Since the beginning of the Arab Spring a year and a half ago, many countries have undergone major political change. Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Ghadaffi, and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali have been ousted from Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia respectively. The uprisings also spread to the Western world in the form of the Occupy protests, which have raised awareness of the inequality gap present in first world nations and revealed a disconnect between the people and authority (see our other articles on the subject).
But the protests are not over yet, and democracy is still being trampled as those in positions of power attempt to exert control. The UN plans to condemn the Canadian government for enacting legislation that infringes upon the fundamental right to protest. UN Watch’s press release also calls attention to a troubling matter: although the UN is criticizing the Canadian government, it is neglecting to mention the enormous violence in Syria and the daily human rights abuses that occur in China. In fact, the UN recently suspended its observation operations in Syria due to the high level of violence there. It was forced to do so after violence escalated and Russia and China blocked the possibility of further intervention. These countries see Western intervention as unwanted influence on their side of the world. Allowing Syrian violence to be diminished could also turn the spotlight back to those countries’ human rights offenses.
Egypt is also in a state of near martial law. Its military recently declared itself to be the major power base in the country; it usurped legislative and budgetary powers, thus diminishing the power of the newly elected president. It seems that the Tahrir Square protests were for naught, and the UN is unlikely to step in to maintain the democratic process.
So the UN is forced to do the only thing it can do – back off of the countries where the real problems lie, and focus on those nations where a condemnation by the UN may have some effect. Canada is still a democratic nation with properly functioning institutions, and a condemnation by the UN may turn enough heads to reverse the draconian anti-protest legislation that was passed. But unfortunately, without a fully united UN Security Council, no real progress can be made in those countries where citizens suffer not only financially, but also physically.