The adventures of Maurice Strong & Co. illustrate the fact that nowadays you don't have to be a household name to wield global power. By Ronald Bailey Published in The National Review September 1, 1997 Mr. Bailey is a freelance journalist and television producer in Washington, D.C. He is author of Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martin's) and The True State of the Planet (Free Press).
"The survival of civilization in something like its present form might depend significantly on the efforts of a single man," declared The New Yorker. The New York Times hailed that man as the "Custodian of the Planet." He is perpetually on the short list of candidates for Secretary General of the United Nations. This lofty eminence? Maurice Strong, of course. 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. But the 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.
Among the hats he currently wears are: Senior Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Senior Advisor to World Bank President James Wolfensohn; Chairman of the Earth Council; Chairman of the World Resources Institute; Co-Chairman of the Council of the World Economic Forum; member of Toyota's International Advisory Board. 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.
"He's dangerous because he's a much smarter and shrewder man [than many in the UN system]," comments Charles Lichenstein, deputy ambassador to the UN under President Reagan. "I think he is a very dangerous ideologue, way over to the Left."
"This guy is kind of the global Ira Magaziner," says Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute. "If he is whispering in Kofi Annan's ear this is no good at all."
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.
Strong started in the oil business in the 1950s. He took over and turned around some small ailing energy companies in the 1960s, and he was president of a major holding company -- the Power Corporation of Canada -- by the age of 35. This was success by any standard. Yet on more than one occasion (including once in Who's Who), Strong has 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.
And it is in politics that Strong's talents really shine. He is the Michelangelo of networking. He early made friends in high places in Canada's Liberal Party -- including Paul Martin Sr., Canada's external-affairs minister in the Sixties -- and kept them as business partners in oil and real-estate ventures. 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, environmentalism.
In 1966, by now a Liberal favorite, Strong became head of the Canadian International Development Agency and thus was launched internationally. Impressed by his work at CIDA, UN Secretary General U Thant asked him to organize what became the first Earth Summit -- the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. The 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 oil shocks.
Petro-Canada was a sop to Canada's anti-American Left, then denouncing American ownership of the country's oil companies. Strong talked a good economic-nationalist game -- but he himself was a major reason why Canada's oil companies were U.S.-owned. 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.
After a couple of years, Strong left Petro-Canada for various business deals, including one with Adnan Khashoggi through which he ended up owning the 200,000-acre Baca ranch in Colorado, now a "New Age" center run by his wife, Hanne. (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.
Strong's flexibility, however, must not be mistaken for open-mindedness. His friends, his allies among Canadian Liberals, his networks in the UN and the Third World, even his long-term business partners (like the late Paul Nathanson, wartime treasurer of the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Committee) all lean Left. 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:
It is instructive to read Strong's 1972 Stockholm speech and compare it with the issues of Earth Summit 1992. Strong warned urgently about global warming, the devastation of forests, the loss of biodiversity, polluted oceans, the population time bomb. Then as now, he invited to the conference the brand-new environmental NGOs [non-governmental organizations]: he gave them money to come; they were invited to raise hell at home. After Stockholm, environment issues became part of the administrative framework in Canada, the U.S., Britain, and Europe.
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.
Sometimes, indeed, it seems that Strong's network of contacts must rival the Internet. To list a few:
-- Vice President Al Gore. (Of course.)
-- World Bank President James Wolfensohn, formerly on the Rockefeller Foundation Board and currently on the Population Council Board; he was Al Gore's favored candidate for the World Bank position.
-- James Gustave Speth, head of the Carter Administration's Council on Environmental Quality, crafter of the doomladen Global 2000 report, member of the Clinton - Gore transition team; he now heads the UN Development Program.
-- Shridath Ramphal, formerly Secretary General of the (British) Commonwealth, now Co-Chairman of the Commission on Global Governance.
-- Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute -- which works closely with the World Bank, the UN Environment Program, and the UN Development Program -- and Co-Chairman of the President's Council on Sustainable Development.
