Global bodies must be held to account

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor walks to speak to the international press following a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor walks to speak to the international press following a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague

This has been a week of shame for the global institutions of the post-war order. In an outrageous moral inversion, the top court of the United Nations, the ICJ, failed to dismiss South Africa’s politically-motivated claim that Israel is committing genocide in its war on Hamas. On the day before Holocaust Memorial Day, the court chose instead to impose a series of demands on Israel, even as the Jewish state fights against an openly genocidal enemy.

Such rot at the very apex of the system that is supposed to deliver impartial, global justice between nation states would be bad enough. Yet it is just one symptom of far wider failings. The UK has found itself compelled – at least temporarily – to suspend its funding for UNRWA, the UN agency with special responsibility for Palestinians. This was not so much an act of moral courage as a need to keep up with the US and other nations, who all took similar action after 12 UNRWA employees were accused of being involved in the October 7 massacre.

Should we really be surprised? For too long, transnational bodies have been given a pass by our elites. They are seen as beyond reproach, and somehow on a higher plane than democratic national governments which are held accountable by their citizens. Again and again in recent years, international law has become the weapon of choice against the decisions of Britain’s elected officials.

This was always a mistake. The pandemic, and the aftermath of Brexit, have shown us that transnational bodies are readily corrupted and hard to hold to account. Now, once again, we see the intolerable consequences of trusting these untouchable institutions.

After the horrors of the Second World War, the UN and allied agencies were set up to be a bulwark of Western order. Yet all too quickly, they became platforms for the interests of tyrants and the enemies of the West. First the Soviet Union and now Iran, Putin’s Russia and the People’s Republic of China have all learnt how to co-opt and corrupt these well-meaning bodies to serve autocratic ends.

This is also about a failure of Western nerve. Having lost confidence in the values we stand for, our representatives have been unwilling to defend those principles in global forums. Now things risk becoming even worse, as wokeness infects our officials with radical Left views combined with a willingness to tolerate authoritarian enforcement measures.

It is past time to call out these broken institutions that have been taken over by the enemies of our values. Liz Truss was right to propose the creation of an economic Nato to unite against the threat of China. Others have proposed a new D-10 alliance of democratic states.

The free world needs to find new ways to come together. But first we must reject the widespread delusion that supranational bodies have a claim to moral superiority. Rather, they have shown themselves to be corruptible and unreformable. They posture as progressive while being in the pocket of dictators. Those who sneer at national sovereignty as old-fashioned or reactionary should take a long hard look at the proposed alternative.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.