by the TPLF and its barbaric hordes.

This writer is not writing this article to implicate Dr. Tedros in the politics behind TPLF’s inhuman treatment of the innocent civilian populations in the war zones who are suffering from chronic or acute illnesses and have nowhere to go to seek treatment or buy the necessary drugs. Yet, no one is more informed than Dr. Tedors about the health facilities of underprivileged Ethiopians, including people from Tigray, who have been suffering and dying from treatable diseases even before the onset of the conflict. That was why he was made minister of health of Ethiopia.

Dr. Tedros could at least issue official statements prior or right after the onset of the conflict calling on all sides to desist from attacking health facilities in the war zones. Moreover, at this time of rampant corona virus pandemic, he should have sent a call to the belligerent parties, to take care of innocent civilians who have been displaced, children, women, the sick and the weak to get minimum assistance against the pandemic and the non-communicable diseases from which innocent civilians are suffering for lack of vital drugs.

This may sound a bit naive but he could at least issue an official statement indicating his concerns for children, women and the elderly and the sick. To the dismay of the international community in general and the Ethiopian people in particular, Dr. Tedros has so far joined the conspiracy of silence that has engulfed international organizations since the start of hostilities.

Had Dr. Tedros acted in a professional and humane way, showing compassion to all the victims of the hostilities, as a professional, he could have won the respect his office entitles him. this is not about politics or taking sides. It requires only to be a human being to feel empathy towards the victims. This is not only a matter of personal feeling but also a matter of professional duty as someone who is holding his present post as an Ethiopian elected by Africans without which the Western countries could have picked someone else.

The same indifference and shameful passivity also characterizes the other UN specialized agencies. “The purpose of the WFP is to expedite relief work in emergency or natural-disaster areas. (emphasis added) In cooperation with the FAO and other UN agencies, the WFP distributes food supplies after disasters and provides cash for emergencies and for wages of workers on rescue or rehabilitation projects. The resources of the program are provided through voluntary governmental contributions of commodities or of services such as shipping and of cash, which must amount to one-third of the total contribution.”

The WFP had sent heavy-duty trucks loaded with food into Tigray. Yet the TPLF barbarians confiscated the trucks and were using them to transport heir invading troops and war materials. The WFP bosses in Addis Ababa have not lifted their small fingers to try to check whether the food they sent were distributed to the rights beneficiaries or why the TPLF, has confiscated the trucks. Silence would only be tantamount to collaboration.

The global conspiracy of silence is not limited to these agencies. International aid organizations too are keeping a passive distance in the face of so much sufferings, humiliations and tragedies. The reason is not different from what we tried to indicate above. These agencies rather look like puppets that are manipulated by the master puppeteers who are pulling the strings behind the scene or are trying to use these organizations to promote their political agendas or strategic objectives.

These agencies are handling huge amounts of funds and aid materials in the name of the wretched of this earth. The other tragedy is that there is no mechanism for holding them responsible when they are abusing the funds that are partly provided by poor countries as part of their international obligations. Maybe the time has come for holding these agencies and their bosses responsible for failing to live up to their state objectives.

As it can be seen clearly from recent events, the people of Ethiopia are the direct victims of TPLF’s “kill all, loot all!” policy. The estimated losses ran into hundreds of billions of birr according to estimates. The deaths, injuries, loss of properties and subsequent traumas. People who need emergency medical treatment are dying. Children are falling ill and starving. Thousands of innocent women are suffering the traumas of the conflict. Innocent girls must be suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorders. The tragedy is indescribable.

In these circumstances, it is obvious that the victims cannot overcome the tragedy without international humanitarian assistance. Now that the conflict has proved that most of the victims are innocent civilians, the UN and its agencies should step in to live up to their historic commitments and humanitarian claims. They should not wait for politics to determine the fate of these innocent people. Politicizing humanitarian assistance would be like playing with the lives of these people.

The agencies are supposed to help the people even in worst circumstances as they had done in Ethiopia in the past. They have to leave politics for politicians and do their humanitarian works despite the pressures and influences that may come from politicians inside and outside the international aid industry. It would be a tragic precedence to let innocent people suffer and die while it is possible to save them. The aid agencies should not follow false narratives about the conflict and aid flow. The people of Tigray are, like the people of the rest of Ethiopia, are the real victims. Letting them down when it matters most to help them will be a huge moral failure on the part of donors whose credibility would suffer for many decades to come and seriously affect their images in Africa.

The Ethiopian January 7/2022

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