Michel Aoun’s United Nations ethical flop

Makram Rabah

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Very few people look towards the United Nations and its various agencies with much optimism or hope , as this post WWII institution, despite its noble objectives, have failed time and again to rise to the challenges and shed its many bureaucratic and political limitations, thus rendering it futile.

Yet perhaps one of the major reasons for the failure of the UN is the lack of commitment of many of the member states and their leaders, who take to the United Nations pulpit ever year preaching morality and self-righteousness, while in reality adopting policies and measures that are counterproductive not to say malicious.

The Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s recent excursion to New York to attend the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly is a case in point. Aoun, born in 1935 ten years before the formation of the UN, addressed his peers last Wednesday urging them to take concrete measures to reform the UN, which in his opinion totally lacks transparency and balance.

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After distributing his wisdom, Aoun reminded his audience of the importance of respecting human rights, a matter that to Aoun Lebanon has upheld through its constitution and its various agencies chiefly amongst them the newly formed independent National Commission for Human Rights, Lebanon's National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), which includes a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).

This finally tuned and humanistic rhetoric however was merely the preamble to Aoun’s real intention, as he demanded the immediate return of the Syrian refugees who in his opinion and that of his allies Hezbollah have no pretext to stay in Lebanon, nor are they under any threat from the Assad regime, which is essentially responsible for their predicament.

This was rather normal coming from Aoun who for years, with the assistance of his son-in-law and political heir Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, led the charge to normalize relations and whitewash the Assad regime both locally and abroad.

While Aoun stanchly championed transparency and accountability at the UN, these two concepts are nowhere to be found at home with many allegations of corruption and cronyism

Makram Rabah

Xenophobic tactics

Through a combination xenophobic tactics both Aoun and Bassil, use these refugees as a scare crew to muster populists support from the Lebanese whose abysmal economic conditions prevent them from sharing what remains of a decaying failing state.

Aoun was clear in his speech that he simply wants to get rid of the refugees even if this came at the cost of throwing them back into the fires of the Syrian conflict, which contrary to what Aoun and his allies Hezbollah peddle is far from over.

Yet Aoun’s refusal to work with the UN and UNHCR is one of the major factors for the current horrible crisis especially that Bassil has toiled hard to antagonize and alienate these funding agencies accusing them of planning to naturalize the refugees and preventing them from willfully returning home.

Realistically however Aoun’s UN speech leads to two main conclusions, either his speechwriters are out of touch with reality or simply that they maliciously choose to disregard Aoun’s abysmal term vis-à-vis all the demands he made throughout his speech.

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Despite Aoun’s flaunting the Human rights commission, who is yet to become active, many Syrian refugees have been subject to unlawful detention, torture and sometimes death by the Lebanese security agencies, who have yet to conduct a serious and transparent investigation to refute these allegations.

While Aoun stanchly championed transparency and accountability at the UN, these two concepts are nowhere to be found at home with many allegations of corruption and cronyism surrounding the performance of his parliamentary bloc led by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil.

Both Hezbollah and their main Christian ally Michael Aoun continue to peddle the Russian initiative for the return of the Syrian refugees as the only viable and serious plan. Ironically the Russian plan as well as Aoun political term and career bear many similarities chiefly amongst them is the fact that they both bequeath ethics and morals to the public while in fact practicing the opposite.

Aoun heart might perhaps be in the right place, but leadership is above all measured by ones acts and their consequences, and thus no speech can whitewash Aoun’s history and what remains of his term, nor save Lebanon from its gloomy future.
Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975. He tweets @makramrabah.

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