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The Future of U.S.-UN Relations

US Department of State

  Kim R. Holmes, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs
  Remarks at the XXI German American Conference
  Berlin, Germany
  June 13, 2003

  (As prepared)

  Thank you, Dr. Oetker, for that generous welcome and introduction. Let me also
  thank the American Council on Germany and Atlantik-Brucke for inviting me to
  Berlin to address an issue of great concern for transatlantic relations the
  future of U.S.-UN relations.

  It is a pleasure to be in Germany again. I had lived here for two years as a
  student and have many fond memories.

  First, let me add my condolences to those of President Bush and Secretary
  Powell for the tragic deaths of four German peacekeepers in Afghanistan last
  weekend. This attack was an assault on peace; but it will not deter the
  peacekeepers, the United Nations, nor the world community working together to
  end the scourge of global terrorism.

  I arrived in Berlin last evening from Paris, where I met with Director-General
  Matsuura of UNESCO [UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization]. As
  you probably may know, the United States has decided to rejoin UNESCO.
  President Bush and Secretary Powell are committed to working with other nations
  to make UNESCO s programs as effective as they can be. We are looking forward
  to expanding international cooperation in a number of new areas of culture,
  science, and education.

  Before my trip to Paris, I visited our mission to the UN in Rome and spent some
  time at the World Food Program (WFP), which is doing excellent work feeding
  people in Iraq and other parts of the world. The WFP is precisely the kind of
  United Nations organization that makes a real difference in people s lives.
  That s why nations do and should contribute voluntary funds to this program. It
  represents the UN at its best focused, dedicated to real outcomes, and
  humanitarian in the true sense of the word.

  The Role of the UN in Global Affairs

  It is this question of the United Nations at its best or more specifically, how
  to make the UN work at its best that I would like to discuss with you this
  afternoon. We believe the UN has an important role to play in global affairs.
  Defining that role, particularly in light of the recent debate in the Security
  Council on Iraq, is of keen interest to many countries around the world. So,
  too, is the question of how to make the UN more effective.

  For over six decades, the United States, the UN, and a good number of its
  members have shared a vision of the world in which peace and prosperity are the
  property of all people. We shared core principles of freedom, democracy, good
  governance, and human rights. Our founding documents embody the belief that
  nations that respect the rule of law at home will respect the rule of law
  elsewhere. We also share a belief in the utility of placing multilateralism at
  the service of freedom, democracy, and good governance.

  Regardless of difficulties that we encounter at times, we will continue to
  engage the UN because it is in our interest to do so. Through multilateral
  diplomacy, we promote international peace and security. We work with other
  nations to protect the innocent; eradicate pandemic disease; advance freedom,
  human rights, and democratic institutions. We fight poverty and build solid
  foundations for development; and we improve health and education.

  If the United Nations did not exist today, we would have to create it. It would
  not look the same in all respects, but the world needs an international forum
  where leaders can settle their differences at the table of diplomacy.

  Where the UN Works Well

  There are many areas where the UN indeed works well. The terrorists who
  breached America s shores in 2001 unleashed a huge  coalition of the willing
  to fight terrorism around the globe. Members of the UN General Assembly and the
  Security Council were quick to lend support the day after the attacks. The
  world saw the UN system work as it was intended when the threat was grave and
  the cause clear.

  The UN created the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) to enhance the capacity of
  nations to fight terrorism. In less than two years, the CTC has encouraged more
  states to take fundamental action to suppress terrorism and more have become
  party to the 12 UN conventions related to terrorism. All 191 members of the UN
  have reported their counterterrorism activities and capacities to the CTC. And
  65 international and regional organizations have pledged to work with it to
  exchange information and establish worldwide standards and best practices for
  suppressing terrorism.

  We also believe the Security Council s 1267 Sanctions Committee is doing a good
  job identifying and listing international terrorists associated with al-Qaida
  and the Taliban. Resolution 1455 has strengthened its sanctions against those
  listed, and the Committee has established guidelines to assist states in
  preparing their implementation reports.

