Office of Research
Foreign Media Reaction
April 4, 2005
UN REFORM: VOLCKER REPORT DELIVERS BLOW TO 'USELESS TALKING-SHOP'
** The Volcker report shows "systematic corruption" at the "woefully passive" UN.
** Papers split on whether there are "sufficient grounds" to demand Annan's resignation.
** The U.S. may benefit from keeping Annan in office "in his weakened state."
** Dailies emphasize the need for an "effective and clean" UN.
Both the UN and Annan are 'tainted by scandal'-- Numerous dailies agreed that the Volcker report provided "plenty of ammunition for critics of the UN." The Australian was one of many conservative papers to assail the UN's "oil-for-food racket," which ended up "lining the pockets" of the UN and its corrupt contractors. Hungary's Veti Halasz added that "UN officials were busy making themselves and the leaders of the Hussein regime rich, at the expense of starving Iraqis." The whole "sordid mess" has not only "irreparably damaged" Annan but also the UN itself, according to many observers. Japan's moderate Yomiuri advised the UN to face the "urgent task of regaining the confidence of the international community."
Annan 'may have to become the scapegoat'-- Conservative editorialists contended that Annan's "blindness" to corruption was "damning enough" to demand his resignation. They judged he lacked the "credibility needed for such a gargantuan task" as UN reform. An Irish editorialist forthrightly declared the "first stage of reform" at the UN "should be the removal of Annan himself," with Canada's conservative National Post agreeing that "he must resign." Centrist and leftist papers countered that Annan was "right to stay" because the Volcker report included no "evidence of criminal wrongdoing" on his part. Denmark's centrist Kristeligt Dagblad argued, "Annan's refusal to resign was the right decision."
'A wounded Kofi Annan suits the U.S.'-- Because a "lame and weakened" Annan will be "hard-pressed to oppose U.S. pressure," many outlets argued that the U.S. "could actually prefer a weak UN boss." France's left-of-center Liberation pointed out that if Annan "were to resign, Washington would have to deal with someone less easy to maneuver." Other papers saw the report as the latest shot in the U.S.' "long struggle to undermine" the UN; Russia's business-oriented Kommersant noted that the report aids the U.S. goal of "transforming the UN into a decorative attachment to the White House." Observers more broadly concluded that the U.S. opposes any move to "strengthen the power of the UN."
The UN needs 'ambitious reform'-- Papers united to say the UN is in "dire need of reform." They supported Annan's "package of sweeping reforms" during what Italy's leftist L'Unitá dubbed a "crucial moment in the life of the UN." Liberal papers focused on the need for reform in order to build a "strong, credible UN," without which, according to the Toronto Star, "there would be a gaping hole in the international community." Rightist critics, meanwhile, cited the UN's "corruption, misuse of power and inefficiency" to blast the "increasingly irrelevant" body. Said the center-right Irish Independent, either the UN "reforms now or its concept is dead."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 40 reports from 16 countries over 28 March - 3 April 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed by the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Mend It, Don't End It"
The left of-center Guardian opined (3/31): "But while it is evident that the UN is in dire need of reform, it is equally clear that a strong, credible UN is needed as never before.... There is no alternative to an organization that can coordinate the response of 60 different donor countries, the military assets of 26 countries, and the efforts of hundreds of aid agencies days after the tsunami disaster struck the Indian Ocean. While the second Bush administration gropes for international legitimacy, the battered, creak leviathan of the UN already has it, and must be allowed to keep it."
"Why A Wounded Kofi Annan Suits The U.S."
Adrian Hamilton maintained in the center-left Independent (3/31): "The view of the Bush administration towards the UN is clear and consistent. It isn't against the organization as such. But it does believe profoundly that the organization has failed its own principles, is hopelessly bureaucratic, riddled with corruption and subject to the endless machinations and failings of consensual decision-making. It doesn't want to abolish the UN, but it does want to remake it in its own image--smaller, more focused and implicitly more amenable. Which is why it now plans to appoint quite such a well-known critic of the UN as John Bolton to serve as US ambassador there."
"The World Should Not Be Swayed By This Campaign Of Vilification Against The UN"
The left-of-center Independent editorialized (3/30): "When prominent Republicans called for Mr. Annan's resignation last December, the UN ambassadors of 191 countries publicly backed the secretary general. This support is needed more than ever now. John Bolton--who believes 'the UN is valuable only when it directly serves the U.S.'--is soon likely to be approved as the new American ambassador to the organisation. This is no time to concede ground to the world's last remaining superpower in its long struggle to undermine this flawed, but still vitally important, multilateral platform."
