UN: Annan Reforms Would Revamp UN Security, Rights Structures
By Robert McMahon
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has outlined a series of sweeping changes to improve the organization's ability to cope with security, development, and human rights challenges. Annan's reform plan proposes an expansion of the UN Security Council, a replacement of the maligned Human Rights Commission, and a stronger commitment by wealthy countries for development aid. His proposals would amount to the biggest shakeup in UN structures since its founding 60 years ago. They come at a time when the organization has been rocked by a series of scandals.
United Nations, 21 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Kofi Annan's reform plan has been described by aides as a kind of grand bargain among nations that would ensure that their national and collective interests are better served by the United Nations.
The secretary-general's report (http://www.un.org/largerfreedom) addresses issues of central interest to wealthier states, such as toughening measures on weapons proliferation and establishing a global terrorism convention.
His plan also calls on richer states to sharply increase development aid and debt relief for poor countries. And he urges quicker action to halt poverty and disease, which are of more immediate concern to developing states.
Annan's chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, told reporters yesterday that the proposals demonstrate the intertwined nature of global security.
"Our fundamental point is [the reform plan is] a deal. There's enough in it for everybody to carry this forward as something that the whole membership, we hope, will support and not be deflected from supporting by its individual difficulties over particular items," Malloch Brown said.
Annan's plan, which is to be acted on at the General Assembly session later this year, endorses his high-level panel's proposal to expand the UN Security Council from 15 to 24 members. The move is intended to make the body more representative. But Annan, like the high-level panel, left it to UN members to choose between two scenarios for expanding the Security Council.
The secretary-general says the 53-member UN human rights commission, now meeting in Geneva, has been undermined by "declining credibility and professionalism." He recommends replacing it with a standing Human Rights Council whose members are elected by the General Assembly and who pledge "to abide by the highest human rights standards."
His report also revives the notion of a "responsibility to protect" citizens caught up in genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity. In such cases, Annan says, the Security Council must be prepared to authorize collective action to intervene.
This principle is under threat at the moment due to Security Council inaction in Sudan's Darfur region. Annan aide Malloch Brown acknowledged that Darfur, where 180,000 people have died, and the 1994 Rwandan genocide are a rebuke to the UN.
"Things like Rwanda happen and Darfur is happening when the UN is weak -- when governments don't have the confidence in it to support it to act on their behalf to prevent these terrible, heinous violations of people's human rights," Malloch Brown said.
Annan's report seeks to break the deadlock in the UN membership over a comprehensive convention against terrorism by offering the definition of terrorism in his panel's report.
The definition says: "Any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act." It is expected to face opposition from Arab states that have supported such actions by anti-Israeli groups.
Annan also calls for the swift negotiation of a treaty to halt the spread of materials used to make nuclear weapons. And in an apparent reference to the ongoing crisis over Iran's nuclear program, he calls for measures to guarantee the supplies of fuel necessary to help states develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy and abandon technologies that could be used to build atomic weapons.
Robert Orr, a top aide to Annan, told reporters that this approach recognizes the need to revise the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"It is time to come to some agreements about incentives for countries to meet their legitimate needs for nuclear energy but to accept legitimate restraints on the ability to produce nuclear weapons," Orr said.
Annan's report calls for streamlining the work of both the UN Secretariat and the General Assembly. But it proposes the creation of a new UN peacebuilding commisson to help countries emerging from conflict.
And in a gesture likely to be welcomed by the United States, Annan's report proposes the creation of a democracy fund to assist countries seeking to establish or strengthen their democracy.
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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