Why U.N. Fact-Finding Is a Flashpoint in Syria’s Civil War

Why U.N. Fact-Finding Is a Flashpoint in Syria’s Civil War
Edmond Mulet, the head of the U.N. mechanism charged with reviewing chemical weapons incidents, addresses the press at U.N. headquarters, New York, July 6, 2017 (Sipa via AP Images).

Diplomacy is a mendacious business. “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country,” one 17th-century wit supposedly quipped. Diplomats are still expected to massage, twist or conceal facts to suit their countries’ national interests. By contrast, international institutions are generally meant to make diplomacy a marginally more honest business by upholding higher standards of objectivity.

Organizations like the United Nations and World Bank draw a lot of their credibility from the assumption that they tell the truth. In the last century, the League of Nations and then the U.N. pioneered the global collection of social and economic data to advance international development. Today, in an age when there is a surplus of data, U.N statistical publications may not seem quite so thrilling. Yet a tough analysis from a body like the International Monetary Fund on the impact of an issue like Brexit can still make headlines.

The same is true in the scientific sphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) galvanized debates on global warming by amassing enormous amounts of data and analysis on the threat. There is currently a flood of new work on data-gathering associated with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, as economic boffins try to work out how to measure global progress toward these new targets.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.