-- Ingvar Carlsson, former Swedish prime minister and Co-Chairman of the Commission on Global Governance.
But Strong is no snob; he even counts Republican Presidents among his friends. Elaine Dewar again:
Strong blurted out that he'd almost been shut out of the Earth Summit by people at the State Department. They had been overruled by the White House because George Bush knew him. He said that he'd donated some $100,000 to the Democrats and a slightly lesser amount to the Republicans in 1988. (The Republicans didn't confirm.)
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?
Well, he'd had a green card. The governor of Colorado had suggested it to him. A lawyer in Denver had told him how.
But why? I'd asked.
"Because I wanted influence in the United States."
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. An instructive tale -- if it is not part of Strong's mythmaking.
Most of Strong's friends are more obviously compatible, which may explain why they tend to overlap in their institutional commitments. 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. "I'd been involved in . . . Stockholm, which Maurice Strong arranged," says Wolfensohn, who, more recently, has been credited with co-drafting (with Mikhail Gorbachev) the Earth Charter presented for consideration at the Rio + 5 meeting in Brazil earlier this year. 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: "If we don't change, our species will not survive. . . . Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse." Apocalypse soon -- unless international bodies save us from ourselves.
LAST week, Secretary General Annan unveiled Maurice Strong's plan for reorganizing the UN. To be sure, the notoriously corrupt and inefficient UN bureaucracy could do with some shaking up. Strong's 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 was established in 1992, after Rio, at the suggestion of Willy Brandt, former West German chancellor and head of the Socialist International. Then Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali endorsed it. The CGG naturally denies advocating the sort of thing that fuels militia nightmares. "We are not proposing movement toward a world government," reassuringly write Co-Chairmen Ingvar Carlsson and Shridath Ramphal, ". . . [but] this is not to say that the goal should be a world without systems or rules." Quite so. As Hofstra University law professor Peter Spiro describes it: "The aim is not a superstate but rather the establishment of norm-creating multilateral regimes . . . This construct already constrains state action in the context of human rights and environmental protection and is on a springboard in other areas."
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 "are essentially global and cannot be solved through individual country initiatives [which] gives a greatly enhanced importance to the United Nations and other international systems." Also in 1991 Strong claimed that the Earth Summit, of which he was Secretary General, would play an important role in "reforming and strengthening the United Nations as the centerpiece of the emerging system of democratic global governance." In 1995, in Our Global Neighborhood, the CGG agreed: "It is our firm conclusion that the United Nations must continue to play a central role in global governance."
Americans should be worried by the Commission's recommendations: for instance, that some UN activities be funded through taxes on foreign-exchange transactions and multinational corporations. 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.
It also recommended that "user fees" might be imposed on companies operating in the "global commons." 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. "A carbon tax," the report deadpans, ". . . would yield very large revenues indeed." Given the UN's record of empire-building and corruption, Cato's Ted Carpenter warns: "One can only imagine the degree of mischief it could get into if it had independent sources of revenue."
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. The 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.
In the first stage, five new permanent members (without a veto) would be added to the Security Council -- probably Japan, Germany, Brazil, India, and Nigeria -- along with three new slots for non-permanent members. But the real threat to U.S. interests is the second stage: "a full review of the membership of the Council . . . around 2005, when the veto can be phased out." 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 "urg[ing] the original permanent members to limit use of the veto . . . and not to extend [it] to new permanent members." He wanted to make the veto "progressively and politically untenable" and recommended that these arrangements be reviewed in ten years.
In July the State Department compromised -- accepting five new Security Council members but remaining silent on the veto. It plainly hopes that the veto issue will go away if the U.S. concedes on enlarging the Council. 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?
"This is an initiative that should be resisted by the United States with special vehemence," says Ted Carpenter. 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.
THE Commission also wants to strengthen "global civil society," which, it explains, "is best expressed in the global non-governmental movement." 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.