  Turning to peacekeeping, there have been some notable successes here as well.
  UN peacekeeping efforts in the recent past have generally been good at
  maintaining ceasefires and supporting the implementation of peace agreements.
  In East Timor, the UN mission helped the people create an interim government,
  draft and adopt a constitution, hold elections, and become an independent
  state. UNMISET [UN Mission of Support in East Timor] then took over to help the
  armed forces, police, and key ministries of Timor-Leste develop their
  capacities to function without extraordinary external assistance.

  The United Nations plays many important roles in world affairs beyond
  counterterrorism and peacekeeping. It is instrumental in providing humanitarian
  aid and refugee relief. As I mentioned earlier, the World Food Program has been
  particularly effective. It is working closely with the Coalition Provisional
  Authority to get food to the Iraqi people and to purchase grain from Iraq s
  spring harvest.

  UN humanitarian agencies have improved significantly since the 1991 Gulf War.
  At that time, they did not have a unified approach to dealing with massive
  humanitarian relief problems in Iraq. Agencies fought, refusing to cooperate
  and share responsibility, and leaving overlap and gaps in support.

  The UN recognized the problem and established the Office of the Coordinator for
  Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA). It worked. Contingency planning for
  humanitarian relief in Iraq was exemplary. OCHA laid out what each agency would
  do and held frequent, regular meetings in New York and in the field. It held
  pre-crisis appeals, bought and pre-positioned food and other humanitarian
  goods, and established a logistics, airlift, and communications coordination
  center. When conflict broke out, the result was that there was no humanitarian
  crisis, food was distributed, water treatment and distribution facilities were
  repaired, and health needs met.

  Many of the UN s technical agencies are also accomplishing important work
  without getting politicized. The World Health Organization s response to the
  outbreak of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] helped contain that
  virulent and deadly disease. New measures from the International Maritime
  Organization will make it more difficult to use ships as tools of terrorism and
  also decrease oil spills and pollution. The International Civil Aviation
  Organization is helping countries implement rigorous safety and security
  standards. The Crime Commission has adopted a convention that will enhance
  international cooperation in fighting organized crime.

  We steadfastly support the International Atomic Energy Agency s (IAEA) efforts
  to stem nuclear proliferation and to bring the facts about Iran s nuclear
  program to light. The IAEA will present its report to the Board of Governors on
  Monday. Iran s nuclear activities are deeply troubling, and its nuclear
  ambitions present a serious challenge to the international community.

  The UN Can t Do it All

  As much as the United Nations does, it clearly cannot be expected to do
  everything. Not all of the areas of the world get the attention they need.
  Ethiopia, for example, is on the verge of a devastating famine, and yet it is
  not getting the attention it needs from the international community. Were it
  not for the huge infusions of food aid provided by the United States, Ethiopia
  would be in even worse shape than it already is.

  The same is true for HIV/AIDS. Dealing with this pandemic is a massive project
  that far exceeds the UN s capabilities. President Bush announced a $15 billion
  initiative to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Africa, the
  Caribbean and other areas. He has committed $1 billion of this to fight
  pandemic diseases through the Global Fund. And he has challenged the
  international community to match our contribution.

  The United Nations does an awful lot to improve the lives of people around the
  world, but we cannot leave humanitarian crises to the UN alone. All of us have
  to pitch in to do our share as well.

  We also need to help change the way the UN dispenses advice about economic
  policies and aid. We have made considerable progress in this area. The
  Monterrey consensus was the seminal breakthrough that changed the way the UN
  fosters development, good governance, and a good business climate. Public and
  private sector leaders agreed that while all have a role to play, developing
  countries themselves hold the primary responsibility for their development, and
  good governance is key. We have to get the process right to liberate the
  energies of people and mobilize all of the resources available if development
  is to take root and thrive.