"Moment Of Truth: The UN Must Be Honest With Itself And The World"
An editorial in the conservative Times read (3/30): "With 18 months of his second term to run, Mr. Annan has been woefully passive in confronting systemic corruption within the UN and too defensive when presented by others with the evidence. His reputation is further tarnished by the separate but no less shocking scandal, on his watch, of child sex abuse by UN peacekeepers in Africa. He does not deserve a third term."
Patrick Sabatier noted in left-of-center Liberation (3/30): "Two things are certain. The first is that the UN will survive in spite of the corruption and fraud noted in the report. They are not the first and will not be the last.... In spite of repeated criticism of the UN in the U.S., the UN is much too useful, including in Washington, for the world's major nations to let it disappear like its predecessor, the League of Nations. The second is that Kofi Annan, while he will not be forced to resign, is nevertheless weakened through his son's doings.... Through lack of discipline, Annan is now exposed to suspicions of nepotism and conflict of interest.... Although a majority of the members, including France, have given Annan their support, the UN Secretary General will be hard-pressed to oppose U.S. pressure to bend the UN to America's interests."
"Bush Opts For Caution"
Pascal Riche asserted in left-of-center Liberation (3/30): "The UN is hardly popular among the American right.... But President Bush has reiterated that he wants a strong UN.... Relations between the UN and Washington have improved, after their common efforts in support of the tsunami victims and the successful Afghan elections.... But with the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, President Bush is also saying he shares some of the feelings his fellow Americans have for the UN. Bolton has never hidden his contempt for the UN.... Still, for the time being, the Bush administration is giving support to the UN and its Secretary General. One of the reasons for this is probably that the reforms proposed by Kofi Annan have finally triggered a measure of interest in the U.S. Also, if Annan were to resign, Washington would have to deal with someone less easy to maneuver. For the Americans, Kofi Annan is not the worst choice, and his desire for reform is genuine."
GERMANY: "Annan's Order"
Harald Schumann noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (3/31): "Lies, deception, failure--the latest UN report on the scandal over the program oil-for-food mercilessly discloses Kofi Annan's tragedy. His own son deceived the Secretary-General for years.... There is no indication that their relationship had any influence on the son's business or even the policy of the UN head. The father is not corrupt, but the private story has a political dimension. Annan knew his son and assumed the worst. He therefore asked his staff to investigate whether the supposedly former relations between Kojo and his company could become a conflict of interest for himself. However, it was never checked but his staff gave the all-clear sound the same day. This dealing with sensitive material is a problem of the system. It is the way the UN bureaucracy is constructed: nepotism and pursuing individual interests is on the organization's daily agenda--and no one cares about it. UN officials are not worse people than others. The evil is the UN constitution itself, because it gives every member state an extreme level of control over the UN, which therefore does not enjoy any autonomy. Not even aides can be employed without the influence of diplomats who promote their favorites."
Center-right Thueringer Landeszeitung of Erfurt editorialized (3/31): "It remains to be seen whether the UN General-Secretary was cleared sufficiently by the independent investigators. The suspicion of corruption was probably only the lesser evil in this maze of the Iraqi aid program oil-for-food, in which several billon dollars went through dubious channels. We are still waiting for the final report on whether Iraq's former dictator put aside money from the oil deals. It is surprising that no UN member called for Annan's resignation, while conservative U.S. politicians launched tough and not always fair attacks on him. Their motive probably resulted from Anna's opposition to the Iraq war. But it is not just about being unforgiving. None of the hawks around President Bush want anyone to head the current UN reform, which could lead to a stronger control of the super power by the world organization."
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (3/30): "The new interim report on the Iraqi aid program oil-for-food contains only one positive message for the UN Secretary-General. There has been no evidence so far that Kofi Annan is personally involved in the corruption scandal, but this does not mean that the Peace Nobel Prize carrier is cleared.< There still is the allegation that his son used his father's authority to get a lucrative job with a company that dealt with the program. It is unlikely that Kofi Annan has known nothing about it--this scandal smells of nepotism. Annan has waited far too long to investigate the scandal.... Anna's authority is damaged. This damages the UN in a politically very important phase, in which the organization should be reformed and the UNSC extended. Annan can only play an important role in this if he clears up his own house."
