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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

23 June 2005

United States Offers Proposals for U.N. Reform

Suggestions for planned U.N. declaration at 60th anniversary session

By Judy Aita
Washington File Staff Writer

United Nations -- The United States began to set out its vision of United Nations reform June 22 by outlining its highest priorities before the General Assembly.

U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, acting U.S. representative to the United Nations, said in a closed session that "there can be no question:  Now is the time to reform this organization.  The United States continues to be ready to contribute in every way possible to the great task before us, a task that will take the United Nations closer to becoming the organization that its founders envisioned."

With only three months until the United Nations 60th Anniversary Summit, discussions are intensifying on its final document , which, U.N. members and officials hope, will provide the blueprint for guiding and reforming  U.N. policies, goals and management style in the 21st century.


The U.N. Commission on Human Rights, whose members include countries with serious human rights abuses such as Zimbabwe and Cuba, should be abolished and a new organization proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- a Human Rights Council -- should be created to address the most serious human rights situations, Patterson said.

The new Human Rights Council, she said, should have about 20 members, elected through regional allocations and a vote of two-thirds of the U.N. general membership, that "have a solid record of commitment to human rights and should not include serious human rights abusers."   

Patterson said that a Peacebuilding Commission, also proposed by the secretary-general, "is needed quickly to ensure greater coordination between the U.N. political and military activities."

This commission, she explained, would coordinate donations and advise the U.N. Security Council on planning peacekeeping missions and post-conflict activities, as well as on reconstruction and stabilization efforts.

The United States is also strongly supporting the creation of the U.N. Democracy Fund, another proposal of Annan's, Patterson said, calling it "an innovative, yet practical, tool for promoting democratic values, including the rule of law, independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions, and free and fair elections."

"Widespread support for the Fund will unequivocally signal that member states are committed to support democratic institutions," she said.


The investigations and subsequent scandal in the Iraq Oil-for-Food Program have focused attention on how the United Nations is managed, making administrative reform a priority.

"Accountability and integrity, improved effectiveness, and boosting relevance" form the basis of the U.S. proposals, Patterson said.

An independent internal oversight board with separate budget authority is needed, she said, as is giving the secretary-general the authority to waive immunity so suspected U.N. officials can be fully investigated and the guilty held accountable.

"With a more streamlined organization and a firm commitment to accountability and results, the United Nations will be appropriately positioned to perform its role in dealing with the challenges we face," Patterson said. 


Pressing for the completion and adoption of a terrorism convention, Patterson said that the debate to reach agreement on a definition of terrorism should not distract the organization from completing the treaty itself.

In September, all nations "must join together . . . to condemn all deliberate and targeted terrorist attacks against civilians and non-combatants," the ambassador said.  "It is time for all U.N. members to recognize that there can be no justification for such attacks, regardless of the cause, motivation, and grievance."

Calling weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) proliferation "one of the most serious threats that the international community faces today," Patterson said that the summit declaration "should place greater emphasis on those actions that all states must take to strengthen barriers to WMD proliferation, ensure compliance, deal with instances of noncompliance, and otherwise enhance the global nonproliferation regime."


On economic development, Patterson said there must be a balanced approach between assistance and debt relief and the need for recipient countries to support local and national initiatives.  The summit declaration "must avoid the temptation to give too much emphasis to the supportive role of the international system and too little attention to where development starts -- at the local and national levels."

"The United Nations can make its greatest contribution to development by helping countries make and implement the right choices leading to good governance," she said.

(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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