  We should not conclude, however, that the UN s performance has been stellar on
  all levels. The General Assembly is not at all effective. Neither are many of
  the UN s commissions and committees. There is far too much duplication,
  inefficiency, and even waste in the UN system. This is not just a U.S. view,
  but is shared by many countries in the United Nations.

  The UN is not very effective at peace enforcement when real offensive military
  action is needed. This was true in Bosnia, where command and control issues
  were a critical problem, and in Rwanda, where the Security Council did not have
  the political and military will to take effective action.

  If a Chapter VII intervention in a crisis is warranted, a substantial
  commitment of resources and personnel by interested parties (such as the U.K.
  [United Kingdom] in Sierra Leone and Australia in East Timor) is crucial. The
  Security Council could authorize coalitions of the willing to carry out
  effective military action, such as it did for Desert Storm in Iraq, for
  Interfet in East Timor, the French/EU [European Union] multinational force in
  the Congo, and the French multinational force in Cote d Ivoire. Once the
  conflict has ended, the multinational forces can be transitioned into effective
  UN peacekeeping operations, as in East Timor.

  The UN peacekeeping operations must have achievable objectives if they are to
  be successful. We must be careful not to fall into the trap of sending poorly
  armed UN peacekeepers into armed conflicts in which they can make little
  difference, and in which they can become, unwittingly, part of the problem. It
  is understandable to want to do something when people are dying in large
  numbers. But we must actually do something that works. As a general rule, a UN
  or UN-authorized stabilization force should always have a strong leader,
  unified command and control, as well as a strong mandate from the Security

  Just as UN peacekeeping works best under certain conditions, the UN s
  specialized agencies and commissions only can meet their objectives when they
  are not overly politicized or focused on divisive ideological issues. The rule
  for them should be that they remain tightly focused on their technical and
  specialized missions, and not veer off into politicized debates.

  We left UNESCO 18 years ago for two reasons: severe mismanagement and an
  increasingly hostile ideological agenda, exemplified by its support for a  New
  World Information Order  that favored state-controlled media. The President s
  decision to rejoin UNESCO in October recognizes that significant reforms have
  occurred. UNESCO is more efficient and its policies less politicized. We will
  remain committed to reforming UNESCO. Many countries frankly expect us to play
  a leading role in this area.

  The same is true for reforming the various UN entities dedicated to human
  rights. The Human Rights Commission has strayed dramatically from its founding
  principles to defend, protect, and promote human rights. More than a third of
  its members today are human rights violators. And this year, its members
  elected Libya a country under UN sanctions as its chair. Largely because of its
  makeup, the CHR s [UN Commission on Human Rights] 2002 session ended without
  resolutions on Zimbabwe and Sudan, among others. Yet it passed multiple
  excessive resolutions on Israel.

  We need to bring our concerns about structural and organizational issues to the
  UN. It is true there are structural limitations built into the UN system
  itself. For example, the UN has never worked out the contradiction between
  respect for national sovereignty and belief in universal membership on the one
  hand, and the Charter principles of democracy and human rights on the other.
  But we must do what we can to overcome these contradictions. At the very least,
  we need to dedicate ourselves to promoting new membership on the Commission on
  Human Rights members that respect the basic tenets of the Commission itself.

  Efficiency and Effectiveness

  And we need to dedicate ourselves to finding more efficient mechanisms for
  achieving financial accountability in the UN system. Unforeseen world events
  always will generate pressure on the UN to take on new work; but new mandates
  do not mean automatic increases in the UN budget or personnel. An
  ever-increasing UN budget is not sustainable.

  The best way to sustain support for the UN budget is for the UN to prioritize
  its large array of programs. The rules permit such prioritization, as well as
  the elimination of marginal or obsolete activities. Sunset provisions that set
  a date in advance for terminating funding are needed for every new mandate.
  This step would help the UN foster a culture of accountability using
  performance measures, and ensure a more sustainable budget.