But how would these representatives be selected? This June, the General Assembly held a session on environmental issues called Earth Summit +5. President Razali selected a number of representatives from the NGOs and the private sector for the exclusive privilege of speaking in the plenary sessions. "I have gone to a lot of trouble with this, choosing the right NGOs," he declared. So whom did he choose?
Among others: Thilo Bode, executive director of Greenpeace, to represent the scientific and technological community; Yolanda Kakabadse, the president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; and "from the farmers, I have chosen an organic farmer, Denise O'Brien from the United States, who is a member of the Via Campesina." In what sense are these people "representative"? Whom do they represent? Were the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the chairman of Toshiba, and the president of the Farm Bureau all too busy to come talk to the General Assembly?
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. Membership 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 government power.
This kind of international gabfest is, of course, a sinister parody of democracy. "Very few of even the larger international NGOs are operationally democratic, in the sense that members elect officers or direct policy on particular issues," notes Peter Spiro. "Arguably it is more often money than membership that determines influence, and money more often represents the support of centralized elites, such as major foundations, than of the grass roots." (The CGG has benefited substantially from the largesse of the MacArthur, Carnegie, and Ford Foundations.)
Hilary French, Vice President of the alarmist Worldwatch Institute, justifies this revealingly as "a paradox of our time . . . that effective governance requires control being simultaneously passed down to local communities and up to international institutions." 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.
ANOTHER CGG recommendation is that the old UN Trusteeship Council "be given a new mandate over the global commons." 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 "the management of the commons, including development and use of their resources . . . [and] the administration of environmental treaties in such fields as climate change, biodiversity, outer space, and the Law of the Sea."
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.
Yellowstone has been designated a "World Heritage Site." 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."
In this case, a mining company wanted to construct a gold mine outside the boundaries of Yellowstone. The normal environmental review of the project's impact was still proceeding under U.S. law. 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: "The Secretary [Bruce Babbitt] and the National Park Service have clearly expressed strong reservations with the New World Mine proposal." Frampton added: "We believe that a potential danger to the values of the Park and surrounding waters and fisheries exists and that the committee should be informed that the property as inscribed on the . . . List is in danger." 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."
"It was, in my opinion, a blatantly political act," declared Rep. Barbara Cubin (R., Wyo.) during congressional hearings about the listing. "It was done to draw attention, public reaction, public response, and public pressure to see that the mine wasn't developed." Jeremy Rabkin, a Cornell political scientist, agrees that the international listing of such sites "provides an international forum through which to put pressure on U.S. policy."
Would the mine really have endangered Yellowstone? We'll never know. The 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.
These events prompted Rep. Don Young (R., Alaska) to introduce the American Land Sovereignty Act. With 174 co-sponsors to date, the Act aims to "preserve sovereignty of the United States over public lands and . . . to preserve State sovereignty and private property rights in non-federal lands surrounding those public lands." Congress would have to approve on a case-by-case basis land designations made pursuant to any international agreements.
But is U.S. sovereignty really in danger? In an interview, Strong dismissed Young's anxieties. "I do not share his concern. It is no abdication of sovereignty to exercise it in company with others, and when you're dealing with global issues that's what you have to do." He continues: "If you put yourself in a larger unit, of course, you get some advantages and you give up some of your freedom. And that's what's happening in Europe, that the states of Europe have decided that overall they're better off to create a structure in which they give up some of their national rights and exercise them collectively through the Union."
This example of the European Union, however, worries Ambassador Lichenstein. The EU's bureaucracy in Brussels, he complains, "is responsible to no one. Governments get together -- foreign ministers, finance ministers -- they presumably hand down the guidelines, but don't kid yourself, the bureaucrats are running things."
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.
