Half a Cheer for the U.N.

Just when you thought you could count on a group to be consistent – they do something reasonable. The United Nations has rarely been a friend of freedom, and it probably never will be (the United States, for example, was recently voted off the U.N. Human Rights Commission – while Uganda and the Sudan are left on!). Still, the recent Human Development Report 2001: Making New Technology Work for Human Development, by the United Nations Development Programme, does pose a major challenge to the Malthusian religion that has become so dominant in the developed world. The idea that technology only benefits the rich, exacerbating the gap between rich and poor, is rejected vigorously by the writers of this report, as is the anti-biotechnology view so common in Europe. True, the report does call for more political aid, suggests that developing nations should develop careful regulatory regimes, and is worried about the “brain drain”. Still, it is sensible overall. For example, even this last fear is tempered by the report’s belief that making the country more attractive to those leaving could alleviate so much of this “drain,” Its not perfect – but when even the U.N. begins to question the doom-and-gloom crowd, highlighting the promise of the future and downplaying fears, there is some reason for hope. I’ve long argued against crucifying the poor of the world on a cross of green. Now I’m joined by the U.N.