by Ronald Bailey
Published in The National Review
September 1, 1997
from Resist Website
He is perpetually on the short list of candidates for Secretary General of the United Nations.
This lofty eminence?
Never heard of him? Well, you should have.
Militia members are famously worried that black helicopters are practicing maneuvers with blue-helmeted UN troops in a plot to take over America.
actual peril is more subtle. A small cadre of obscure international
bureaucrats are hard at work devising a system of "global governance"
that is slowly gaining control over ordinary Americans' lives.
Maurice Strong, a 68-year-old Canadian, is the "indispensable man"
at the center of this creeping UN power grab.
Not that Mr. Strong looks particularly indispensable. Indeed, he exudes a kind of negative charisma. He is a grey, short, soft-voiced man with a salt-and-pepper toothbrush mustache who wouldn't rate a second glance if you passed him on the street.
Yet his remarkable career has led him from boyhood
poverty in Manitoba to the highest councils of international government.
As advisor to Kofi Annan, he
is overseeing the new UN reforms.
Yet his most prominent and influential role to date was as Secretary General of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development - the so-called Earth Summit - held in Rio de Janeiro, which gave a significant push to global economic and environmental regulation.
Strong attracts such mystified suspicion because he is difficult to pin down. He told Maclean's in 1976 that he was "a socialist in ideology, a capitalist in methodology."
And his career combines oil deals with the likes of
Adnan Khashoggi with links to the environmentalist Left. He is in
fact one of a new political breed: the bi-sectoral entrepreneur who uses
business success for leverage in politics, and vice versa.
been caught exaggerating. He claimed, for instance, to have forfeited a
$200,000 salary when he left Power. The real figure, said a company
officer, was $35,000. Why this myth-making? Well, a CEO is just a CEO - but a whiz-kid is a potential cabinet officer.
He cultivated bright
well-connected young people - like Paul Martin Jr., Canada's
present finance minister and the smart money's bet to succeed Jean
Chretien as prime minister - and salted them throughout his various
political and business networks to form a virtual private intelligence
service. And he always seemed to know what the next political trend
would be - foreign aid, Canadian economic nationalism,
next year, Strong became first director of the new UN
Environment Program, created as a result of Stockholm. And in 1975,
he was invited back to Canada to run the semi-national Petro-Canada,
created by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the wake of OPEC's
Ten years before,
while at Power Corporation, he had enabled Shell to take over the only
remaining all-Canadian oil company by throwing a controlling block of
shares in its direction. As Maclean's wrote, he now returned "amid
fanfares" to rectify this.
(Among the seekers at Baca are Zen and Tibetan Buddhist monks, a breakaway order of Carmelite nuns, and followers of a Hindu guru called Babaji.)
Not for long the joys of contemplation, however. In 1985, he was back as executive coordinator of the UN Office for Emergency Operations in Africa, in charge of running the $3.5-billion famine-relief effort in Somalia and Ethiopia.
And in 1989, he was appointed Secretary General
of the Earth Summit - shortly thereafter flying down to Rio.
He has said the Depression left him "frankly very radical." And given his ability to get things done, the consistency of his support for a world managed by bureaucrats is alarming.
As Elaine Dewar wrote in Toronto's Saturday Night magazine:
IN the meantime, Strong continued the international networking on which his influence rests.
He became a member of the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission).
He found time to serve as president of the World Federation of United Nations Associations, on the executive committee of the Society for International Development, and as an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.
Above all, he served on the
Commission on Global Governance - which, as we shall see, plays a
crucial part in the international power grab.
But Strong is no snob; he even counts Republican Presidents among his friends. Elaine Dewar again:
I had been absolutely
astonished. I mean yes, he had done a great deal of business in the
U.S., but how could he have managed such contributions?
So Strong gave political contributions (of dubious legality) to both parties; George Bush, now a friend, intervened to help him stay in charge of the Rio conference; he was thereby enabled to set a deep green agenda there; and Bush took a political hit in an election year.
instructive tale - if it is not part of Strong's mythmaking.
For example, James Wolfensohn (whom Strong had hired out of Harvard in the early Sixties to run an Australian subsidiary of one of his companies) appointed him as his senior advisor almost immediately upon being named chairman of the World Bank.
As head of the Earth Council, Maurice Strong chaired that meeting.
It's not a conspiracy, of course: just a group of like-minded people fighting to save the world from less prescient and more selfish forces - namely, market forces.
And though the crises change - World War II in the Forties, fear of the atom bomb in the Fifties, the "energy crisis" in the Seventies - the Left's remedy is always the same: a greater role for international agencies.
Today an allegedly looming global environmental catastrophe is behind their efforts to increase the power of the UN. Strong has warned memorably:
Apocalypse soon - unless
international bodies save us from ourselves.
plan, however, mostly points in a different direction - one drawn from
a document, Our Global Neighborhood, devised by the interestingly
named Commission on Global Governance.