  Many countries are considering how the UN can be reformed to improve its
  efficiency and effectiveness. We welcome this interest in reform. We have had a
  long and abiding interest in this issue. The Helms-Biden reform legislation
  tied the problem of paying our arrears aggravated by our budget cycle to UN
  reform. The United Nations took steps to reform, and so we have cleared nearly
  a billion dollars in arrears authorized under the Helms-Biden legislation. I
  can tell you that the Bush Administration is continuing to actively review
  proposals for UN reform, and hopefully we will have ideas to share with our
  colleagues in the near future.

  Consensus in the UN

  The UN can be reformed indeed it can fulfill its mandate only when its members
  willingly meet their obligations, accept their responsibilities, and adhere to
  the principles for which it was founded. For our part, we take this obligation
  seriously. The United States is deeply committed to an effective United
  Nations, so we support it when it adheres to its core principles, and we say so
  when it does not.

  President Bush went to the United Nations last September and challenged it to
  live up to its founding principles. He challenged the Security Council to
  enforce its  binding  resolutions on Iraq, which Saddam Hussein had flouted
  consistently for two decades. And all 15 members rallied behind that call in
  passing Resolution 1441.

  When all the members of the Security Council are united, the Council can become
  an effective instrument for international peace and security. When we speak
  with one voice, as we did in November in unanimously adopting UNSCR [UN
  Security Council Resolution] 1441, and in May in passing the sanctions-lift
  resolution, we can take effective action to promote international peace and

  Yet, when Council members are divided or more accurately when the Permanent
  Five (P-5)are divided the Council fails as an effective tool. This rather
  obvious point begs the question: Why?

  The answer lies less inside the Council than in the realm of international
  politics, particularly among the larger nations that make up the P-5. The
  Security Council is, after all, a mirror of international politics. And therein
  lie both its strength and its weakness.

  The Security Council became largely ineffective during the Cold War when
  divisions between the East and West made it impossible to achieve consensus on
  major issues. The Western powers decided to create the North Atlantic Treaty
  Organization (NATO) and other alliances in part because they realized they
  could not rely on the Security Council to protect either their security or
  their interests.

  The gridlock broke after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Security Council
  members came together to vote for an unprecedented series of resolutions to try
  to eject Iraq from Kuwait first by diplomatic means, then by sanctions, and
  when those failed through a multinational force to eject Iraq by force.
  Resolution 687, the  ceasefire  resolution, demarcated Iraq s borders, set up a
  mechanism to resolve Gulf War claims, and set forth Iraq s disarmament
  obligations. It also adopted comprehensive sanctions to prevent Saddam Hussein
  from reacquiring WMD [weapons of mass destruction].

  In the aftermath of the Gulf War, the Security Council experienced a remarkable
  renaissance. It was not engaged, however, in every major issue that arose
  concerning international peace and security. During the post-Cold War period,
  the Council engaged episodically in major issues of international peace and
  security. It has been heavily engaged at times, most particularly in Iraq, the
  Balkans, and Africa. Still, the international community does not view it as the
  exclusive forum for settling all international disputes that involve conflict
  and security.

  Basing the Security Council s voting scheme on consensus was intentional. The
  Council would not become an effective instrument for one great power to use to
  constrain or control another great power. The structure of the Council with
  veto powers for the P-5 mitigates against trying to use it to alter the balance
  of power or to fundamentally challenge the vital interests of the great powers.

  Given its performance on Iraq over the last six months, some have asked,  why
  not reform the Council ? Why not update it to overcome what some see as an
  anachronistic structure whereby certain countries selected during the immediate
  World War II era are  more equal  than others?

  I do not have any magic formulas on Security Council reform. However, I do
  believe that whatever is done to change the Council, it must adequately reflect
  the real division of labor and responsibility among nations for maintaining
  international peace and security. Authority must be based not solely on the
  claim of representation, but on responsibility. And responsibility must be
  determined not only by respect for the universal principles of democracy and
  human rights, but also the capability to act to defend those principles when
  they are threatened.

