Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
An obscure UN body established to rebuild WW2 Europe, is now determining international automobile brake standards.
I’ve recently argued that the United Nations is the Borg. Its overriding goal is to homogenize us. To make us all uniform. Consistent. Compliant.
Last week, a news story by Jamey Keaten, Geneva correspondent for the Associated Press, appeared on the website of the Canadian Television Network (CTV) under the headline: UN: 40 countries agree cars must have automatic braking. It begins:
Forty countries led by Japan and the European Union – but not the U.S. or China – have agreed to require new cars and light commercial vehicles to be equipped with automated braking systems starting as soon as next year, a UN agency said Tuesday.
It’s quite possible these measures make total sense. They may be a brilliant idea that will “save more than 1,000 lives every year within the EU” as the official press release claims. But let us pay close attention to what’s going on here.
This agreement is being ushered into existence by an obscure entity, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It’s original mission was to help rebuild Europe following World War 2. Decades later, it helped former East Bloc countries recover from Communism.
It’s plain as day, therefore, that UN bureaucracies never die. Rather than shutting themselves down and freeing up resources for other purposes, these zombie entities stagger on.
Half a century after its original mandate vanished, the UNECE has now decided its duty is to establish “norms, standards and conventions to facilitate international cooperation” – thus the rules about your car’s emergency braking system.
It also says it’s working hard to promote European economic integration. As if a bloated, multi-headed monster bureaucracy known as the European Union weren’t fully focused on exactly that task. UNECE’s 70th anniversary celebratory video talks about sustainability, forestry, the environment – as if multiple other UN bodies don’t spend all their time working on precisely those matters.
Despite being the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the UNECE website tells us it consists of “56 member States in Europe, North America and Asia” – which is double the number of countries actually in the EU (28).
Presumably, other nations feel it’s good policy to keep half an eye on what’s going on there. Which means that taxpayers in Canada, the US, and elsewhere routinely pay for our governments to send diplomatic delegations to the UNECE. One wonders how many similar UN zombie entities exist, and how large is the annual bill.
But let us return to the news coverage. Here in Canada, the headline told us 40 UN countries are on board with the new brake rules. Since there are 193 nations in the UN, an equally accurate headline would have been: One fifth of UN members agree cars must have automatic braking.
The opening sentence informed us that while “Japan and Europe” are part of this agreement, America and China aren’t. From the onset, therefore, we were invited to view this as a conflict between ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’
Journalist Keaten did include this paragraph:
The United States, China and India are members of the UN forum that adopted the new regulations. However, they did not take part in the negotiations because they want to ensure that their national regulations keep precedence over UN rules when it comes to the auto industry.
This is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Innovation is fostered by freedom and flexibility. Strangling your auto industry in UN red tape is a dubious path to prosperity.
Shorty afterward, we read:
Jason Levine, executive director of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety, said lack of U.S. participation in the UN group is embarrassing for a country that once led in auto safety.
“It is yet another indication of the auto industry in the United States and the Trump administration’s complete lack of leadership when it comes to the safety of everyone on the road,” Levine said Tuesday. [bold added]
Geneva is UN headquarters. Most news outlets around the world can’t afford to pay a reporter to live in Geneva, so everyone relies on news coverage provided by wire services such as the Associated Press.
In this case, the AP Geneva correspondent story blandly refers to the UNECE as a “UN agency,” a “UN forum,” and a “UN group.” Readers aren’t told it’s a zombie, Euro-centric, utterly redundant entity well past its expiry date.
They aren’t told that 16 nations out of the 56 who participate in the UNECE – 30% – have not committed to these new brake regulations.
Instead, an activist was used to cast this as good versus evil: the sensible, virtuous UN battling uncooperative holdouts like US President Trump. Holdouts who don’t care about “the safety of everyone on the road.”