The CGG naturally denies advocating the sort of thing that fuels militia nightmares.
As Hofstra University law professor Peter Spiro describes it:
The concept of global governance has been fermenting for some time. In 1991, the Club of Rome (of which Strong is, of course, a member) issued a report called The First Global Revolution, which asserted that current problems,
Also in 1991 Strong claimed that the Earth Summit, of which he was Secretary General, would play an important role in,
In 1995, in Our Global Neighborhood, the CGG agreed:
Americans should be worried by the Commission's recommendations:
Economist James Tobin estimates that
a 0.5 per cent tax on foreign-exchange transactions would raise $1.5
trillion annually - nearly equivalent to the U.S. federal budget.
Such fees might be collected on international airline tickets, ocean shipping, deep-sea fishing, activities in Antarctica, geostationary satellite orbits, and electromagnetic spectrum.
But the big enchilada is carbon taxes, which would be levied on all fuels made from coal, oil, and natural gas.
Given the UN's record of empire-building and corruption, Cato's Ted Carpenter warns:
Especially significant for the U.S. was the CGG's proposal for eventual elimination of the veto held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Commission knew that the current permanent members of the Security
Council, including the U.S., would not easily surrender their vetoes,
and so it recommended a two-stage process.
But the real threat to U.S. interests is the second stage:
These plans are advancing.
In March, the president of the UN General Assembly, Razali Ismail of Malayasia, unveiled his own formula for reforming the Security Council. It closely tracks the CGG's proposals.
In particular, Razali proposed,
to make the veto "progressively and politically untenable" and
recommended that these arrangements be reviewed in ten years.
Yet the CGG's report makes clear that we are facing a rolling agenda to expand the power of UN bureaucrats.
The veto issue may be postponed for ten years - but what then?
For if the veto were
eliminated, the United States would face the prospect of having other
countries make key determinations that affect us without our consent.
Today, there are nearly 15,000 NGOs. More than 1,200 of them have consultative status with the UN's Economic and Social Council (up from 41 in 1948).
The CGG wants NGOs to be brought formally into the UN system (no wonder Kenneth Minogue calls this Acronymia).
So it proposes that representatives of such organizations be accredited
to the General Assembly as "Civil Society Organizations" and
convened in an annual Forum of Civil Society.
President Razali selected a number of representatives from the NGOs and the private sector for the exclusive privilege of speaking in the plenary sessions.
So whom did he choose?
In what sense,
Another example of how this selection process operates was the "great civil society forum" convened at the behest of Strong's Earth Council and Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International this past March.
Some five hundred delegates met, supposedly to assess the results of the Earth Summit, but in reality to condemn the "inaction" of signatory countries in implementing the Rio treaties.
The delegates were selected through a process based on national councils for sustainable development, themselves set up pursuant to the Earth Summit.
in these councils means that an organization is already persuaded of the
global environmental crisis. So you can bet that the process did not
yield many delegates representing business or advocating limits on
Hilary French, Vice President of the alarmist Worldwatch Institute, justifies this revealingly as,
Paradoxically or not, the voters hardly appear in this model of governance. It bypasses national governments and representative democracy in order to empower the sort of people who are willing to sit in committee meetings to the bitter end.
Those who have better things to do - businessmen, workers, moms - would be the losers in the type of centralized decentralization envisioned by Worldwatch.
The result would be decisions reached
by self-selecting elites. In domestic politics, we have a name for such
elite groups - special interests.
It defines the global commons to include the atmosphere, outer space, the oceans beyond national jurisdiction, and the related environmental systems that contribute to the support of human life.
A new Trusteeship Council would oversee,
It is hard to see what this expansive definition would exclude from the jurisdiction of the Trusteeship Council.
Biodiversity encompasses all the plants and animals on the earth, including those that live in your backyard. Will UN troops swoop in to stop you from cutting down trees on your property? Doubtless not.
But a recent case near Yellowstone National Park may be a foretaste
of how international agencies can meddle in U.S. domestic affairs.
These Sites are natural settings or cultural monuments recognized by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having "outstanding universal value."
Sites are designated under a Convention ratified by
the U.S. Senate in 1973, and it is possible to place such sites on a
"List of World Heritage Sites in Danger."
But a group of environmentalist NGOs opposed to the mine were not content to wait for that review to take its course. They asked that members of the World Heritage Committee come to Yellowstone to hold public hearings.
George Frampton, the Clinton Administration's Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, wrote to the WHC saying:
Four officials of the WHC duly came to Yellowstone and held hearings.
And at its December 1995 meeting in Berlin, the Committee obligingly voted to list Yellowstone as a "World Heritage Site in Danger."
