12 September 2005
U.S. Committed to Strengthening U.N., State's Silverberg Says
Assistant secretary says Washington wants an effective world organization
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
New York -- The United States is a strong supporter of the United Nations and is committed to strengthening the world body so that it can be more effective in dealing with the challenges of the 21st century, a senior State Department official said September 12.
Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Kristen Silverberg said that effective multilateralism is a high priority for President Bush. That has been reflected in the president's agenda and U.S. budget commitments, especially to the United Nations and its related agencies.
At a press conference prior to the opening of the U.N. 60th Anniversary Summit and General Assembly, Silverberg said that U.S. priorities for both center on development, democracy and human rights, counterterrorism and security and U.N. reform. The U.S. delegation will be working to have those issues reflected prominently in the summit final document and strong resolutions during the three-month major work session of the assembly, she said.
The president will attend the summit September 14 and his activities while in New York will highlight U.S. priorities: signing the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and celebrating the establishment of the Democracy Fund, the assistant secretary said.
"The U.S. contributed well over $3 billion to the U.N. in '04," Silverberg said. "We remain strongly supportive to ensuring the U.N. has the resources it needs." For example, she said, the U.S. contributed 48 percent of the budget of the World Food Program, 31 percent to the budget for the High Commissioner for Refugees and $1.1 billion for peacekeeping operations.
"A very top priority is management reform -- very practical management reforms that would apply to any major organization, not just the U.N.," Silverberg said.
"In order to meet all the challenges to address development, democracy and human rights, terrorism and security we need a U.N. that is effective, that's well run, well-managed, that's strong, and adheres to the highest ethical standards," Silverberg said.
"Management reform isn't just a U.S. or large donor initiative. These are things that were endorsed by the high-level panel, endorsed by the secretary general, by the Volcker Commission. This is something that all countries with an interest in an effective, well-run and credible institution should support," she said.
The United States made a number of proposals geared to establishing a strong and effective oversight board to identify ethical problems and enforce existing rules, she said. "We want to make sure the secretary-general has the kinds of authorities he needs in terms of personnel management, that U.N. budgets get subject to right kinds of review."
SECURITY COUNCIL EXPANSION, HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL REFORM
Expansion of the 15-nation Security Council is another aspect of U.N. reform, but Silverberg said the United States would like to see progress on the management parts of the reform agenda before focusing on the Security Council.
The United States still is promoting a criteria-based approach for new council members that would take into consideration such things as commitment to the United Nations as reflected in financial or peacekeeping contributions, regional diversity and size of country in terms of population and economy, the assistant secretary said. "Japan clearly meets those criteria and there may well be other countries" and the U.S. will be working with other member states on the issue.
Democracy and human rights is "the centerpiece of the president' s foreign policy agenda," Silverberg said. "This summit represents an important opportunity for us to celebrate the U.N. role in that."
"The U.N. has played a critical role in providing election assistance in both Iraq and Afghanistan and we're encouraging more of that," she said.
"We will also be continuing to pursue efforts to replace the Commission on Human Rights, which we think has been discredited" by the inclusion of members who are among the worst abusers of human rights and because it has focused too frequently on politicized and meaningless resolutions rather than addressing urgent and grave situations, the assistant secretary said.
The United States is working with other countries to replace the commission with a smaller and more effective "Human Rights Council" that can focus on grave cases, she said.
The United States will continue to call for adoption of a comprehensive international convention on terrorism to address better the threats and challenges of the 21st century. It strongly supports the establishment of a "Peacebuilding Commission" as proposed by the secretary-general to help coordinate and provide support for countries in transition from conflict to peace, Silverberg said.
The United States has supported the program laid out by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report entitled In Larger Freedom around the areas of development, security, democracy and reform because "it closely parallels the president's priorities for the U.N.," Silverberg said.
PURSUING DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The Bush administration strongly supports increases in development assistance and has almost doubled development aid -- from $10 billion to $19 billion -- in five years, the largest amount than in any period since the Marshall Plan, she said.
To promote development, the United States and the international community need to help countries design and implement changes that make development assistance effective -- free market reforms, focus on rule of law, anti-corruption measures, the kinds of things that can invite private investment, that promote trade, and that can make official development assistance (ODA) effective, the assistant secretary said.
In 2002, trade flows in and out of developing countries totaled $5.7 trillion (exports of $3.1 trillion and imports $2.6 trillion). In contrast, ODA to the same countries amounted to about $77 billion, Silverberg said. "You can see that trade in any circumstance dwarfs ODA and so it's important that we focus on the kinds of things that promote more trade and more private investment."
For decades, the United States has opposed using the standard of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product or any other artificial goal for ODA. " The way to promote development most effectively isn't to focus on some artificial target for ODA, but to focus on what are the conditions that can made ODA effective," the assistant secretary also said.
Two other priorities for the United States are fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria, Silverberg said. In 2003, the president committed $5 billion over five years to treat 2 million people. The United States is likely to exceed the $5 billion commitment and is ahead of pace on U.S. goals for increasing treatment.
For more information, see The United Nations at 60.
(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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