The “idiot from the U.N.” who actually cares about minority rights

The invaluable IntLawGrrls blog features a great guest post from Gay McDougall, who is by no means an idiot, but who does proudly work for the UN, as its Independent Expert on Minority Issues. Her work takes her all over the world, to every country where minority populations face issues of discrimination and disadvantage.

McDougall is an American, and her country should be proud to have one of its own helping to uphold the rights of millions of human beings worldwide. Unfortunately, she has apparently not always had such a warm reception here in the U.S.:

An example: The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Housing and I intervened a while back when the City of New Orleans revealed a post-Hurricane Katrina plan to tear down much of the its remaining public housing. Our assessment was that to do that would violate the right to adequate housing that is guaranteed without discrimination by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The local response? New Orleans’ daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, accused me of being a meddling outsider “idiot from the U.N.”

That response is nothing short of despicable. Being part of the UN does not mean we are better than it. Even anti-UN types often (rightly) decry, for example, the abused rights of Uighurs in China; they should respect the part of McDougall’s mandate that brings her closer to home as much as they do the part that sends her to more overtly oppressive countries like China.  With a little more attention to the rights of the U.S.’s own minority populations, she would not have to do nearly as much of what too many American voices call “meddling.”