The Dangerous Favours 

In a significant disclosure, Emma Reilly, a former Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) employee, has made serious accusations against the United Nations. She alleges a troubling connection between OHCHR and the Chinese Government. The UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has published written testimony it gathered as part of its inquiry into international relations within the multilateral system.  

Reilly, acting as a whistleblower, asserted that the OHCHR has been providing what she terms as “dangerous favours” to the Chinese government. According to her, these favours are part of a broader scheme by the Chinese government to manipulate the United Nations for its own national interests. Her evidence suggests a cover-up within the UN regarding special treatment given to China. This information was conveyed in a press release by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. 

Reilly claimed that during the two-year negotiation period of Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing allegedly offered bribes to two consecutive Presidents of the General Assembly. These presidents, who had significant influence over the process, ultimately oversaw the negotiations and substantially influenced the final texts presented to the assembly. According to her evidence, China imposed a confidential condition on UN agencies, specifying that the funds provided should not be utilised in countries with diplomatic relations with Taiwan. 

Her written testimony includes claims that the Chief of the Human Rights Council Branch OHCHR, a French national, covertly provided advance information to China regarding which human rights activists planned to attend the Human Rights Council. Additionally, it alleges that UN officials at various levels deliberately misled member states, including the delegation, who inquired about the UN policy of disclosing names – including those of UK citizens and residents – to the People’s Republic of China without their knowledge or consent. 

The evidence provided by Reilly reveals troubling consequences for individuals associated with NGOs, suggesting that their family members have been subjected to intimidation, house arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even fatalities in certain instances. These alleged actions are purportedly linked to measures taken by Chinese authorities following information provided by the UN, as reported by ANI. 

The testimony further claimed that reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regarding the origins of COVID-19 were altered to minimise the likelihood of a laboratory leak. Additionally, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) presents evidence, shedding light on China’s endeavors to reshape the multilateral system in favour of a state-centric authoritarian perspective. The FCDO also remarks on the disorderly role of Russia and Iran within the international framework.

Media reports indicate that various organisations, experts and academics have provided evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, shedding light on efforts by autocratic states to co-apt and redefine strategically significant multilateral organisations. The committee’s ongoing investigation into international relations within the multilateral system highlights a wide array of strategies employed by nations to either collaborate with or contest these organisations. This enquiry serves as an extension of the Committee’s previous report, which emphasised the endevours of autocratic states to alter multilateral principles to align with their own agendas. 

The evidence presented to the committee underscores the intricate maneuvers undertaken by autocratic regimes to exert influence within multilateral frameworks. Reports suggests a nuanced approach, wherein these states seek to leverage their positions and resources tp reshape the norms and values upheld by international organisations. Additionally, experts and academics articulated concerns regarding the potential erosion of democratic principles and human rights standards within these institutions as a result of such plots. 

Furthermore, the Committee’s inquiry delves into specific tactics employed by autocratic states in their interactions with multilateral bodies. This include efforts to manipulate decision-making processes, co-opt key personnel, and exert pressure on member states to align with their agendas. This inquiry aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by autocratic interference in the multilateral system and explore potential strategies to safeguard its integrity and its effectiveness.

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