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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


20 April 2005

U.S. Wants United Nations as Stronger Force for Freedom

State's Holmes outlines importance of reform at U.N. foundation event

Washington -- The "tipping point" where change not only is  possible but necessary for the United Nations is today a widespread realization, says the State Department chief of international organization affairs.

"We believe in the ideals on which the United Nations was founded," Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes told U.N. Foundation members April 19.  "[W]e want … peacekeepers to bring lasting peace … nuclear proliferation halted; terrorist acts and finances choked off; refugees able to return home; and famine ended.  We want every nation to protect human rights.  And, we want freedom and democracy to spread: wholesale," he said.

Self-government is an essential human right, Holmes said, and the desire for freedom "arises from the very design of human nature. … [T]here is something irreducibly universal about the desire of human beings to control their lives and their destinies," he said.  Furthermore, Holmes said, the U.N. Charter's first chapter explicitly states that the organization's purpose is "to promote and encourage respect for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction."

The assistant secretary said the United Nations works best in conjunction with U.S. leadership, citing U.S.-led U.N. efforts to help Iraq’s transition to self government, embodied in three Security Council resolutions; resolutions for Syrian troops to leave Lebanon, to send peacekeepers to Sudan; and "casting a spotlight" on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Not only must the United Nations do a better job of protecting human rights, Holmes said, "it must also do a better job, in our estimation, of promoting democracy.”  That is why President Bush announced his support for the creation of a U.N. Democracy Fund. Holmes said the United States believes it "absolutely crucial" that the United Nations more actively support the growth of democratic self-governance.  It is an indispensable part of the project of enlarging freedom, he added.

Holmes also discussed the question of U.N. reform, and why it so far has largely eluded the organization.  He offered two reasons.

First, many member states like the status quo. They do not demand as a top priority effectiveness, transparency, accountability, efficiency or fiscal restraint, he said.

Second, acquiescence with the status quo is related to a "lack of focus on first principles -- especially on the principle of freedom."  This, he said, often has enabled nondemocratic countries to block effective reform -- usually under the guise of consensus.  “And when consensus is the goal, it is easy for a nondemocratic nation to stop effective U.N. actions and U.N. reform," he said.

Holmes sees the United Nations' best hope as "the wave of freedom" now being witnessed.  "I am absolutely convinced," he said, "that a U.N. where more countries are dedicated to promoting freedom will be a more effective U.N."

The transcript of Holmes' remarks may be found on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rm/44953.htm

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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