ITALY: "Annan, Investigators Split"
Claudio Gatti held in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (3/31): "When Paul Volcker accepted to lead the special investigating committee called by the UN on the 'Oil for food' scandal, his objective was to 'present a conclusive summary' of what happened. But the report that he presented on Tuesday regarding the activities and behavior of Kofi Annan and his son Kojo was anything but conclusive. Rather, each reader was able to draw his own conclusion.... For now, with the exception of a few U.S. congressmen, the defendants' innocence is being upheld, including by the White House. George W. Bush, who certainly cannot be considered an admirer of Kofi Annan and the UN, promptly confirmed his support of the Secretary General--although some noted that a lame and weakened Secretary General is in the interest of someone who does not want a strong and independent UN."
"Annan (Must) Save The UN From 'UNgate'"
Giampaolo Pioli stated in conservative syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (3/30): "Annan's victory is a limited one. The ultimate verdict will be issued in June, when the final report on the 'Oil for food' scandal is published.... Countries that are good friends of America, and even U.S. companies, may be involved. 'UNgate' may gain the strength of a tsunami and irreparably damage not only Annan's reputation, but also the image of< many who are considered good friends and allies of the U.S. That's why the reform of the UN and the UNSC is turning into a major initiative to overcome past mistakes. President Bush is about to send to the UN John Bolton, the State Department 'hawk' specializing in weapons, whose only relevant comment on the UN was: 'The UN is important only when it serves U.S. interests.' Vis-à-vis this 'philosophy' on the part of the sovereign empire, the United Nations, albeit reformed, will need more than ever a true arbiter who can guarantee respect for the rules. Annan has shown that kind of independence and 'UNgate' may look like Washington's revenge."
"Annan' Acquitted' For Lack Of Sufficient Evidence"
Danilo Taino commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/30): "The UN Secretary General emerges from the Volcker report as a naïve person who let himself be deceived by his son and, out of affection or superficiality, did not investigate thoroughly a manifest conflict of interest, even when it became public. The result is that Annan is even weaker than he was before, and it is not certain that he is in the best position to complete the ambitious reform of the UN he announced last week. President Bush let it be known that he continues to support him, but it is clear that the White House sees Annan as a leader who is losing his prestige and possibly his ability to be independent."
"Annan, A Lame Duck"
Umberto De Giovannangeli observed in pro-Democratic Left (DS) party L'Unita' (3/30): "The sins of the sons do not fall upon their fathers. But they do fall upon the organization of which the 'father' in question is the Secretary General. One thing, in fact, is certain: it is the UN that emerges further penalized, as far as both image and political influence are concerned, from the investigation into the 'oil for food' scandal.... Investigators have substantially cleared Annan of conflict of interest charges, criticizing him, however, for his behavior regarding the oil-for-food issue. But that criticism is more than enough to make the position of the (controversial) UN Secretary General even weaker at a crucial moment in the life of the UN, i.e., on the eve of the debate on UN reform and with the political-diplomatic clash over the new composition of the UNSC in full swing."
RUSSIA: "It's Important That Annan Remains His Old Self"
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (3/31): "Kofi Annan is far from the worst UN Secretary General. He has done a lot to breathe new life into a dying UN, coming up with a radical reform program and other major initiatives.< In 2001 he and the rest of the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize. But, as fate would have it, he nearly ended as sadly as his predecessor, who paid dearly for being too independent of the UN's main donor, the U.S. With wayward Butros Ghali dumped, Washington bet on Kofi Annan, hoping he wouldn't make the same mistakes, that, grateful for the Secretary General's position, he would accept a situation in which the UN acted as a younger brother and vehicle of the U.S.' will. The Americans hoped to neutralize the organization, suspicious and jealous of its role as a global control center hostile to their interests. That didn't work, though. Indeed, transforming the UN into a decorative attachment to the White House conflicts with revitalizing the organization, a task that calls for its greater independence. Eager to see it through, Kofi Annan missed the moment when he outgrew his 'stars-and-stripes pants.' So he was whipped first and magnanimously pardoned later. Now the way his work will be assessed depends on whether he, having suffered humiliation, remains true to his old self."
"Kofi Annan Cleared"
Yevgeniy Bay filed for reformist Izvestiya (3/31): "Many U.S. lawmakers urged Annan to resign, no matter the conclusions of the Volcker commission. But few people at the UN Headquarters in New York expected Annan to quit.< Of all the member-countries, only Portugal spoke out against him. Even the U.S. supported the Secretary General in the end."
