The legitimacy of the UN and its institutions needs to be questioned - UNESCO has been emasculated in response to its overt politicisation and through-and-through corruption. The UN itself is increasingly under attack for its bureaucratic wastefulness, its erratic adventurism and its unaccountability. In this paper the philosopher and writer Roger Scruton takes to task the World Health Organisation and its Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland for abuse of their legislative powers. The paper explores the structure and mission of the WHO, and examines, as a particular case, the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control which the institution is currently proposing, showing that this involves a massive interference in the rights and powers of sovereign states, and presages a wholly new departure in the politics of trans-national institutions. If this Convention is adopted we shall see, for the first time, an attempt to police the lifestyles of ordinary people by an institution which is entirely unaccountable to them.
The paper examines the arguments for and against tobacco control, and demonstrates the lack of honesty and transparency in the process whereby the Framework Convention is being presented to the member states of the World Health Assembly. The Convention, it argues, is the work of a small group of activists who are immune to countervailing arguments, and motivated by a spirit of political correctness. Its implementation will confer legislative, judicial and policing powers on unelected bureaucrats, and open the way to further moves to regulate our choices and lifestyles without the consent of our national legislatures. Its effect, moreover, will be to destroy a legitimate trade and multiply the criminal networks which are ready to replace it.
· Trans-national institutions (the United Nations and its affiliates) are increasingly exercising their legislative powers, in order to by-pass the constraints to which national legislatures are subject.
· The situation is made worse by the habit of conferring leadership of these institutions on ex-politicians, rather than experienced civil servants.
· Such ex-politicians tend to be more responsive to the concerns of vocal but unrepresentative interest groups, who seek to impose their visions on the people of the world.
· The World Health Organisation (WHO), after years of blatant corruption and abuse, has been put in the hands of Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, ex-Prime Minister of Norway.
· The dangers of this are illustrated by the WHO's 'Tobacco Free Initiative', and its current attempt, eagerly pursued by Dr Brundtland, to secure a draconian Convention against the tobacco industry.
· The grounds given for this are largely spurious, and in any case refer to matters which are outside the remit of the WHO.
· The effect of the proposals will be to confer massive legislative and policing powers on unaccountable bureaucrats, and also to drive the trade in tobacco underground.
· The proposed convention will do nothing to curtail the consumption of tobacco, and everything to escalate the criminal activities of smugglers and rogue producers.
· The time has come for the WHO to concentrate on its real mission, which is the prevention and cure of communicable diseases such as malaria and TB.
· Only this will answer the legitimate complaints of those who have seen the Organisation squander millions on projects of little or no relevance to Third-World countries.