Even for the United Nations, where actions don’t always connect with stated principles, it was one of the most bizarre, if not short-lived, appointments in recent memory: naming Zimbabwe’s ex-dictator Robert Mugabe as a “good-will ambassador” for health at the World Health Organization.
Just days after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “honored” to have Mr. Mugabe, 93, as an ambassador, the agency chief said he “reflected” on the appointment and concluded it was in the agency’s “best interest” to rescind it. This, after world leaders and health organizations blasted the appointment (but before Mugabe was removed from power last week.)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the appointment as “a bad April Fool’s joke.” A group of 28 health organizations released a statement expressing “shock.” It’s no wonder.
Under Mugabe’s regime, Zimbabwe’s health care system degenerated. Hospitals lacking supplies collapsed. Nurses and doctors reportedly went unpaid.
And all the while Mugabe and his family obtained medical care outside the country. Never mind international sanctions against Mugabe and his government over human-rights abuses.
“How can someone who violates core U.N. principles be elevated as a kind of example to the world?” asked Hillel Neuer of the monitoring group U.N. Watch.
Chalk up another bewildering U.N. disconnect that once again brings into question its world mission.
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