"Kofi Annan Proclaimed An Honest Secretary General"
Nargiz Asadova said in business-oriented Kommersant (3/30): "Washington, so it seems, has attained what it was after: the Americans have discredited a man who resisted the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the UN, which they have to consult each time they plan armed action.... At this stage, Washington may not insist on Kofi Annan's early resignation now that the world, due to the scandal, knows that Kofi Annan is incompetent, to say the least, and his subordinates steal right under his nose. Besides, the United States has shown convincingly that the UN is rotten and corrupt through and through."
AUSTRIA: "Yellow Card For Annan"
Adelheid Wolfl noted in independent Der Standard (3/31): "The Secretary-General acted relieved. 'Hell, no' was his answer to the question of whether he was going to resign. This statement seemed uncharacteristic for the thoughtful man and did not seem to indicate that he felt sure of himself. After the publication of the report on the 'oil for food' scandal, Kofi Annan went on the offensive in an attempt to gain back lost territory. After all, the report of the Volcker Commission contained at least as much hidden condemnation as exculpation. An acquittal because of lack of proof can never completely dispel doubts. The suspicion remains...how weakened is Kofi Annan? He is going to be hard pressed to advance UN reforms if his subordinates give him only half-hearted support. The remaining shadow of doubt could also weaken the UN's position--especially with regard to its relations with the US."
"Is The UN Necessary?"
Senior editor Ernst Trost analyzed in mass-circulation tabloid Neue Kronenzeitung (3/31): "A while ago, the controversial future American ambassador to the UN John Bolton defined his attitude to the UN as follows: In order to reflect the actual global power situation, the UNSC only needed a single member--namely, the US. For Bolton's friends the UN is completely unnecessary and essentially an instrument designed to obstruct Washington's policy. The US would prefer to do away with the UN. However, there are also more realistic critics who believe in the necessity and usefulness of the UN. But because the catalogue of that institution's weaknesses is many pages long they demand reforms. In order to give more clout to the global organization, Kofi Annan intends to spearhead the group of reformers and thoroughly reorganize his league of nations. His success, however, depends on whether the various powers will let him."
"Horrible Years For Annan"
Foreign affairs editor Christian Ultsch concluded in centrist Die Presse (3/30): "All the charges against Kofi Annan are not sufficient grounds for resignation. The degree of his direct and personal involvement is too low. Nevertheless, there is the question of whether the UN Secretary-General still has the strength and authority to put into practice his ambitious plans for an inevitable UN reform until the end of his term in December 2006. His sharpest critics, who, at least since the Iraqi crisis, come from the ranks of the Republicans, could actually prefer a weak UN boss. There is no doubt that for the past months, the Americans have instigated the campaign against Annan. At least since the UN Secretary-General publicly called the war 'illegal'--and during the presidential elections at that--he has been a thorn in President Bush's side. This is true for the UN as a whole, which the US President and his neoconservative advisors find very bothersome indeed. The superpower America no longer wants to be tied down by know-it-all political dwarves in the UN. The US wants to do what it thinks best without interference from outside. A big part of American criticism of Annan was really aimed at the UN. Over the past few months, Bush's friends have brought Annan to a state where is fit to resign. It is possible that they will now keep him in office in his weakened state.... Annan himself will have to decide whether, in the meantime, it would not be in the interest of the UN to end the years of horror and resign."
DENMARK: "Annan's Leadership Tainted By Scandal"
Left-wing Information stated (3/31): "The fact that Annan told the Commission that he had heard absolutely nothing about the incident that appears to reveal a conflict of interests, has left a cloud of media skepticism. It was a shame that Annan only chose to take three media questions on Tuesday. It would have been much more helpful if he could have filled in some of the blanks. His person is therefore, now regarded with some considerable skepticism by, not least, the U.S. Rather than clearing Annan's name, the report has weakened his international credibility."
"Timely Reform Of The UN System"
Center-right Berlingske Tidende opined (3/31): "Corruption, the misuse of power, and inefficiency are things that have characterized the UN over recent years. Now Annan wants to reform the organization. All we can say is that this is not a moment too soon."
"Annan Right To Stay"
Centrist Kristeligt-Dagblad judged (3/31): "The lack of someone better, is no good reason to keep Secretary General Annan. Clearly, if the report had leveled direct criticism at the U.N. leader, this would have had serious repercussions for his future. But, it was only his son who was criticized, so Annan's refusal to resign was the right decision."
HUNGARY: "UN-satisfactory World?"