Jeremy Rabkin, a Cornell political scientist, agrees that the international listing of such sites,
Would the mine really have endangered Yellowstone? We'll never know.
environmental-impact statement was never issued, and, under pressure,
the mining company accepted a $65-million federal buyout plus a trade
for unspecified federal lands somewhere else. Thus, even with no
enforcement power, this UN dependency was able to make land-use policy
for the United States.
With 174 co-sponsors to date, the Act aims to
Congress would have to
approve on a case-by-case basis land designations made pursuant to any
This example of the European Union, however, worries Ambassador Lichenstein.
The EU's bureaucracy in Brussels, he complains,
The Yellowstone case is an example of how "feel-good" symbolism about the environment can be transformed into real constraints upon real people imposed outside the law, with no democratic oversight and no means of redress.
Ironically, Strong himself had a run-in with Colorado environmentalists over local water rights.
They did not have the wit to call in an international
agency against the New Age rancher - or maybe they realized that Strong
was one property owner whose rights the UN would respect.
But environmental activists like Hilary French know very well how this process works.
This is already happening.
The "conventions" that Spiro was talking about emerged from the Earth Summit chaired by Maurice Strong.
They deal with two of the alleged global environmental
crises - global warming and species extinction.
These predictions are controversial among scientists. And as the computer models are refined, they show that the atmosphere will warm far less than originally predicted.
Furthermore, more accurate satellite measurements show no increase in the average global temperature over the last two decades.
Finally, an important study published in Nature concluded that even if the warming predictions are right, it could well be less costly to allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue to rise for a decade or more because technological innovations and judicious capital investment will make it possible to reduce them far more cheaply at some point before they become a significant problem.
In other words, we needn't take drastic and costly
The Framework Convention on Global Climate Change signed by President George Bush at the Rio Earth Summit is already beginning to harden. Initially, countries were supposed voluntarily to reduce by the year 2000 the "greenhouse gases" to the level emitted in 1990.
Then, a year ago, at a UN climate-change meeting in Geneva, the Clinton Administration offered to set legally binding limits on the greenhouse gases the United States can emit.
June of this year, at the UN's Earth Summit +5 session, President
Clinton reaffirmed this commitment. And mandatory limits on carbon
emissions are to be finalized at a global meeting of Convention
signatories in Kyoto this December.
If the U.S. and other industrial countries have to limit
energy use while the Third World is exempt, many industries will simply
decamp to where energy prices are significantly lower.
Sen. Hagel is not
alone is his concern. In July the U.S. Senate passed 95 to 0 a
resolution urging the Clinton Administration not to make binding
concessions at the Kyoto conference.
Since the treaty obliges signatories to protect
plant and animal species through habitat preservation, its
implementation could make the World Heritage Committee's activities on
U.S. land use seem penny-ante by comparison.
The most important initiative is the recommendation that the General Assembly organize a "Millennium Assembly" and a companion "People's Assembly" in the year 2000. (The "People's Assembly" mirrors the CGG's "Civil Society Forum" idea - among other things, only accredited NGOs would be invited to advise the General Assembly.)
But what would these grand new bodies actually do?
The Millennium Assembly would invite,
innocuous phrase is diplomatese for opening up the UN Charter for
amendment. If that happens, so could anything - notably eliminating the
veto in the Security Council.
For the most part the Charter reads like another feel-good document - its draft says that "we must reinvent industrial-technological civilization" and promises everybody a clean environment, equitable incomes, and an end to cruelty to animals - but we have seen how such vacuous symbolism can have real consequences down the line.
Inevitably, the Charter advocates that,
This is, of course, a
charter for endless intervention in the internal affairs of independent
In line with the CGG's plan, Annan/Strong urge that the UN Trusteeship Council,
For the time being, however, Annan and Strong have avoided calling for global taxes or user fees to finance the UN.
One spokesman said that the issue was simply "too hot to handle right now." What they propose is a Revolving Credit Fund of $1 billion so that the UN will have a source of operating funds even if a major contributor (e.g., the U.S.) withholds contributions for a time.
In short, the CGG's blueprint for a more powerful UN closely resembles the movement to expand the requirements of the Framework Convention on Global Climate Change.
While the process may be piecemeal, the goal is clear:
In short, Col.
Qaddafi's definition of his leftist Green Revolution: "Committees
Others suspect that, even at age 68, Strong is angling to be
the next UN Secretary General.
Then, with only a month to go before the 1979 election, he suddenly pulled out of the race.
Strong's business deals were especially complicated at the time - he was setting up a Swiss oil-and-gas exploration company with partners that included the Kuwaiti Finance Minister and the Arab Petroleum Investment Corporation - and that is the explanation usually given.
But maybe he just decided that for a man who wants power, elections are an unnecessary obstacle.