Why can’t the UN get more done to promote freedom? Council on Foreign Relations analyst Elliott Abrams asks. The answer is clear: so many member states are themselves dictatorships that engage in horrible human rights violations—and they stick together. The latter point is key: the worst countries are far more united in protecting human rights abuses than the democracies are in protecting human rights, he writes:
One important mechanism for this protection of human rights abuses is the so-called “Like-Minded Group,” consisting usually of Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. As a superb new Human Rights Watch report on China’s own abuses of the UN system, entitled The Costs of International Advocacy, states:
These countries have demonstrated political solidarity in the [Security] Council and have worked together to weaken the universality of human rights standards and resist the Council’s ability to adopt country-specific approaches. They have shielded repressive governments from scrutiny by filling speakers’ lists with promoters of these countries’ human rights records during Universal Periodic Reviews, and giving uncritical statements from friendly governments and Government-Organized NGOs (GONGOs).
The point is that the democracies need to get better organized, adds Abrams.
If a state’s affiliations at the UN are a key indicator, a regime’s sports policy also offers insights on its approach to governance and foreign affairs, notes Arch Puddington, Distinguished Fellow for Democracy Studies at Freedom House. Like other authoritarian-minded leaders, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán equates triumphs on the playing fields with national greatness, and the nation’s greatness with his own. For Orbán, however, the only sport that really matters is soccer:
The Hungarian state is spending upwards of $2.2 billion to construct or renovate over 30 soccer stadiums, along with academies to train the stars of the future. In keeping with the standard operating procedure of Putin and other strongmen, much of the construction work is being done by contractors aligned with Orbán’s Fidesz party. The prime minister has been open about his intention to use political dominance to build a class of dependent business magnates, who in turn will supply the resources to finance Fidesz at election time.