Foreign affairs editor Anita Orban pointed out in conservative weekly Heti Valasz (3/31): "The UN is not an organization free of interests, as its actions are usually decided by the interests of the countries in the UNSC.... The self-interest--to increase the importance, influence and well-being of the organization and of those working for it--dictates that, defying reality, the UN appear as an independent policy-forming factor, and not as a mediator.... In the case of the 'Oil for Food' scandal that broke out last year, it has now become clear that, under the pretext of coordination, the UN officials were busy making themselves and the leaders of the Hussein regime rich, at the expense of starving Iraqis.... The UN must represent a mission better reflecting reality. That way, the world organization may perform the task it is suitable and was established for: it may become the institutionalized forum of coordination between countries."
"Washington Relentless Against UN"
Gabor Horvath wrote in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (3/30): "The greatest objection [to Bolton] is that he obstructed the international arms limitation talks with all means available. About the UN he thinks that it only makes sense if it directly serves U.S. interests. The White House's policy of the past four years and the current personnel decisions make one come to the conclusion that Bolton is not alone in his views. The current American foreign policy considers an impediment all international obligations that, according to them, are obstacles to the fight against terrorism. Instead of the permanent allied systems based on mutual benefits and the international organizations respectable in themselves, the U.S. prefers ad hoc coalitions in which American will dominates, and perhaps there is no talk about longer-term principles. However, the neo-conservative views do not have a monopoly even on the political right: according to the majority of the traditional foreign policy elite, it would make more sense to use than to destroy the institutional system of international cooperation.... The personal attacks on Kofi Annan are serving a double goal. On the one hand, they are trying to force the early departure of the African politician who has been openly critical of American politics, and even if this effort fails, they want at least to prevent the acceptance of the reforms urged by [Annan]. Currently, Washington does not support anything that would strengthen the multilateral world view; consequently, not a UN that would represent global interests more effectively than before."
IRELAND: "Volcker Report"
Mark Dooley commented in the center-right populist Irish Independent (4/3): "The 63-page document failed to address the most serious problem currently facing the organization. And that is because the problem is the Secretary-General himself. Last week, Annan claimed that the interim report on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal 'cleared me of any wrongdoing'. That it did. But only because its author, Paul Volcker, is determined to rescue Annan and the UN from oblivion.... On Wednesday, a UN official charged the U.S. with causing more malnutrition in Iraq than existed under the Hussein regime. For when Annan and his corrupt crew are under siege, the usual response is to attack America for the UN's own failings.... Unlike the UN, the U.S. does not tend to accept bribes from psychotic despots. Neither does it have a long history of abusing the world's children. But everywhere the UN has operated children have been ravaged.... The first stage of reform should be the removal of Annan himself. He vowed last week not to resign. But more than anyone else, he symbolizes everything rotten about the UN system. Secondly, UN reform should no longer be simply about increasing the size of the UNSC. A clear distinction needs to be made between those countries committed to democracy, and those dedicated to tyranny and terror. It is ridiculous that a body charged with global peace includes people like Mugabe, the Iranian Mullahs, and Kim Jong II. If the UN is serious about reform, it must demand certain standards from its members.... As things stand, however, those who threaten world security are simply appeased.... As the largest contributor of aid and personnel to the UN, America is right to insist that it adopt a new moral code. And so should countries like Ireland. For too long we have timidly supported this corrupt outfit.... The UN has failed the memory of its founding fathers. Either it reforms now or its concept is dead. "
"Questions Still Hang Over Annan's Future"
Niall Stanage held in the left-of-center weekly Sunday Business Post (4/3): "No evidence that Annan had acted in a corrupt manner was found. But the diplomat was gilding the lily when he claimed that the commission delivered an unequivocal 'exoneration' of him. It did not. The Volcker report met with a mixed reception in Washington. That, in turn, added to uncertainty over the degree to which Annan had been weakened by the controversy.... The report provided plenty of ammunition for critics of the UN. Despite that, the White House seemed reluctant to get involved in the affair.... The White House's mild response may be related to another aspect of the UN story. Annan believes that the organization, including its security council, must be reformed. Bush and his advisers agree. The administration might be treating the secretary general with kid gloves over the oil-for-food scandal for fear of endangering his position. That said, the White House's intentions in the international arena have been difficult to divine since Bush's second term began. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the president made separate trips to Europe in February, apparently to encourage a rapprochement between the US and the international community.... Embracing such apparently contradictory moves, Bush's overall strategy remains opaque. But Kofi Annan will be hoping that the White House maintains its support of him, whatever its motivations, for some time to come."
