By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
One "ideal" Ferraro fought for was the protection of U.S. exports of toxic wastes and products to developing countries. The issue came up at the 1995 and 1996 commission sessions, and Ferraro voted both times against resolutions to control or ban "illicit dumping."
In 1996, she expressed agreement with the Italian delegate who argued that any commission action would duplicate the efforts of another UN body that was championing a ban (she didn't mention that the U.S. opposed those efforts as well). All of the 16 nations that voted against the resolution except Japan were white; all of the 32 who supported it were nonwhite. Neither Ferraro nor any other opponent of the ban challenged a fact in the staff reports behind the resolution:Scandals in Africa--"including the discovery of contracts between Western companies and African countries whereby the companies paid a pittance for land on which to dump toxic products"--led the Organization of African Unity to declare the trafficking "a crime against Africa and the African people." Since the OAU acted, half of U.S. exports have been going to Latin America.
News accounts have identified the worst U.S. examples: "massive shipments of mercury waste to South Africa," furnace dust from steel mills to Mexico, fertilizer laden with lead and cadmium to Bangladesh, and an eventually voided $600 million contract with Guinea-Bissau to dump arsenic, a chemical weapon called phosgene, and lethal methyl isocyanate gases. Trade unions in India led protests this year against a U.S. Navy contract to transport vessels contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, and lead to Indian shorelines for demolition.
Although Ferraro's UN votes condoned these activities, her office told the Voice that she would support an export ban if elected to the Senate.
Ferraro was just as indifferent to thisThird World bloc about charges that the human rights staff was overloaded with Westerners. In explaining her opposition to a resolution seeking the recruitment of personnel from nonwhite countries, Ferraro endorsed the comments of the Netherlands delegate that the staff "was already recruited" on an "equitable basis." In fact, 53 percent of the staff was from developed countries, compared to 25 percent of the membership.
Though 24 nonwhite nations were completely unrepresented and Iran was the only nonwhite country with as many as three staffers, the U.S. had seven, Italy five, France four, and Spain four. Ferraro's office now says the resolution "required quotas," though it refers exclusively to "geographic distribution" and sets no numerical goals.
But it was Ferraro's1994 reversal of the U.S. position on the right to development--a top UN priority for the Third World--that pitted her against both nonwhite and many Western nations. In explaining her reasons for rejecting a resolution backed by her Clinton-anointed predecessor, she railed against efforts to commit the UN to the right as "a diversion" and a waste of "scarce resources that could better be used to protect all human rights." Only Japan and Britain joined her in voting against the resolution.
In 1995, Ferraro again led the fight against recognition on this issue, which developing countries see as an attempt to get the West to understand that economic rights are as significant as civil liberties. She finally relented in 1996, when an "evaluation mechanism" overseeing implementation of the resolution was replaced with "voluntary progress reports" by individual countries.
Ferraro still expressed "misgivings" about the resolution, blaming emerging countries for their own lack of development. "If governments are not prepared to provide the internal conditions needed for all human rights," she said, "it should come as no surprise if the right to development continued to be unfulfilled."
Like so much else about Ferraro, her UN record has gone unexamined, partly as a result of a campaign of intimidation. She has silenced her opponents and the press by posing as a battered woman abused by what, without a shred of factual evidence in rebuttal, she calls"smears." She is either on the way to her final or her finest moment--ducking debates, real issues, and even her own history--with a free pass from a muzzled media.
With special reporting from Dan Steinberg