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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

16 June 2005

United Nations Needs Budget, Management Reform, State's Burns Says

Bigger Security Council just one part of larger agenda for change

By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Though the United States supports an expanded U.N. Security Council with "two or so" new permanent members, that is a small part of its much bigger agenda to reform the entire United Nations system, a senior State Department official says.

Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, told journalists at the State Department June 16 that the issue of Security Council expansion is "embedded" in U.S. goals to reform overall U.N. budgeting, management and administrative practices.

He said the United States "recognizes that the Security Council needs to look more like the world of 2005 than the world of 1945 when the Security Council and the U.N. system were created. … But we see this debate as only one of the issues that has to be put forward.  And we'd like to see progress on all the other issues before we turn our full attention to the U.N. Security Council debate itself."

Those "other issues" include budgeting, management and administrative reform in the U.N. Secretariat and in U.N. New York headquarters, Burns said.  Many of the reforms are needed "in light of some of the problems that the Volcker Commission has raised."  In addition, Burns said, the United States supports and intends to work to accomplish the following changes in the United Nations:

-- A peacebuilding commission, proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that would provide more effective reconstruction and humanitarian support, as well as long-term development in a post-conflict country;

-- Replacing the current U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva with a smaller human rights council, composed entirely of democracies and that would exclude countries under U.N. sanctions;

-- A democracy fund, as proposed in September 2004 by President Bush in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly;

-- A comprehensive counterterrorism convention.  Burns said it "is time to put this forward and agree to it in the General Assembly;" and

-- The United States "intends to play a leading, active and positive role" in the international debate about development that Burns characterized as part of the debate about U.N. reform.

All of the foregoing issues, Burns said, will be U.S. priorities that will rank ahead of debate over Security Council size and composition, because "we don't want to see all the oxygen sucked out of the room … in the hall of the General Assembly by the Security Council debate.  We've got to have a focus on these other [issues].  We've got to have results by September on those others," Burns said.

Burns said the U.S. administration was "very pleased" by the presentation of the congressionally mandated Gingrich-Mitchell Report June 15.  He called it "a very fine report" and added that the administration "agrees with the vast majority of recommendations that Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Mitchell have made -- not all of them, but the vast majority."

On the other hand, Burns said the administration opposes two provisions in the bill presented in the House of Representatives by House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde and others, "but we don't object to the entire bill."

One objection is to a provision that would require the United States to withhold up to 50 percent of its annual U.N. contributions if a total of nearly 40 reforms were not made.

"We think this provision is unacceptable," Burns said.  "It would depreciate the credibility of the United States" and "diminish our effectiveness and would not allow us to play the leading role that we need to play on reform."

The other administration objection is to "aspects of the bill that would restrict the president's constitutional duties to instruct his ambassadors and to pursue a foreign policy.  That has to be centered in the Executive Branch.  We've made both of these concerns clear to the House leadership" on June 15, Burns said.

As for Security Council expansion, Burns said the administration favors adding "two or so" permanent members, specifically including Japan, though it does not favor granting them the veto power now held by the five permanent members.  The United States also favors adding "two or three" nonpermanent members.

The proposal advocated by some groups to expand the Security Council from its current 15 members to 24 or 25 does not have U.S. support because of concern that it could result in a council of reduced effectiveness.

Further, Burns said that regional balance should be only one qualification among several in being considered for Security Council membership.  Also important for membership should be:

-- Economic and population size;

-- Military capacity and potential to contribute militarily to U.N. peacekeeping missions;

-- Contributions to peacekeeping;

-- Democracy and human rights record;

-- Financial contributions to the U.N. system;

-- Record and commitment on counterterrorism and nonproliferation; and

-- Overall geographic balance of the Security Council.

A transcript of Burns' remarks is available on the State Department’s Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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