"Kofi's Woes Play Right Into The Hands Of His UN Critics"
Conor Cruise O'Brien commented in the populist center-right Irish Independent (4/2): "US President Bush has expressed satisfaction that the UN Secretary-General has been found 'not guilty' by the Vollker Report. I (journalist )think that here President Bush is being less than candid.... President Bush...just wishes to terminate Kofi Annan's political career, prematurely, and he has a very good chance of doing so. What the President is really so pleased about, in the Volcker Report, is that it leaves Kofi Annan so vulnerable. Enquiries will now open up, probably in both Houses of Congress, in both of which pro-Bush Republicans are in a majority. Most Republicans dislike the UN, most of whose members dislike the U.S.... Kofi Annan, when he first sounded out Paul Volcker, and apparently found him disposed to find in Annan's favour, must have been tempted by the prospect of being cleared by international opinion. What he doesn't seem to have foreseen was that, although he personally would be acquitted--though with serious reservations--his son would be found guilty. When he then condemned his son, he looked like doing so to save his own skin, an unattractive position to most Americans, and indeed to most human beings. I think Kofi Annan must now see, with bitter regret, that, in submitting his future to an international tribunal, he was taking altogether the wrong turning."
NORWAY: "Annan Stumbles On"
Hilde Harbo said in newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (3/31): "Kofi Annan has enjoyed great respect for the way he has carried out his function as the top leader of the UN, but now the problems are eating away at his authority. He needs more than a successful handling of the tsunami catastrophe so as not to become seriously impaired before his term is over in 2006.... The UN is not stronger than the member countries--first and foremost the superpowers--make it. But the member countries' support is also tied into the confidence they have in the top leader of the organization. Despite the scandals there have not been serious demands for Annan to leave, if you leave out statements from certain traditionally UN-critical U.S. senators for whom this is grist to the mill. On the contrary, he has received support from several sides after the criticism in the investigative report, and even The White House was quick in stating its continued support to the General Secretary's work. This could mean that the Bush Administration sees the need to follow a more UN friendly line. If Annan is going to get anywhere with his newly announced major project--the extensive reforms of the UN system--it is completely necessary that the support is more than just words. More crises and scandals will ruin Annan's authority and his opportunity to strengthen the power of the UN. This will again lead to a weakening of all forces wanting a potent world organization with the ability to solve conflicts and further development and democratization."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "U.S. Antagonism Subverts Annan Agenda"
Sean Aylmer observed in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (3/31): "Without the US on side, Mr Annan will struggle to force through any of the reforms he is pushing to modernize the organization. And without the reforms the UN will become increasingly irrelevant.... The response to the [oil-for-food] scandal and the report shows that Mr Annan is a lame duck as long as the Bush administration holds office.... The appointment of neo-conservative John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN was considered further evidence of the Bush administration's contempt for the organization. However, Mr Bolton is close to the administration, and provides a big opportunity for the UN to regain some credibility in Washington. It may be better to think of him as bridge builder between the two organizations rather than an enemy. But it's hard to see that happening while Mr Annan is in charge. Unfortunately for Mr Annan...he may have to become the scapegoat if the group is to move forward and maintain its relevancy."
"Kofi Limps Out Of Oil-for-food Enquiry"
The national conservative Australian opined (3/31): "UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has survived the second interim report of the inquiry into the UN's oil-for-food program, but his credibility is wounded.... Even now we know enough to say the claim that 'sanctions were working' to contain Saddam Hussein, rendering military action redundant, was bunk. Sanctions, and oil-for-food, were working all right: to line the pockets of corrupt UN officials and the contractors who were close to them. The final piece of the puzzle in June will be the extent to which Saddam himself skimmed oil-for-food, and just where he channeled the lucre. So far, nothing in this sordid mess has served to enhance the international standing of the UN or the man who leads it."
JAPAN: "UN Needs To Regain International Confidence"
Top-circulation moderate Yomiuri editorialized (3/31): "A recent report compiled by an independent panel on the 'Food-for-Oil' scandal appears to have helped to dispel suspicion over the possible involvement of Secretary General Annan. The drive for UN reform could have been blocked if Annan had been shown to be involved. The UN is facing the urgent task of regaining the confidence of the international community. Although the panel found Annan 'innocent,' it pointed out that the organization had failed to carry out proper investigations into internal misconduct. The panel will continue to scrutinize allegations of UN corruption and to compile a final report by the summer. The world body must regain the trust of the global community by adopting appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents and to promote the organization's planned reform."