AS troubling as the Yellowstone incident is, much greater potential for mischief lies in a new series of "framework treaties" designed to handle global environmental issues. Initially, the treaties called for voluntary actions by governments and set up a consultative process. But environmental activists like Hilary French know very well how this process works. "Even though it can look disappointing, the political will created [by these framework conventions] can lead to commitments of a more binding nature," she said. This is already happening. "Although its declaration of principles was transparently aspirational, the 1972 Stockholm world conference on the human environment is generally recognized as a turning point in international environmental-protection efforts," wrote Peter Spiro. "From it emerged a standing institution (the UN Environment Program); weak but more focused 'framework' treaties followed, which in turn are being filled out by specific regulatory regimes. The 1985 Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer itself included no obligations, but the 1987 Montreal protocols and subsequent amendments set a full phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances by 1996. The regime covers 132 signatories with a total population of 4.7 billion people. Between 1987 and 1991, global CFC consumption was in fact reduced by half. A similar filling-out process is likely to occur with the biodiversity and climate-change conventions signed at Rio."
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.
At the time of the Earth Summit, some scientists predicted on the basis of climate computer models that the earth's average temperature would increase by 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century because of the "greenhouse effect." 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 action now.
The process forges ahead anyway. 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. In 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.
Estimates of the costs to the United States of cutting emissions range from $90 billion to $400 billion annually in lost Gross Domestic Product and a loss of between 600,000 and 3.5 million jobs. Global costs would be proportionately higher.
Yet while the U.S. may be committing itself to limits, 130 developing nations, including China and India, are excluded under the Framework Convention from having to reduce their emissions, which, on present trends, will outstrip those of the industrialized world early in the next century. 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.
If they are permitted to do so. For, as Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) asked at a conference on "The Costs of Kyoto" held by the Competitive Enterprise Institute: "Who will administer a global climate treaty? . . . Will we have an international agency capable of inspecting, fining, and possibly shutting down American companies?" 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.
But the climate-change treaty is not the only threat to U.S. interests. Though Mr. Bush refused to sign the Bio-diversity Convention at the Rio Earth Summit -- chaired, remember, by GOP contributor Strong -- that only delayed things. The Clinton Administration signed shortly after its inauguration. 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.
MEANWHILE, how much further down the path sketched out by the CGG will the UN reforms developed by Maurice Strong and announced by Kofi Annan last week take us?
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 "heads of Government . . . to articulate their vision of prospects and challenges for the new millennium and agree on a process for fundamental review of the role of the United Nations [emphasis added]." That last 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.
The Millennium Assembly would also consider adopting Strong's Earth Charter. 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 "the nations of the world should adopt as a first step an international convention that provides an integrated legal framework for existing and future environmental and sustainable-development law and policy." This is, of course, a charter for endless intervention in the internal affairs of independent states.
Which leaves external affairs. Hey presto! In line with the CGG's plan, Annan/Strong urge that the UN Trusteeship Council "be reconstituted as the forum through which member states exercise their collective trusteeship for the integrity of the global environment and common areas such as the oceans, atmosphere, and outer space."
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: a more powerful set of international institutions, increasingly emancipated from the control of the major powers, increasingly accountable not to representative democratic institutions but to unelected bureaucracies, and increasingly exercising authority over how people, companies, and governments run their affairs -- not just Americans, but everyone. In short, Col. Qaddafi's definition of his leftist Green Revolution: "Committees Everywhere."
If so, the future looks good for Maurice Strong. One UN source suggested that, at the very least, he would like to be made Secretary General of the Millennium Assembly or the People's Assembly. Others suspect that, even at age 68, Strong is angling to be the next UN Secretary General.
Such eminence may help explain a puzzling incident in his early career. Having long had political ambitions, he decided to enter the Canadian Parliament. A candidate was evicted from a safe constituency by the Liberal leadership, and Strong moved in. 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.
By Ronald Bailey Published in The National Review September 1, 1997
Mr. Bailey is a freelance journalist and television producer in Washington, D.C. He is author of Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse (St. Martin's) and The True State of the Planet (Free Press).