United Nations, 14 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of the United Nations and its most powerful member state have called on a UN summit to commit to sweeping reforms.
Secretary-General Annan told leaders in a crowded gathering at UN headquarters that a new reform package agreed on this week is a good start. But he called for leadership in pressing ahead with pledges to strengthen development aid, nation building, and antiterror efforts.
Annan acknowledged differences that have blocked agreements on issues like nonproliferation and disarmament and Security Council expansion. Negotiations also weakened a proposal to overhaul the discredited UN Human Rights Commission.
"Let us be frank with each other and with the peoples of the United Nations," he said. "We have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required. Sharp differences, some of them substantive and legitimate, have played their part in preventing that."
Annan spoke one week after he was criticized in a report analyzing abuses of the Iraqi oil-for-food program. He urged leaders to help restore confidence in the UN's integrity, impartiality, and ability to operate.
U.S. President George W. Bush, the first national leader to address the summit, called on the United Nations to reform itself or risk losing the respect of the world: "The United Nations must be strong and efficient, free of corruption, and accountable to the people it serves. The United Nations must stand for integrity and live by the high standards it sets for others, and meaningful institutional reforms must include measures to include internal oversight, identify cost savings, and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended purpose."
He echoed some of Annan's main themes on reform although the U.S. administration has been accused of diluting commitments on development goals and nuclear disarmament.
Bush also placed emphasis on improving economic and political conditions in the world's impoverished states. He called it an obligation and a way of undermining support for terrorism, which he said "feeds on anger and resentment."
The U.S. president continued his campaign launched earlier this year to spread democracy, hailing a UN fund that would help states seeking assistance in reforms: "Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before. In the last two years alone tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine and Georgia. And as they claim their freedom they're inspiring millions more across the broader Middle East."
He also cited U.S. efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and prevent an avian flu pandemic. Bush called for an elimination of tariffs, particularly tariffs on agricultural products. He said they represent curbs on worldwide economic growth, keeping developing countries from the rewards and the responsibilities of joining the global marketplace.
The European Union says it has already committed to major reforms of its agricultural subsidies and is waiting for clear commitment from Washington.
Bush also urged the UN Security Council to take action curbing incitement of terrorist acts.
UN: Organization Opens 60th Anniversary Summit Looking At Reforms
By Robert McMahon
The UN's 60th anniversary summit has opened with appeals to restore the organization's credibility. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged more than 150 top leaders to follow through on new pledges to fight poverty, strengthen human rights, and oppose genocide. U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted the establishment of a UN democracy fund and U.S. efforts to curb poverty, both of which he said were essential in defeating terrorism.
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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