THAILAND: "Oil, Blood Ties And Reforming The UN"
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (3/31): "Rather than seeking Annan's removal, Washington, which is still angry at the secretary-general for his opposition to the Iraq war, should work with him to rebuild the UN. Ironically, many of the things Washington doesn't like about the world body are targeted by Annan's reforms, so that it can, for example, better prevent conflict, terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear arms, as well as better defend human rights and fight poverty and illness. The U.S. invasion of Iraq showed that the world needs a global body that can deal with international disputes. America knows too now that it really doesn't have the resources to dictate foreign affairs the way it would like. It needs the world community to share the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also needs help and consensus to deal with Iran, North Korea and a host of other potential hot spots. At a time when the power of nation states is declining and globalization is making most issues international in nature, we need the UN more than ever. But also need a world body that is effective and clean."
UGANDA: "Keep Relatives From Business"
The state-owned New Vision declared (3/31): "UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has been cleared of wrongdoing over an Iraq oil deal involving his son, but a report has queried his handling of the affair. The inquiry into the UN's oil-for-food program questioned the integrity of the dealings of the boss' son Kojo, though it found little evidence to show that the father was aware of his son's work with the main contractor. There have been other similarly scandalous business operations in Iraq, most notably the awarding of big contracts to a firm in which US Vice President Dick Cheney had interests shortly after American forces occupied Iraq. While there was no affirmative or improper influence by the UN chief in awarding the contract, he should have been more alert to the potential conflict of interest because he knew of his son's work and, therefore, could have been more scrupulous. The damage this has done to Annan may not be felt just yet, but the lesson for all as we strive for integrity, is to keep relatives out of business where there is no objective merit."
CANADA: "UN Tackles Its Own Crisis"
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (3/31): "Kofi Annan's 'lack of leadership, combined with conflicts of interest and a lack of responsibility and accountability, point to one, and only one, outcome: his resignation.... If that had been the conclusion of Paul Volcker...the UN secretary-general would have had to resign on the spot.... CEO's don't usually launch massive plans for root-and-branch reform of the organizations they lead in their last year in office...but this is a rescue mission. The UN was already under fire as a useless talking-shop that failed to stop most of the civil wars and genocides of the past 15 years, but the combination of internal scandals and U.S. President George W. Bush's headlong assault on the organization have created an atmosphere of crisis.... It can do nothing whatever without the agreement and support of the great powers. It is a club, not an independent organization, and the members who sit on the steering committee, the UNSC, decide what it can and cannot do.... Governments shift the blame for their own inaction onto the UN all the time. The only way to change that would be to remove the UN from the control of the states that created it, and set it up as an independent power with its own sources of income and its own army. That just isn't going to happen. Since it's impossible to fix the main problem with the UN, its supporters have come up with a series of diversionary projects to fix lesser problems. The most important by far is the expansion of the Security Council.... Secretary-General Annan is determined to push this reform through before September, but dissension in the ranks is so great that he may not actually succeed: the deal still provides no permanent seat for any Muslim country.... The main reason for popular impatience and disillusion with the UN, the fact that governments control the UN and not the other way round, cannot be changed."
"Unfit To Lead The UN"
The conservative National Post argued (3/30): "Coupled with Mr. Annan's past failures in Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur and Congo; his inability to rally the UNSC to deal with the Kosovo and Iraq crises; the sexual abuse allegations against UN troops; his attempt to shield UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers from harassment allegations; and, of course, his failure to prevent the larger corruption scandal spawned by oil-for-food, the case against Mr. Annan is strong. Indeed, his failures have conspired to bring the UN to perhaps its lowest level of credibility in the history of the organization. For the good of the UN, he must resign."
"Why Kofi Annan Should Quit The UN"
The leading Globe and Mail commented (3/30): "Annan says he has no intention of resigning. If he were the leader of a democratic country, his constituents would be demanding that he step down. And if he were the chief executive of a publicly held corporation, his board of directors would have shown him the door long ago. If he truly cares about reforming his beloved UN, he will depart soon, because he no longer has the credibility needed for such a gargantuan task."
