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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

24 June 2005

U.S. Has Six Priorities for United Nations Reform, Official Says

Contentious issues should not divert attention from broader reform needs

By Rebecca Ford Mitchell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Effective U.N. reform is a very high priority for President Bush, a State Department official told members of a House appropriations subcommittee June 22.

Philo Dibble, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Affairs, said the United States will concentrate its efforts to win support of its reform proposals in six main areas:

• Responsible and accountable economic development,

• An effective human rights mechanism,

• Creation of a peacebuilding commission,

• Budget and management reforms,

• Establishment of a democracy fund, and

• Development of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

The United States also supports Security Council reform, he said, but not as the expense of the broader reform agenda.

These priorities, Dibble said, “are based on fundamental American principles and values which are reflected in the U.N. Charter,” signed 60 years ago this week.

The United States, he said, will push for economic development that emphasizes national responsibility, the rule of law, sound policies and governments accountable to the people to enable recipient countries to make effective use of assistance.

“We will also underscore the importance the president attaches to ending poverty by promoting political and economic freedom,” Dibble said.

He said the United States supports the U.N. secretary-general’s proposal to replace the Human Rights Commission with a new council whose membership would be limited to countries with solid human rights records.  “The existing Commission on Human Rights has been discredited due to the presence of so many gross violators, and a fresh start is needed,” he explained.

Dibble said the administration seeks the creation of both a peacebuilding commission, which would provide advice to the Security Council on peacekeeping missions and reconstruction and stabilization efforts, and a U.N. democracy fund, proposed by President Bush in 2004, to provide grants and in-kind assistance to support the promotion of democracy.  The president is asking Congress for $10 million in fiscal year 2006 for this democracy initiative.

Budget and management reforms that the United States believes must occur at the United Nations include boosting the resources and independence of the Office of International Oversight Services, consolidating U.N. information centers, requiring a rationale for holding conferences, outsourcing translation services, and establishing the principle that some programs should have end dates that require a review if an extension is sought, he said.

On the issue of counterterrorism, Dibble warned that debates on the definition of terrorism must not be allowed to sidetrack the United Nations’ work on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.  However, he said, “The U.S. welcomes the position, contained in the Secretary General’s report, that the right to resist occupation does not justify the targeting and killing of civilians.”

Similarly, Dibble cautioned that the high interest in Security Council expansion must not divert the broader reform agenda.  “While we are open to considering expansion proposals,” he said, “the primary purpose of Security Council reform should be to make the Council more effective.”

He said the administration is discussing with the permanent members of the Security Council and representatives from Japan, Germany, Brazil and India, known as the Group of Four (G-4), the G-4 proposal to give themselves and two African nations permanent Security Council seats.  The immediate goal, Dibble said, is to convince the G-4 to “hold off on calling for a vote on their resolution because it is so divisive that a vote, regardless of the outcome, could do serious, long-term damage to the U.N. as an institution.”

“We also want our friends to understand that while Security Council reform is an important issue, we cannot let discussion on expansion divert our attention from, and delay action on, other important, more urgently-needed U.N. reforms,” he said.

The full text of Dibble’s statement 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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