UN Watch is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. The above photo is from a UN Watch board meeting in Geneva in the mid-1990s: (Left to right) Per Ahlmark, former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Co-Chair of UN Watch; Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN; Morris B. Abram, Chair of UN Watch; U.S. labor union leader Lane Kirkland, former head of the AFL-CIO. What they shared in common was a firm belief in human rights, freedom and democracy, opposition to Communist tyranny, and support for the equal treatment of Israel at the UN.
“Monitoring group keeps close tabs on U.N.”
USA TODAY, March 8, 1995
By Helena Bachmann
GENEVA – As the United Nations celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, its activities — which have expanded in recent years — are coming under increasing surveillance.
“U.N. is one of the least transparent agencies around, with hidden and concealed practices,” says Morris Abram, founder and chairman of U.N. Watch, a group that monitors the U.N.’s inner workings.
The Fitzgerald, Ga., native founded the group two years ago. “We have groups keeping track of everything from weights to whales. Yet the U.N., one of the most important bodies in the world, has until recently remained unwatched,” he says.
The U.N., recognizing the need for critical self-appraisal, in August 1994 established the Office of Internal Oversight Service. But Abram notes, “all monitoring cannot come from inside.”
While he attends U.N. meetings as an independent, non-governmental observer, Abram says his perceptions are that of an insider. He served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva during the Bush administration, and spent 30 years working in the U.N. system.
U.N. Watch’s 17-member board includes dignitaries and political figures. The six-member U.S. contingent includes former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick and the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland.
Abram says his group is keeping an eye on what he perceives as a violations of the U.N.’s own founding principles. Among them: failure to implement equal rights for all nations and gender equality. “The treatment a nation receives at the U.N. is directly related to that nation’s international power, popularity and prestige,” he says.
For example, China and the former U.S.S.R. were never condemned by the Security Council for human-rights violations, and the United States was not criticized for segregation, he says.
In an unprecedented move Monday, U.N. member nations began to canvass support in Geneva for a draft resolution attacking China for human-rights abuses. But diplomats say Beijing probably will avoid censure.
Abram says despite the official U.N. policy promoting the equality of women, “upper echelons of the U.N. policy hierarchy remain virtually an all-male club.” U.N. statistics show out of 89 top U.N. positions worldwide, only 10 are held by women.
Abram also sees himself as an advocate of the U.N.’s founding principles: “Every one of the 184 members wants to protect its own interests. I’m looking out for the interests of the organization.”