"Let Kofi Annan Stay On"
The liberal Toronto Star argued (3/30): "The UN oil-for food program in Iraq was a fiasco. Iraq pumped $64 billion in oil under strict UN controls from 1996 to 2004. It should all have been spent on the Iraqi people. But Saddam Hussein siphoned off $2 billion or more.... And smugglers took $9 billion more, with the knowledge of the U.S. and other major powers. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan must carry his share of the administrative blame for what went wrong.... But there is no evidence that Annan sanctioned the corruption or profited from it.... A probe by former U.S. federal reserve chair Paul Volcker yesterday cleared Annan of the most damning allegation yet: That Annan interfered in 1998 when the UN began handing $66 million in contracts to a Swiss company that employed his son, Kojo.... Volcker turned up no 'reasonably sufficient' evidence indicating Annan even knew the firm had submitted a bid to get a contract, much less improperly influenced the outcome.... The only fault Volcker placed at Annan's door--and rightly so--was that Annan failed to launch a 'thorough and independent' probe of the enduring Cotecna/Kojo connection.... While Volcker's findings make no one look good, his probe failed to turn up evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Annan, or even of egregious bad behaviour. Thus, Annan has every right to stay on until his term expires at the end of next year. He should use the respite to press his plans to reform the UNSC, clean up the secretariat and better equip the UN to battle poverty, genocide and terror. It is the best way to restore the UN's damaged credibility and make the institution a force for good again. Volcker himself has called for "review and renewal" at the UN, not a lynching. He is right."
"Annan Job On Line As UN Faces Scrutiny"
Richard Gwyn commented in the liberal Toronto Star (3/29): "Already, the UN's credibility and prestige have been eroded by its failure to stop the violence that has caused some 200,000 deaths in Darfur.... Outright rejection of a UN resolution by Khartoum would expose the UN's impotence.... The UN's credibility is about to be attacked more directly, and more devastatingly. This week, former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker will turn in his second report on the UN-run program that sent food and medicine funds to Iraq and to Saddam Hussein in exchange for oil sales. Here, the finger of blame will point directly at Annan. He chose the officials who ran the program and who, in certain instances, profited hugely from it themselves.... At this very moment Annan is making an attempt, unprecedented in its scale and ambition, to restore the UN's credibility. A week ago, Annan proposed a package of sweeping reforms, such as radical changes in the structure of the UNSC to a complete overhaul of the UN's discredited Human Rights Commission to adoption of a tough anti-terrorism treaty. This package was assembled with great skill. The anti-terrorism treaty will attract the support of the U.S. Changes to the UNSC will attract the support of likely newcomers such as Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa. But the shredding of the UN's credibility now underway will allow critics to divert the reform debate into a discussion of all the UN's failures. The British monarchy survived its annus horribilis. So will the UN But perhaps not Annan. The hard truth is that all these failures happened on his watch. Without him as a target, UN critics will have no one to fire at. Debate then could focus on the UN itself. And no one can doubt that without a credible and effective UN there would be a gaping hole in the international community."
"The Blindness Of A Father"
Margaret Wente observed in the leading Globe and Mail (3/29): "Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, is a deeply unhappy man these days. His call for sweeping reforms at the UN won him much applause from starry-eyed idealists, but that's yesterday's news. Today's news is yet another bombshell report about the notorious UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. This one will finger Mr. Annan's son, Kojo, who traded on his famous father's name to line his own pockets while working for a Swiss company that earned big profits in the oil-for-food racket.... The oil-for-food program was set up to ease the world's conscience over punitive sanctions against Iraq. The problem was, Saddam Hussein was allowed to run it.... Iraq's current ambassador to the UN says the oil-for-food program was worse than nothing, because it allowed the world to believe that we were actually doing something to help the suffering Iraqi people. Instead, the world was shoring up Saddam.... There's no evidence that Kofi Annan was on the take or tried to rig the system. But his blindness to the abuses right under his nose is damning enough. The UN can't stop the dying in Darfur. It can't stop its own peacekeepers from raping teenage girls. And its bureaucracy did nothing as Iraqi children starved. Mr. Annan, to his credit, knows that his beloved UN faces a crisis of legitimacy. But he's the last man on Earth who can fix it."
CHILE: "Reform Or Democratization Of The UN"
Libardo Buitrago contended in financial Diario Financiero (3/28): "There is no doubt the UN must continue to be at the heart of the planet's security. But it is evident that the UNSC...must expand to reflect the new realities of the world and change its veto system, which gives only five exclusive countries the power to eliminate, with the stroke of a pen, any proposal regardless of how reasonable.... This is where the real obstacle to progress, reform, and the success...of the organization lies. If these five countries refuse to change the veto system...there will always be a means to block any resolution that affects their interests."
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