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Are international institutions relevant?

Zafar Bangash


Contrary to widespread belief, international institutions such as the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) etc., were not created to bring peace and prosperity to the world, but to serve the interests of the West. It is distressing to note, however, that the very victims of these institutions seem totally mesmerized by the high-sounding rhetoric of these organisations, and act as if their survival depends on them.

Let us consider the UN. It was set up by the victors of the Second World War to safeguard their interests in the world order that emerged out of the destruction wrought by the six-year war. The Security Council, with its five permanent members, is the most unrepresentative institution in the world despite its champions mouthing slogans about democracy, freedom of expression and the most recent invention, the "will of the international community". The fact that the "Permanent Five" can veto any resolution disproves these claims. Moreover, four of the five permanent members—the US, Britain, France and Russia—are Western powers; the only outsider in this pack, China, was barred from the Security Council until 1971 under the fiction that Taiwan represented the people of China. This farce, imposed by the US, was abandoned only when it became impossible to sustain it any longer.

The World Bank and the IMF are similarly riddled with contradictions. The head of the World Bank must be an American; a European must occupy the top post at the IMF. The implication is that the rest of the world, comprising 75 percent of humanity, cannot produce people capable of running these institutions. The World Bank is not a bank per se; one cannot go and deposit a cheque or withdraw cash, for instance. It is meant to control the financial affairs of other countries. The same applies to the IMF, and between them they have caused much misery in Asia and Africa, resulting in the deaths of millions of people. Until the 1970s, African countries earned surpluses because they grew crops to feed their own populations. Thencame the IMF with its Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP), which forced them to change their production-patterns by growing cash crops for export to Europe and America, ostensibly to earn more foreign exchange. Their economies were disrupted; unable to feed their own people, they were forced to import food, mainly from Europe and the US. The IMF was there to "help" with loans, but this was a deadly trap—the debt trap—that has led Africa to pay out more in interest on its debts than it earns from exports each year. The millions of people starving in Africa today are the direct victims of IMF interference in the affairs of these countries.

We may well ask why African rulers accept such conditions that clearly put them at a disadvantage. Western powers are able to manipulate regimes by bribing those in power. ThroughoutAfrica, dictators are propped up as long as they do the West's bidding. Mobuto Sese Seko, a corporal in the Zaireian army, for instance, was elevated to the rank of general and maintained in power for 30 years by the US. Those who dare to challenge the West's policies find themselves under political, economic and military pressure. Often, these eager, greedy and selfish men in uniform are encouraged to stage coups that result in the former ruler's death by firing squad. Military dictators are more amenable to outside pressure because they lack popular support at home. This is the story not only in Africa but also in much of the rest of the Third World.

Then we have the IAEA. This organization was given the Nobel Peace Prize—another farce—last month, ostensibly for its role in safeguarding the world from nuclear destruction. Like the UN and IMF, the IAEA is riddled with contradictions. Manipulated by the US and its European allies, it has singularly failed to persuade or force the nuclear weapons states—the US, Russia,Britain, France, India and Israel—to abandon or reduce their nuclear stockpiles. But it has been used against Islamic Iran and other countries that dare to challenge the West's hegemony. Although the Islamic Republic has given far greater access to IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities than it is obliged to under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA, under pressure from the US and Europe, continues to question Iran’s nuclear intentions and demand more concessions. By contrast, there is not a whisper about Israel’s nuclear weapons; as for India, the US has promised to provide it with nuclear fuel, in violation of NPT rules, if it will support an anti-Iran resolution at the IAEA.

Given the nature and behaviour of these institutions, what should Muslims do? Let us be clear: the Muslim nation-states cannot be expected to safeguard the interests of the Ummah. This can only be done by the Islamic movement. But, with the exception of Iran, the Islamic movement is not in control of any territory. What Muslims must do is give up harbouring illusions about institutions that are not meant to serve our interests, and stop wasting time and energy on seeking remedies from the sources that are the cause of our problems and difficulties in the first place.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 9

Jumada' al-Ula' 21, 14372005-11-01

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