  The Question of International Law

  Anytime the question of authority of the Security Council is raised, the issue
  arises as to its place in establishing international law. This was a
  particularly central issue of dispute during the recent Iraq war.

  As contentious as the disagreement over Iraq was, it should not be
  over-emphasized. Neither the United States nor the U.K. ever asserted a right
  to operate outside their obligations under international law. Neither took a
  position that called into question the existing international legal regime
  related to the use of force. Each country had lawyers examine relevant
  resolutions and clarify the legal basis for use of force before the decision to
  proceed was made.

  The decision to go to war with Iraq was based on international law: Existing
  Security Council resolutions against Iraq provided a sufficient legal basis for
  military action. Under the UN Charter itself, there was sufficient authority to
  take action against Iraq without another resolution.

  Countries disagree on other international law issues as well. The Rome Statute
  establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol on
  global warming are notable examples. Germany believes that being a party to the
  Rome Statute and the Kyoto Protocol will advance its interests. It accepts the
  obligations of being a party to each one. The United States holds the opposite
  view and has not become a party to either of them. Consequently, it does not
  accept any international legal obligations with respect to them.

  The United States does not violate any international legal obligation or act
  against international law by remaining outside the ICC. There is no
  requirement, under customary international law or elsewhere, that a nation
  become a party to this treaty. Nothing in existing customary law says that we
  are bound by the provisions of the Rome Statute when we are not a party to it.

  Every nation has the right to decide which treaties it will sign, and we will
  continue making case-by-case assessments. The fact that another country may
  make a different assessment of a treaty does not mean that one country is
  acting in favor of international law and the other against it: Both are acting
  consistent with international law.

  For this reason, while we respect the right of countries to make their own
  decisions, we nonetheless wish that France, Germany, and Syria had joined the
  other 12 members of the Security Council in supporting the simple extension of
  Resolution 1422, which protects UN peacekeepers from prosecution by the
  International Criminal Court. A clear majority of the Council understood the
  need to preserve the integrity of UN peacekeeping operations by extending the
  resolution. We hope that the action of the three who abstained does not signal
  a desire to reopen in the future the balanced compromise reached last year. It
  would be a pity   indeed, a tragic consequence for international peace and
  security   if non-ICC signatory states like the United States found it legally
  impossible to participate in UN peacekeeping.


  For the past century, America's historical role has been to address threats to
  international peace, stability, and freedom and to redress the balance of power
  when threatened by militarism, tyrants, extremist ideologies, or terrorists.
  This was true in the world wars. It was true in the Cold War. It is true in the
  war on terrorism. And it is true in Iraq.

  In each instance, the United States did not follow the paths of imperialist
  powers, but instead liberated countries from tyranny. We did not always
  succeed, but when we did and we did more often than not we left countries
  better off than before. We left behind not occupation forces, but democratic
  institutions and, as Secretary Powell reminded us this year, cemeteries filled
  with our soldiers who laid down their lives so that others could be free.

  It is true that America is a singularly powerful nation. It is true that it has
  strong opinions and enormous influence. Of course this state of affairs makes
  some countries uncomfortable. But it is one thing to want the United States to
  listen to you and to act on your point of view. It is another to conclude that
  America is a threat to world order if it doesn't.

  Trying to restrain American power and influence should not be an organizing
  principle for countries that care about peace, prosperity, and freedom. It will
  only sow division and waste energy and resources on matters not worthy of great
  nations. In the end, it will strengthen those who challenge freedom and
  democracy across the globe. And it will only weaken the solidarity needed among
  free nations to defend themselves from terror and aggression.

  International cooperation in the service of freedom and democracy this
  principle has guided NATO for over a half century. It has been at the heart of
  U.S.-German friendship for as many years. And it should be a central organizing
  principle of the United Nations as well. Thank you.

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