In previous articles, we have shown how Senate Bill 23 -- Senator Anderson's proposal to limit access to knowledge and resources related to Sustainable Development -- is based on a false premise. (For example, see our article on "The UN and Property Rights").
Today, in this article, we tackle the question: What consequences will Oklahoma suffer if Senate Bill 23 passes?
To begin this analysis, let's take a look at the terms of the bill that Senator Anderson proposes to put into law. Here's the operative language in Section 1, Paragraph C, of his measure:
"C. Since the United Nations has accredited and enlisted numerous non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations to assist in the implementation of its policies relative to Agenda 21 around the world, the State of Oklahoma and all political subdivisions thereof shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds, contract services or give financial aid to or from any non-governmental or inter-governmental organization as defined in Agenda 21."
There are two troubling aspects of this language.
One is the poorly-defined scope of the prohibition on commerce with "non-governmental or inter-governmental organizations defined in Agenda 21." We can be fairly certain that UN agencies are included in the breadth of "inter-governmental organizations" that are targeted by this legislation. But, what about the non-governmental organizations that the bill refers to? Exactly which NGO's are "defined" in Agenda 21?
In this copy of Agenda 21, the value of NGO's is recognized in Chapter 27. (For example, there is an acknowledgement that, "Independence is a major attribute of non-governmental organizations"). There is also a general reference to "Partners for Sustainable Development." But, we don't find a simple list of the numerous NGO's that have supposedly been "accredited and enlisted" by the United Nations. Does such a list exist?
The other troubling aspect of Paragraph C is that Oklahomans would lose access to so many valuable resources if this prohibition is enacted.
Think about it.
Oklahoma State University boasts a world-class College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, which has emerged as one of the top agricultural institutions in the United States. Should OSU be prohibited from "expending any sum of money" to purchase and receive reports from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization?
The School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma is the largest such program in the nation. It is in the top ten of all atmospheric sciences graduate programs in the nation. It enjoys a solid reputation for scholarship and teaching. Should OU be prohibited from purchasing and receiving reports from the UN's World Meteorological Organization?
The Oklahoma Department of Labor strives to enforce our state's Child Labor Law -- a mission that is similar to the International Labor Organization, a UN agency. Should State Department of Labor employees be prohibited from attending conferences that are sponsored by the ILO?
Here's testimony from a recent graduate student at OSU:
"As a recent graduate student from Oklahoma State University it is truly disheartening to hear about the legislation that prohibits use of state funds to access UN resources. It is imperative for us to take action against a measure that would hinder educational resources vital to many student's academic success. I have personally, relied on documents from the United Nations Development Index, the World Health Organization and the UN Library to provide imitable facts about infectious disease, impoverished communities and developmental issues relevant to my area of study. It is this knowledge that helps bring awareness and an understanding of real world problems."
In a very real sense, Senate Bill 23 has an anti-science aspect to it -- and it has an anti-knowledge flavor, as well.
If SB23 becomes law, it will make it more difficult for state and local employees to learn from global experts. It will put Oklahoma students at a disadvantage compared to learners in other states. Ultimately, the citizens of our state will suffer the consequences.
The United Nations Association of the USA has a high regard for the sound judgment and the professionalism of the state, county and municipal government employees who serve our state.
We believe that the Oklahoma Legislature should not try to micro-manage our cities, counties, and universities with a sledge hammer. Rather, the members of the Legislature should trust our public service professionals to faithfully perform the jobs they carry out for the people. Their work should be judged by results. Senate Bill 23 should be rejected.
Do You Have Testimony to Offer?Have you used resources from the United Nations to help you in school, work, etc.?
Tell us your story. We will publish it here.
Bill Bryant, President
Oklahoma City Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA